Stumbling into kindness


When fall hits, I start thinking about Christmas presents. I like to have my holiday presents all planned out early so I can enjoy the season without rushing. However, this year I happened to stumble upon some gift giving at the last minute for some strangers. And in the end, it was more of a present for me…

This was the first Christmas that my children would both be gone. They were both off at college and celebrating Christmas morning with other friends and family. So that meant no stockings, no early morning presents or no childlike excitement. Needless to say, my mommy side was a bit sad. I enjoyed making the holidays extra special for the kids. (It may have been even more fun for me than them.)

So when I came across a Facebook post asking for donations for local families in need, I quickly offered some help. It would be nice to feel like Santa and it seemed simple enough. Buy a few grocery items that could be placed into a holiday food basket. The organizer, who was a stranger to me, happened to live just a few miles from me. That made it even easier for me to offer more help upon dropping off my contribution.

After talking with her, I found out that her idea of making a couple of food baskets turned into donations for eight families. Her and her two daughters had come up with the idea and made a simple post to a community Facebook group. Then, myself and others started donating. So her two baskets turned into eight. She was so overwhelmed at the sudden rush of donations, so I offered to help her deliver them on Christmas Eve. I mean, why not? I wasn’t doing anything with my kids that day anyway.

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This is the “basket” of food that was collected, which then turned into eight more.

For ease and safety, a majority of the baskets were taken to one location so that people could pick them up there. We were met with smiles and tears and genuine appreciation. Grown men and women humbly approached us and said, I’m …. you said to met you all here.  One man was picking up a basket for a woman with cancer. She wasn’t feeling well enough to get out, but her son came along too and greeted us with wide eyes when we gave him the food. Another woman showed up all tearful in her van that had a blanket for a side window. And a tattooed man that spoke of motorcycles could not completely hide his emotions as he drove away. It was touching to see how we had affected people in such a good way.

After we gave out those baskets, we had two more to deliver in the local area. One was to a single mom of five young boys. They didn’t know we were coming and when our cars pulled up on their dead end road, the boys started peaking out the window. I am sure they were wondering what a group of people were doing on their street all of the sudden. With a gallon of milk in my hand, I started to walk with the girls towards the house. Then I stopped. I realized I was walking with the girls who helped plan the event with their mom while she was standing back by the car. I couldn’t give out stuff with her girls while she stood in the shadows. I turned around and urged her to go instead since it was her idea after all. (We were trying not to overwhelm the lady by have too many people come to her door.)

So from the road, I saw the girls hug the young boys and the moms both wipe tears from their eyes. The boys started hopping around looking in the basket. There were no toys in the basket, but food is never a bad thing when your hungry.

Shortly after that, we stopped by an extended stay hotel. A lady came out slowly with a walker. She approached us and let us know that she was the one we contacted. We gave her the laundry basket full of food, and she started to tear up. I don’t know her story, but she thanked us for our kindness. I never thought I’d be in this position…but I am. So thank you. It means the world to me. 

The organizer of the baskets hugs a woman we gave to as her husband and daughter stand nearby.

I thought about her comment: she never thought she’d be here. That is so very true. None of know when life could give us some circumstance that throws us into a tailspin. And I know from my personal experience, it is hard to accept help. It is difficult to admit you need assistance. And it is humbling to need help from strangers.

As I watched these women hug, both crying, I felt a mix of sadness and joy. Here I was on Christmas Eve, standing in a parking lot with a bunch of strangers crying, and yet, I felt complete. Yes, I missed my kids and this was not how I envisioned my holiday. It was not even an idea until two days prior. Like the woman receiving the basket of food, I never thought I’d be here either. But here I was, and it felt good to be a part of something so simple and yet special…even if I stumbled into it.

 

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For the Daily Post Discover Challenge ~ Hope Gone Viral.

Update: Since this unplanned plan went so well. The ladies formed a group called the Breakfast Club and we plan to do more donations throughout the year.

And here is a message from the lady with five boys:

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Everything, Nothing is Impossible


With the new year around the corner, many of us think about resolutions, changes or updates to things in our lives. So no matter how big or small those thoughts are, here is a bit of inspiration.

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May your new year be a great one:)

Nato

Goodbye Roller Coaster 2016


If 2016 were a roller coaster, it would be the kind that leaves your feet dangling in a pool of frenzied piranha and your head whipping into the clouds to catch a glimpse of the unicorns frolicking in Heaven. In other words, the highs were glorious and rare but the lows were absolutely horrible.

