On Life, Adolescence, Coffee and Goodbyes

I’ve completed 2 weeks of the Do Good Summer Reading Challenge.  I’ve discovered fourteen wonderful blogs and have been inspired to write on topics that I never would have had reason to before.   I am growing my network and contributing to the truly vibrant blogging community here on Worpress and beyond.  Interested in joining?  It’s never too late.  Click the image on the right to find out how!

Day 11:  I took the holiday off, but discovered this gem on Friday and think it will stick with me for a lifetime.  Clare at Grace and Poise shared with her readers 40 Little Instructions on Life and they are so valuable they needed to be shared.  Clare’s list is simple, yet inspiring.  I frequently talk to my girls about using manners, being kind and the such, and this list is yet another tool in my box for teaching my girls how to live happy, fulfilled lives.  Some of my favorites include:

“Never waste an opportunity to tell someone you love them. Leave everything a little better than you found it.”

“Think big thoughts but relish simple pleasures.”

“Don’t expect life to be fair”

If you want to read the whole list, you’ll have to visit Grace and Poise!

Day 12:  On today’s hop around the blog-o-sphere, I visited The Waiting.  Emily has one of the coolest “About” pages I’ve seen and her writing draws you in.  Her most current post is part of a Blog Hop called “Remember The Time When We Did The Things.”  As I understand it, the blog hop will have a different theme each Thursday and audience participation is encouraged.  I happened upon the week about summer vacation.  So, in the spirit of participation, I must share some embarrassing stories from summer vacations of yore.  My family loves to tell the story of the time that I galloped down a hillside somewhere in California to pee on the side of the road.  The details are fuzzy.  We were in a van (I think) and on a road trip to Lake Tahoe (I think) and I had to pee like I’d never had to pee before or since.  I was maybe 11 or so and there was not a bathroom in sight.  Despite my pleading, nobody wanted to stop until I started crying (I think).  When the powers that be finally decided to stop the van, I “galloped like a gazelle” (straight from the mouth of my cousin) down the hillside, much to the delight and entertainment of everyone in the van, and relieved myself, hopefully out of the view of my parents, uncle, brother and cousins.  Ahhh, the fond memories I have of summer road trips.   What are your “classic” summer memories?

Zebra Garden
Day 13: Can a cup of coffee create positive change in the world? Sharman at 365 Cups of Kindness is on a mission to find out and I think she is onto something.   Her idea, to buy a random person a cup of coffee every day for a year, came to her shortly after the tragedy in Newtown, CT.  As a school principal, she was deeply affected by the shooting.  When shopping the next day for a gift for her church’s toy drive, she was appalled by the rudeness and hostility shown by the other shoppers and began to wonder if anyone practiced kindness and compassion anymore.   When finished shopping she and her husband stopped at Starbucks, and spontaneously she gave the cashier $20 to pay for coffees for those behind her and the idea for her blog was born.  Now, she has purchased 157 cups of coffee for others and, though each one is special, she writes that Cup 157 may be her favorite.  This particular cup led to a conversation with a man who was truly grateful and whose story is quite inspiring.  Won’t you join me in spreading her kindness further?  Next time you are in line for coffee, think about buying one for the person behind you.  A small kindness goes a long way!

Cup of coffee

Cup of coffee (Photo credit: Etenil)

Day 14: I was incredibly close with my Granny and she passed suddenly one night 10 years ago.  She was not sick.  There was no warning.  I have debated in my mind a 1000 times whether it would have been better for her to go as she did, suddenly, or to have had an illness that forewarned us of her impending death.   On selfish days, I wish that she had been ill and that I could have told her how much I loved her, how important our relationship was to me, that she would always hold a piece of my heart, that I was so sad she would never meet my husband or children, that life without her in it scared me.  But, on my more rational days, I know that she passed in the way that caused her the least amount of suffering.  I would not have wanted her to suffer.  My memories of my Granny’s death were brought to the surface when I read The First Goodbye at Living Life to the Fullest From the End Stage.  Mike has terminal brain cancer and is sharing his thoughts and experiences through his blog.  This particular one is on a topic that is so difficult – saying goodbye to your child.  He writes that no parent should have to say the words “I know we will probably not see each other again” to their child and goes on to tell the story of how he had to say goodbye to his eldest daughter who lives away from home.  This post is full of raw emotion and you should definitely grab a tissue before reading it.  
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On Golf, Homelessness and Forever Homes

