Community outreach

Kindness Fridays

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For years now, I’ve practiced the habit of celebrating even the smallest of victories that come my way. The more aware I am of something that goes right, or of something that brings joy to my life, the more celebrations I get to enjoy.

Tuesday of this week saw me hustling and bustling around town getting various errands accomplished and even though my adrenaline was at a high level, I still could use some help. While at my local grocery store I purchased a Diet Pepsi in a screw bottle and got in my car to continue the remainder of my day’s tasks.

Except I couldn’t open the Pepsi bottle. After several valiant attempts to unscrew the top, I stopped just short of shredding the skin on the inside of my hand. I’m pretty sure the bottle top machine in the factory needs to be adjusted a bit so the consumer can enjoy their beverage right away instead of having to bulk up one’s upper body before attempting access.

Next stop was to fill up my Corolla with gas; that’s when I saw my opportunity. I approached a young man in the commercial truck behind me at the pump and asked if he could please unscrew the top of my Pepsi because, “that caffeine ain’t gonna get in my body any other way.” With a smile on his face, he gladly fulfilled my request which then put a smile on my face.

Kindness doesn’t have to be earth shattering to make a difference – it can be as simple as helping a caffeine-starved person get their fix.

Kindness Fridays

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Today’s installment combines two passions of mine: kindness and hiking.

Since my husband’s retirement in April of 2016, we’ve managed to hike every week except during the winter months. Now with the snow a distant memory on most of the Pacific Northwest trails, we’re well into this year’s hiking season.

On Tuesday of this week, we headed out to Barclay Lake located in the lower Stevens Pass area of western Washington. This was a new hike for me and one perfectly suited for a sprained right foot, mine, needing a bit of coddling while on its healing journey. The hike was just under 5 miles and only had an elevation gain of 500 feet.

About two miles into our hike and a half mile from the lake, a couple in their late 60s were making their descent and as I always do for every hiker we meet on the trail, I greeted the man and woman which then encouraged them to pause and spend some time with us. This couple hiked 30 times last year – to our 18 times – which seriously encouraged me to continue our hiking activities during the winter season, albeit on trails at lower elevations to avoid snow encounters along the way. The kindness extended was the mutual sharing of favorite hiking destinations: for us, it was Margaret Lake, for them, Bowen Bay.

My husband and I, geared up.

The excitement from each couple describing their particular trail favorite created a commonality of experience that went beyond any differences we may harbor within ourselves, be they political, religious, life experience, or otherwise. The four of us agreed that being out in nature and accomplishing our individual hiking goals contributed greatly to our quality of life.

On the trail, differences in beliefs or political leanings simply don’t come into play. And that, my friends, is a glorious way to experience kindness.

 

Wearing It

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I like Nancy’s take on labels. In this instance, labels seem to be a darn good thing. Thanks, Nancy, for this fresh insight.

notquiteold

Last night, just as we were falling asleep, my husband drowsily remembered a conversation he had earlier in the day.

“Oh,” he murmured, “I talked to that guy from the committee.”

“Which guy?” I asked.

“You know… That guy… He wears a limp.”

My husband was only semi-conscious and that probably explains his weird phrasing.

But I kind of liked it.

The man wears a limp.

A limp as something you wear.

Think about the control that gives the man over his limp.

He owns that limp. It doesn’t own him.

It makes me want to think about other conditions that we experience as something we wear. How differently we might consider our issues, problems – our very bodies – if they are just Something We Wear.

We could wear our health:

“She wears some arthritis in her fingers.”

“She’s wearing her third pregnancy.”

“She wears a stroke on…

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Kindness Fridays

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Is it possible to receive kindness from nature? Yes, it certainly is.

Earlier this week I was headed to my twice a year dental appointment and to be honest with you, my mood at the time was extraordinarily melancholic. Maybe you’re familiar with that feeling?

If you’ve ever experienced periods in your life when your body complains a bit louder than usual and everything you try to accomplish feels like a major undertaking, then I’m talking to the right crowd.

That was my state as I stepped out of my vehicle and made my way through the parking lot to the dental office’s front door. I was limping – one reason for my crummy mood – and paying close attention to each step I took so I didn’t add insult to injury by further harming my right sprained foot.

As I turned the corner and stepped onto the sidewalk, I looked up. It was a good thing I did because a natural kindness was extended to me of magnificent proportions, a kindness that instantly elicited a smile resultant from the beauty that it offered.

A cluster of red Azaleas dragged me out of my funk.

And that, my friends, is this week’s Kindness account, brought to you by nature.