The dips of the ride 2016 were low and heartbreaking with the deaths of legends and history-making icons like Gwen Ifill, Alan Thicke, Leonard Cohen, Janet Reno, Arnold Palmer, Prince, Gene Wilder, Muhammad Ali, David Bowie, John Glenn, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Merle Haggard, Joe Garagiola, Morley Safer, Carrie Fisher, and sadly, the list went on. And in the middle of all this death, the presidential election gave us a full shock and awe ride. For that is when American civility, tolerance and basic decency was flipped upside-down in the name of progress and change.

Though losing all those notable figures and values in one year made our heads spin, 2016 brought us even lower by taking out names we may never have known, in cities we may never have thought about. Across the globe hate bread attacks, killing innocent people in the name of terrorism. From Iraq to Belgium to the United States, nameless people were murdered by tragic explosions, mass shootings and stampeding vehicles. Many of us will never forget the face of that little boy who sat in shock in the back of an ambulance in Aleppo.

However, this was not enough shock for a ride like 2016. No, it needed more “thrill.” So 2016 threw in some homegrown hate, natural disaster and local tragedy. The world stumbled around trying to fight a Zika outbreak that kept popping up around the globe. A mix of sadness and outrage flowed when a child was rescued after falling into a gorilla pit at the Cincinnati Zoo, which then resulted in the gorilla’s death. Fires raged in multiple states leaving a wake of homelessness, destruction and death. Hurricane Matthew struck the Caribbean as a Category 4 monster that claimed up to 900 lives and then flooded out many parts of Louisiana.

As we all tried to catch our breath from these steep descents, 2016 threw in even more twists and turns. We saw: a young singer get shot by a fan, churches and people attacked and killed because of their race, police offers murdered because of their uniforms, buses full of people overturned, random stabbings and shootings of normal people for ridiculous reasons, and a child drug away by an alligator at a Disney Resort.

This painful list of nonstop tragedies plummeted many of us into cold sweats and nausea. It was all we could take to not throw ourselves off the ride while it was in motion. But like they said when we boarded the ride, “Please keep your hands and feet in the ride at all times and remain in your seat until the ride is over.” So we clenched our teeth and prayed for it to end.

Now that it is almost over, many of us are relieved, or realizing we relieved ourselves during the ride. We are gathering our wits and prepping ourselves to get off this damn roller coaster. (And not too soon I might add.) As we prepare to walk away from the horrifying ride 2016, hind sight and bragging rights of survival will set in…eventually. The distance will allow us to acknowledge the highs of 2016. Yes, there were some. Just like any roller coaster, there were peaks and fun twists to enjoy.

For those of you who might still be in shock and denial, I’ll remind you of a few pleasant highlights of the ride 2016. (And yes, I had to look some of them up!)

Though our election seemed to kill some hope and human decency through its long contentious descent (on both sides), it did shoot us up through some glorious broken glass as six women secured political seats across our country. (Kamala Harris, Catherine Cortez Masto, and Tammy Duckworth were elected to the Senate, Stephanie Murphy and Pramila Jayapal won seats in the House of Representatives, and Ilhan Omar was elected to her state’s legislature.)

And whether or not you like her, First Lady Michelle Obama proved herself to be a brilliant orator as she dropped one awe-inspiring speech after another onto us, giving us hope we would survive the ride if we stuck together.

All the flips of the year were nothing compared to the mouth-dropping tumbling of the U.S. Women’s Gymnastic Team in Rio though. They stole our hearts as much as they did the gold medals.

Another fun surprise of the year 2016 was the rise in the tiger population. According to the World Wildlife Fund, 3890 tigers were found across the globe this year. If you think that is a low amount, think again. It is actually a huge increase from the less than 700 that were found in 2010.

If we paid attention on one of the ride’s peaks early in the year, we may have seen Scott Kelly descending from space after nearly a year at the International Space Station.

Or maybe we noticed the 108-year old curse that was broken when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series in Game 7. Yes, some of us (like me) wanted the Indians to win as they had a compelling story as well. But even so, you have to love the end of a curse. (Wait, does this mean the curse of 2016 can end too?)

On a much smaller peak, but still fun nonetheless, 2016 managed to get hoards of people off the couch and out of the house. Yes, they may have been walking around like zombies and bumping into each other as they stared at their smartphones looking for imaginary Pokemon, but that is not the point. The interesting side effect to the game was that even self-proclaimed lazy people were outside in the real world moving their bodies. One point for the Pokemon Go game creators there! And, as a side bonus to this plus, a comedian created a hilarious version of this game (Chardonnay Go, which is way more my style of game) that wound up going viral and had me, and many others, cracking up.

