Sunday, December 28, 2014

the rest of the 24 days

Christmas is over. And I am relieved that it is. Not that I didn't enjoy the holiday season because I did, especially since the 24 Days of Giving put me more in the holiday spirit than I have been in a few years. It's just that now I can get back to…well, my life. It feels like the holidays are so consuming, and sometimes that distraction is necessary, but I'm ready to be rejuvenated not by distraction but by doing a lot of work- by creating my happy.

Here's how the 24 Days of Giving wrapped up -

Day 17 - I had a bag of food in my car that I've been meaning to drop off to a food shelter. Then I saw a makeshift bed set up underneath the train tracks by my work so I decided to leave the food for whoever was staying there. I wrote a note on the paper bag wishing them well. It wasn't much but I hope it gives them some nourishment for a few days.

Day 18 to 23 - To be honest, I don't really remember what I gave, if anything, these days. The intention was always there to give but some days it just didn't happen.

Day 24 - I baked this cake for my co-workers.

Even though I missed quite a few days to give this was, overall, an amazing experience. In some ways I feel like this ended up being more of a gift to me than anything because these moments of giving were so joyful and filled with love. It's kind of how I want every day to be.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Day 16 of 24

Day 16 - This by far has been my favorite giving day. Not only was I able to give something to one of my favorite people, my sister, but the way everything worked out was like magic.

I called my sister when I got home because, due to some emails I had received from her earlier in the day, I knew she had a rough day at work. She was on her way to meet a teacher friend for dinner after staying late at school to tutor some students. I asked her where they were going and she said "We're teachers, all we can afford is Pei Wei." Immediately I thought how fun would it be to buy them dinner. I casually asked her which Pei Wei they were going to, then came up with an excuse to get off the phone with her. She was already in the parking lot so I had to act fast. I called Pei Wei and the manager I spoke to was so helpful- she didn't hesitate at all. It was almost like this sort of thing happened to her all the time and she knew exactly what to do. She said that if I trusted her I could give her my credit card info and she would enter it in manually. That sounded like a good plan to me. The only thing was that we had to make sure that I would be buying dinner for the right people. I had no idea what my sister was wearing so I could only describe what she looks like. I've never met my sister's friend so we didn't have a lot to go on. I kept saying something about them being teachers. Then all of a sudden the manager tells me to hold on. About a minute later she comes back on the line and said that she recognized them and had to make sure that the cashier didn't charge them. At this point I had no idea if it was my sister and her friend but I just had to trust and go with it. I gave the manager my credit card and contact info and thanked her for helping me make this happen. Then I texted my sister to tell her to enjoy her dinner, but also to find out if it was indeed her that I had just bought dinner for. And it was! The best part is that my sister and her friend didn't know it was me until that text. They just thought it was some random person on the phone who was doing a kind deed. It caught them completely off guard. My sister's friend was ordering first and when the cashier told her that someone had bought her dinner she started crying. My sister then ordered not expecting someone to also pay for her dinner and was just as surprised when the cashier said that her meal had also been paid for. And it was only when they sat down to eat and saw my text that all the pieces came together. My sister knows that I'm doing this 24 Days of Giving but she never put it together that it was me on the phone, and since the cashier only said "the person on the phone" and not "your sister" they had no way of knowing anyway. It also helped that my sister's friend was wearing a shirt with the name of the school on it.

This spontaneous and random act was a perfect example of how an awesome opportunity to give can just present itself at any moment. There's no way I could have planned this. We just have to be opening to see these moments and to give.

Here's a little snippet of the text. Just thinking back on this moment makes me smile. So much happiness being created right now.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

year six ornament

This year's ornament is from Fred Arndt Artworks- another great etsy find. He has about 200 mid-century wood ornaments in his shop. I'm sure you can imagine how long it took me to narrow it down to this ornament. Good thing I let Ebert help me make the final decision, otherwise I probably would still be deciding on which one I liked best. You can see all six ornaments here.

The wall art work is also stunning. I'm currently loving this design.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Day 14 and 15 of 24

Day 14 - On this day I was actually given gifts of kindness from strangers - someone held the door open for me, when I dropped something while standing in line someone came over to help me pick it up, and someone let me turn in left in front of them so I wouldn't be blocking traffic. Those small acts of kindness kept happening to me throughout the day and meant so much to me, especially since when I wasn't feeling so happy or jolly. It really is the little gifts that can make such a big difference.

Day 15 - I'm part of an actors meet-up group here in Chicago and on this day we had our annual holiday hurrah fundraiser party. I gave my time to volunteer at the event and also bought raffle tickets to support the group. It was fun giving back to an organization that gives so much to actors in the community throughout the year.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Day 10, 11, 12 and 13 of 24

Day 10 - My sister asked me to adopt a couple of her students for Christmas. The package was filled with all sorts of goodies - chocolates and gum, bike lights, chapstick, toys. I had so much fun shopping for these kids! I can't wait to see pictures of them opening their presents.

Day 11 - I gave a co-worker my banana. Ha! Just writing that is funny but she was hungry and I had something to give. No picture necessary.

Day 12 - I made these DIY boozy hot chocolate gift bags and gave them to my cast mates. It was fun working with this group again, even if it was only for a one-night event.

