Wednesday, April 30, 2014

College Hunks to the Rescue

College Hunks Hauling Junk became the darling of social media this past weekend. Some of the moving company’s employees were stuck in an elevator in Tampa, Florida, with an elderly woman. The woman said she wasn’t able to stand for long periods of time. Cesar Larios got on his hands and knees. He became a human chair for the woman until the elevator was fixed and moving again.

Nick Friedman, co-founder and president of the moving company said, "The response to the picture is mind blowing. Thousands of people are sharing it and posting it on social media. I think what's great about it is that it's a genuine moment caught on camera. A lot of people say the younger generation has lost certain values. But one small picture shows that chivalry and hard work are still very much alive in our youth."

I wonder if she will pass along the kindness? It certainly inspired me for today’s gift—give Tim a Smile card to give to a woman he was to visit in the hospital. She can then help someone else and give them the card. The moving company needs smile cards to give to people when their employees show compassion for others. It really puts a new perspective on College Hunks.

In Giving,

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Being a Nice Person

On the Kind Spring website is a list of Lessons Learned from a Friend:
1.   Give money you can spare to someone who needs it and then pretend you never had it.
2.   Let someone tell a story without feeling the need to one-up them or tell your own.
3.   Let someone vent, even if you can’t offer a solution, just to be an ear—without considering how well they listened to you last week.
4.   Help someone who is struggling with difficult feelings by admitting you’ve felt the same thing—without considering whether they’d be as open with you.
5.   Ask, “What can I do to help you today?” Then let it go after following through.
6.   Tell someone how you feel about them, even if it makes you feel vulnerable, just to let them know they’re loved and not alone.
7.   Apologize when you’ve acted selfishly, even if you don’t like feeling wrong, because it will remind the other person they deserve to be treated with respect.
8.   Let someone else educate you, even if you’re tempted to stay closed minded, because you value their knowledge and appreciate their willingness to share it.
9.   Forgive someone who wronged you because you have compassion for them, not because you know they’ll owe you.
10.    Hold someone’s hand when they feel vulnerable to let them know you haven’t judged them.

One “Kindness Idea” on Kind Spring was to visit the Cheer Me Up website and write an inspiring anonymous comment to someone who needs a boost. One person wrote, “No one ever invites me to do anything.”

Today’s gift was to write this note of encouragement, “Well, take matters into your own hands and just invite yourself on a date with you! Choose a fun theme like The Great Gatsby and call people to join your date night. Have everyone dress as if they are going to a 1920's party. Go out for ice cream. Sometimes asking others to do something with you will motivate them to ask you in the future. It will be fun for you and them.” After I submitted my comment the response on my computer screen was: “You are a nice person.” That made me smile.

In Giving,

Monday, April 28, 2014

Princess Tattoos

Last week, a friend called to vent her frustration. She had shopped for over a month for her granddaughter’s birthday present—the perfect princess dress, shoes and accessories. She wrapped the ensemble, put it in a box and attached the completed Federal Express form. It should arrive two days before her granddaughter’s birthday. She gave it to her husband and asked him to take it to Federal Express.

Then she realized that she forgot to put the temporary heart and princess tattoos in the box. She called her husband to ask if he’d sent it yet. He said he had already been to the post office and mailed it. She said, “You are kidding, right? You didn’t mail it regular mail, did you?” He said it was cheaper than Federal Express. She was livid because it wouldn’t arrive in time for her granddaughter to wear to her party.

Today my friend was in line at the grocery store, opened her purse and saw the tattoos. A cute little girl, almost her granddaughter’s age, had been smiling at her. She asked her father if she could give her the tattoos. The little girl smiled and said, “Thank you, thank you so much!”

My friend said, “If I only had a blog to write, I could write about it.” She laughed and then said, “I gave them away so you could give it as today’s gift. If it hadn’t been for your giving challenge, I would not have thought of giving them away.” Now, there are two little princesses, one with a dress and accessories and one with tattoos.