I am quite behind on my Do Good Summer Reading Challenge posts.  I could offer up an excuse about my kids being sick or my computer crashing, but in reality, I was simply enjoying my time with my family.   On Wednesday, my mom and I saw Once on Broadway.  Seeing a live performance is always fun, but this was made much more special because we know the little girl who played Ivanka. Thursday, we relaxed and played as a family.  Friday we jumped waves and floated on a lazy river at a water park.  The long holiday weekend culminated with fireworks on the Delaware River tonight.  It has been busy and this blog has been neglected, but I am going to make up for it in the next couple days.  Here’s a start:

 

Day 8: You may not know that I enjoy golfing.  My husband trained me to be his golf partner and it is one of our favorite things to do together.  I was out on the golf course when I was 5 1/2 months pregnant with Josie and I am pretty sure it was the best golf I ever played.  We don’t get to play nearly enough, but I envision us getting back to it now that we are done making babies.   So, today, when I encountered Now On The First Tee via the WordPress Reader, I was intrigued.  And then I read the post 5 months… which led me to the very first post This is Why.  What I found was a young man, passionate about the sport of golf who is dealing with the loss of his father.  This young man is following his dream of playing on the professional circuit and doing it not only for himself, but also for his father.  I am rooting for him.

Day 9:  Wow!  Talk about an inspiration!  The blogger I discovered today actually found me in two ways.  He followed my blog and he was also nominated for a Very Inspiring Blogger Award by Miss Happy Spirits.  To be honest, I am not really sure what took me so long to make my way over there.  Dennis Cardiff’s blog, Gotta Find A Home, is a tremendous example of how one person can make a difference.  By connecting with those who live on the street and sharing their stories via his blog, he humanizes them and calls attention to the plight of homeless individuals everywhere.   Through his blog, I am inspired to seek out ways to address homelessness in my region.  Project HOME is a well-known agency that provides an array of services to the Philadelphia homeless population.  According to their website, on any given day, it is estimated that there are 4,000 homeless people in the city.   Further, in 2005, the City’s Office of Emergency Shelter and Services served 14,986 homeless people through its emergency shelter system. Of this number, 9,468 were adults without children, 2,011 were heads of households, and 3,507 were children.  It is mind boggling to me that 3,500 children experienced homelessness in one year.   Project HOME is on my list of charities that need my help, be it financial or a gift of my time by volunteering.  If you are in the Philadelphia area and are interested in volunteering, Project HOME has an extensive list of opportunities.  At the very least, next time you encounter a homeless individual, be kind.  In the words of Lucius Annaeus Seneca, “Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.”

English: A homeless man in New York with the A...

English: A homeless man in New York with the American flag in the background. Français : Un homme sans domicile fixe à New York. Un drapeau des États-Unis est visible en arrière plan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Day 10:  Today,  I walked down memory lane with Tric at My thoughts on a page. She wrote a beautiful post, The tales a house could tell, about revisiting her childhood home, the home in which her parents still live.  It is at once emotional, humorous and thought-provoking and I immediately felt a connection to it.   You see, my family (The Hubs and The Girls) moved in with my mom in August 2012, into the home in which I was raised from birth.  My husband and I are sleeping in the bedroom I inhabited from birth through high school graduation.  It no longer has the orange shag carpets of my nursery decor, or the mauve walls and pink carpet of my tween and teen years, thankfully.  But it does hold loads of memories, though many of them have faded and I am somewhat surprised by how many details I cannot remember.  I suppose that happens with time, but now I wish I had been better at keeping a journal or scrapbook of those years.  Now, I am making new memories in this “forever home” with my family by my side.  Where I used to see my brother’s room, I now see the girls’ room, the room in which Lily first climbed out of her crib and earned her toddler bed.   When I look outside, I see the driveway where Josie learned to ride her bike and the sidewalk where Lily got her first scraped knee.    Our time here is special.  It is full of memories and milestones and I know how lucky I am to be able to return to this home of my youth.  I hope someday to settle in a house that my children will be proud to visit as adults with their families, a home that will always be their “forever home.”

Shop Small. Buy Local. Do Good.

A few weeks ago I visited Linvilla Orchards, a kind of wonderland in the world of farm markets.  In addition to fresh, homegrown produce, fresh baked goods and locally produced products, they have an array of family activities that keep the children happy while visiting the farm.  My girls loved the train ride, petting zoo and playground and were totally tuckered out by the time we left.  While buying our goodies on our way out, my eyes were drawn to the Buy Fresh, Buy Local signage that was hanging all around the market.

