12.21.2014

Kindness Confetti

Yesterday, I came across a mantra that grabbed my attention:
Throw kindness around like confetti.
And I can totally imagine how colorful our world would be.
So today, some final musings about kindness
before I unplug for the holidays.

Look at these decorative utensils I received wrapped with love 
by two of our knitting friends as a reminder 
to spread kindness because kindness matters.

Thank you, Laura and Cindy.

Aren't they exquisite? 
I see them as a challenge to invite kindness to the table
 and serve it at every meal.
Kindness to others, kindness to self.
Kindness to friends and {gasp!} kindness to foes.
Then, bright and early this morning, I jolted up to this ...


 and was dazzled by this ...


both from Joelle's Hood's Kindness Revolution FB page. 
Together they filled me with joy at the possibility of all of those
 glitter-filled, caffeinated hearts.

One act of kindness.
One person, one situation, one day at a time.
How many hearts will sparkle ... 
because of me,
because of you,
because of us?

Then this beauty, from Lisa at Ripple Kindness, jumped for joy.


Even the hardest of day.
Because there will be difficult days, guaranteed.
But it's virtually impossible to be down-in-the-dumps when you're 
practicing kindness
Thank you, Lisa, for being a Climate Changer!

So as you rush into the holiday, 
don't miss that feel-good holiday rush that kindness brings. 
I wish for you many magical, one-of-a-kind days ahead
complete with family and friends by your side and
filled with health, happiness, and hope.


And let kindness be your light.
 {Until it glistens like little pieces of sparkly confetti.}

Now it's time to sign off, but not before I thank you, 
my friends, for routinely stopping by and reflecting with me.
When I get back, we'll talk about our
One Little Word for 2015, so start thinking ...

Merry Christmas!





12.19.2014

#Kindawesome

Today marks the first day of our winter break and I couldn't be happier as I skipped out of the office and dodged raindrops to get to my van and 
head home for the holidays. It's a #kindawesome feeling!

Where do you stay when you go on vacation? If we're not with family for friends, I prefer to stay at Marriott hotels, in large part because there's just something really special about the AVEDA rosemary mint shampoo they provide to their guests. So you can imagine my delight when my sister asked the cleaning staff for a few extra little bottles of it the last time we were together. Here's the token of our thanks I left behind. It was a beyond-#kindawesome trade.


Now that I'm about to run out of that happiness in those hotel-sized bottles, I'm thinking about some of my favorite things.


You see, although I like that yummy shampoo a lot, the bigger thing here is that my sister would think to request a few extra bottles ... for me ... just because she knew how much I loved the scent. A whole lot. It was the #kindawesome surprise that warmed my heart. Thoughtfulness is like that, more valuable than any thing she could buy for me.

Generosity is right up there with thoughtfulness.
Just last week, we asked our school family for socks, scarves, mittens, gloves and hats for the homeless in our Head To Toe Giving campaign. Yes, it's right before the holidays, and yes, we were still able to fill the back of a van with our warm donations. I had the pleasure of heading to the streets of Houston Wednesday night to help deliver the goods. Our character cam caught this homeless man warming up with the red scarf I knit ... just for someone like him. 
More #kindawesomeness!


Yesterday, one of my students brought a bar of shark-fin soap as a gift, with a note that a donation had been made to the United Conservationists. I talked with this first-grader when he delivered my gift; turns out he's done a lot of research and is quite passionate about saving the sharks. I think it's #kindawesome that he would include me on his crusade.

Another #kindawesome thing is Brittany's Dream, a girl's goal to raise $20K by cooking up kindness in the kitchen in exchange for help funding a water well in Malawi. She also organized a Well Walk to simulate what it's like to walk miles and miles just to get a drink of clean water water. Talk about your empathy elevator! For more information or to support her efforts, visit her Wishing Well page.

There's a really fun character clip about generosity {here} ... and then, Good News out of Dallas; you must watch what happens when this school's beloved crossing guard loses his car {here}. 

