July 24, 2018My act of kindness this week was not killing anyone. The difference between me and people who actually do kill people is I never actually think about snuffing out a life. This week I just wanted to defend myself, in an angry tone, with a strongly worded text, and I didn’t. I listened and realized the attack wasn’t about me, it was about them, and in that moment of clarity, I calmed down.
A couple of difficult people passed through my life this week and made me question the future of humanity. I’m a theater teacher and I direct musicals for younger kids during the summer. Shockingly, there are stage parents who believe their child is the most talented kid in any room! This was my first time dealing with such vehement aggression on this topic. Not everyone was born to play Annie…if you are 14, 5’10”, or a male with your voice changing who can’t be heard 5 feet away, I probably will not cast you as the tiny orphan Annie. Especially if there is an 11-year-old with a Broadway belt available. Sigh. It’s over now and I am proud to say, in this particular instance, that I was patient. Not so much on the drive home, so by the time I got home it was time to retreat from reality.
One of my fave comfort movies is You’ve Got Mail. I rented it and retreated to the couch, applied a dog and a cat on feet and tummy and disappeared until this scene ↓virtually jumped out at me. Pretty sure this captures both sides of most difficult encounters.
Are you Tom Hanks or Meg Ryan when confronted by someone who belittles your existence? Do you become tongue-tied or do you say the thing you most want to say only to be filled with remorse the second after you’ve said it? I am both and I’d love to hear from you how you handle challenging individuals. Seriously.
It seems there’s always someone, or something, trying to steal my joy. I’m a flawed human being. I’m reckless and clumsy so I’m almost always in pain which depresses me and makes being open and friendly just that much more challenging. But,I am determined to change the world one smile at a time, even if it kills me, which it almost has a couple of times.I can’t be the only person who struggles with trying to be a light in my corner of the world, all the while being a flawed human surrounded by other flawed humans.
I honestly do love to meet new people, to smile and sincerely ask store clerks how they’re doing, to find the humor in every situation, to look into a student’s eyes to see what’s really going on under the surface, but I feel it needs to be said, that sometimes, I fail.
Here’s how I manage to leave my house, my tormented brain and body, and attempt to be a bright spot to those around me:
♥ I choose to believe everyone is doing their best, including me, knowing it isn’t always the case. We all get tired and frustrated and want to lash out.
We all seem to have an element of fear lurking just under the surface now in our country, and well, the world, which makes us careful and suspicious and is exhausting.
♥ It is vitally important to stop to play every day. I learned this from father and it has sincerely saved my life more than once.
♥ Ideas for playing:
A quick game on your phone. Candy Crush and Tetris work for me. It turns out there is scientific proof games that include dropping columns help release anxiety and PTSD. Tetris and Trauma
A funny cat video: in fact, start your day with a funny cat video and everything else immediately becomes a lighter burden, maybe even burden-less. Sail Cat (no cats were harmed during this filming. WATCH THE EARS!) I laugh every single time I watch this.
Call and speak out loud to a friend you love.
Thank God for giving us a sense of what’s funny and the ability to laugh at our predicaments.
“I believe laughter is a sacred sound to God. It let’s Him know we are enjoying being His creation.” Tim Hansell
DANCE BREAK! Ask Alexa to play your favorite song and bust a move. This is my favorite personal coping mechanism and it works like magic.
That’s it for now. Hope this helps diffuse even one icky interaction.
July 13, 2018
We have this great place in my hood to meet for coffee, or to get a little work done with a cup of coffee out among other human beings. The first time I walked into this new place to meet a friend, Kathy (she’s very nice, you should try to meet her there for coffee too), I immediately noticed that I suddenly was in a better frame of mind. I almost never notice things like that, but goodness is obvious here the moment you walk in.
Coffee brings us together, doesn’t it? It’s a bit of a treat. It provides a socially acceptable meeting location for our stimulant fixes.It’s possible that the late, great, NBC sitcom Friends and Central Perk may have given us this gift of a great way to hang together. Phoebe, Joey, Rachel, Chandler, Ross and Rachel became a family at Central Perk.