Day 13 - I contributed to this.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Day 8 and 9 of 24

Monday and Tuesday were a bust for me with this whole giving thing. I blamed it on being stuck inside an office all day. If I had planned better I know I could have done something. I was either just being lazy or not thinking outside the box. Also, my day job has been super frustrating this week. I've been dealing with people that aren't acting very kind so it's been really hard for me to be kind back. I know that this is a perfect opportunity to give kindness unconditionally and, believe me, in the moment I think about it but unfortunately I haven't done it.

But today when I needed a little inspiration I saw this 12 Days of Kindness post from Lovely Indeed. There are some fun ideas here that have helped put me back in the giving spirit.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Day 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 of 24

Day 3 - Kind thoughts to all the people who cut in front of me on the highway during rush hour. This was a big lesson for me. I hate rude drivers- you know the ones who drive in bike lines or on the shoulder to bypass traffic and cut in front of everyone. I know I'm not always a courteous driver but I never do that. This time I just didn't let it bother me. It was probably more of a gift to myself because it was really nice to not get upset about something I couldn't do anything about it. It made my long drive home much more enjoyable. And who knows maybe it helped them get wherever they needed to get that much sooner. At least I hope it did.

Day 4 - Giving a helping hand to a woman loading boxes into her car at Ikea. The boxes weren't super heavy and it looked like she was managing just fine on her own but I thought why not just give that little extra help.

Day 5 - $2 to the man on the corner. I don't always like to give money. I feel like food is sometimes more helpful because you just don't know what they are going to use the money for. I guess it's not really my place to judge- if I'm willing to give money then I shouldn't put stipulations on what someone uses the money for. But since I didn't have food I gave the money and the guy wished me a "merry christmas" with a smile on his face.

Day 6 - Letting someone stand ahead of me in a really long line. My first instinct was to walk really fast to get in line first. I certainly didn't want to wait in a long line but then I realized that this was a simple opportunity to give.

Day 7 - $5 to St. Jude's Research Hospital.

Looking back on what I gave last week it doesn't seem like much. I feel slightly disappointed, like I should have given more or something. Then I remind myself of how giving, even something small, felt so big in the moment because I did it with an open heart.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Day 2 of 24

On the first day of giving I gave my sister an early birthday present. She had a hand me down iPhone 4 that was super slow so my mom and I went in together on getting her a new iPhone 5s. She gives so much every day as a teacher that being able to do something extra special for her was a great way to start this giving project. And because we purchased the phone on December 1st a portion of the purchase went to the Global fund to fight AIDS.

The second day of giving is kind of a funny story. It happened today at the airport in Phoenix on our way back to Chicago after visiting family for Thanksgiving. Ebert and I were bringing back a bottle of locally brewed Arizona beer and a bottle of wine. We normally don't check bags but since we were carrying liquids we knew we had to, but the one thing we forgot about was the fee for checking bags. When we got to the airport we were shocked with how expensive it is. The line was ridiculously long and the fee was way more than what the beer cost (the wine was a gift) so we decided to leave both bottles behind. There weren't a lot of people not flying but we finally found a guy who was dropping someone off and gave him the bottles. He was thrilled about the unexpected gift and wished us a "Merry Christmas" several times. It wasn't the type of gift I was expecting to give and, at first, I had to get over my disappointment of not bringing those bottles back with us, but if that guy is enjoying that beer and wine tonight, and has a great story to tell, then that makes me happy.

This second day taught me an important lesson about getting over myself and to just give. If I had spent too much time focusing on the money lost or the fact that I won't be able to give that beer to the person I was planning to give it to then I would have missed out on a wonderful moment to give. It's exactly what I was talking about yesterday.

I'll also let you in on a little secret…another reason why I want to give more, especially during this time of year, is that as I get older I don't always feel the magic of the season. Maybe that's the curse of growing up- the magic gets lost along the way. I'm hoping to find that magical feeling again.

{image via create.your.happy}

Monday, December 1, 2014

24 Days of Giving!

I'm late posting this but I want to share with you a little project I'm starting this holiday season called 24 Days of Giving. From December 1st - December 24th I'll be giving something every day. I have no idea what I'm going to give these next 24 days, that part I'll figure out as I go, but that's the fun of this project- finding opportunities throughout the day to just give.

I've been thinking a lot about that recently, how there are probably so many opportunities to give throughout the day, more than we probably realize. I know I can get caught up in whatever is going on in my life that I probably miss out on lots of moments to give.

If you want to join me then all you have to do is give something with love every day. It could be a big something or a little something, a store bought something or a handmade something, but most importantly there does not have to be any obligation to spend money. Of course, some days you might be inspired to buy a stranger their coffee or to surprise your co-worker with a little gift but it could also just be a gift from the heart. It might be a smile or a hug, holding the door open for someone, having extra patience with the server at the restaurant or the retail worker at the check-out counter, or your gift could even just be choosing to think a kind thought towards someone you may not be feeling very kind towards. It's all about finding the love this holiday season!

I'll be sharing what I give everyday and you can do the same by leaving a comment. I'm excited for this project and all the sharing and giving that will ensue these next few weeks!