BuyFreshBuyLocal

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Buy Local movement lately and this was just the push I needed to look into it further.  You see, though I have heard a variety of campaigns that push consumers to Buy Local, I never really paid attention to the reasons behind the campaigns.  Instinctively, it just seems “right” to buy from small, local businesses, but how do these campaigns compel you to do so?

The Buy Fresh Buy Local program’s goal is to make it easier for consumers to find, choose, and appreciate great local foods while supporting the farmers and lands that produce them.  If a store, restaurant or market features a Buy Fresh Buy Local® sign or label, the consumer can be certain that the business has committed to feature local foods and support local producers.  This is one of many programs across the nation that encourage consumers to purchase locally grown and produced foods.  Consumers who patronize local farm markets or restaurants that utilize local foods are directly supporting the local agriculture community.  Further, consumers who buy local produce are reducing their carbon footprint because locally grown fruits and vegetables require far less transportation than those shipped in from great distances.  So, get out there and buy some local produce.   I prefer farm markets or CSAs, but you can also shop the “Buy Local” section of your grocery store and support the movement too.

Shop Small

Shop Small (Photo credit: afagen)

The Buy Local movement stretches well beyond agriculture though and encompasses small business in general.  I’m sure you’ve heard of Small Business Saturday. Conceived by American Express in 2010, it is a “shopping holiday” on the equivalent of Black Friday for big box retailers and Cyber Monday for e-commerce retailers.   Small Business Saturday’s purpose is to drive consumers to local business in an effort to help stimulate the local economy.  Small Business Saturday has morphed into a Shop Small movement that encourages local shopping all year round (though I am sure there will still be a push for that Saturday after Thanksgiving.)   This makes sense.  After all, these businesses need to pay their employees and keep the lights on throughout the year, not just during the shopping season.

Still, I wanted some cold hard facts about why this is an important movement to get behind.  Here is what I found on ELocal.

– Throughout the United States, only about 33.6% of the revenue from national chains is reinvested into the community, which is very low compared to the 64.8% return from local businesses. (2009)

– A study in Austin, Texas found that $100 spent at a local bookstore produced $45 worth of local economic activity, and $100 at the chain store Borders brought back only $13.

– National chains often bring loss of employment. The opening of a Wal-Mart reduces retail employment by an average of 150 jobs in the county of its location.

– If the people of an average American city were to shift 10% of their spending from chains to local businesses, it would bring an additional $235 million per year to the community’s economy.

These numbers are pretty compelling.  Small businesses create local jobs.  Small businesses return more money to the local economy than larger chain retailers.  Small businesses are more likely to be active members of the community, supporting local causes and participating in local events.  And, in patronizing small businesses, you are supporting your neighbors who work there or the family that owns it.  Shop Small.  Buy Local. Do Good.   Now that is a campaign I can get behind.

How does small business fit into your life?  Do you work for one?  Shop at one?  Tell me about it!

Rounding Out the Week…

Day 5:  Today I entered the world of Kristen Hansen Brakeman and encountered a hysterical tirade about Vitamin Water, specifically a radio spot that featured a non-celebrity swimsuit model as a spokeswoman for the product.  You should read her post to get a taste of her spirited sense of humor and truly brilliant ideas for behind-the-scenes footage of Vitamin Water.  As I read, I thought about all the times in my life that I have gotten irrationally mad about something that I should have just let roll off my back.  The biggest offender in my life is drivers who use the shoulder to avoid sitting in a line of traffic.  I know I should just ignore them and hope that there is a police officer ahead to nab their law-breaking tushies.  But, my blood boils.  I grip the wheel until my knuckles are white.  I start to yell at the drivers, you know, because they can hear me, right?  And then, I am that person who blocks their path by driving half on the shoulder and half in my lane, all the while claiming victory, as my grip loosens on the wheel, my blood returns to its normal 98.6 degrees and I start to hum a happy tune again.