In Giving,

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Hang Your Sorrows on the Sorrow Tree

One of my favorite books, Writing for Your Life by Deena Metzger, describes a folk tale called “The Sorrow Tree:”

For eons, people complained continuously and piteously to God. Unable to bear it, God suggested that they hang their sorrow on the Sorrow Tree. Then they were to choose any sorrow they wished from among those hanging there. They circled and circled the tree, looking for the very sorrow that would be exactly fitting and bearable, the one sorrow that would fulfill them. But after much searching, each inevitably reclaimed his or her own pain.

Originally, I wrote about Janine Roberts in November’s Giving Challenge blog titled, “Go Through the Gate.” She has been in Zimbabwe for almost a decade helping improve nutrition and finding money for medical costs for children in the Fairfield Children’s Home where she lived and worked.

Janine has been taking care of twin Zimbabwean girls for the past two years and was in the process of adopting them. The law changed and only Zimbabwean’s could adopt children. Her last hope was to apply for a permanent visa. At the very least, it would allow her to remain in the country and be with her children.

Regrettably, her recent newsletter said the visa was denied resulting in her having to leave her home, loving family and a job that had been her life’s work for the past 12 years. She is currently living in Cape Town, South Africa, and visits the twin girls occasionally. She still believes in the program and needs support for her children.

Today’s gift was to send a donation to Janine’s labor of love, Project Hope, so that children she cares so much about can continue receiving the help they desperately need. The hardship that I would hang on the Sorrow Tree is insignificant compared to so many other people’s problems.

In Giving,

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Getting What You Paid For

Recently a friend posted on Facebook, “I injured my shoulder today. It hurts when I raise my arm. Does anyone have an idea what may be wrong?” Typically, people love challenging questions on Facebook. This was no exception. Sympathetic responses with armchair diagnoses like, a torn rotator cuff or a dislocated shoulder. The response that stopped the banter, “Your mother is a nurse and your brothers are both doctors. Why would you ask for advice on Facebook instead of just asking one of them?”

I was reminded of this today. My friend called and said that her finger was numb. I asked. “Which finger?” She said her middle one. I responded, “Could it be overuse?” She didn’t think that was very funny. She wondered if it might be a heart attack. I asked if she was having any pain, numbness or weakness on her left side. She said, “No, just a numb finger that is pale and white.” I said that it could be a pinched nerve in her back. She said maybe so, since she has slight spinal degeneration. She also had frostbite on her fingers many years ago, which may be the culprit.

Today’s gift was to give my friend medical advice. I told her to have another glass of wine and call me in the morning if it was still numb. If you want free medical advice, give me a call. Just understand that I am not a doctor and don’t even play one on television, so the advice might be worth what you paid for it.

In Giving,

Friday, April 25, 2014

Tow Truck Driver Tricks

When I was waiting for the tow truck to pick up our car to take it to the repair shop, I thought about the comedienne Larry the Cable Guy. You may have seen the animated movie Cars. Larry was the voice of the tow truck, Mater. Here is a video clip of Mater performing amazing tow truck acts. The tow truck driver that rescued me, a damsel in distress, performed heroic feats, too.

Today’s gift was to give the tow truck driver a tip for carefully loading our car onto the flatbed truck without scratching, denting or damaging the car. I asked him if he knew Larry the Cable Guy or Mater, but he didn’t know what I meant. Maybe he’ll see the movie and learn new tow truck driver tricks from Mater.

In Giving,

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Dough from Head to Toe

Some people are just natural cooks—my sister Terri, my sister-in-laws Catharine and Cindy, my mother, Tim’s mother, friends and neighbors. One name that you didn’t see on the list is mine!

Cooking disasters in our house look like this: Tim and I leave a full plate of inedible food on the table and go to a restaurant or throw it in the trashcan and rush to the freezer for leftover pizza or just decide we weren’t really hungry.

My friends give me “foolproof” recipes and dare me to prove them wrong. Louise gave a recipe for Strawberry Bread filled with cream cheese to me. I pasted “simple directions” below to show how easy it seems. It reminds me of an alteration store called Seams Easy. Every time I tried to drop off my clothes to be mended, they were closed. Just like this recipe, it seems easy, but isn’t!