We meet friends or get a pick me up to brighten our days at coffee houses. If you’re ever in my area, I strongly urge you to go to Black Rock Coffee Bar! This is who they are:
THE WAY WE LIVE
We strive for excellence in everything we do in life. Our crafted drinks are a way we show respect for our customers and ourselves. They are the beginning of a relationship built on trust and care that through time grows to see our stories unfold in our city.
As part of local communities, each Black Rock Coffee Bar team finds ways to serve their neighborhoods. And by doing so we help raise the bar for relationship and compassion.
As relationship grows, so does accountability. We hold each other to higher standards for the good of all. Whether it be care for nature, care for those in need, or just a sincere desire to see others do well, we learn to expect a lot from each other and a lot for our customers.
Our priority at Black Rock is not for others to know who we are and what we do… but for others to allow us to know them, to add fuel to their story, and to share in the journey.
When I grow up, I want to be just like the peeps that began Black Rock Coffee Bar. My local one is in Chandler, AZ, but they exist in several cities. Check out their website to see if there’s one near you and then stay there to read every single word about who they are. I was inspired to become a better person just by reading their website. Truly.
Are you busy this Sunday at 1:00 PM? Cause I’m gonna be at the Chandler location working on my laptop and enjoying some form of espresso. Come on by and say hi! We can chat. Maybe we’ll become Friends. You’ll find my picture on the home page and my laptop has the initials KB in gold glitter on the cover. Even if no one shows up, I will be happier just because I got to spend time among kind people. I hope you’ll stop by though! I’ll see if Kathy can come…you’ll like her.
I hope you’ll at least drive through for a delicious cup of coffee one day when you need a little goodness. Smile at your barista and tell them Karen sent you!
July 2, 2018
Kindness tip for the week:
It’s okay to ask for help.
Allowing help gives a chance to shorten the distance between loneliness and a life shared.
Many Christmases ago I asked for a new kitchen table, the current table was about to disband into dust. The husband, Keith, found a very cute table at Wal-Mart online. It was delivered with “some assembly required” about a week before Christmas to our neighbor Jeff’s house.
We have the family Christmas Eve dinner at our house. I save the four fancy plates we got for our wedding for this night, or really, there is never an occasion to use them. Since we only have the four, it takes awhile to make the table appear like it was arranged with a festive plan in mind. I spend about an hour, choosing the tablecloth and napkins, setting the table, arranging the seating and centerpiece until we can all fit IF we keep our elbows in, and I’m reasonably happy it looks magical. After baking and cooking all morning/month I thankfully disappear to finish wrapping presents behind closed doors while something cooks slowly in the oven. Egg Nog may, or may not, be involved. Every year this is my schedule. Every. Single. Year.
This particular Christmas Eve, as soon as I closed our bedroom door to tackle speed wrapping, a silent mayhem began in the kitchen. The youngest,Talia, having memorized exactly how the table was set, took everything off as quickly and quietly as she could, the husband and the oldest, Hannah, sent four texts to neighbors who were on stand by to help assemble the table and chairs, run them to our house, silently set it up in our kitchen, dispose of the old table and chairs while Talia, at the speed of light, perfectly reset the new table to look exactly like the old one. I heard nothing.
The crew all excitedly waited in the kitchen for me to come out. I didn’t come out for two hours. By that time, the neighbors had left and everyone else was annoyed with me. I didn’t notice the new table when I did emerge from my wrapping cocoon, even with all the beaming faces glaring at me. Since everything looked exactly like how I left it…no need to comment.
Finally, The Youngest sarcastically bellowed, “NOTICE ANYTHING DIFFERENT IN THE KITCHEN??” “Ohhhhh! New chairs!” I said, which was met with a group sigh. If I just hadn’t gone with a tablecloth that year, I would have seen the new table and we would hardly remember this even happened.
We have a quality village here on the cul-de-sac. We take care of each other through giving space, but always being on hand if needed to pull a prank.
