Kindness

I am participating in the November: 5/5-Day Monthly Writing Challenge. The challenge is to write a poem every day for five days. This is my first poem on the what is the last day, but never too late to write! The poem below is a Nonet. It has nine lines. The first line has nine syllables with each subsequent line decreasing by one syllable. How will were you kind today? What about tomorrow?

World Kindness Day should be ev’ryday,

not something we have to be told.

We are made of the same flesh

whether we’re young or old.

A small gesture can

go a long way.

Costs nothing

to be

kind.

11:11

Remember when you see 11:11 you are in the presence of peace.

Willowsoul.com

My mom passed away on 9/20/18.  As the first anniversary of her passing approached, I began seeing 11:11 on my cell phone, the cable box, and my clock radio.  I was missing my mom terribly, and the first anniversary seemed to make me more emotional than I was when she passed.

I don’t know what made me start searching the Internet about the meaning of seeing 11:11, but  I did. I have never put much stock in astrology or numerology, but I figured it couldn’t hurt.  There were so many different possibilities to explain why I was seeing 11:11, from it being an opportunity portal, that everything is a result of my thoughts and feelings, I am on a path to awakening, or that I am supposed to make a wish. 

[On a side note – I was clueless about the 11:11 wish and how many people actually make them.  That is until I started my search, then one day I won a signed copy of The 11:11 Wish by Kim Tomsic by entering a Twitter contest.  More about this later.]

The meaning that hit home for me though was the one that said a deceased loved one was sending me a message.  Now that was something I knew could be true. You see my mother’s birthday was 11/11/27. Whenever anyone asked her when her birthday was, she would rattle off the rhyme with a smile.  

11:11 has a new twist.  Now when I see those numbers appear, I take it as a sign that my mom is with me, letting me know that things will be OK, and reminding me that I am strong enough to handle whatever life is flinging my way. She was always so positive and peaceful no matter what she was facing, never complaining, never forgetting to celebrate each day.  She was my biggest cheerleader and confidante. And although there is a running family joke about who was her “favorite,” we all know in our hearts that she loved each of us just the way we each needed to be loved and was proud of the adults we had become and lives we made for ourselves.We don’t need a number to tell us that.

So today, on what would have been her 92nd birthday, I am sad that she is not here physically, but I will celebrate knowing that she is always close to my heart and still guiding me and cheering me on. 

[I won a copy of the book when I retweeted the tweet and told the author 11:11 was my mom’s birthday.  Thanks Kim!]

The Christmas Jars

Giving is not just about making a donation. It is about making a difference.

Kathy Calvin – CEO & President of the United Nations Foundation

Last night I went to see The Christmas Jars movie with six  members of my book club, The Chapter Chicks. I don’t usually go to the movies on a school night, but this was a “one night only” event. We read  Christmas Jars by Jason Wright many years ago. If you are not familiar with the story, “Christmas Jars shares the story of Hope Jensen, an aspiring journalist who uncovers the remarkable secret behind a holiday phenomenon: money-filled glass jars anonymously given to people in need.”

While the plot has the potential of being a Hallmark movie, (Those of you who are regular readers know how much I love those!) the twist is that although the novel is fiction, the Christmas Jars are fact.  Author Jason Wright did this exact thing with his family in 2004 when they started collecting coins in a jar and anonymously gave it to a family in need at Christmas. His experience was the force behind the novel. It was published in 2005 and became a worldwide phenomenon.  People who read the book began collecting coins (and cash) and delivering it anonymously to a family in need at Christmas.

The Chapter Chicks have done this almost every year since we first read the book. We collect our change at home, turn it into paper money then anonymously place our cash in an envelope, so no one knows how much anyone else is giving.  We place the cash in a jar and decorate it with a bow. The jar goes in a gift bag along with a copy of the book. Then one of us gets “tasked” with delivering the jar to our chosen family under cover of darkness, or in the early morning hours before most people are awake, or in even brazenly in the middle of the day.  We ring the bell and run. (Well we use to run – now we need to give ourselves a little more time to make a getaway.) I can’t explain the feeling of sheer joy we all feel when the mission is completed.

Over the years we Chicks have all had our ups and downs, job losses, health issues, floods, fires, deaths, weddings, and births of grandchildren, and we are all in different places financially, yet it doesn’t matter if you place $10 or $100 in the envelope.  The feeling of giving to someone else in need is so satisfying. It makes you take a look at life from a different perspective. You begin to look at your world and see the wonderful gifts you have been given instead of the challenges you face, the goodness in people instead of the evil in society, the power of small gestures instead of the seduction of commercialism.   

