Sunday, June 29, 2014

48 Random Acts of Kindness for My 48th Birthday

Today I'm celebrating my 48th birthday. However, for the past month I have been focusing on celebrating 48 wonderful years of life rather than focusing on the disadvantages that come with aging.

As I've grown older, I have been seeing and understanding what truly matters in life and that life is short. How we make use of our limited time is important.

Nearly a hundred years ago, aviator Amelia Earhart observed:

A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and 
the roots spring up and make new trees.

Her words inspired me to spend the month of June doing acts of kindness - one for each year of my life. So, throughout the month I did 48 different acts of kindness - some were random and some the recipient knew me.

After doing the activities I wrote about below, I know that future birthdays will follow this pattern. I felt like I received more than I gave. Spreading out the acts of kindness throughout the entire month gave me time to reflect upon who or what needed something positive to happen, and how I could best use my skills and/or resources to best reach that person or organization.

For me, the most meaningful acts of kindness were the ones in which I wrote something - a letter, postcard, a message I read aloud to my mom commemorating my parents' 50th wedding anniversary, thank you notes to seniors who had positively impacted my life, and a letter of support for the volunteer director at the nursing home where Sophia, Olivia, and I volunteer.

I'm hoping that this post will inspire others to consider doing something life-changing for their birthday - whether it is a milestone one - 30th, 40th, 50th - or just a "regular" birthday that could be made more special by thinking of others...of giving of oneself in celebration of a life well lived.

What someone does in the spirit of kindness doesn't have to be big nor cost a lot of money. It is precisely these small actions that can change a person at a time, one birthday at a time.

Here is what I did during June to celebrate my 48th birthday:

1. Sunday, June 1st – Left a simple note of encouragement on a random car on a mini- van in a store parking lot.

The quote I wrote on the back of a postcard with 
a nature scene on the reverse side.

There were so many people around that it was difficult to walk up to the van, place the card on the window, and take a photograph.

The card tucked next to the window on the driver's side of the van.

To do this quickly without anyone noticing was certainly an adrenaline rush. Wondered who would find the note and what her reaction would be when she read it.

2. Monday, June 2nd - Left a book with a note for someone to find at Osceola Medical Center. I tucked the envelope into the book with an invitation to take the book home.

Book with envelope.

I included a note with the book.

The book with the note.

It explained the reason why I was giving away the book anonymously.

Part of the note I wrote.

Hopefully the person who chose to take it home enjoyed it as much as my daughters and I did.

The book on the table in front of the picture and next to the newspaper.

As a side note, I was at the hospital on June 26th for Sophia's allergy shot and we stopped by the surgery center. The book was gone which made me smile. I was happy to see that someone picked it up and took it home to read.

3. Monday, June 2nd - Put together a care package for my sister who was recovering from a surgical procedure. It contained a can of chicken soup; garlic and herb roll to go with the soup; cup with lid and straw; single-serve lemonade packet; Ghiradelli chocolate bar; box of chocolates; and small pack of tissues – all in a brightly colored bag.

My sister holding the garlic and herb roll 
that was in the care package for her.

4. Tuesday, June 3rd – Wrote to a soldier through the Adopt a U.S. Soldier program. Filled out email application on May 23rd and was assigned a soldier on Memorial Day – Patrick, who is a corporal in the Marines serving in a remote area in Afghanistan.

5. Wednesday, June 4th – Sent ten cards or postcards in the mail to friends and family who I hadn't written to in a long time.

The letters and postcards I mailed on June 4th.

6. Thursday, June 5th - Made a Kiva Loan — Kiva is an organization that provides micro-loans to entrepreneurs in developing countries. Lenders can choose what amount to donate, and once the loan is paid off, you can either withdraw your funds or re-loan to another entrepreneur.

Made a loan to a woman who lives in Mongolia whose house was disintegrating. She wanted to repair it so that she would use less coal (which means less air pollution) and be warmer. She lives with her husband and four children.