Day 6:  It’s Yoonanimous!  This reading challenge is so fun because I am just hitting gold at every turn.  Today, I visited Yoonanimous and read the most recent post about marital traps.  The author, Yoona Park, describes “marital traps” as situations she tries to avoid because of how much tension they create between she and her husband.  I think that anyone in a committed relationship can relate to this, so she had me at hello.  As I read on she related humorous stories about H&M t-shirts and her husband’s grill and how he gets very territorial about it.   And then I read her piece about the bike rack for the car.  I cannot count how many “nice” family days have started out with an obscene amount of F Bombs targeted mostly at my bike lovingly referred to by The Hubs as B****.  He and the B**** bike have wrestled each other countless times to simply be strapped to the car so that we can embark on a family ride.  I’ve learned to avoid the loading of the bikes process at all costs.  It’s best to load the kids in the car, lock the doors and turn up the music to drown out his verbal assault on the bike rack and B**** bike.  If am so stupid as to open my mouth to try to help, I will become the target and that is just ill-advised if we want to continue on to our family outing.  I also must steer clear of The Hubs when he is assembling children’s toys or furniture purchased from Ikea for the same reason.  What are your marital traps?

Day 7:  To round out the first week of the summer reading challenge, I decided to search the WordPress Reader for blogs with the tag “kindness.”  Once again, I was exhilarated with what I’ve stumbled upon.  Harula at wordsthatserve has embarked on a journey of doing at least one good deed a day for an entire year, and is documenting her acts on her blog.  Even better, she is documenting the kindnesses that she has received too.  I love this so much because often the focus is on doing good for others, but we sometimes forget to recognize how much goodness we have received!  Since she was inspired by another blogger to take the journey, you get a twofer today.   Harula’s inspiration is Rosie Amber who started her journey in April after reading A Year of Doing Good by Judith O’Reilly, a book that will be added to my Kindle library later today.  I always find it uplifting to read about how others are living a do-gooder life and these two ladies certainly are.  What is the last good deed that you have done?  When were you last on the receiving end of a good deed?

With the first week of the Do Good Read More Summer Reading Challenge down, I am raising a glass to this challenge and inviting all of you to jump on board for the ride.  I’m feeling inspired and invigorated in ways that I haven’t since launching my blog. Moreover, I am connecting with other bloggers and offering what little I have to give – my words in the form of comments on their blogs and mine about their posts.  I hope that my small acts of commenting and sharing links have helped build their community of readers, I know it has mine.  After all, this challenge, boiled down simply, is to do small acts of kindness daily  with the knowledge that small acts often produce a much greater return than expected.  So, are you ready to be challenged?  It is never too late to start!

final sum read chall

Pick Up a Ghabit

Light switch in the bathroom

Light switch in the bathroom (Photo credit: anotherpioneer)

Pick Up a Ghabit: Ghabit is short for Green Habit and is the creation of Milesh Jain, aka Dr. Ghabit. I love this concept of empowering children to be active participants in preserving the environment. By simply establishing a habit of turning out the lights upon leaving a room or walking to and from school, your children can be proud that they’ve reduced their carbon footprint and are actively helping the environment. So, get your family together and pick up a Ghabit. Carry a bag on your walks to collect litter, turn off the lights, use less water, walk more and drive less, the possibilities are endless and Mother Earth will thank you.

via Do-Gooder Kids Activities.

Riding in Cars With Kids, Hoagies and Fanny Packs

final sum read chall

 

I’ve come to realize that there is absolutely no way that I will be able to post everyday about my Reading Challenge discoveries.  Life gets in the the way of that – and I do not mean that to sound negative.  Yesterday, I spent a lovely day with my girls visiting one of our favorite indoor play areas and then took them bowling in the afternoon.  I am so lucky to be able to take the day and live it with my children.  So, I will post as frequently as life allows about my Reading Challenge finds and I will enjoy my children,  except maybe when one or both of them is engaged in a meltdown of epic proportions.  Then, I will just tolerate them.

Enhanced Kid Car Photo

Enhanced Kid Car Photo (Photo credit: clappstar)

Day 3:  Today, I followed the recommendation of the WordPress Reader and discovered some truly inspired writing.      I clicked on the link to Free Little Words and landed on a post about car trips with loud children.  YES!  I can relate to this.  My little darlings each have a healthy set of lungs and they love to use them in unison, in the car and especially when mommy has a headache.  Or so it seems anyway.  Keladelaide at Free Little Words vividly describes different types of car rides with young children that any parent who drives can relate to and makes you see the humor in them.   She writes about love in all its forms.  The love between mother and sons, brothers, lovers, friends and anywhere that love exists.  On the origins of the title, she writes, “The name of my blog came to be from those three little words we all wish to hear whether it be from a parent, child, lover or partner. ’Free’ was substituted for ‘three’ because they don’t cost anything to say and my little guy, then 2, could not say three properly-it came out as free.”

 

Dodgy Wawa Hoagie! (Hi-Res).

