Choose Kindness

When children are “given”, it can create a sense of entitlement. When children “give”, psychologists tell us that human bonds are strengthened. There is greater joy in giving than in receiving and this is a lesson we should allow our children to learn.

This activity works for Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa; actually it works any month of the year! Here is my proposal: Give your child a blank calendar page. This simple page becomes a journal or record of kindnesses. Each night at bedtime, ask your child to record an intentional kindness they performed that day. This few moments allows your child to savor joy in the kindness they performed. It also allows you a moment to look your child in the eyes and genuinely say, “I am proud of you!”

That moment when you really look at your child and tell him or her you are proud is powerful and profound…this is a message that helps forge a strong, resilient, loving, lifelong bond.

Here are a few ideas to get you and your child started on this journey of giving:

  1. Do a chore for a family member.
  2. Hold the door open for someone.
  3. Recycle.
  4. Pick up litter.
  5. Feed the birds.
  6. Give someone a compliment.
  7. Let someone get in front of you in line.
  8. Set the table.
  9. Send a Thank You note to a service member or first responder.
  10. Say, “I love you!” first.
  11. Read to your little brother or sister.
  12. Play with someone new on the playground.
  13. Write a Thank You note to your teacher.
  14. Help make dinner.
  15. Donate a toy so a less fortunate child can receive a gift.
  16. Bake cookies for a nursing home.
  17. Clear the table after dinner.
  18. Load the dishwasher or wash the dishes.
  19. Clean your room without being asked.
  20. Give a compliment.
  21. Offer to play with your little brother or sister.
  22. Write a Thank You note to your postal worker and leave it in the mailbox.
  23. Share a toy with your brother or sister.
  24. Help carry in groceries and put them away.
  25. Fold the laundry.
  26. Help your little brother or sister with homework.
  27. Share your umbrella space.
  28. Listen to your little brother or sister read out loud.
  29. Get a haircut for Locks of Love.
  30. Use sidewalk chalk to leave a positive message for others.
  31. Smile!!

 

KINDNESS CALENDAR

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Kindess Lives!

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Today we are still evacuated from our coastal homes in Savannah, Georgia and St. Augustine, Florida.  Sitting in a small hotel room in a small town in Alabama has allowed me lots of time to reflect.  Today people are struggling to make sense of the devastation left behind by Hurricane Irma.  Today is also the anniversary of the horrific attack of September 11, 2001.  How are these two events so closely intertwined?

Lately the news has been so overwhelmingly negative.  Social media is filled with images of police using excessive force, vengeful attacks on police, angry mobs carrying torches and screaming epithets of hatred.  I read about frightening incidents of road rage, people purposefully driving vehicles into innocent groups of people, bombs being set off at concerts.  It is easy to sink into feelings of depression and despair.

But, what IS real? Can I allow the media to shape my vision of the world I live in?   Let’s take a moment and think back to 9/11.  Yes, this was a hideous act of terrorism. However, out of this act emerged tremendous human kindness and selflessness. People, complete strangers, reached out helping one another with no expectation of anything in return. The news was filled with images of men and women committing amazing acts of courage and kindness. The lesson I learned from 9/11 was that the light of humanity in all of us is not easily extinguished.  Good Samaritans are everywhere.  Instead of diminishing our country, it was strengthened. There was a resurgence of pride in being an American. Flags flew proudly across our nation.

Look at the human response to Hurricane Harvey in Houston. There were countless examples of people risking their own safety to rescue a complete stranger.  People from all over the country mobilized to help in any way possible. Today, people are already reaching out to see how they can help in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. We are strong. We are resilient. We are America.

Will bad people still do bad things? Sadly, yes.  But I prefer to see the good in people.  One of the elementary schools in my Georgia community is challenging students to perform daily Random Acts of Kindness.  We are instilling in our youngest citizens the importance of doing good, showing compassion, being kind.

When the news reporters interviewed the everyday heroes of 9/11, Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, they all had one common response.  When asked, “How does it feel to be a hero?” every one of them said, “I am not a hero. I was just doing what anyone would. I didn’t stop to think about what I was doing; I just did it.”

These folks are right. Yes, what they did was heroic, but I believe that within all of us lives a hero.  Too often the media focuses on the negative, the frightening, and the violent.  These isolated incidents sell news, but they are not representative of who we are as Americans. Kindness, in its every day form ~ quiet, gentle, subtle ~ doesn’t attract attention and so, often goes unnoticed.

What is the lesson here? I have been reminded today that it is human nature to care, to protect, to love. I choose to believe that this is the true picture of who we are as a human race and as American citizens.  I am actually grateful for this day of reflection.  I am happy in my restored belief that Kindness Lives.