The whole Christmas Eve shenanigan thing is priceless to me; the table, the group effort with their commitment to sneakery (It should be a word), the fact my husband had the thought and generosity to pull this off. We couldn’t really afford a new table then. Or truthfully, now. And almost more than anything, the poem that was propped in the middle of the table. I still can’t read it without tearing up. The words gave our lives purpose and comfort that a table is a worthy investment.
This gift was way more than a new table from Wal-Mart. It was a step back to barn-raising’s and a step forward to neighbors taking care of their own in times of flooding and fires and shootings and innocent Christmas magic.
We can never get rid of this table. It stands for who we are.
Try to love your time with your family this week and with all of those who have landed near you. In my experience, time together as a family went faster than I could fathom. Well, on most days, some days actually went slower than originally fathomed as possible.
Do you have a story? Please share it! Anywhere! A positive story can change the course of any day.
The poem that was placed on my sparkly magical Christmas table:
“There’s something happening here What it is ain’t exactly clear There’s a man with a gun over there Telling me I got to beware
I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound Everybody look what’s going down
There’s battle lines being drawn Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong”
Stephen Stills 1967
Kindness is at war with evil.
The battle lines are being drawn by celebrities, politicians, comedians, some cats, my next door neighbor. It’s a battle to fight violence, judgement, hatred, intolerance, apathy, by way of being consciously kind.
It’s a victimless war.
It’s a hard time to believe in people in the public eye — between child detention, the constant revelations of the #MeToo movement, and the racial, economic, and gender-based injustices we witness every day.
It could not be a better time for a movie about Mister Rogers. But, when has there ever been a time when it wasn’t a good idea to listen to a peaceful man? Our family went to see Won’t You Be My Neighbor this past weekend. It was a 10:00 PM showing on a Friday night after a long week. We were in recliners at the Harkins at the mall. I had a glass of champagne to sip during the movie. Our kids came with us, they’re 20 and 22, had been swimming in 110 heat for most of the day. My husband had been doing back breaking work in the yard for hours preparing for my birthday party on Sunday. Although,It was the perfect storm to sleep from opening to ending credits. No one slept. It was even kinda riveting. It’s a very quiet, beautiful film about a very quiet, beautiful man who embodies unconditional love. He makes seeking kindness first appear easy. Fred Rogers shows us that kindness is a choice we can make daily, that feelings are important and valid, and that love, or its vacancy, is the dynamic force behind our actions.
And then there’s Lady Gaga!!! She’s so much more than we were led to believe at her beginning. She is actively speaking out to make a difference in the world she sees. Personally I see humans in most places trying to change the world by spreading kindness. Here’s a thing: To be consciously kind takes a little effort, but not nearly as much as hate requires.
Then! Here in Chandler, is my friend Helen. Un-frickin-believable Helen.
If she reads on facebook that I’m sick or injured, which, to put into perspective, I am injured/sick more often than not-that-way, she goes into high alert as to how she can ease my pain. For exp: a coffee mug of George Clooney’s self-portrait (a personal fave), An In-N-Out gift card, root beer, chocolate covered cherries when my father died because he loved those things, anything from Disneyland that involves magic or Tigger. These perfect gifts will just appear on my doorstep, and after Helen ding dong ditches at a speed only a 5 year-old should be able to achieve, I will open the door and see only the evidence of love and compassion sitting in a potted plant. I am only one of hundreds of people she stalks for goodness. My daughter, Hannah, calls her S.O.G. for Sister of God. We are humbled by her very nature. S.O.G. you rock.
Let’s be Helen today and do one thing for one person who doesn’t expect or necessarily deserve a little surprise. Even a flower from your yard on their front door is enough. Let me know if you actually do this please!
