29 Days of Giving: Reflections and a Giveaway

So this is it – the 29th day of my 29 Days of Giving Series.  I started with the hope that I could get back into the writing groove again, and spread some kindness along the way.  It's been that and so much more.

I have a new found respect for people who publish something every day.  It's a lot of work.  I do feel as if I've gotten over that hump of being so scared to post something that's not perfectly polished that I chose not to write at all.  If y'all wanted perfection, I imagine you'd spend your time reading something a bit more lofty.  That being said, I will not be posting every day again for a loooong time.  Or ever, probably.  You have to actually live a life in order to blog about it.  In fact, as a special gift to my husband (and probably to a few of you, too), I'm going to take the next week off.  He'd probably like to see me some evenings in a capacity other than hunched over the laptop.

The giving part, though?  This is a practice I plan to continue as long as I can, albeit in a more private manner from here on out.  

My mindset, prior to starting this journey, was that giving was really only for people who had a lot of time, or money, or both.  Sure, I could manage to write a check here or there, or volunteer every once and awhile, but every day?  Impossible.  It never occurred to me that even the littlest things could really make a difference.  

I think about the Cup of Joe, how just a few minutes and few dollars could mean something to someone halfway around the world.  I think about gathering the books we already had around the house, and how much that one act of kindness impacted my child.  I think about how we've been kinder to each other in our own home over the last 29 days than I ever remember, and how it just seems sunnier in our home, even on our darker days.  

Time and money – those things help, but it takes very little of either to make an impact.  What it does require, though, is mindfulness and an attitude of love.  You have to make up your mind that you're going to do something, and that you're going to do it out of kindness and not obligation.  Each and every one of us has the ability to do just that, if we so desire.

29 days was over and done before I got around to do many of the things I wanted.  I still plan to do them, but I thought I'd share a few here in case you needed any ideas of your own.

  • Donate blood or platelets.
  • Pay for the car behind you in the drive-through.
  • Don't walk past the Salvation Army bell ringer.  Drop some change in.  Better yet, drop in a larger bill.
  • Offer to deliver a meal to someone who is going through a difficult time or transition.  That couple you know that just had a baby, your older neighbor who doesn't get out much, that mom down the street whose husband works extra shifts to make ends meet.
  • Offer to run an errand for a friend, especially if they have some littles in their care.  Better yet, offer to watch the kids for them so they can run an errand in peace!
  • Call someone just to tell them you love them.

Here's the thing about opening yourself up to giving – once you do, the ideas keep coming.  In case you need any more inspiration, my gift today just might help.

Today I Gave:  A signed copy of Cami Walker's book to one of my very special readers.  Well, I haven't given it yet, but I will in one week when my 29 Gifts Giveaway closes!  I met Cami at St. Luke's this morning and she signed her book 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life, for one of you.  She just got some exciting news – they're making a movie out of the book.  If you're anything like me, you'll want to read it before it hits the big screen.  All you need to do to enter is leave a comment below telling me about the nicest thing someone has done for you.  The winner will be chosen at random after the giveaway closes on Sunday, November 28 at 11:59 p.m. ET.  I can't wait to read your comments and be even more inspired!

Today I Received:  An unexpected phone call from a dear friend.  Sure, she initially called to talk trash about how her Patriots were going to trounce my Colts and I would owe her a pitcher of margaritas.  (And yes, Rebecca, I will gladly pay up at the beach this spring. Victory was so close!)  But then we spent the next 20 minutes or so catching up, and I remembered how much I love this girl and miss having her right down the street from me.  Even if she is a Patriots fan.


The Grinch, I Mean Mom, Who Stole Christmas

This post is part of my 29 Days of Giving Campaign.  You can see the rest of the posts in this series here.

You know that saying "No good deed goes unpunished?"  I really don't care for it.  Especially when it ends up being true.

I am all about being organized for Christmas.  I printed out a planning guide.  Mike and I made a budget, taking into account every possible holiday related expense.  I've had homemade gifts planned since early October, some of them already made.  I made a gift list, detailing every purchase, down to what would go in the stockings.  I was pretty pleased with myself, patting myself on the back for what a stress-free holiday we would have.

Last night, while Mike and Elena were at the movies, I spread my Christmas planner out on the table, filling in some details on the holiday calendar.  I got distracted by a phone call, and then a few minutes later Mike and Elena walked in the door.  Elena sat next to me and we talked in detail about the movie.  

I'm not sure when it hit me that she was distracted, looking at something rather than answering my questions.  Mike and I both realized it at the same time – she was staring at the Christmas gift list, and had been for a few minutes.  

Every single thing we planned to buy her was right there, before her eyes.  Even (somebody please hold me) the gifts from Santa.  I gasped, and flipped the sheet over.  She stared at me for what seemed like an eternity, her eyes pleading with me that she didn't just see what she thought she saw.  And then she cried.  And cried and cried.  