If you haven’t read the book, I highly suggest it.  If you have read the book, I hope this a reminder that it is never too late to start a Christmas Jar of your own and make a difference in the life of another.  This is not a religious movement; it is a kindness movement, so if you don’t celebrate Christmas perhaps you can start a “Holiday Jar”, or a “Kindness Jar” or a “Generosity Jar.”  No matter what you decide, don’t miss the opportunity to make a difference in the life of someone else.

Making New Friends

Wherever there are beginners and experts, old and young, there is some kind of learning going on, some kind of teaching. We are all pupils and we are all teachers.

Gilbert Highet

I am the NJHS adviser at my school.  Last year our chapter began cultivating a relationship with residents living in a local assisted living facility. Today was our first monthly visit, and it never ceases to make my heart sing.  The students made paper pumpkins decorated for Autumn (not Halloween – that way the residents can keep them up until Thanksgiving).

The 8th graders broke into three groups and went to three different areas of the facility armed with Halloween picture books, trivia, and jokes.  I went with six students to an area where about 10 seniors were awaiting their arrival. I had to break the ice a little for the students and help them feel comfortable, but once they got going they were great.  They opened with The Night Before Halloween, which garnered chuckles from the “crowd.” In between trivia, which the seniors were very good at, and jokes, which were groaners, the students had conversations with the women and men. The kids asked the seniors what Halloween was like when they were kids, what they wore as costumes etc.  In turn, the seniors asked the kids what sports they played and what they were studying in school. Each were geniunely interested in the stories of the other. We ended the session with a few rounds of Fisher Price basketball. You can’t believe how competitive those ladies were!

As we walked out to awaiting parents, students were all talking about their ideas for the next visits – charades, rhythm instruments, and more seasonal picture books.  The kids and I set out to perform a service, but I think we were the true benefactors. Looking forward to next month!

Harvest Moon

Photo – Joanne Campbell

The moon is a friend for the lonesome to talk to.

Carl Sandburg

Harvest Moon –
hidden behind layers of clouds
and trees
illuminates the
unobserved of the night…

Autumn trees,
leaves obscured by darkness,
delicate appendages exposed –
soon to be barren

Branches –
Like veins in the body,
the unnoticed lifelines,
become more visible
as the winter of life approaches.

Deer on the Move

The morning had dawned clear and cold, with a crispness that hinted at the end of summer.

George R. R. Martin

When the calendar flips to August, the days of summer are numbered – literally and figuratively.  Now as we are in the last week of the month, the signs of “Back to School” are really ramping up. Summer camps have ended, ads for school supplies are more plentiful both on TV and in print, and there is talk of getting those last beach days in over the Labor Day weekend.

When you live in Southeastern Pennsylvania you need to keep your eyes peeled for another sign that autumn will soon be upon us – deer on the move.  I took this picture of some young deer taking in the sights of a local neighborhood one recent August afternoon.  There was one male and two females scampering down the sidewalk and up into a driveway and backyard.  One little lady must have been camera shy because she hid behind that large tree. 

Seeing the deer, reminds me that my mostly unscheduled days are coming to an end. While others may be sad and lamenting the end of summer, I am feeling renewed. I am looking forward to setting off on an academic adventure with my new students, cool days and even cooler nights, sweatshirts and scarecrows.

I am so lucky to live in an area where I get to experience the changing climate of all four seasons. When I see the deer on the move, I know we are moving closer to my favorite season of the year – autumn.

Shades of Gray

The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.

Winston Churchill

What do you see? Are your eyes drawn to the darkness of the clouds? Maybe you are worried about a torrential downpour or a tornado. Both are valid worries given the look of those clouds. Even here in Pennsylvania we have had some unusually wild weather with hail, flash-flooding and even a few stray tornadoes touching down. We have had some tragic loss of life and destruction of property.

Or are you drawn to the brightness peeking through the storm clouds? You can look at the sky with hope and trust that even if it does rain, the sun will appear at some point.

This can be a metaphor for life. Sometimes we are hopeful and looking for the spots of sunshine each day, and other days we are caught up in the swirling storm clouds. They are not mutually exclusive. We can experience a little of both, but what we choose to focus on depends on our frame of mind.

In my life, not many things are black or white. I tend to always think in shades of gray which isn’t always helpful when I am trying to make a decision, yet I believe it makes me more thoughtful and compassionate.

How do you see things?