Tumennasan by her home that she wants to repair and improve.

7. Thursday, June 5th – Made food for a picnic with my Mom, Sophia, and Olivia.

Sophia, my mom, and Olivia enjoying a picnic at French Regional Park.

All the food was soft so my mom could eat it. Pushed her around in her wheelchair on the paved trails which she enjoyed. It was nice for all of us to get outside and spend time together.

8. Friday, June 6thMade a loan through Kiva to a woman in El Salvador who was living in a home with her husband, five year old child, and mother. The walls were made of uneven planks of wood and the floors were dirt. She wanted to create one room that was made of brick and iron.

Silvia by her home that she wants to improve.

9. Friday, June 6th – Wrote positive comments and gave lots of KarmaBucks on Kind Spring. This website has so many wonderful ideas and is such a supportive community of individuals who are all trying to make a difference in the world.

10. Saturday, June 7th - Wrote another letter to Patrick, the Marine I am assigned to the A.A.U.S.S. Included lots of newspaper clippings (e.g., cartoons, puzzles, wildlife pictures) and two five-page packets of various jokes, stories, and inspirational readings that are produced by a volunteer with the A.A.U.S.S.

Letter and clippings that I sent to Patrick.

Encouraged Patrick, if he’s already read the packets, to share them with other Marines who may not have received mail recently or who may need the encouragement.

11. Saturday, June 7th – Gave Sophia and Olivia an opportunity to use the limited number of fishing poles available Wild River State Park so they could learn how to fish rather than taking a pole for myself.

Sophia casting her line into the river.

They enjoyed fishing for the first time and want to do it again.

Olivia casting her line into the St. Croix River.

12. Saturday, June 7th - Picked up glass pieces that were partially buried in the dirt/sand parking lot, but could nonetheless puncture tires.

13. Saturday, June 7th – Went on a walk at Wild River State Park with a group of children and adults who were camping through the I Can Camp! program.

Pretty flowers at Wild River State Park.

On the way back, walked with a 5 ½ year old boy who was lagging way behind the group. When we returned the mother was very thankful that I stayed with him.

An open area at Wild River State Park. 
It is near one section of the horse trails that the children wanted to walk on.

14. Monday, June 9 – Cleaned the rest of the barn by taking out 32 loads of wood chips and putting fresh wood chips down so the horses had clean bedding and the girls’ didn’t have to do any of the cleaning.

A close-up of Hoss' forelock and eye.

Made a pathway so the horses can more easily get to the west pasture. Also put about half of the chips in the compost pile.

Hoss and Bailey galloping in the west pasture.

15. Tuesday, June 10 – Volunteered for Christian Community Home by working on launching a Men’s Group so the senior men have activities to keep them engaged and learning.

Reached out to several local churches to ask for volunteers as well as to the local Boy Scout troop to see if the teens would like to work on some of their merit badges while making a difference with the seniors.

16. Wednesday, June 11 – Prepared ingredients for the “fairy food” for the fairy gardening class I am volunteering to teach on June 12th.

Cut the basil and mozzarella; and mixed the dressing for the 
fairy gardening class on Thursday.

Also made four orange window stars which will be used for the orange boxes that I’ll be donating soon to the nursing home and three rainbow window stars that I’ll be placing in library books.

A quick look at the rainbow star to make sure it looks okay.

17. Thursday, June 12 - Volunteered to teach children how to make fairy gardens and “fairy food.”

Children creating their fairy gardens.

They learned how to plant plants in a container and create little scenes with the plants and hardscapes.

One of the children getting some help from Sophia.

Some of the younger ones needed guidance about how to transfer a plant from the black plastic container from the nursery to the bigger container.

Olivia putting the finishing touches on her fairy garden.

It was fun seeing how diverse the fairy gardens were given that the children had essentially the same materials to work with.

Sophia with a fly agaric mushroom.
The base is a hard-boiled egg and the top is a half of a plum tomato.
The dots are made with Miracle Whip.