Club Alzheimer’s

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No one wants to be a member of a club characterized by a disease that robs a person of their cognitive function and is always fatal. Unfortunately, as of this writing, 5 million Americans (many more million in other countries) are living with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. Here are a few more facts extracted from the most current Facts and Figures document published by the Alzheimer’s Association:

  • In 2016, 15 million Americans provided unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias;
  • That equates to 18.2 billion hours of care valued at $230 billion;
  • 1 in 3 adults dies with Alzheimer’s or other dementia;
  • It kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined;
  • Since the year 2000, deaths from heart disease have decreased by 14% while deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have increased by 89%;
  • Every 66 seconds, a person develops the disease.

My novel, REQUIEM FOR THE STATUS QUO, (Black Rose Writing publication, July 2017) spotlights one family’s experience in particular – the Quinn family – while also visiting other households affected by Alzheimer’s or other dementias.

  • Eddie and Katherine, a couple in their 40s. Katherine has a combination Alzheimer’s/Lewy Body dementia, a type of dementia that causes somewhat violent behavior and speech;
  • Frank and his son, Sean, the latter of whom suffers from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) incurred while on deployment in Afghanistan;
  • Victoria and George, a couple in their 80s, trying to crawl through the maze of George’s Alzheimer’s disease;
  • Rose and Sophia, sisters in their 50s, struggling with the effects of Sophia’s vascular dementia;
  • Donna and Kelly, partners in their 60s, experiencing the devastating effects of Kelly’s Parkinson’s disease and the dementia associated with her disease.

These are characters like you and I. They were living their lives the best they knew how, being good people and doing good for others, yet Alzheimer’s still managed to grab them by the throat and refused to let go.

The storyline is a difficult one but the way in which I have portrayed all of these precious people will touch your heart, and at times, your funny bone. No, there’s nothing humorous about the disease, but people will be people, and when they’re confronted with the impossible, they can find – or create – a bright side onto which they can find redemption and community.

I look forward to introducing you to my characters. Just a few more months before they’ll become a part of your life.

Kindness Fridays

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This past Wednesday I rode the bus into downtown Seattle to have lunch with my daughter, Erin. Two blocks from my bus stop in a very congested road construction area, someone pulled the stop cord, and I guess because of the traffic, the driver let the passengers off a half block early. This was a very unusual action on the bus driver’s part. Every bus commuter knows the only time a driver picks up or drops off passengers is in the designated bus stop. I’ve witnessed people trying to catch a bus, flagging down the bus in an undesignated area, and that driver will keep on going. Even if the driver is stopped at a red light he or she will not open the door for the person flagging down the bus.  RULES ARE RULES.

So back to my bus commute. At the OFFICIAL bus stop stood a woman to board our bus. The driver opened the door and grumbled, “I already stopped back there! Now you’re holding everyone up.” She was walking to the OFFICIAL stop so missed seeing the premature stop that occurred behind her.

She was in the right by standing at the real stop but she was verbally penalized.

Kindness was in order but it wasn’t extended. The bus driver messed up the law-abiding woman’s day by yelling at her and collateral damage landed on me which took the form of my mood being deflated. But then the woman returned the driver’s discourtesy with kindness. She said, “Have a nice day, sir.”

When we have the opportunity to express ourselves in such a way as to harm someone, but choose instead to bless someone with our words, the grand order of the universe is altered so that peace displaces disharmony.

The female passenger’s words made my day, thus cancelling out the grumpy driver’s ill-chosen ones.

Have a nice day everyone.

Kindness Fridays

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Have world events impacted you in such a way that you feel things are hopeless?

Are you overwhelmed to the point that you say to yourself, What could I possibly do to make a difference?

The answer is:

You can make a difference because kindness trumps all.

I recently wrote Ellen Degeneres to thank her for her ongoing efforts to spread kindness. Sure, at the end of each of her daily shows she says, Be kind to one another, but she puts force behind those words in what she does for others.  At the conclusion of my letter to her, I said the following:

We’re not charged with changing the entire world, but we can have an impact on the miniscule portion of the world to which we have access. You’re doing it, and I will continue to do what I can from my corner of the world. If everyone makes a fraction of a difference right from where they are, those fractions will add up to great things.

I’m glad I’m on the same kindness train as you, Ellen, and I’ll keep chugging along until I can’t chug any longer.

I sincerely believe that random acts or words of kindness can make a difference in the world in which we live. There are so many negative and hurtful words being thrust into our universe, can’t we just please try to balance out that hurt with words of encouragement, recognition, and nourishment?

Yes, nourishment. In all our daily interactions – be they via social media or in person – we can nurture the hurt that exists all around us. Our words, our smile, our actions may just change the life of someone forever. Haven’t you been on the receiving end of that type of transformative nourishment? Didn’t it feel good? Didn’t it fill the emptiness within you that hungered and thirsted for confirmation that you matter, that you aren’t a failure, that you have potential?

Let’s revisit how that felt and commit to quenching the thirst of each person with whom we come in contact.