Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My Birthday Gift to Myself...

Before turning 30, I decided that I wanted to do something special for myself to celebrate.  A few months ago, I came across a fellow blogger's page who decided to perform 38 "Random Acts of Kindness" to celebrate her 38th birthday.  

I often think to myself about how lucky I am to have SO many caring, thoughtful people in my own life.  How fun would it be to spread a little kindness around my little part of the world?  It turned out to be one of the best birthday gifts.  I met so many sweet people who were appreciative and in awe of "why" someone would do nice things...just because.  Why don't we do this all of the time??  I documented all of the things I did, just to remember each of them.  I don't think I will ever forget the people I met along the way or the smiles I saw because of simple little things. 

Random Acts of Kindness for My 30th birthday Adventure

1,  I dropped off a box of donuts to our local volunteer fire station.  It was a cold day, and they were out on a call when I dropped them off.  But, I bet they enjoyed them when they returned!

2.  I sent homemade Valentine's Day cards from my class to the Marines.  Molly said that they all loved them!

3.  I dropped off dog treats and old blankets and towels to the local animal hospital.  They were so grateful, and a pet-owner in there kept saying how nice I was to think of them.

4.  I donated a HUGE bag of school supplies to needy kids through a church program.  Who doesn't love a brand-new box of 64 Crayola crayons?

5.  I donated two bags of toiletries to the Interfaith Hospitality Network.  They are a local organization who operate the only homeless shelter in Hunterdon County.  When I brought the bags in, the woman working there was close to tears and asked to give me a great big hug.  It's the little things like shampoo and toothbrushes that make a difference.

6.  A nice note and a bag of Godiva chocolates for our Mail Lady....She sent a sweet thank-you the next day.

7.  I sent some "Happy Cards" to kids with life-threatening and terminal illnesses.  When I found this website, I think I used up a whole box of tissues.

8.  These people are walking in the crosswalk.  However, when I was at Target one day, there was a HERD of people who were crossing (not in the crosswalk).  Instead of turning in front of them, I waited for the entire group to pass slowly...and I smiled.  :-)
9.  I loved this book, and I hope whoever picks it up at the bookstore does too.  Inside of it, I tucked a $5 Dunkin Donuts gift card.
10.  I brought my mom flowers on my birthday.  After all, she gave birth to me 30 years ago.
11.  I donated food to our "Backpack Kids" program at school.  This program sends home backpacks full of food with less fortunate kids over the weekends.  It is always sad when I hear a child say that they only had cereal to eat all weekend and they are very hungry on Monday morning.  This way, I know there are a few who will be full and happy.
12.  I dropped off a bunch of balloons, coloring books, markers, and crayons to the Pediatric floor at our local hospital.  I asked the nurses to please pass them out to children who needed a smile.  Sometimes, a kid just needs to feel like a kid.....and balloons can do that. 

13.  I donated several bags of gently used clothes and coats to Good Will.
14.  I paid for the woman behind me at the drive-thru of Dunkin Donuts.  I didn't get to see her face as I pulled away, but I hope it made her day!

15.  I taped scratch tickets on 10 lucky cars.  I hope they won something!

16.  I taped quarters to vending machines around the hospital.  Food in hospitals is usually terrible, so maybe people were happy to find a "free" snack!
17.  This is a wonderful program I learned about through a friend.  4Paws for Ability trains dogs to act as service dogs for children with disabilities, particularly children with autism.  I was so touched by her family's story of their experience with 4Paws, that I made a donation to the program.

18.  Waiting for news at a hospital can be tiring and boring at, I taped quarters to the top of newspaper machines.  Reading the paper might help someone pass the time a little bit easier.

19.  I hid ten $1 bills in the dollar bins at Target.  Imagine the excitement from the kids (and grown-ups) when they find the free money!

20.  This organization grants wedding wishes to couples who are experiencing extreme hardships (suffering from terminal illnesses, suffering an extreme military injury, etc).  I made a donation.  This website made me cry too!
21.  I pushed back all of the carts in the Target parking lot.  I always return my cart, and just don't get how people can leave them in the middle of the parking lot.  But, I did it for them this time!

22.  We celebrated the 100th day of School in 2nd grade.  We talked a lot about what it might be like to be 100 years old.  Then, the kids and I made homemade 100th birthday cards.  I dropped them off at a local nursing home and asked the receptionist to pass them out to residents who turn 100 years old.  She said they had 10 residents right now that are 100.  Wow--good for them!  She also was so appreciative, and I know the residents will love those colorful cards.
23.  I left a good tip for a waitress.  I've never been a waitress, but I can imagine that the tips are not always great.  Luckily, she made it easy for me to give her a good tip!
24.  I mailed some packages to sweet friends and family for Valentine's day with homemade heart that they know they are always in my heart!
25.  I left ten nice comments on other blogger's posts.  It's always nice when I get comments from strangers.