We made and sampled a variety of food that tied into fairies and things in miniature. 

Olivia with some of the other children as they make
fairy wands using fresh fruit.

The children all asked for the recipes for the food so they could make them at home.

18. Thursday, June 12 – Posted on Minnesota State Parks and Trail’s Facebook page the following message:

Just wanted to thank you for offering the I Can Camp program this past weekend at Wild River State Park! My daughters and I had such a fun time camping! This was their first time camping in a tent; and with Riley's and Christine's enthusiasm and instruction, they are eager to do more tent camping in the future. 

We also appreciate the opportunity for the girls to learn how to fish for the first time. As with the camping, they want to go fishing again. Thanks for providing us with great memories and experiences. (Ann, Sophia, and Olivia).

Also posted on the Scandia Market and Merchantile’s Facebook page:

I realized last night that I forgot to buy cherry tomatoes for a recipe for a children's fairy gardening and cooking class I was teaching at the Scandia Community Center this morning through the Marine Community Library. Stopped by the Scandia Market & Mercantile and was so happy that you had exactly what I was looking for in the produce department. 

We used the cherry tomatoes with fresh basil and mozzarella mixed with olive oil and freshly-ground sea salt and pepper to make mini-sandwiches in pita bread. It was delicious! Thanks for carrying the cherry tomatoes!

19. Friday, June 13 - Spent time with my mom on what would have been her 50th wedding anniversary. Made punch and brought teal-blue plates, cups, and napkins (a color close to the dress color of the bridesmaids).

Set up five flower containers in an area in which my mom wanted to have flowers and birdfeeders. Chose five containers – one of each member of the family. Also got four flower containers for her deck.

We had punch, cake, and ice cream. It was a nice dessert that we all enjoyed.

The orange punch that I made.

After we ate and I read a letter that I wrote to my mom, we went to the deck and took some pictures.

Sophia and Olivia with their Nana.

Brought a floral arrangement that she could enjoy indoors that had special significance.

The small floral arrangement that represents our family.

The two red roses represent her and my dad; and three white carnations represent their three children.

20. Friday, June 13 – Wrote a four-page message to my mom to commemorate her and my dad’s 50th wedding anniversary. Read it aloud when we spent time with her on Friday.

21. Friday, June 13 – Gave a jar of homemade honey butter to my mom and Mary.

As a side note: on June 27th Mary said that the honey butter was delicious and that she ate it straight from the jar – it didn’t even make it onto her food...that’s how much she enjoyed eating it!

22. Friday, June 13 - Put 3 smile cards with a handmade window star in books at the library. I tried to choose books that the finder of the window star and card may appreciate.

A window star and smile card in a book.

The first book had to do with the meaning of different colors. 

Seemed like a great book to put a rainbow star in.

The second book was focused on raising a gender creative child. 

I thought this was a nice thing to do...
hope the person who finds it agrees.

The third book was focused on doing random acts of kindness.

No one would suspect that there's a window star 
in one of these books.

Once the books were on the shelves there was no indication that there was anything inside the book.

23. Saturday, June 21 – Supported Mill City Farmers Market - an organic farmers market in Minneapolis.

A table of French radishes.

Purchased radishes, comb honey, shiitake mushrooms, and a shiitake mushroom log kit. 

Items that we purchased at the Mill City Farmers Market as well as 
the Minneapolis Farmers Market where we went after we visited MCFM.

This week's theme was on the honeybee and honey. There were information tables set up including one that had a frame from a beehive.

An observational frame that Olivia is watching.

The girls were trying to find the queen bee who had a colored dot on her back.

24. Sunday, June 15 - Donated food to Family Pathways food shelf in Forest Lake.

Some food that we donated to the Food Shelf.

25. Sunday, June 15 – Donated one bag of girls’ clothing to Family Pathways second-hand shop.

Bag of clothing ready to be brought indoors at Family Pathways.

The proceeds from the sale of items in the shop are used to support programs for people in need - youth, teenagers, adults, and seniors.

