Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Birthday Project

My birth date, December 30th, has long been riddled with problems my entire life.  If you have a birthday between Christmas and New Year's then you know what I am saying.  Expectations are always set for a great day, but they never seem to materialize.  People forget, gifts are combined with Christmas, no one is in town, the plans of New Year's Eve the next night supersede any focus on celebrating with me.  I have even been given guilt trips because of how terribly timed my birthday I had any control over that.  I am understanding, but it still stinks.  Or rather, it always used to stink until this year. 

About a month ago, I discovered "The Birthday Project."  Immediately, I knew this was how to transform the negativity often associated with my birthday into something completely different.  Instead of focusing on me on my birthday, I was going to focus on others.  Instead of receiving gifts, I was going to give gifts.  Some of the ideas were small, some of the ideas were larger, some cost money and some only took my time.  Some of them touched people in my immediate circle, but more went to those I did not know at all. It turned out to be the BEST. BIRTHDAY. EVER.

Here is what I did, in the order in which it happened:

1.  At the gas station, I bought the drinks for the man behind me in line.  He just stared at me like I was a lunatic.  I loved it!
2. Stopped by my Mom's house and gave her lots of hugs and told her how much I love her and cherish her.  She is the best mom in the world, people.  I am so blessed!
3. Gave a dog treat for a dog being walked in the neighborhood.  Surprised look and a big thank you.
4. At the bank, put quarters in all of the gumball machines.  Told the teller all about the Birthday Project which inspired her to the same on her next birthday.
5. A person in the parking lot of the bank had a dog in her car, and I offered a dog treat.  She gave me a big smile, a thank you and a SURE!
6.  At Costco, I let the person behind me get in front of me.  Who doesn't appreciate that!  They did!  Thanked me multiple times as the lines were really, really long!
7.  I gave some money to a homeless woman at the light.
8. I taped 6 bags of popcorn to the RedBox movie box with a note that said, "Free Popcorn for your movie.  Take one and enjoy this random act of kindness"
9. Gave out bottles of water and handwarmers to other homeless people collecting money around the Wendover/I-40 area. Amazed at the appreciation and thanks.
10. Gave a new friend a small bouquet of flowers.  What a way to brighten a day!
11. Gave an old friend a small bouquet of flowers.  Got the best, longest hug!
12.  Stood in the lobby of Target and with permission, gave out single dollar bills to kids coming in so that they could pick out some little treat from the Dollar Section.  Parents thought it was great, no one told me "no," and the kids' grins were priceless.  Got lots of "Happy Birthdays," too!
13.  Distributed 37 handwarmers to men outside of the Open Door Shelter, with the remaining given inside to be distributed.
14. Handed out 22 bottles of water at the Main Bus Terminal in town.  Oh my, the elderly African-American ladies were unbelievably sweet! They give the best hugs! Everyone wished me a happy birthday, too!
15.  Stopped to check on a driver whose car was in distress.
16.  Dropped by the Salvation Army and delivered 36 various chocolate candy bars.  I explained what I was there to do and this was the response, "Wait.  Let me get this straight.  It is your birthday and you are giving US chocolate?  YOU ROCK! What an awesome idea!"  The kids went nuts, by the way.
17.  A lady walking with 3 kids under the age of  8 was walking towards the Salvation Army and I gave her a bouquet of flowers. Oh, the look on her face!  Was it the most practical thing I could have done for her? Probably not. She said, "Who are these for?"  I said, "You!  Everyone deserves something beautiful."  She started crying.  Oh my!
18. Let several cars into a long line of traffic due to road construction.
19. Paid for a man's lunch in the drive thru at McDonald's.
20.  On our last stop, we surprised my 85-year old grandmother.  We gave her 25 yellow roses.  As predicted, she cried.  She always cries over anything slightly emotional, so this was a Niagara Falls moment.

Twenty collective acts that translated to touching over 130 people.  Were these earth-shattering acts? Absolutely not.  Did it brighten someone's day unexpectedly?  I am positive it did so for one person - me!  Will I do it on my birthday next year?  No.  That is because I don't plan on waiting so long to do it again.  I plan on making a conscious effort to do something every single day moving forward, not just on my birthday.  Let the planning begin!

This is not a post about how great Kelsey Dumoulin is because she did this on her birthday.  This project is not about me.  I certainly don't own the creative rights to it. It is about looking outward on day that is usually very self-focused and at times greedy.  This is a post to inspire you to consider The Birthday Project on your special day.  What if everyone did it?!?