I gathered everything I needed to make Strawberry Bread and put the flour mixture on wax paper; trying not to use every bowl in the kitchen. That was a mistake because it spilled off of the sides onto the countertop. As I transferred it to a big bowl, flour dust coated the countertop, floor and me. A bigger problem, however, was that I only had a half-cup of vegetable oil and needed 1 1/3 cups. I could have substituted Crisco, butter or olive oil. I decided that oil is oil. So, I used olive oil. If you are snickering, you are getting ahead of me.

As I poured the oil into the eggs it seemed a little thick. Not until my mixer refused to mix and smelled like the motor was burning did I realize my oil choice was not a good one. The batter was like gooey taffy. When I tried to put it in the loaf pan, it stuck to the spoon, spatula, bowl and every one of my fingers. Needless to say by the time it went into the oven I had a few choice words for this “easy” recipe. Surprisingly, it tastes pretty good and even Tim likes it. And it is healthier with the olive oil . . . well, that may be a stretch.

Today’s gift was to take a piece of strawberry bread to the guys who work the front desk at the health club. After eating it one of the young men said, “It was amazing! If you brought more, I’d even pay you for it.” Funny how a compliment makes it worth wearing dough from head to toe.

In Giving,


Strawberries and Cream Bread

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom of two loaf pans.

Mix and beat:
2 eggs
½ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla
10 oz. cream cheese

1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
2 cups sugar
3 cups flour
1 1/3 cup oil
4 eggs beaten
1 cup fresh or frozen strawberries

Combine salt, cinnamon, baking soda, sugar and flour in large mixing bowl. In separate bowl blend oil and eggs. Slice strawberries and add to oil mix. Add to dry ingredients and mix. Pour ¼ into 2 loaf pans. Divide cream cheese filling mix and pour half on each. Top each with bread batter.

Bake at 350 degrees for 60-70 minutes.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Mending a Broken Heel

Next week marks the birthday of two people who influenced me. One passed away a few years ago and the other one I haven’t had much contact with over the last decade. These two people are my Uncle Butch and Aunt Barbara.

Their upcoming birthdays remind me of my first wedding. I wasn’t the bride, but the flower girl for my Aunt Barbara and Uncle Butch. It wasn’t a surprise to anyone that they chose me because I had been their date chaperone. Well, at least I thought I was. They started dating when they were in high school before I was even in grade school. Uncle Butch picked up Aunt Barbara from her house and then they would get me. We did so many fun things together. Sometimes we just drove around and I even got to sit in the front seat with them. I felt “all grown up.” As we drove through town my friends saw me waving from the backseat. The next day, I bragged about going on a real date before most of my friends even knew what one was.

On their wedding day Aunt Barbara looked beautiful in her white gown and Uncle Butch looked dapper in his tuxedo. I was dressed in a miniature version of the bridesmaid’s dresses in white taffeta with a beautiful royal blue bow around my waist. I was nervous about what I was supposed to do. Aunt Barbara comforted me and said that I would take the petals from the basket and drop them onto the white carpet runner in the aisle from the back of the church to the alter. I was just getting ready to ask how many to throw and where to toss them, when one of her bridesmaids ran into the room holding her beautifully hand-dyed, royal blue shoe with a broken heel. There was no way to find a replacement blue shoe. This was “pre-superglue,” so they used Elmer’s glue and tape. We hoped it would stay intact through the ceremony.
Aunt Barbara turned to me and said that I would need to throw the petals on the sides of the carpet so that the bridesmaid wouldn’t slip and break her heel. Oh no, too many directions confused me. Besides, I was tired from all of the parties, the rehearsal dinner and being at the church for several hours. All of this was a prescription for disaster for a tired, nervous little girl.

The music started. Someone pushed me from behind to get started down the aisle. The big people were standing up and staring down at me which was very intimidating. I carefully reached into my white, wicker basket and pulled out one rose petal and watched it float to the floor. I reach in for a second one, then a third. By then I was about halfway down the aisle.

My Mother was sitting on the end of the front row. She made hand gestures at me that didn’t make any sense. I mouthed to her, “What?” Then she whispered to put down more petals. I turned around and saw that there were only a few on the carpet and my basket was full. Mom didn’t know about the broken heel or that I was told to not throw them in the middle of the aisle. She said it out loud this time, “Throw more petals.” So, always one to obey (yeah, right) I turned my basket upside down and dumped all the petals into a pile at the end of the aisle. It got quite a laugh from the crowd.