26. Monday, June 16 – Read three book reviews on people’s blogs who are doing the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks and left nice comments for the individuals to read.

27. Friday, June 20 – Made an extra window star for a customer and sent it with her order as a special surprise.

An extra window star I sent to a customer.

28. Friday, June 20 – Purchased two bags of puppy and kitten food and took them to Northwoods Humane Society.
Olivia and Sophia with pet food we are donating to Northwoods Humane Society.
Left an unsigned note saying that I was donating the food
because of the joy I've received from the animals 
who we adopted from Northwoods.

29. Sunday, June 22 - Left a box of laundry detergent at a laundromat in Forest Lake.

Box of laundry detergent with a note and smile card.

I've been to that laundry many times when we had a smaller washer and dryer. Several times I forgot to bring laundry soap. Finding a box like this would have been such a day brightener for me. I hope it helped bring a smile to someone's face.

30. Sunday, June 22 - Left unused coupons next to those items on the shelf at the store.

Found a coupon for 75 cents off toothpaste. 
That's a good savings!

I tried to look for coupons for things that people of all ages need (like toothpaste) or that arise later in life (like Poise).

These $1 off coupons should help whoever finds them.

I also tried to find coupons that were larger amounts - 75 cents or more - which would be a nice savings for whoever found and could use the coupons.

31. Monday, June 23 - Filled all the bird feeders.

Cooper and Aspen being "helpers" as I filled the bird feeders.

There were 12 feeders around our home that needed to be filled.

Filled the log feeder with suet so the woodpeckers
would have a special treat.

We have a variety of seed feeders as well as suet feeders. The different types of food attracts a wide variety of birds which we enjoy watching.

32. Monday, June 23 – Taught Sophia how to make peanut brittle in the microwave and Olivia how to make gumdrop mints.

Sophia mixing the peanuts into the hot liquid.

We had never made peanut brittle in the microwave and were pleasantly surprised at how easy and delicious it tasted.

The cashew and peanut brittle cooling down 
before they are broken into smaller pieces.

The original recipe that was posted on the internet was made in an 800-watt oven, so we had to lower the power on ours since we have a 1000-watt oven. It was something new that both Sophia and I learned how to do.

Olivia mixing the powdered sugar, peppermint extract, and 
water together for the mints.

The mints turned out very well and were tiny bites of sweetness. We will definitely make these again.

Olivia's mints that she made.

33. Tuesday, June 24 – Complimented people about their dogs; and listened to some people talk about their dogs as they waited their turn at dog agility.

Sophia instructing Cooper to go up the ramp.

People enjoyed talking about their dogs, and it was interesting to learn more about certain breeds and how the dogs came to live with certain families.

Cooper doing the plank while Sophia walks along side him.

We've been seeing many of the same people now for a couple of months between agility and obedience training.

Cooper doing the teeter. 
He's not a huge fan of this piece of equipment.

It's funny: we all know the dogs' names, but for the most part no one refers to the owners by name. 

34. Tuesday, June 24 - Brought two baby mice to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center after Aspen and Cooper found their nest in the backyard. 

Two mice that are under two weeks old.
Their eyes had not opened yet.

Sophia put the babies in a little plastic container with paper towels and sheep wool. She fed them some milk in the afternoon and contacted the WRC. They suggested that she bring the mice in and they could care for them. So, we made a trip to Roseville to do just that.

On the way we saw a beautiful double rainbow.

The double rainbow we saw on the way to the WRC.

The person welcoming us to the WRC was so appreciative of Sophia's efforts and made her feel good about rescuing the baby mice.

The girls by the front door of the WRC.

It was interesting to learn more about the WRC's work and positive impact on wildlife - including tiny mice, many varieties of birds, rabbits, fox, trumpeter swans, and even bears. 

We were surprised at how many animals the WRC had admitted
already this season.

35. Thursday, June 26 – We had an energy audit today to identify ways that we could save energy and money on electricity and propane.