"Christmas is ruined!  Now I won't be surprised!"

Now, I've had a lot of moments as a mother I'd like to forget.  I've had what I consider to be some pretty epic mom fails.  This makes them feel like little blips on the radar, akin to ordering chocolate milk when your kid wanted lemonade.  I feel absolutely horrible.

Mike and I got her settled down.  Really it was Mike.  I was pretty useless, too busy beating myself up for being so careless, and yet so damn organized.  We talked about how there will still be surprises, and how Christmas isn't only about the presents.

But yeah, when you're eight?  It pretty much is about the presents.  It's about the magic and the surprise and Santa.  I know it will all turn out ok in the end.  She'll be fine, and we are blessed to have these kinds of "problems" to deal with, versus wondering how we'll put food on the table let alone Christmas gifts.

But for now I still feel awful, like I ruined Christmas and then went out and kicked some puppies for good measure.  So be honest with me, what would you do now (taking into consideration that the majority of gifts have already been purchased)?   We're gonna have to buy this kid a kitten, aren't we?

Today I Gave:  Away my child's Christmas innocence!!  I kid, kind of.  No, today I let Mike sleep in.  He's had a horrible time lately being able to sleep in.   His body just wants to wake up at 6:15 like it's a work day.  This morning I made sure to hop out of bed at the first sign of Eli stirring, and turned on as much white noise as possible.  He made it until nearly 8 a.m.  

Today I Received:  The gift of forgiveness.  I don't know if Elena's really over it, or if she's just putting on her game face for me.  She knows I'm so upset about the whole situation.  She didn't say a word today and was as chipper as ever.  We spent some time alone together this evening, browsing at the bookstore.  It was nice to hang out and just listen to her chatter away.  She's a good kid, that one.



A Dad, A Daughter & Harry

This post is part of my 29 Days of Giving Campaign.  You can see the rest of the posts in this series here.

This date has been circled on the calendar for well over a month.  The anticipation has been building for weeks.  Each night before bed, and every morning upon waking, the status of the countdown was updated.

How many more days until Harry Potter?

Today, finally, the wait was over.  The Dumbledore Army shirt, purchased from Harry Potter exhibit at the Museum of Science & Industry a year and a half ago, was the clothing of choice.  I had to veto the Gryffindor cape and tie, leftover from Halloween two years ago.  Not to school, girlfriend, save it for tonight.  

Would 5:30 never get here?  The two hours of waiting between school and Mike's arrival home were interminable.  Finally, finally they could go.  Father and daughter, on a date with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. 

Ready for Harry

Harry Potter is their thing.  Mike started reading the books to her when Elena was six.  They finished the last book this summer.  When he came out of her room, after finishing the last chapter of the last book, he was teary.  For over two years, they've spent nearly every other night immersed in Harry and Hogwarts.  Mike's not a big reader, but these books captivated him.  To share something like that with your child is magical.

I'm embarrassed to admit at times that I haven't read the books.  It's not that I don't want to, it's just that these books are so special to Mike and Elena.  I wanted to wait until this chapter of their lives was over – finish the books, see all the movies together – before I joined that world.  

Dads and daughters need this, to share something that is theirs and theirs alone.  Whatever it is, it doesn't really matter.  It's not the thing, it's the bond the thing creates.  It makes my heart so happy to know that Elena's childhood is Harry Potter, and that Harry Potter will always remind her of cozy evenings at home with her dad.  For that, I can wait.

Today I Gave:  I created an account with GiveBack.org.  It's a new website created by Stephan Paletta, the winner of Oprah's Big Give, as a way for people to easily organize and manage their charitable giving.  When you sign up, you create your own "foundation."  You deposit money into your "foundation" and then choose which charities you'd like to donate to.    GiveBack keeps track of all your different charities and donations, and at the end of the year you get a single statement for your tax records.  Two really cool things about it?  Right now when you sign up, $5 is automatically deposited into your account.  You can donate it immediately or add your own funds.  So even if you never decide to make another donation with your own funds, why not sign up and donate $5 for free?  Secondly, they have pages and pages of merchants who have signed on as well.  Every time you shop through one of these partners (hello, Hanna Andersson and Mini Boden?!), a percentage of your total is donated to a charity of your choice.  

I chose to send my initial donation to the American Cancer Society.  This month would have been my mother-in-law's 58th birthday.  In 2001 she passed away after being diagnosed with lung cancer.  Mike's father also lost his battle with lung cancer in 1991.  In memory of Dee Dee and John, I thought this was a perfect choice for my first of many donations.

Today I Received:  I watched my husband and daughter walk off hand in hand for a very special date.  That was more than enough for today.

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