Finally, check out this organization that sends challenges, ideas, and activities to put caring into action in the mail. If you need a creative and inspirational gift idea, why not consider a subscription to Giving Families. 
Click the graphic below for details.


Opportunities to be caring, thoughtful and generous abound!
How will you be #kindawesome today?





12.17.2014

How We Treat Each Other

How we treat each other MATTERS!

So I put that into writing this Star Tree Bulletin Board.


On the stars, I wrote things like this:
Care.
Obey.
Share.
Be kind.
Forgive.
Apologize.
Appreciate.
Show respect.
Have empathy.
Be responsible.
Be a good citizen.
Volunteer.
Give. 
Play fair.
Have integrity.

I originally planned to say treet each other, 
to cleverly play with the words,
but it just seems wrong somehow,
to misspell things on purpose,
in an elementary school,
where modeling is key.
So I put the word treat on the tree instead.
And that's how it turned out.
Since it's not necessarily seasonal,
it can stay up well into the new year.
Who knows, the stars may morph into
leaves as winter turns into spring.
Now that's a distinct possibilitree .....





12.15.2014

The Gift Of A Memory

As I continue to showcase the cyberspace connections I've made this year, let's travel to California to check in on parenting expert Annie Fox. You may remember that at the end of October Annie interviewed me by Skype for a Family Confidential podcast that she posted {here}. She's a brilliant, talented, and compassionate empowerment educator who's passionate about building social courage and emotional intelligence in tomorrow's leaders. 

Annie recently shared the good news that she'd be writing an article for the Huffington Post and she posed an interesting reflection opportunity: 
Recall a meaningful gift you received as a child. 
What comes to mind and why was it so special to you?


I'm here to tell you that it wasn't an easy-breezy-lemon-squeezy question to answer by any means, but it was, indeed, a thought-provoking inquiry to ponder that took me back, waaaaaaay back, to the frozen tundra of our family farm, to treasures that are tucked deep in the recesses of my 53-year-old heart and mind. 

It was a real gift, that trip down Memory Lane where I was able to relive how I felt about Grandma Larsen's hand-knit slippers, about the matching hand-sewn flannel nightgowns that my mom made for my sister and me, and about the handcrafted specialty I'd get from Dad's wood shop. 

The one thing I do remember that all of the children in our parochial grade-school unequivocally anticipated and eagerly awaited was the big grocery-store paper sack of mixed chocolates, peanuts in a shell, and three pieces of fruit - a grapefruit, an orange, and an apple - that we'd receive after our performance in the Christmas Eve service. Those coveted malted milk balls were my absolute favorite! 
Sometimes it's the little things ...

Anyway, today I'm celebrating with her because that article posted {here} earlier today. Thank you, Annie, for being a Climate Changer and warming our world.

Oh, and we'd love to know how you would have answered Annie's inquiry, so feel free to share the gift of your favorite childhood holiday memories.






12.14.2014

Shine On

Two years ago today, I made this evergreen; 
the message that wafts from its branches still applies today.


Please lift up the families who were involved ...
 as we remember our friends in Newtown ... and hope for better ...
for our children ... for our world.

I believe that kindness has the power to heal and transform.
The Smile Cards on our cars Friday afternoon, for example, which  launched us into our weekend, touched the hearts of our school family in a very special way.


From our first graders ... 


in Jennifer Quigley's class ...


wishing us well ...


and sharing a smile. 
Sometimes it's the little things
that mean the most. I know it made a lot of friends smile ...
and more than that ... it made us want to pay it forward.

Then, another intentional act of kindness,
a warm email from a reader, thanking me for my work
and sending me a copy of her Christmas poem.
Ah, the gift of words can evoke such powerful imagery
and festive feelings.

And if that didn't bring enough joy ...
I was sitting all alone yesterday afternoon
at a local Barnes & Noble book signing,
without (m)any customers to speak of.