The blower fan in the front door that was on during the energy audit.

The gentleman showed us what animals look like with the thermal camera he had.

This is Aspen sitting next to Sophia's leg.

He also had a black and white feature on the camera which was useful in some of our rooms. He showed us what one of our cats looked like and how much heat was showing up on the camera.

This is what Meenie (the cat) looks like on the infrared camera.

When she went behind the honeycomb blinds the heat image disappeared meaning that the blinds were effective.

At any rate, I noticed that the man who was doing an energy audit on our home had a hospice label and phone number on his phone. Asked him if he volunteered with a hospice organization. He said his wife, who is a nurse, suggested he put that label on his phone since his mother is in hospice.

Listened to him talk about his mother, how he helps do caregiving for her, and how he visits her after work almost daily. He also talked about how his father had passed away and how the dying process is differing between his parents. It was clear he needed to talk and someone to listen.

36. Thursday, June 26 - Created four orange summer boxes and brought them to the nursing home.

Four boxes of goodies.

One was for Tia (the volunteer director) and three others I told her to give to residents who were having a difficult day and needed to be cheered up.

Orange-themed box. 
There was a card that I included that said, "You brighten my life."

Tia had someone in mind right away for one of the boxes. The resident had been crying quite a bit which was out of character for her. She was going to give her a box after she finished playing BINGO.

Another box that will be given to 
someone who needs it at the nursing home.

37. Thursday, June 26 - Wrote and hand-delivered a card to Betty at the nursing home who we visited in December 2012 through our church.

Hand-stitched card that I made.

We had delivered a Christmas tree to her from the church and stayed to visit.

Part of the note I wrote to Betty.

It was so enjoyable that we decided to focus our volunteering on one organization in 2013 rather than spreading ourselves too thin. We chose the nursing home.

The back of the card I wrote to Betty.

Not only did we volunteer in 2013 but we have continued into 2014.

Betty petting Eenie when we first began doing cat therapy
at the nursing home.

This wouldn’t have happened if Betty wasn’t a resident there and if she hadn’t been so pleasant, welcoming, and appreciative of the visit.

38. Thursday, June 26 - Wrote and hand-delivered a card to John, a gentleman at the nursing home who just had a fractured aorta and who I was told wasn’t doing well. He is one of our favorite people at the nursing home so the news was particularly difficult to hear.

The note card I chose for John.

Had a delightful visit with him filled with laughter, stories, and appreciation for the visit.

John with Sophia in February when we did the intergenerational program.

As I was leaving, John was starting to read this note I wrote to him:


As I approach my 48th birthday this weekend, I am reflecting upon people who've made a meaningful and positive difference in my life. I count you as one of the people, John.

You have brought laughter, compassion, empathy, and gratitude not only to my life, but that of Sophia's and Olivia's lives.

You have been someone we always look forward to seeing - whether it be a visit with Eenie, listening to a music program, or doing the intergenerational program. 

The stories and history you have shared with us have made our lives better and more interesting.

We feel so fortunate to have you in our lives, John.


39. Friday, June 27 – Wrote a letter to Tia’s (the Recreation Director/Volunteer Director’s) supervisor to commend Tia on her work and impact.

Tia - the Recreation Director/Volunteer Director at
the nursing home where we volunteer.

Read the letter to Tia privately in her office so she would know what I wrote and gave to her supervisor before she had her annual performance review. I could tell the letter came at a needed time because of the tears that were shed as I read the letter aloud to her.

40. Friday, June 27 – Went with Sophia and Olivia to the nursing home where we took two seniors on a short walk and four seniors on a longer walk as well as sat and talked while having a glass of juice.

Florence, Sophia, Bonnie, Ted, Olivia, and Iva on the fitness trail.

41. Friday and Saturday, June 27 and 28 – Took care of my family by making jars of food mixes and canning strawberry lemonade concentrate.

Five of the six quarts of strawberry lemonade concentrate I canned. 

