Monday, November 19, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!!

My husband, boys and I are off to the Caribbean sunshine for the next eight days.  I promised not to bring my computer if my husband promised not to bring his.  I tell you this so you won’t be disappointed when no new posts appear this week.      

We look forward to sharing some SPF 30 with a stranger and sharing random kindnesses with others enjoying our piece of sand.  I’ll catch you all up when we return.     

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!  Be kind to one another.  Be kind to yourself.  If that means packing up your swimsuit and heading to warmer climates, we’ll see you around the pool! 

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Day 306
At the end of each academic quarter, the boys’ school donates all lost and found items to a local charity.  When I ask if I can take them to the kids at our sister school in Over-The-Rhine located in one of Cincinnati’s poorest neighborhoods, I’m immediately told yes. 

One look at the avalanche of coats and sweatshirts that weigh down a rolling coat rack and spill onto the floor tells me what I’ve long suspected.  Kids in our school have more than they will ever miss. 

I check each jacket for a name scribbled on a tag.  If there’s a name, I can help it find its way home.  Those without names get tossed into one of two industrial sized, black garbage bags. 

As I systematically go through the pile, a little girl approaches. 

“What are you doing?” she asks.   

“All of these unclaimed coats are going to be given to kids who don’t have coats in Cincinnati,” I explain.

Her eyes widen as I continue to stuff the bag: North Face.  Gap.  Columbia.  Gorgeous, expensive unclaimed coats.  This bounty remains after two emails and one newsletter reminder that ask parents to check the lost and found for their kid’s things.  We added another week as a grace period.   

The little girl tst tst’s her tongue and shakes her finger, “Parents aren’t going to like that.”

The Dance

Day 305
I’ve been sitting still and listening intently but after three cups of coffee, I can’t hold it any longer.  I quietly leave my seat and sneak out of the meeting to the bathroom at the back of the cafeteria.

I arrive at the door just as a first grader barrels down the stairs.  “I can’t hold it!” he cries doing the universal dance of distress.  “And I can’t get my pants down!” he wails hopping from foot to foot.  No further explanation is necessary.    

The boy stops in front of me but I wave him inside to give him some privacy.  A dad in the back room meets my eyes and grins.  I’m relieved that someone else has seen this exchange.  After working with Prevent Child Abuse Ohio for so many years, I’m overly sensitive to what is and what is not appropriate.  We stand within eyesight of the dad so he can witness how I’m helping.   

I drop to my knees and struggle to loosen the boy’s belt from its hook.  He lurches forward as his belt breaks free and dashes past me into the bathroom. 

I laugh and enter the girls side.  When I return to the sink to wash my hands, I see the boy tear out of the sink area, both shoelaces flapping.  Some kids have only one speed.  Fast.   As he mounts the stairs to the second floor, he turns and yells down to me, “Thanks for helping me!”  Gives me a grin and bounds back up to his classroom. 

You are so welcome, I think and give him a wave. 

Thanks for reminding me that everyone needs a little help now and then. 

And some people need a little help RIGHT NOW.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Everyday Magic

Day 304
“Mom, Mom!  I did a random act of kindness today,” my 6-year-old says.  We’re sharing about our day and I’ve told him how I’ve spent the afternoon with Kasey. 

“What did you do?” I ask genuinely interested.  I love to hear a kid’s perspective on what kindness looks like. 

“Ben?  You know Ben?”  he asks, waiting for my reply before he continues. 

“Yes, I know Ben.”

“Well, he didn’t have an eraser and he needed to erase something so I erased it for him.  Because I had one on my pencil.” 

“That was really nice.  How did it make your friend feel?” 

“He didn’t even notice,” A. says.  “He went on doing his work and acted like it erased itself by magic.” 

He’s not too far off, I think.  Random acts of kindness are like little bits of magic.   

Happy World Kindness Day!

Day 303
Happy World Kindness Day!  What?  Didn’t have it marked on your calendar?

Started in Tokyo in 1998 by the World Kindness Movement, the holiday is now observed each November 13 in Japan, Canada, Australia, Nigeria, England, Italy, Singapore, India and the United Arab Emirates.  The United States doesn’t recognize the holiday.  Yet.

This small fact didn’t stop my new friend Kasey and I from celebrating.  

A senior at Starfire she’s working on a yearlong project to spread kindness to her community.  It’s a team effort that brings together friends and family to make a lasting impact and build connections.  Stay tuned.  You’re going to hear a lot of great things from this woman.  

Kasey, her advisor Meghan, Starfire student Michele and I head to Kroger to start spreading the kindness.  Armed with nothing more than 80 slips of orange construction paper with quotes about kindness, we hope for the best.