Dodgy Wawa Hoagie! (Hi-Res). (Photo credit: stev.ie)

Day 4:  I can hardly believe it, but I discovered a blog post today that contained the word “hoagie” in the title.  Do you know what a hoagie is?  If not, you must go read this wonderful post on an incredibly fascinating topic at The Misfortune of Knowing.  It is all about American dialects and how people in different regions identify the same item by different terms.  I personally was excited by the word “hoagie” because, as this map demonstrates, it is highly unique to the greater Philadelphia area.  Dialects, here and abroad, have always been of interest to me.   I remember, when working at a camp in college, I had a bunch of coworkers from the UK and we had a hell of a laugh over the phrase Fanny Pack.  You see, counselors had to carry bright red Fanny Packs to hold camper medicines.  While Fanny Packs are highly unfashionable to the point of being comical here in the US, my new friends from the UK could not hear the phrase without smirking and elbowing each other.  You see, to them “fanny” was slang for a certain part of the female anatomy.  We had quite a few laughs that summer learning their vocabulary: fags (aka cigarettes), snogging (aka making out), and  having a kip (taking a nap), among others that are perhaps better not mentioned.

 

Interested in joining the reading challenge, discovering new blogs, encouraging fellow writers and expanding your blog’s exposure?  Here’s how!

 

Day 2: This Mama is Keeping it Real

I needed a laugh tonight.  It had been my intention to post my Do Good Summer Reading Challenge post each morning and here it is 9:30 PM and I am just now getting to it.  Josie was up at 5:50 AM.  Here is the official SHOUT OUT to The Hubs for getting up with her.  I got to stay in bed with my little Lily who joined us at around 3:30 AM.  But, by 7 AM the household was buzzing and and by the time we left for school at 9:00 AM, I knew Josie was going to be a BEAR today.  On top of getting up at 5:50 AM, she also did not go to sleep until 10 PM last night.  So, while she normally gets 11 hours of sleep a night, she only got a little less than 8.  Not good for an already moody nearly 4 year old.  After school, she was exhausted and unwilling to take a nap.  So I laid with her for an hour while she cried and finally she dozed off.  But by that time, it was 2:35 PM and there was no way she could sleep past 3:30 PM.  Do you see where this is going?  I set her little pink alarm clock that she picked out at Target and it started buzzing at 3:30 PM and then I lovingly stroked her face and hugged her and welcomed her back to the world of the awake.  But, my Josie is not a happy person when she is awoken before her time and she proceeded to scream for another 40 minutes or so.  Only this time, the screaming ignited a hissy fit from her sister too.  As I repeated my mantra, “This Too Shall Pass” in my mind, I tried to think fast.  I knew she was just tired and cranky and I also GetAttachment.aspxknew that if I didn’t get a moment of silence, I was going to lose it.  So, I said let’s go to the mall and buy that new underwear you were asking for.  Within a minute, the waterworks had stopped, Josie had her shoes on and was helping Lily into hers.  So yes, not my proudest moment as a Mama and not the kind of behavior I typically reward, but Josie got her Days of the Week Underwear from Old Navy and Mommy got her peace and quiet.

That was a long digression, but I do feel better having gotten that off my chest.  So first, thank you for listening.  Second, you will now better understand why I felt a sense of camaraderie with The Mama at keepingitreal4mamas.  I was searching WordPress for humor tags and I read a couple, but this one spoke to me.  You see, The Mama’s latest post is about how she can claim victory (at least for this moment) in getting her child to take a bottle.  I like that she saw the humor in the situation – it is necessary as a mom to be able to step back and laugh at yourself sometimes.  But I also like that she is airing her dirty and clean laundry to help first-time moms survive the first year.  No matter how much you read, you are always surprised by something in your first year (or maybe 10) of motherhood, but this mama is attempting to help other moms feel “normal.”

I experienced a child who would not take a bottle and it is a hell I would not wish on any other mama.  Kudos to moms who are perfectly happy to breastfeed exclusively, but I was a mama who would have given almost anything to have been able to hand a bottle to The Hubs, go out for a girls night and give my boobs a rest.  But my sweet, lovable, animated little Lily refused.  That is, she refused until 2 nights ago when, at 22 months, she found a bottle stuck in the back of a cabinet and decided she had to have it at bedtime.  Really?   I am embracing the humor in that tonight and hope you can too.  lily bottle

Want to join the Do Good Read More Summer Challenge?  Click here to find out how.