42. Saturday, June 28 - Wrote an anonymous letter to a stranger after reading about the idea on One Heart Purpose.

Outside of the envelope.

 Put it in one of the entry ways at the Yoga Hus in town.

Note card and envelope by the entry way.

Dear You,

Yes, you! The one one reading this. You are beautiful, talented, amazing, and simply the best at being you. Never forget that.

What you tell yourself every day will either lift you up or tear you down. I truly hope that you are telling yourself things that reinforce how truly wonderful you are!

Although you don’t know me and I don’t know you, I felt the need to write this note. I’m so happy you found this letter and know that you picking it up and opening it was meant to be.

I wish you all the health, love, success, and happiness in the world.

With love,


P.S. This was so much fun – and inspiring – to write this note. If it brought a smile to your face, I invite you to write your own anonymous letter…if you wish.

Have a great day!

43. Saturday, June 28 - Wrote to a prisoner in Texas through the Church of the Larger Fellowship’s Prison Ministry program. I have been corresponding with Jason for about 1 ½ years now. He has moved several times to different prisons, with the current one being one that is designed to have programs and activities that help prisoners prepare for their release.

Letter and clippings I sent to Jason.

He is waiting for his parole date which hopefully will be later this year so he can live in a halfway home that will help him transition to successfully living in a new world.

It’s been very insightful for me to be able to correspond with him and be able to see through writing the changes that are occurring within him to better prepare himself for a radically different – and much more healthy and positive – way to live.

Also wrote to Patrick again as part of the Adopt a U.S. Soldier program.

Letter and clippings I sent to Patrick.

The goal is to write to soldiers once a week to let them know how much we appreciate their service and to let them know they are not forgotten.

44. Saturday, June 28 - Sent two books to nephews and nieces. I picked books that had a variety of arts and crafts projects that would be easy to make, that they would enjoy doing, and keep them occupied during the summer.

Books I sent to my brother for his four youngest children.

45. Saturday, June 28 – Photocopied two recipes for a friend who asked me how to make strawberry pineapple jam (which Sophia made) and strawberry lemonade concentrate (which I made and canned).

Recipes for Bonnie.

46. Saturday, June 28 – Entered Aspen in the Northwoods Humane Society’s contest/fundraiser, and made a $15 donation in support of Northwoods. The public can vote for Aspen by making a $1 per vote donation. All the funds used help Northwoods find loving families and forever homes for pets, just like Aspen (who we adopted in May 2014 from Northwoods).

Aspen at three months old.

47. Saturday, June 28 – Entered Cooper in the Northwoods Humane Society’s contest/fundraiser, and made a $15 donation in support of Northwoods. Just like with Aspen, the public can vote for Cooper by making a $1 per vote donation. Any amount helps Northwoods care for the animals while they are waiting for people to adopt these animals who desperately want to be in homes where they are loved and well cared for by responsible owners.

Cooper taking a break from running in the snow.

48. Saturday, June 28 - Went to the playground at Gammelgarden and tossed change (pennies, nickels, and dimes) here and there for kids to “discover” as they play!

Playground at Gammelgarden.

The girls always enjoyed playing on the tire swing, so I chose that as one location.

Coins in the sand under the tire swing.

Some of the coins were easily visible while others were partially buried.

Some of the coins could be easily seen.

It will be like a treasure hunt when the children are playing there.

A coin at the end of the slide.

Bonus gift to myself on Sunday, June 29 -  I finished writing 1,000 things for which I'm grateful. My goal when I started back in October 2013 was to find 1,000 people, things, situations...anything...that I feel gratitude for in my everyday life.

As I look back on the numerous pages in my journals that includes my gratitude list, it brings back such wonderful memories that I may have otherwise forgotten. Now, in writing, I can enjoy these things all over again. Truly, a birthday gift to myself for which I am so thankful that I did over the past eight months.

Between the gratitude journal and the 48 acts of kindness, it has been both a reflective and joyful birthday!