An old man walked up a shore littered with thousands of starfish, beached and dying after a storm. A young man was picking them up and flinging them back into the ocean. "Why do you bother?" the old man scofted. "You're not saving enough to make a difference." The young man picked up another starfish and sent it spinning back to the water. "Made a difference to that one," he said.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Day 30 & 31- Baby Clothes

Baby clothes, who doesn’t like to look at and buy baby clothes?  It is probably a good thing I don’t have children because if I did, their closets would be just has full as mine is with clothes. I love clothes!  It is interesting that I love clothes because I am not what you would call a fashion expert.  I enjoy jeans, sweaters and t-shirts.  I like simple and comfortable. No 6 inch stilettos for me!
 Over the past month I have had several friends who have had babies. I typically don’t buy clothes for newborns.  But I found two little cute outfits that I thought would make perfect little gifts I could mail.  So yesterday and today my gift was a new outfit to these little cuties that just entered the world.  I know people get a lot clothes for the baby when they are first born so I tried to buy bigger sizes that they can grow into.   My gifts were simple, but I am sure greatly appreciate.  

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Day 29-Turkey Pies

Today was a great day. I spent this morning getting to watch my niece at gymnastics, spent the afternoon playing board games and getting her ready for a birthday party and then enjoyed an evening of conversation, food and more board games with family and friends. 

My husband and I love trying new restaurants. Even though we both are picky eaters we prefer unique, family owned restaurants as opposed to chains restaurants. One of our favorite restaurants in Valparaiso, IN is Strongbow Inn. They are known for anything turkey. When my parents visit this is one place they always love to have dinner. My father loves their turkey dinner and my mother loves their homemade turkey pies and gravy.  Strongbow also sells their turkey pies by the half dozen to go.  This past week I pick up a dozen for the gathering today as my gift.

The turkey pies were a big hit!  It was something different, something homemade and I felt good that I had supported a local business. If you are ever in Valparaiso I highly recommend stopping by Strongbow Inn for a great meal.  Oh and I forgot to mention, not only do they have great meals, but they have a bakery with cookies, pies and cakes that are dessert lovers dream. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Day 28-Window Clings

My little niece loves dogs.  She has all different kinds of stuffed dogs and figurines. She recently had to purchase little dog magnets. She just can’t resist anything that has a dog on it.  When she was younger, I found these adorable dog stickers. She called them the “tiny” dog stickers and when she was about to run out she would let me know. Thank goodness Staples kept them in stock.

During Halloween she came to visit me and I had bought Halloween window clings for her to decorate my sliding glass door.  She had a great time and it was a fun activity she could do on her own.  Several weeks ago I came across Valentine dog window clings. They were adorable. The clings were of dogs with hearts, roses and cupcakes.  Today I drove down to Indy to visit with my friends and family. When I arrived I gave her the window clings.  We went into her room to put them on the window; she looked at the first dog and said, “What a sweetie….cutie!”

I love that the smallest of gifts and those that are inexpensive can bring such great joy to a child. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Day 27- A Salute

Do you have a ritual or a habit of doing something but you can’t explain why you do it?  Five and a half years ago I moved from Indianapolis to Northwest Indiana.  The drive from Indianapolis to my home is basically a straight shot up Interstate 65.  When we first moved to “the Region” I still worked in Indianapolis as a consultant for the state and traveled often for work and to see my family. I then spent 24 weeks traveling back and forth to the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy training to become of police officer. During one of my first treks south I noticed a cross on the side of the road that caught my attention. Through some research I found out the cross was placed there in Memory of Master Trooper Michael Greene. He was killed in the line of duty on February 5, 1993.  Every time I drive by the location he was killed I give a salute.  I know it may sound silly but I felt compelled to do so and now it is a ritual.  A ritual to say, your sacrifice is not forgotten.
I have often wondered if anyone else does the same thing and my question was answered on January 25, 2011.  In the light of the shooting of Officer Moore a local news station ran a story on the murder of Master Trooper Greene.  The story was an interview with his brother John Greene and his son, now a Deputy Sheriff, Michael Greene.  I learned from the interview that his brother honks and his son touches his heart every time they drive by the location where their brother and father was killed.  His son ended the story by saying, “We try to make sure everyone remembers my father throughout the years. It is an honor when people still remember.”
Today my gift was a letter to Master Trooper Greene’s son. I wanted to let him know that I remember his father and the sacrifice he made for the citizens of Indiana. I also shared with him about my salute!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Day 26-Polar Plunge