Your one act of kindness shared can reach the world. This little blog alone is reaching Russia. You have a chance to reach across this huge cultural divide just by saying “Hi.” Or “I put a flower on my neighbors door. They never noticed it…”
June 20, 2018I see a world where we continually define ourselves by the way in which we are divided.Our family moved to Chandler, Arizona from Los Angeles 18 years ago. We found a nice house we could almost afford in a safe neighborhood. My husband and I had two small daughters at the time. I suggested leaving L.A. the day helicopters were hovering over our house bellowing repeatedly through a blow horn for everyone to lock all doors and windows and stay inside. An armed robber was thought to be hiding in one of our backyards after shooting the owner of our corner grocery store. I love LA, but life in Chandler has been way less “survival of the fittest.”The first day of house shopping brought us into 20 identical, beige, stucco houses in 20 different neighborhoods between Scottsdale and Chandler.Amazed at the lack of trees or anything green and the sheer amount of people that chose to landscape with beige rock, I decided we should stay in LA and take our chances. But, we tried one more house, at the urging of our eager realtor, and there, gleaming like a diamond rising up through beige stucco were the most beautiful cherry wood cabinets. We would never be able to afford cherry wood in LA, so we moved. And stayed. And planted grass and trees and painted our house a rebellious taupe. We still live in the same house we bought 18 years ago in the Fox Crossing/Ocotillo neighborhood of Southern Chandler. We landed in such a good place.Here is what I have grown to love/sometimes find annoying about living in our ‘hood:
Across the street is Danielle’s family. Danielle calls me on occasion just to see if there is anything she can do for me. I teach her daughter how to play the piano. Danielle and her husband helped us move furniture we inherited from my sick mother into the house at an ungodly hour one Saturday morning. Their son has rescued our flight risk of Chewiethedog at least 3 times just because he saw her fun by his driveway. On his own initiative he hopped on his bike and ran her back home. He’s not that old. This family inspires me to reach out beyond my driveway. Every neighborhood needs a Danielle and fam.
Jeff and Katie are the neighborhood welcoming committee. Friendly, always ready to lend a hand or a tablespoon of chillies, and well, they’re so much fun. Jeff own’s a pool service, works early hours, comes home for lunch and is frequently home to play with his kids when they’re done with school. He loves his stunningly beautiful and wise wife, Katie. Katie, Jeff and Danielle are incredible examples of, well, the perfect neighbors. So, I’m trying to be that too….it’s a work in progress.
Here on our cul-de-sac we are divided by fences and garages, politics and income, interests and age. But, I’ve noticed that here on our little street we are better defined by our similarities. We are all humans, we are all a part of a family, we are all neighbors.
If you had told me when I was 10, 20, 30, that I would want to live in a suburb one day, I would’ve never spoken to you again. But now that I’m here I see that suburbs are essentially good, and therefore valuable. We take care of each other here. We are defined by the commonality of being alive.
Neighbors are anyone who you happen to be standing near. For today, I’m going to define myself as a neighbor first and try to let the rest of the crap go, i.e.: politics, interests, keeping up with the Joneses, age…barking dogs (not that our dog doesn’t bark too).
It’s nice here in Fox Crossing. I’m so grateful the cherrywood cabinets yelled at me.
Is your neighborhood this nice? Do you like your neighbors? Do you want to like your neighbors? I’d love to hear how your ‘hood is working out for the good of it’s inhabitants.
If your neighborhood is not this nice, I suggest that you through a party in your driveway and invite every single neighbor. We have a fire in our driveway for Halloween and place invitations on every house the week before. It’s been a game changer. If you try this, let me know how it goes!
This is Jeff’s business! Hayden Pool Service! He’s really good at this stuff! If you call him, tell him I sent you.
Thanks for stopping by for the read.
June 13, 2018 Maybe just for today we can find a way to offer hope just by being open to someone else’s walk through humanity. In my opinion, this is vitally important because now more than ever, Americans seem to rise up through tragedy just too often to keep going on.
Jane, a friend of mine from my distant adolescence in California, posted this on Facebook after one of our way too many mass shootings, or maybe it was in response to the divisiveness of our political climate…
“This is how I have been trying to live my life in my community. I think it makes a difference somewhere. As America figures this all out, I’m going to be holding doors for strangers, letting people cut in front of me in traffic, saying good morning, being patient with a waiter, and smiling at strangers, as often as I am provided the opportunity. Because I will not stand idly by and let children live in a world where unconditional love is invisible. Join me in showing love to someone who may not necessarily deserve it. Find your own way to swing the pendulum in the direction of love. Because today, sadly, hate is winning. Just be nice to a stranger today and everyday.”