“This is creepy!” Michele says and hides her face in her hands, embarrassed.  She’s not as enthusiastic as the three of us in our goal. 

“Creepy would be if we were in their car,” I laugh.  “But we’re just slipping them under the windshields.” 

“No!”  Meghan cheers, an unabashed kindness warrior.  “This isn’t creepy!  We’re spreading kindness!”  A few shoppers make a wide arc, unsure of four women walking the parking lot holding a personal pep rally. 

Some people turn their gaze away, jump in their car and start the engine, shake us off with a curt ‘not now’ or ‘too busy.’  The assumption is we are selling something or want something from them. 

I want to tell them the only thing we’re soliciting is kindness.  And it’s free.

A woman sits in her car checking her phone messages when Kasey walks up and taps on her window.  “Happy World Kindness Day!” I happily announce as the woman looks at us in confusion. 

She takes the card and turns it over to read.  No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.  Her face breaks out in a smile.  She’s completely taken off guard. 

“Thank you,” she says.  “Thank you.”  She tucks it into her purse and smiles her way out of her parking spot. 

Continuing up our row, we spy two senior center buses parked curbside.  Each waits for its passengers to exit the grocery. 

“That would be fun,” I say, pointing to the buses.  Kasey’s at the bus before Meghan, Michele and I have a chance to chase her.  We board the bus, explain the holiday and wait.  Each senior’s face transforms as Kasey hands him a card. 

“Still embarrassed?” I ask Michele.  She hides her face and laughs. 

One must be brave to be kind, I think.  And be OK with people thinking you’re a little nuts.  

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Is it over yet?

Day 302
A friend recently sent an email asking if I planned to vote for Obama or Romney.  
The question surprised me since I make a very conscious effort to not talk about politics, a strange statement from someone who used to earn a living as a political speechwriter. 

She’d sent me an editorial she’d written, articulate and smart, on a side of an issue where I firmly stand and asked for my help distributing it through social media.  I politely declined. 

As strongly as I feel about a candidate or issue, I feel equally strong about respecting someone else’s right to disagree.  While working in politics, I saw too much intentional meanness on both sides. 

Living in the swing state of Ohio, I’ve been inundated with political television ads, telephone calls and direct mail over the last several weeks.  Each hoping to change my opinion with fancy talking points and snazzy editing. 

This American Life on NPR aired a story on how friends and family stopped speaking because they disagreed politically.  One brother-in-law refused to let his brother-in-law eat anything from his BBQ when he learned he voted differently than he did.  “No brisket, no rib tips, nothing,” he bragged to the reporter as if his withholding meat proved his rightness further. 

News outlets report stories daily on the Facebook diatribes and the loss of friends.  When will it end?  How does it help us as a country?    

In the end, there are no winners or losers.  We’re all in this together.  By respecting opposing viewpoints and agreeing to disagree (in a civilized way), I think we can move forward.  Together.  Regardless of whose name you check on Election Day.    

That’s real progress.  That’s true kindness.   

Stomach Another Day

Day 301
Light from the bathroom slants into our dark bedroom as A. pushes open the door and pads inside.  “Mom?” he whispers and crawls into bed, his skin hot and sticky. 

“Oh, you’re so warm,” I say, scooting over to make room for him beneath the blankets where he immediately slips back to sleep. 

His middle-of-the-night isn’t a surprise.  Over the last several days, each of the boys and myself have taken up occupancy in the bathroom as the stomach flu swept through the house.  (By some medical miracle, it skips Chaz.) 

All weekend, I’ve hung my hopes on the reprieve of school: a day of rest after several days of tending sick kids, washing and rewashing sheets, and washing and rewashing the bathrooms.  I assumed we were all on the mend. 

A. wakes in the morning cool and alert. 

“Am I going to school?” he smiles before reshaping his face into that of a child too sick to go to school.  

I press my palm against his cool forehead before tucking a strand of hair behind his ear. 

“How’s a day at home sound?” 

There’s a rule at school that kids must be fever free for 24-hours before returning to class.  I’ll admit that in the past I’ve been guilty of sending a child back early for the selfish, simple reason of wanting them out of the house.  Not this time. 

I pick up the phone and call the school office to tell them A. will be staying home.  It’s unkind to expose others to even the possibility of the stomach flu.  

60 Minutes More

Day 300
It’s our second successful sleepover in as many months and I’m feeling like a pro. 