Today I joined Kiwanis.  It seems like a wonderful organization and fits my mission of making a difference. I also joined for a selfish reason. Since I work from home this will get me out of the office at least once a week interacting LIVE with other business professionals. I must say I am a little spoiled because even having to go out today made me appreciate the warmth of my home and not having to leave the house for work in the morning on a daily basis.
During the meeting a spry older women stood up and talked about how she was participating in the Polar Plunge and would be accepting donations.  I knew this would be my gift for the day.  As I was walking out of the meeting I handed her a donation for her upcoming plunge into what I am guessing a very, very cold lake.  I can’t even imagine. God bless people like her. Going to, what I consider the extreme all in the name of a cause she believes in.
The Polar Plunge will raise funds for the Indiana Special Olympics. The Special Olympics provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in more than 20 Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.  I love the Special Olympics Athlete Oath, “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
On a side note, I know many of you read my blog on Day 24-TheThin Blue Line. It is with a heavy heart that I pass along the news that Officer David Moore passed away this morning at 6:18a.m.   His parents are doing a wonderful thing in donating his organs. He will donate 8-10 organs in all going to help save the lives of those in need of a transplant.  He gave the ultimate sacrifice protecting the citizens of Indianapolis, IN. In his death, he continued to serve and give the most precious gift of all, LIFE.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day 25-Accountability

Do you have an accountability partner; someone that holds you to your goals, dreams and keeps you on track and challenges you to be the best person you can be?  I am fortunate enough to have a dear friend from college that is my accountability partner.  I had received a book from my mom, Pathway to Purpose for Women by Katie Brazelton several years back.  I had started the book but for reason never finished it. I really felt I needed to read this book alongside someone that would keep me on track and keep me focused. I asked my friend and she agreed. It has been a great journey and we have decided to continue reading, learning and challenging each other. We start a new book on Sunday. The book is You Were Made for More by Jim Cymbala. I sent my friend a copy of the book as my gift for today.

If you don’t have accountability partner think about finding one. It has enriched my life and I look forward to our next our next journey together.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Day 24- The Thin Blue Line


Today is January 24th and already fourteen police officers have been killed in the line of duty this year. My heart is heavy as I continue to follow the story of Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Officer David Moore who was ambushed and shot four times while conducting a traffic stop yesterday.  He is currently in the ICU at Wishard Memorial Hospital in Indianapolis, IN.
As a former police officer and wife of an Indiana State Trooper, I know all too well the dangers of being a police officer.  Every time and officer is injured or killed in the line of duty, no matter the color of their uniform or the department they work for, we are all a family.  When one is in pain we all are in pain. 
My challenge coin from the police academy reads, “Many Badges Worn, One Line Defended.”  That line is The Thin Blue Line. Many people see this symbol but most don’t understand its meaning.   The Blue represents the officer and the courage they find deep inside when faced with insurmountable odds. The Black background was designed as a constant reminder of our fallen brother and sister officers. The Line, the line is what police officers protect, the barrier between anarchy and a civilized society, between order and chaos, between respect for decency and lawlessness. Together they symbolize the camaraderie law enforcement officers all share, a brotherhood like none other.

Today my gift is a letter of support and encouragement to Officer David Moore’s family and the 14 other families who have lost a family member in the line of duty this year.  To read more about the lives of brave officers who were killed in the line of duty you can go to http://www.odmp.org/.
 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Day 23-National Marrow Donor Program®

Today I received official confirmation that I am a member of the Be the Match Registry ®.   What does this mean? Several months ago I gave a saliva swab to be a bone marrow donor. As of today I am listed as a potential donor for leukemia patients who are searching for a match.  I signed up to be a donor because my coworkers’ husband needed a donor match.  Thankfully he found a match through this registry.
A complete stranger will be giving his bone marrow to save my friend’s husband’s life. The donor has to travel, be in and out of the hospital, take time off work and go to doctors appointments all for someone he has never met.  It gives me hope there are still incredible selfless people in world.
I also gave a financial donation today to The National Marrow Donor Program ®. I directed my gift to provide financial assistance to help patients throughout their transplant.  The transplant process can be very expensive and may not be covered by all insurances.
According to the e-mail I received today I could be a match tomorrow, next week or never, but I like to think I am at least giving someone a chance. Someone who hasn’t had a donor and I am their match or could be a match to someone in the future.  I donated because I would hope someone out there would do the same thing for me.
If you would like more information on being a donor you can visit their website at http://www.marrow.org/.  The initial process of submitting a saliva swab is completely painless and you are not required to give if you happen to be a match.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Day 21-TOMS