Instantly I knew I shouldn’t have done it. I climbed the stairs onto the stage and took my place facing the congregation. The bridesmaids, who had followed me down the aisle, saw the pile and gasped. Luckily, the broken-heeled bridesmaid was able to avoid it and all was well. Except when I stepped backwards and fell off the stage. Now, that was embarrassing!

Today’s gift was to write this story and send it in a birthday card to my Aunt Barbara. I told her that I enjoyed our time together over the years. Uncle Butch is missed, especially on his birthday. I think mending the broken heel was much easier than mending Aunt Barbara’s broken heart.

In Giving,

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Every Litter Bit Hurts

When I was young I wanted to be just like Suzy Spotless. You may remember her from this commercial. I ran around singing the ditty: “Please, please don’t be a litterbug, because every litter bit hurts.”

So, it was no surprise that I was enthusiastic about Mr. Moomaw, the new 10th grade high school biology teacher, who had innovative ideas about conservation. Except for Suzy Spotless, I had not been taught much about how to save the environment.

To celebrate earth day Mr. Moomaw arranged a field trip to Holly River State Park. We left early in the morning to drive the windy roads into the central part of West Virginia. My motion sickness pills worked well as I was thrown around in the back of the old yellow school bus. Some of the other kids didn’t fare quite as well.

As typical for West Virginia, when we arrived it was raining. We sloshed through the outdoor exhibits. Mr. Moomaw wouldn’t let it rain on his parade. He said this was Mother Nature at her finest. The displays explained The Keep America Beautiful ad campaign, which helped reduce litter by 88% and was very evident on the hillsides of West Virginia.

Today’s gift, in celebration of Earth Day, was to photograph a purple finch and submit it to Nature Abounds. I am designated as a “Watch the Wild” participant for this area of Klamath Falls. Scientists make determinations about the environment based on my answers to questions about current temperature, blooming flora, and fauna. The “litter bit” campaign helped us start celebrating Earth Day and now it gives the birds a clean and green environment.

In Giving and Birding,

Monday, April 21, 2014

Groovin’ to the Oldies

It amazes me how I can remember the words to songs that I first heard in junior high. In my bedroom with my friend Susan, we would sing and dance and shake our . . . hair as we imagined the Bee Gees asking us to come up on stage to join them. With a stack of 45’s loaded on the spindle of my RCA record player, we swooned to Top 40 hits. Mom would yell at us to turn down the volume until finally she would break up the concert and send Susan home.

The first real concert that my parents ever let me attend was to see Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. They were playing in the Charleston Civic Center which was the biggest building I had ever been in. Susan’s mother drove us to the capitol city, dropped us off at the front door and watched as we excitedly ran to line of people waiting to enter the show. She said that she would be back when it was over and if we were not waiting exactly at this same spot, we would be grounded for 3 months! I guess we did just that because I don’t remember getting into trouble, at least not that evening.

Albums and 8 track cassettes began to take the place of 45 RPM records and I needed a way to expand my collection. If I was going to be able to sing along with the girls to the latest and greatest hits, I had to have many more than I could afford. That’s when I discovered the Columbia Record Club! It seemed too good to be true that they would send 10 albums for just 99 cents. Sure, there was some fine print about buying 12 more for some exorbitant price, but that could be spread out for months. Several months later, when I had not purchased even one album, I learned one of those valuable life lessons about buying on credit. They may still be looking for me because I moved and “forgot” to give them my forwarding address. Oops.

Today I looked at all of the CD’s that I never listen to anymore. My gift was to gather up a couple dozen of them and donate them to the library. Surely somebody out there will be thrilled to listen to Christy Lane or the Penguin Café Orchestra or even Cat Stevens. And maybe somebody will remember these songs like I remember the ones from the sixties.

In Giving and Jammin’,


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Carrying His Own Books

Six hundred and fifty people attended the First Presbyterian Easter church service in the Ross Ragland Theater. A second service was held around the corner in the church building.

Tim and I arrived early to serve as ushers; however, we were not needed because so many people had volunteered to help. Although, the organizers did ask for our help to move the stage set from the theater to the church in between the two services.