I have been the recipient of love and forgiveness when I didn’t deserve it, sadly, a lot…From Jane, from my parents, and husband and children and way too often, in traffic. On a daily basis I need to be reminded to see every person as they were originally created to be. This is actually how I start each day: A very quick prayer asking to see each person as they were meant to be, usually said as I’m literally running everywhere and traveling too quickly through my life. It helps my patience and level of joy, especially on days when I could swear I have neither.
Maybe give this little thought/prayer a try tomorrow morning and see if you react differently as you wildly go about your daily life too. Then, if we crash into each other on the road or at the grocery store or waiting in line at Pei Wei, we’ll be quicker to forgive ourselves and each other in this moment where we don’t necessarily deserve it.
I’d love it if you’d let me know if this helps at least you, if not everyone you encounter for the rest of your life, or at least for the next 15 minutes. Maybe 15 minutes will be enough to change your attitude for the day, or week, or forever.
This attitude might ripple across the street and eventually move on to Romania and Rio de Janeiro and possibly even Rough and Ready, California. We only need to be a little light to make a difference.
On October 1, 2017, Steven Paddock had a psychotic break in Las Vegas and unleashed a string of bullets onto unsuspecting country music fans across the street from his hotel. No one saw it coming and no one knows why. Our world seems lost and out of control.
Ten years ago, I had an idea during a fabulous weekend retreat. The Walk To Emmaus. http://azemmaus.org/
On fire with a thousand grand ambitions when I got home, I started showering my children with affection, “Hannah, I made you some toast, my precious child of God.”
Hannah liked being showered with toast, so I branched out and experimented with various cashiers in our neighborhood stores. I just said, “Hi” to them though. No toast. The feedback was instantaneous, for the most part people smile in return! When I kept up this friendliness for longer than a day my kids were surprised, “What happened to you?” And more than once at Wal-Mart, cashiers remarked, “Your kindness does not go unnoticed. It makes a difference. Thank you.”
Yesterday, I watched Charlene, a cashier at my corner Albertsons calmly help a frustrated, elderly woman who had never been in an Albertsons. This woman, wearing a confusing outfit in which not one plaid article of clothing matched, was fixated on how to use the key pad to complete her transaction, while complaining on the illogical placement of everything in, not only this store, but in this state.
“Where are you from?” Charlene quietly asked with a smile, but the mismatched woman couldn’t answer, the keypad was just too baffling. In what seemed like a generation went by, Charlene, smiling the entire time, got the elderly woman successfully on her way and was still nice to the next customer in her checkout line. I think this transaction would’ve aged me.
A study, that I had nothing to do with, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed when we act kindly toward one person, that person is much more likely to be kinder toward others in the future. In this study the researchers played a game that rewarded greed, (cool??) and found that a single act of kindness could produce dozens more. If you’re nice to John in Round 1, he’d be more likely to be nice to Kristen in Round 2, and they both would be more likely to be nice in Round 3. It was a ripple effect of kindness. It starts as a single act, but it keeps spreading outward affecting so many more.
This other guy, Edward Lorenz, in a MIT study over 50 years ago, uncovered a kind of miracle about the way nature works: small changes can have large consequences. He discovered the “butterfly effect” when he suggested that the flap of a butterfly’s wings might ultimately cause a tornado.
Charlene is nice to the lost, mismatched, elderly woman who then is a little nicer in the next new store where she probably will be lost again. Charlene flapped her wings.
We can change the world in our own neighborhoods one smile at a time. Maybe, one kindness has the power to stop a random act of violence for at least a second. I’ll bet Steven Paddock’s world did not shower him with toast, or smiles.
Be the butterfly.
Just start next door. When was the last time you said hi to your neighbor?