We learned our lessons from what we’ll call “our earlier experiment” and outline a plan for the night.  Chaz and another dad will start with dinner and a Cyclones ice hockey game with the boys while I birthday up the house for the everyone's return.  There’s snacks for movies, bagels for the morning and extra pillows and blankets stacked in a pile in the basement playroom.    

Before the self-congratulations begin, I turn to Chaz and ask, “Is tonight the end of daylight savings?” 

Mental forehead slap.  Poor planning or random act of kindness?  

Friday, November 9, 2012

Sugar on Speed

Day 299
When my friend calls to ask if I can come down and decorate her daughter’s birthday cake, I answer yes.  Her daughter is a delightful third grader who helps me with my girl fix in a house full of boys.  The last time she visited she let me paint her nails.   

“I’ve got a batch of cookies in the oven and one more sheet to go in.  Is ten minutes OK?”  She says it is and she’ll see me soon.   

I pack up a few of my cake tricks in a bag and head out.  The rain sends me back into the house for an umbrella then it’s a dash down the street. 

“Whatever you can do to help,” she says in greeting. 

My friend’s cake has an unusual tilt to it and the filling seems to be seeping out the sides. While she adds powdered sugar to the frosting, I start to melt chocolate to make 3D butterflies that will float around the top of the cake.  Then, the doorbell rings. 

“Oh!  Our first guest is here!” my friend says and sprints to the door. 

Guest? Yikes, I think and pick up the pace. 

“Do you think it will be much longer?” she asks.  “The center of the cake is ice cream and I think it’s starting to melt.”  I’m a tad distressed at this but also oddly comforted that there’s a reason for the oozing center. 

“Five minutes,” I chirp and frantically ice “Happy Birthday” across the top and swish chocolaty twirls around the lumpier parts.  It’s a mad dash of sugar and I hope no one gets hurt.      

Ding Dong.  The sound of two giggling girls floats down the hall and into the kitchen.    

“Can I ask one more favor?” my friend asks picking up the cake.  “Can you follow me with your umbrella to the neighbor’s?  She’s got a bigger freezer.” 

Ding Dong.  Another guest arrives. 

“We’ll be right back,” she calls to the girls and to the mom who’s staying to supervise. 

The two of us speed walk to the neighbor, my friend holding the sagging cake, me tilting the umbrella against the slanting rain.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Can't. Breathe.

Day 298
While I enjoy the idea of swimming laps, the whole process of packing up a bag, changing into a suit, getting wet, seems like a lot of work.  Which is why I’m so proud of myself for actually making it to the pool today.  I feel like a gold medal winner and I haven’t even dipped my foot in the water. 

I look for the slowest lane and slip into the water.  I adjust my goggles and push off the wall.  Slow and steady, I cheer in my head.  Just keep swimming.

I swim two laps and I hang on the side of the pool panting like a dog.  I can’t seem to take in enough air. 

“Honey,” an older woman with perfectly coifed hair calls out to me.  “Can you not splash when you swim?”  It’s one of the three seniors who lingers in the adjacent lane socializing after their water aerobics class.
Splash, I think.  How does one swim without kicking their legs?   

The next lap I stop kicking ten feet before I reach the woman and use my arms to crawl/drag myself to the wall.  I hang on the side to catch my breath.  “Was that better?” 

“No, honey, still splashing,” she says.   

I switch from freestyle to breaststroke and keep my feet and arms under the water when I pass.

“Better?” I pant. 

“A little splashy,” she says. 

The next lap I dive beneath the water and aim for the wall.  The effort proves monumental.  I break the surface and gasp. 

“Just like that,” she says.  “That’s perfect.”     

Friday, November 2, 2012

Pump It Up.

Day 297
The crisp fall day feels like a gift after the freezing rain and cold temperatures swept in by Hurricane Sandy.  F. asks to ride his bike to school and I agree.  I know his bike-riding-days are limited with winter around the corner.  I remind him to be careful and wave him on his way.  

Chaz calls my cell on his way to work to report that he saw F. rolling his bike up Zig Zag.  “Completely flat,” he reports.  “I told him to take the bus home.” 

I have another idea.  I stop at Walgreens and buy a bike pump on the way to school and a scheduled PTO meeting where I prop the bike pump on the table.  “I don’t want to forget,” I say.  A table full of busy moms multi-tasking understand. 

After the meeting, I circle the school to the bike racks where F.’s orange mountain bike lists against the metal stand.  I squeeze the back tire.  So little air remains that my fingers nearly touch.  I attach the nozzle and start to pump until the tire firms. 

A half-dozen bikes keep F’s company.  I move down the line, checking each tire and adding air if it needs it.  

I smile and sneak away.  That was fun.