26.  I offered to let someone in front of me in line at the grocery store.  Every line was a mile long, and this customer only had a few things.  She was so appreciative!

27.  I made dinner and dessert for our neighbor who is a brand-new mom.  She has enough to worry about without having to make dinner!   
28.  It was VERY cold one day.  I bought the gas attendant hot chocolate.  He smiled. 
29.  I threw my kids at school a popcorn party....FOR NO REASON.  They told me I was the best teacher ever.  Ha-wish I had known it was so easy!
30.  I held the door open at the mall for a woman who was carrying several bags and had a stroller.  She was kind of far away when I was at the door, but I saw her coming and waited and told her to take her time.  She gave me a relieved smile and said,, "No one does that anymore.  Thank you!"

I wanted everyone to see that this experience gave me back so much more happiness than I'm sure it gave anyone else.  My challenge to you--do something nice for someone today.  :-)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Turning the Big 3-0 happened.  I have officially reached the next decade.  I have to say that although my 20's were incredibly memorable with lots of fun and crazy times, I am looking forward to this chapter so much.  Looking back on my 20's, I have memories of
  • going to college and experiencing that whole "grown-up" world for the first time (getting my first apartment, living in a house with 25 other girls--CRAZY!)
  • meeting life-long friends and sorority sisters who I still feel I can call at any moment
  • becoming "legal" and all of the fun that goes with that  :-)
  • experiencing my very first teaching job as a Kindergarten teacher in the same school where I myself attended Kindergarten (what an awesome first year!)
  • taking a leap of faith with my BFF, and moving to Raleighwood to start the next chapter
  • experiencing a whole new world in "the south"....full of "Bless Your Hearts" and "fried food and butter make everything better"
  • meeting the man of my dreams and beginning an awesome life with him (buying our first and second homes), getting married, traveling the world, etc.  It has been quite the adventure!
  •  finally moving back to NJ to be closer to family and friends
And, of course there were many memories in between those, but there are far too many to count!

It was so much easier to make the transition to my 30's, because of the fabulous birthday weekend planned by my sweet hubby, family, and friends!  It started out with a surprise trip to Princeton for the night on Saturday.  JB did not tell me where we were going, but instead he had me driving all over Route 1.  We eventually landed at the Hyatt, and checked into a room.  Then, as I was unpacking my suitcase, out POPPED Andrea from the adjoining room.  I definitely screamed and about had a heart attack!  Her and Mango were there to join us for the night!   We headed out for drinks at Triumph, and then went to the Blue Point Grill for a yummy seafood birthday dinner.  Later, we headed back to the hotel for more champagne and went to "Catch a Rising Star" for a comedy show.  It was such a fun night!  Thank you, Andrea & Matt for coming, and Mom for the comedy show tickets!

The next morning (my actual birthday), we started off with a classic NJ diner breakfast--thank goodness for Pork Roll/Egg/Cheese :-)  Then, we headed to my parents' house for a family birthday celebration.  My mom has always made my birthday so special every year, and this year wasn't any different.  This was the first birthday I've been home in about 6 years.  We enjoyed a nice lunch with my grandparents, parents, and Andrea and Matt.  Then, after birthday cake (funfetti of course!), I was ushered into the living room for a special presentation.  As many of you know, my very thoughtful husband organized many of my family and friends to send in video clips in order to make a special birthday tribute video.  I cried and I laughed, but most of all I was so touched that you all cared so much to do this.  A special shout-out to all of those who sent in videos:  Mom & Dad, Oma & Bob, Andrea & Matt, Mark & Linda, Michael, Chris & Laura, Ryan and Melissa, my favorite twins Elli and Livi, Shelly, the Flan Clan, The Updikes, Tim, Aunt Peggy, Ang, and Joe Boston who put it all together! THANK YOU!  I received so many awesome gifts from my family and friends for my birthday including....

 AND DON'T FORGET...a very big surprise

I know ladies, right??  Oprah and I are sporting the same shoes.  Love them! 

Thank you to everyone who helped me to celebrate my 30th birthday.  It was fantastic, and I can't wait to see what the next decade brings!  Stop back tomorrow to see what I gave myself for my 30th birthday---probably one of the most rewarding gifts ever.  Are you curious yet??