We sang contemporary songs and listened to stories of trials and triumphs. When the service concluded we climbed the stairs onto the stage and Tim began helping dismantle the Plexiglas panels from around the drums, carry the pulpit off of the stage and back to the church, stack the chairs, etc. Sitting near the front of the stage were props that were used to illustrate a point: a pitcher, glass of water and barstool. I reached to pick up the pitcher and glass and noticed the minister’s sermon notes.

When I do a presentation, I am very protective of my master speech. If I took it, might he come back in the meantime and think it had been misplaced? I told the other helpers not to move the barstool, props and notebook and then ran around the theater looking for the pastor. Still looking, I walked over to the church and met him slowly making his way back to the theater. Well-wishers were stopping him every few feet to give him kudos on the service. I finally got his attention and asked if he would like his things brought over to the church. He let out a sigh of relief that his props and sermon notes were safe.

Today’s gift was to protect his valuables and then offer to take them to the church. He agreed to let me take the props. I certainly understood why he wanted to carry his own books.

In Giving,

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Lost and Found

Even when I was a kid I had a healthy respect for my things. So, I was upset with myself when I lost money that had been given to me for my birthday.

In the downtown Montgomery Wards store, I looked at almost every record album cover and just couldn’t decide which one to buy. I swooned over Bobby Goldsboro, The Monkees and the Beatles. I finally decided on Donny Osmond. I took the album to the cash register and reached in my pants pocket for my money, but it wasn’t there. My heart sank. I ran back to the album rack and looked on the floor and between the albums.

When I told Mom and Dad about it they said it was a good lesson to learn about being careful with my money. Later, I was able to buy the album when I saved enough of my allowance money.

Today, I was on the other side of that scenario. When I was walking with Louise, my neighbor, I found a 3/8” wood drill bit for a hand driven brace. I gave it to her husband who loves woodworking. He makes beautiful wood tables, guns and dressers and told me that he would sharpen it and put it to good use. I’m sorry for the person who lost it but glad it ended up in a craftsman’s hands.

In Giving,

Friday, April 18, 2014

Giving Away a Secret

Has anyone ever kept a secret from you that you wished they hadn’t?

One day when I was in high school, I found my friend, Regina, beside her locker crying. When I asked what was wrong, she said that people were saying terrible things about her. Mean girls had said that she was pregnant!

Regina and her boyfriend, Glen, became my friends through our church group. We frequently had pizza parties, bowled and watched movies together.
I began a crusade to stop the ugly rumors about my friend. Every time someone would say, “Did you hear that Regina is pregnant?” I would respond that it was a nasty rumor that wasn’t true.

I stayed by her side during the next few weeks. I dried her tears and told her that we would stop the girls from saying cruel things. One day, someone told me that he overheard Glen say that Regina was pregnant. I marched over to Glen in the lunchroom and asked him why he was saying that. He said that it was true. She was pregnant.

When I asked Regina about it, she said that she just didn’t know how to tell me because she didn’t want to disappoint me. I told her that I would have been more understanding about that, than for her to let me continue telling people she wasn’t pregnant.

The valuable life lesson I learned was to be sure something was true before defending it. I never asked her if she was pregnant. I just assumed she wasn’t. I wasn’t in on the secret and wished I had been.

I have a secret hiking trail that very few people know about. Today’s gift was to share my trail through the woods with my friend and her husband. They are welcome to tell others about my special place and I know they are glad to know my secret.

In Giving,

Thursday, April 17, 2014

When You’ve Been Tagged

A woman was patiently waiting to talk to me when I finished my speech at the Society of Human Resource Management meeting. She handed me a card that said, Smile. You’ve just been tagged. Experiments in anonymous kindness is the name of the game, and now—you’re it.

She turned the card over so that I could read the back of it: Someone reached out to you with an anonymous act of kindness. Now it’s your chance to do the same. Do something nice for someone. Leave this card behind and keep the spirit going!

In 2003, the volunteer organization KindSpring started an experiment of giving away Smile cards when people did kind acts. It has continually grown since then.