After months of spins, the agonizing ride for protestors at Standing Rock Reservation paid off as the pipeline was rerouted to not run through the reservation as planned. Win for humanity!

The ride 2016 even included a water attraction. Yes, it was a self-induced water attraction as people poured buckets of icy water over the heads in the name of ALS. However, the money raised from the viral challenge that took over our social media feeds is claimed to have raised money that helped researchers discover a gene believed to be among the most common contributors to the disease.

So amongst all the horror of 2016, there were moments that glimmered and made us smile. I suppose the extreme ups and downs are what makes a roller coaster so memorable. If all we had were peaks, we may not appreciate them as much. Those low points give us more perspective and balance. Though, the ride 2016 had to have more lows than several others. But, with that said, there is nothing we can do to change it. The ride is coming to a stop. So, we can either let this ride of a year beat us, or we can pull ourselves back together and move forward so we can prepare ourselves for another adventure.

Surely, 2017 will have its ups and downs like any other year. There will be shocks and twists and surprises. But I am praying for a brighter and more uplifting ride…because 2016, if you were a roller coaster, I think you’d be closed down.

 

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Best Wishes into the New Year~Nato

Share Your World, the holiday edition


It has been a while since I played along in Cee’s Share Your World Challenge, so I thought I was due. And since it is the holiday time, my blog has been all off schedule anyway. So, here goes…

What is your favorite holiday?

This is tough as I love to embrace each holiday’s special wonder. But, I think I will at least narrow it down to the last few months of the year…

Veterans Day is normally a solemn reminder of deployment that make me more appreciative of my current freedom. It also has become an annual challenge in completing a half marathon in honor of a fallen hero.

Then, there comes fall/Halloween/Thanksgiving. I know this clump of holidays is broad, but to me, it is really a three-month celebration.  Come September, I break out all the autumn decor. The house gets decorated with pumpkins, leaves and turkeys. When Halloween is over, Jack-o-lantern decorations get turned around to become regular pumpkins for Thanksgiving. The cooler weather calls for a bonfire where we can make smores and drink cider. Oh, and making black bean, pumpkin chili has become a staple. Then of course, there is traditionally a gathering of friends and family for a Thanksgiving meal, which is made while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

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Thanksgiving weekend is also time to welcome in Christmas. The decor of the house all changes from fall to winter. A Christmas tree is put up and decorated. Little snowmen and lights adorned various parts of the house. And generally, tis the season to bake, and I love baking.

What types of food is associated with your holiday?

When I was little, Christmas meant cookies and candy. Not just any cookies and candy though. Christmas was specifically defined by no bake cookies and cinnamon hard-rock candy. I have made them every year in my home too. Now, my kids look at them as holiday treats as well. I guess it is safe to say, a tradition has been made.

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Do you travel for your holiday?

During my last part of the year holiday blitz, I do a little bit of travel. Sometimes it is just in the local area to explore what is around me. It never fails that I am surprised by all the amazing places I can fin within hours from my home.

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Other times, it it is somewhere more exotic and romantic, which is perfectly ok with me too of course.

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Is it a religious or spiritual holiday?

I cannot really separate those two things really. Now that I am truly working at being “present” in my life, I am more aware. I look at things now with more of a spiritual appreciation. And when I see things that way, I cannot help but give thanks to God for all the blessings he gives me. So, they are tied together.

Is there a gift exchange?

The only direct gifts happen over Christmas. However, the whole end-of-the-year-holiday blitz is full of giving. Veterans Day is full of giving thanks. I try to send out little reminders to my Army friends, letting them know how much they mean to me. And between Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, I think I give out out baked goods and meals that I could probably take it as a tax deduction, lol. Yet, I really enjoy the joy of sharing and seeing the happiness it brings others.

How long does the celebration last?

Well, like I said above, my holiday blitz is typically from September to December. I mean why limit it to just one day?

Optional Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? 

This last week, I was grateful for my romantic vacation to Jamaica. The weather was perfect.  My company was adorable. And, our return home was safe and pleasant. What more could a girl ask for?

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This week, I am looking forward to some time with my loved ones. My sister and I plan on hanging out and baking up a storm, making smores, and watching some silly movies. Then, my dad, sister and boyfriend are going to enjoy a few meals together and exchange some presents for Christmas and Hanukkah. I am also planning on wandering around some Christmas decor to take some pictures. So fun, food, family is to come:)

May you all have a wonderfully happy and peaceful holiday too!

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