Monday, December 05, 2011

Well, hello there little blog.  It has been a while, my friend.  No documenting of our lives has occurred in nearly three months and that just has to be ok with me. A quick list of things that have happened in the last few months that should have warranted some mention, but just haven't:

1. Lily had eye surgery to correct her accommodating esotropia in November.  The muscle located in the inner corner of each eye was cut and shortened in order for the eyes to stay aligned.  Amazing procedure, amazing results.  She did great - better than I would have thought.  Recovery was a snap and she looks "great" as she says.  She will still need glasses, but in time will get wear contacts and later, lasik surgery.

2.  Sadie is no longer swimming.  She is happy; we are happier.  Well, I take that back.  I wish she were swimming because she is good at swimming when she cares about it.  Actually, she is great at swimming, but it isn't interesting to her anymore. She is thinking about a running club, tennis, soccer, horseback riding, and sewing lessons.  Obviously, we are not doing all of that, but it is nice to see that she is curious about many things.

3.  We are raising chickens.  Yes, chickens.  Who would have thought?  It was all Sadie's idea, of course.  We have 1 crevecoer rooster and 2 hens; 1 polish rooster; 3 silkie hens, 1 silkie rooster and 12 silkie chicks of unknown sex.  Jay finally broke down and has purchased a really nice shed to hold the lawnmower, ATV, bikes and I would imagine "chickens and chicken gear."  He re purposed the fort to the old playset and the chickens have quite a nice coop.  Sadie has been diligent in feeding, watering and putting them up in their coop each night.  We are concerned with the amount of predators in the area - hawks, dogs, raccoons, foxes and coyotes.  It is an adventure and sometimes one that I do. not. have time for.  I also do not like Bob, who loves to crank out the cockle-doodle-doos at 4:15 am some mornings.  We haven't gotten any eggs, yet, but are hopeful the girls will start cranking them out soon!

4.  In October, we went on a very last minute trip to the Dominican Republic as a family.  Ethan and Jay spent most of the time scuba diving.  After much coaxing and some freak-out, Lily learned to love snorkeling.  I loved it too as soon as I realized that with Lily practically pushing me under water the entire time, I needed a life vest while she was with me. Sadie just took off with the snorkeling and I spent time trying to keep an eye on her.  I took the girls horseback riding and now all they want to do is take lessons.  Might be a good Christmas idea for them - an intro lesson down the street.  The weather was a great while we were there, the rooms wonderful and food decent.  It was interesting to see Lily struggle with all of the changes.  I thought it would run a little smoother with her, but she didn't quite know how to adjust at times.  Her response was that she wanted to go home, but I track much of this up to the need for more sleep and the over stimulation and activity.  She fell asleep on the beach, one time literally, three of the afternoons.  All in all, a fantastic family trip.

5.  The trip to the DR threw us off in our homeschool schedule and routine more than I thought it would.  I am not sure that I would choose to take an unplanned week off of school again.  It was tough to get the girls back on track and figure out how to rework schedules.  We made it through three continents and basic world geography before I realized it was too much in our daily schedule.  We stopped it after we returned from our trip.  I hope to pick it up over Christmas break...we'll see how that goes.  I had to find a new bible book for Lily because the 3-5th grade book we were using was just too heavy in subject matter.  I still have to make some decision on science and reading for the second half of the year, but for in general feel quite confident where we are in our studies.

6.  I am struggling with how much to push Ethan in school.  I feel he is capable of all As, based on teacher feedback and previous test scores.  He received all As in the first quarter, but I can see that the attention to math detail is a problem for him.  It is stressful to always be teetering at that 92 mark wondering whether he can bring it up in time.  I am sure I impart this stress onto him.  I finally told him that if he did his best, then ok.  What do you do?  Push him, or let him find his way.  Take away television or screens so he can devote more time in practice, or be satisfied with a B?  What am I teaching him?  Still in prayer over this one.

7.  We are still attending morning swim practices.  Ethan and I have adapted quite well, in fact.  I get my workout in and he feels extra energetic with morning practices.  He has made such strides in his swim times this year.  I know he is pleased.  I hope the trend continues.  Last year, we saw a near complete halt to any drops in time after Christmas.  He is working hard, but at times just wants to do noth-ing - no school, no work, no chores, no lego robotics, noth-ing.  I have thought about if he is over scheduled, and am considering some changes in the first of the year.  In addition, I have completed the requirements to become a Stroke & Turn Judge for USA Swimming.  It took some effort and I am pleased to have accomplished it.

8.  It is Christmas time.  Too many things going on and trying as every year to create the magic of the holidays for the kids.  I love traditions and I love seeing my kids get excited to relive our favorite ones, even if it drives me a little batty.  We do gingerbread houses, craft Saturday (where we make ornaments), Bags for the Bus Stop, driving to look at Christmas lights with family, our church Christmas performance, and finally hosting a Christmas party.  Right now, I don't foresee being able to get it all done, but you never know.  Sometimes things just magically fall into place.