In my Father’s Footsteps

From Generation to Generation:

My father loved to cook. I remember him standing in the kitchen over a hot stove with a cold beer in hand. He spent many an evening pouring over his collection of cookbooks and foodie magazines looking for new recipes to try. And try them he would. Today my parents have passed away and I am living in their home and each time I walk out into the kitchen I can see him standing there chopping, dicing, or stirring. I miss him. 

My father invited my son to join him in the kitchen. They stood side by side while performing culinary tricks and today that passion for cooking has been passed along to a new generation of chefs. I find great pleasure in watching him stand in his kitchen looking so much like my dad. Not only does he like to cook, but he’s very good at it! 

One of the things I like to do occasionally is pull out one of my father’s recipes and recreate it. We all sit around enjoying the food and our precious memories. Here is one of his favorites. I made it recently, and it is just delicious.  Here in Coastal Georgia we have access to wonderful wild caught local shrimp. Give it a try!
Shrimp with Tequila Dipping Sauce
Shrimp:
Lay 1-2 pounds of medium to large shrimp out on a roasting pan. Coat with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven at 350 degrees until the shrimp have just turned pink. Watch them carefully. If you overcook them, they get tough. Cool them and arrange them on a platter. You may peel them for your guests or leave them in the shell. If you peel them, leave them in the shell until just before you serve them so they won’t dry out.

Dipping sauce:

1 large whole egg

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup vegetable oil (canola is good)

1 7 oz. jar of pimentos, drained

¼ cup tequila

¼ cup bottled chili sauce

1 dash of Worcestershire sauce

1 dash of bitters

1 dash of hot sauce

In your Vitamix, blender, or food processor with the steel blade, blend the egg and the extra egg yolk, mustard, vinegar, and salt. With motor running, add oil in a slow stream. It is important to pour slowly so the mixture emulsifies and thickens, almost like a mayonnaise. Add pimentos, tequila, chili sauce, Worcestershire sauce, bitters, and hot sauce. Blend until well combined. Chill until ready to serve. 
Put the sauce in a bowl and top with a pretty sprig of parsley and a few lemon wedges. Surround the bowl of sauce with the shrimp. Your guests will love it! 

In Loving Memory

Manley Woodward Clark

1913 – 1997

Happy New Year?

celebrate!The Happy New Year that Wasn’t…

I was looking at my FaceBook memories they share each day and it got me thinking about what it means in our lives to look ahead and look back.  I found a jubilant post I shared out at about 11:45 p.m. on December 31, 2013.  In it I shared pictures of highlights from the year. “Join me as I bid farewell to 2013 and eagerly welcome 2014. Each of you has enriched my life and I am so thankful to be sharing this time and space with you. Let’s take time to look back on the year past and reflect on what was…learn and grow from those experiences. Now let’s look ahead to all the adventures awaiting us. May 2014 be a wonderful year filled with friends, family, and fun!”

I was so happy that night sitting beside my husband of 43 years, sipping champagne, and toasting the new year. At midnight I called my sister and spoke with her and my mom just as we had done every year.  I didn’t know at that moment that I would lose both my mother and my husband that year.  Yet, in the space of 12 weeks, they were both gone. So, 2014 turned out to be a most difficult, sad, and challenging year.

None of us know what awaits us. Yes, we have control over much of what happens in our lives, but most pivotal events are orchestrated by God’s hand, not ours. I have always believed that not knowing protects us from fear and sadness.  I suspect that if I had known what was in my future, I would have been frozen, awaiting the inevitable, rather than living a life filled with laughter and giggles.

Today I am in a new place.  I miss my mother, but losing her has helped me realize that even though my child is an adult, I can continue to be the best mother possible.  I miss my husband and will always hold him in my heart, but I have found joy again in a new and loving relationship. This relationship is stronger because of what I have been through. Tragedy forced me to examine who I am and how to move forward. I had to get tough – pump my own gas, eat alone at the sushi bar, overcome my fear of heights and climb the ladder to change the lightbulb, balance the checkbook, wander through the maze of Social Security…the list goes on. Today, the woman I bring to all my relationships is changed, more confident, more resilient, more balanced because of the struggle brought about by loss.

So, knowing what I know now, would I change the post from 2013? Come midnight on December 31, 2017, will I still look ahead with joyful anticipation? The answer is unequivocally YES! I will treasure each moment, each person, each relationship, each adventure.

I encourage you to stop for a moment and flip through the pages of your life. Look at your mental snapshots of the places, the family, the friends, even the pets who surround you. You and I, we are richly blessed!

 

 

 

 

Within each of us, greatness resides

IMG_1032If you are one of the 25 million or so who have viewed the YouTube video of Susan Boyle’s amazing performance on the show Britain’s Got Talent, you know that she is living proof of this. When this unassuming, slightly frumpy, and somewhat quirky middle-aged woman from a village in Scotland walked out onto the stage, she walked into the hearts of viewers all over the world. We all assumed we were in for a terrible joke of a performance. Yet, when she opened her mouth and sang, we all got goosebumps. Her choice of song was so perfect – I Have a Dream – from Les Miserables.