The website includes great stories like this one:

Yesterday afternoon in St. Louis, Missouri, it was rainy and light snow. While pumping gas, a young man approached me and asked if he could pump my gas for a dollar so he could get something to eat. At that moment the pump stopped, my tank was full. I asked him to meet me at the Burger King across the street. At this time he informed me that the manager had asked him to stay away, as he was begging. I went in, talked to the manager, explained that I was going to buy him a meal, and would they let him stay long enough to eat his meal. The manager agreed. I purchased his meal, and thanked the manager by telling her she'd done a good thing and also gave her a smile card and a Hershey Kiss!

Today’s gift was to order Smile cards so that I can tag other people to pay it forward. Everybody can feel good about being tagged!

In Giving,

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Who Says I’m Old?

The website reads:

Old People—That's everyone 26 and older. You read that right. If you’re 26+ we consider you officially “old.” This is an organization for young people.

I don’t consider myself old, even though I am more than twice the age that the website considers “old.” When someone calls me “Mam”, I look around to see who they are talking to.

The first time I really thought about the meaning of a number associated with age was when we lived in Vail, Colorado. I watched 70-year-old Ben Krueger ski the moguls on a black-diamond ski run and look like he was sauntering down the street. Age didn’t define what he was able to do.

Then a few years later, when I was teaching classes at the University of Utah and getting my master’s degree, I became friends with 75-year-old Harold Goodro. He taught classes in outdoor survival skills, camping and rock climbing. I took a rock climbing class from him, a master who had climbed the tallest mountains on every continent. It was a phenomenal experience learning life lessons.

The Do website also says:

But that doesn't mean we don’t value old people. That includes parents, teachers, counselors, religious or community leaders, mentors, alumni, and friends. So long as you believe in the power of young people to do these campaigns without you, then we’d love your help.

Today’s gift was to give money to the organization Do that is one of the largest organizations for young people affecting social change. It has 2.5 million members tackling campaigns that impact causes such as, poverty, violence, environment and anything else that will make a difference in the world. It is exciting to see young folks getting involved in grassroots volunteering. I don’t mind being called “old” when it is for a good cause.

In Giving,

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Don’t Touch Those Cords

It was the Ides of March 1998, at Utah’s Snowbird Ski Resort. Tim and I had driven up the canyon with the convertible top down and our skis extending out from the backseat. After one run down the ski slope, I realized the spring conditions were hard packed from thawing the day before and freezing overnight. I decided to sit in the warm sunshine on the plaza until the snow softened.

A little later, I ventured over to the Peruvian chairlift and was surprised to see Tim skiing down the mountain. He said, “I let my friends go on. I’m going to ski with you for a while.” On the way up the chairlift, Tim turned his head to look at me and I saw tears in his eyes. I asked what happened and he said that he had fallen hard and that his right arm didn’t work very well. He tried to touch his nose, but his hand wouldn’t respond. I said we should ski down the mountain to the car.

When we got to the parking lot, a friend who is a nurse said that it sounded like a pinched nerve. She recommended going to the health clinic at the mountain. I knew Tim must be in pain because he agreed to go.

The doctor’s x-ray determined that he had broken his neck and he needed to go to the hospital. The problem was that the only road down the Little Cottonwood Canyon had been closed for avalanche control. They tried to arrange a helicopter, but to his disappointment, that wasn’t feasible. Instead, the road patrol opened the canyon for the ambulance to take Tim and me to follow in the convertible - with the top up for all that was worth.

On the way down I watched little snowballs roll off the mountain and hit the road. I knew there wouldn’t be much protection if an avalanche broke loose. Even worse, Tim was strapped to a backboard inside the ambulance. We made it to the hospital and twelve hours after his fall, he had surgery. Fortunately he fully recovered.

Today, I learned that a friend, Bruce, is scheduled for neck surgery. Twenty years ago, the two of us became friends when we were both presidents of our local chapter of the National Speaker’s Association. The doctor will make the incision in the front of his neck. There is a concern that damage to his vocal cords may occur during the surgery. This would alter his life tremendously since he is a professional speaker.

Today’s gift was to send Bruce a get-well card with wishes for a speedy recovery. I told him about Tim’s surgery and his successful recovery. Even though I haven’t spoken to Bruce for several years, I look forward to him being able to speak with me after the doctors repair his neck and keep this professional speaker’s vocal chords in business.

In Giving,