And after two hours of not very many people two people to talk to, in walks Amy, a counselor at the Junior High in town,
through the front doors with a huge smile on her face 
and her precious family in tow. 
{Her husband agreed to play paparazzi to capture the memory.}


It's not like they were in the area, either. She made the trip on purpose, intentionally, to surprise and support me. Not only does she buy a book for her baby girl's collection, but she insists on treating me to a salted caramel mocha from the adjacent Starbucks. A planned act of kindness ... it doesn't get any sweeter than that. And it makes me want to do something kind 
for someone else.

I'll be the first to admit that sometimes it's really challenging to shine on in a world where people can be self-centered and mean and violent acts take a front-row seat in the news. Trust me, I get it.

But 
when we
intentionally 
search for 
ways to be kind,
one person at a time,
one vehicle at a time,
one Smile Card at a time,
one Starbucks drink at a time,
our light will shine and eventually brighten 
even the darkest nooks and crannies in the world.
Now that's something transformative to smile about!
And it will be
a coveted gift
under your tree.





12.13.2014

Giving Back Guest Post

Today I'm excited about this guest post by a teacher I met in my #teacherfriends Twitter chat. Travel back with us in time; what do you get for the elderly family members and friends in your life at holiday time? 
Welcome Elena with some creative ideas.

Giving Back On Christmas Eve by Elena Burdette 
The following idea was inspired by thriftyfun.com articles {here} and {here}. 


This year our family will begin a new tradition with our teenager, that will allow her to experience the joy of giving back. Instead of sitting around obsessed with what presents will be under the tree for her this holiday, she will be helping her family put together and deliver big gift boxes to give as a surprise on Christmas Eve. 

We could have chosen a needy family or an elderly neighbor, but this year we've decided to bring the joy back to those in our own family who seem to have lost the true spirit & pleasure of Christmas. In our family, that happens to be our daughter's grandparents. As folks who lived through the end of WWII, the Vietnam War, the summer of love, Ronald Reagan & Bill Clinton, 9/11, hurricanes & globalization, earthquakes & tsunamis, they've grown clearly jaded. 

Though we remember lovely Christmases spent together under their trees, that was years ago. Now, they come to dinner on Christmas with envelopes of checks in their pockets, full of love, but done with buying, done with Black Friday, online shopping & returned gifts. They smile through the unwrapping, but they leave early & we know why. They're 70; we understand.

Still, we have hope to rekindle just a small candle flame in their hearts by surprising them on Christmas Eve with a big box of loving gifts and cheer that they really won't be expecting. We will use the following websites for inspiration, but our boxes and contents will be as handmade & hand-chosen as possible. We want them to feel special and remembered, the way we felt as children, under their trees, so long ago.


Grandparents might appreciate simple Christmas eve traditional gifts (pajamas, slippers & favorite snacks) but personalized touches will really ignite Christmasmas spirit.
This is the same idea as above, but the gift is given in a handmade wooden box, painted with a personalized message!
Creative, unique & traditional gift baskets for adults at a discount price.
The purchased, ordered & pre-prepared candy & fruit baskets. A fun website to peruse for ideas.
The purchased, ordered & pre-prepared wine basket. This would be fast & fancy, but not as personal. Also, may not be appropriate for all families as grandparents can be on medications that prohibit alcohol consumption.
In a rush? No time for personal touches. Amazon wins for fast, easy & fairly affordable prices. Use the Amazon filters to locate a price-range that fits your budget. A Christmas eve basket without breaking a sweat or the bank.

More ideas {here}

Happy Holidays!

Elena 
@elena_sf_ca
Mother, Daughter, Teacher
San Francisco Bay Area, CA
Author bio: A mother for seventeen years and a teacher for almost twenty, Elena has learned many lessons along the way. Currently, she teaches a 6th grade English & Social Studies core, along with ELD/ELA classes, grades 6-8 combined, to international students from around the globe. This year she's spending every Friday in ELA teaching empathy, kindness & empowerment.




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