So, today my question is, how do I recognize and tap into the talent, gifts, promises that have been given me? Oprah (she doesn’t even need a last name, does she?) and I have a lot in common; we are close in age, we’re both female, both spiritually curious, love to read, enjoy talking, like to figure out what makes people tick. Yet, look at how different we are! Hmmm…

I believe that God did not plan for me to live my life as an ordinary, plain, generic version of myself. I also believe that within me resides something greater, but I’m not even sure where to begin looking. I was in high school and college in the sixties. The Vietnam War was at its peak and the world was in upheaval. Many of my “hippie” friends dropped out to “find themselves”. Well, one thing I know for sure is that I don’t have to look far… where ever I  go, there I am.  And yet, I was telling a friend the other day that “just being me” is a huge challenge, because I am constantly struggling to define who “me” is!

Just like our one-of-a-kind appearance, each of us has been gifted with unique abilities and talents. There are folks out there making a fortune writing psychology books and self-help blogs for people like me. Millions of us are spending countless hours trying to develop our spirituality…that essence of who we are that connects us to God and the Universe.

Is there a “one size fits all” formula for this? No. I think one thing that makes the difference is an unwaivering belief in self. Greatness doesn’t just happen – it is cultivated. People who have successfully tapped into their gifts will tell you that they never doubted themselves. They totally believed that they would win, achieve, succeed, invent, become. Recently I watched a biography of Oprah. One scene stands out in my mind. She often talks about her grandmother. She recalled how her grandmother was attempting to show her how to wash clothes. My “aha” moment came when Oprah said she wasn’t paying any attention because somehow, deep within herself, even at the age of four, she knew she would not need to know that.

So there’s the rub. It begins with belief. I have spent a lifetime doubting myself. I doubt my intelligence, my worthiness, my appearance, my skill. I have been a chameleon – being and doing what others expect of me. My challenge now is not to develop my talent, but to believe that it is already there.

God’s Paintbrush

A Perfect Balance ~ Beautiful, not Barren!

IMG_0765My sister is headed home to New Mexico today.  I miss her already! I am already counting the days until I am on my way to see her! Every time I head to New Mexico I am amazed at the landscape. I live in south Georgia where it is hot, humid, lush, green, mosquito-filled, and slow moving. New Mexico is where the rest of my family lives.  As I fly into the Albuquerque Airport I always marvel at how brown the landscape appears. However, in spite of its seemingly drab appearance, the desert is anything but boring or barren. It is dotted with some of the most amazing structures nature has ever produced.

I’ve decided that the desert is a misunderstood landscape. During the day it is barren and dry and hot. People avoid it. I know I associate it with scorpions, snakes, bad Westerns, and thirst. Yet, each time I visit New Mexico I am reminded that there is a reward at the end of a day in the blazing desert heat … sunset. The sun sparkles off the desert sands and produces some of the most breath-taking sunsets I have ever seen. I feel as though the sunset is sort of your reward for suffering through the heat of the day.

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The sun glistens and sparkles as it hits the many different minerals that make up the desert soil and the reflections create amazing and vivid colors. The mountains, plateaus, buttes, and other craggy landforms make stark profiles against the blazing colors of the early sunset. As the sun recedes, the colors fade to soft, beautiful pastels. Our Universe is in perfect balance.  Yes, I love New Mexico because my family is there, but also because God’s paintbrush has swept across it in a most wonderful way.

 

Social Animals

Have you ever found yourself sitting in the middle of the “holding pen” at the airport? When I was there a few weeks ago, I was struck by the level of noise…human noise. I tend to keep to myself. I’m one of those folks that follow the rules…you know, those unwritten rules like, “You don’t talk in elevators.”

However, that rule definitely does not apply at airports. Complete strangers all around me were striking up conversations, “Where are you headed?” “Where are you from?” “Who are you visiting?” “Have you been there before?” “Let me show you pictures of my ______(fill in the blank: grandbaby, dog, Halloween costume…).

Apparently the airport is a place where it is acceptable to talk nonstop to people you don’t know about stuff that nobody really cares about. What drives that behavior? Why do we have such a strong need to connect with those around us? Does the shared human experience reassure us that we’re “okay”? What is it about the temporary circumstance of waiting at an airport, sitting at the stadium, or standing in line at the theme park that makes us open up?
I believe that each of us value the comfort we feel when a common experience is shared and a connection is made. We were created to be social animals and as such, we rely on our five senses to let us know where we stand. When we feel another’s touch, hear a comforting voice, smell our mother’s favorite perfume, share a meal, or see people standing in line beside us, we are reassured that we fit in, we are safe, we are accepted.  I am constantly reminded that, in spite of the sad and scary daily news reports, ~people are good…~people are caring…~people are kind.  And therefore, I am blessed.