Have you ever come across a car, a book or a person that you had never seen or heard of but then after you see it first time it seems to be everywhere?  That is how it was for me and TOMS Shoes.  I had read an article on the founder Blake Mycoskie and I was intrigued by his business model. After I read this article, Blake and TOMS Shoes seemed to be everywhere.  I fell in love with TOMS.
Today my gift was a pair of shoes to a child I will never know or meet.  What an amazing business model.  For every pair of shoes purchased, TOMS Shoes will give a pair of shoes away. One man’s dream to make a difference turned into providing over one MILLION pairs of shoes to children in need. Can you imagine if companies throughout the world operated on this model or even had a giving focus? Can you dare to imagine the impact it would have in the U.S. and around the world?
I bought a pair of TOMS not because I needed a new pair of shoes, even though I am excited to get them in the mail they look comfy, but because I wanted to support a company that is giving back and making a difference.  I encourage you to do the same.
When I checked out the following appeared:
You are giving 1 pair of shoes to a child in need
To learn more about TOMS I encourage you to visit their website at https://www.toms.com/movement-one-for-one

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Day 20-Home Sweet Home

Have you ever really stopped to think about how truly blessed you are to have a roof over your head and a place to call home?  This morning I volunteered to donate breakfast to the homeless men in our community.  The churches in our town rotate housing homeless men during the winter months.  I got up at 4:30a to pick up a hot breakfast from McDonald’s so they would have something warm to eat before they started their day.
Last night I had picked up orange juice and milk to take with me to the church.  As I was scurrying around the house this morning I totally forgot the milk in my refrigerator.  I had just purchased milk at the store for my husband and me, so I knew we couldn’t drink two gallons over the next week.  My neighbor has three growing boys so I called her to see if she would want the milk.  She graciously accepted. I am sure those two gallons will be gone by the weekend.
As I was jogging back across the street I was taken aback by how bone chilling cold it was outside. I was thinking how I could hardly tolerate being outside for a minute. I couldn’t imagine trying to get through the day and night being out in this weather.  At that moment I was overwhelmed by the thought of not having a warm place to sleep and being very thankful I opened the door to warmth.  I am lucky to live in a community that saw a need and filled a gap for these homeless men. 
Every time I see a homeless person I try not to judge. I don’t know their story or what led them to these circumstances.  And then this passage from the Bible, Matthew 25:33-40 comes to mind. On the last day, Jesus will say to those on His right hand, "Come, enter the Kingdom. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was sick and you visited me." Then Jesus will turn to those on His left hand and say, "Depart from me because I was hungry and you did not feed me, I was thirsty and you did not give me to drink, I was sick and you did not visit me." These will ask Him, "When did we see You hungry, or thirsty or sick and did not come to Your help?" And Jesus will answer them, "Whatever you neglected to do unto one of these least of these, you neglected to do unto Me."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Day 19- Just a couple of minutes

Today my gifts were simple and only took me a couple of minutes each.  Do you ever come across an article in a magazine or in the paper that makes you think of someone? Do you ever get a catalog and see something that a friend was looking for but couldn’t find?
When I started college my father would always send me an article he had read in the local newspaper or a magazine that he thought would be of interest to me.  He would attach a little note to let me know he was thinking of me. This started in college and still continues today.  It is something that probably takes him a couple of minutes and the cost of a stamp.  But it always puts a smile on my face and brings a little sunshine to my day.  I don’t think it matters how old we are, we still love to receive “special” mail.
My first gift was to one of my friends who had mentioned to me that she had been struggling to keep her kids paperwork organized. Today I received a catalog from www.lillianvernon.com .  They always seem to have random and unique items. I found a couple of organizational products that I thought may help.  I sent her an e-mail with a couple of the items, their description and item number.  I hope it helped or at least gave her a couple of ideas of things to look for when shopping.
My second gift today was to one of my dearest friends from college.  She recently took on teaching a class at the local community college.  This is a great opportunity for her and will hopefully open some doors for a continued career in teaching.  Last week I wrote a paper on Servant Leadership for the MBA course I am taking.  One of the articles discussed how to be a servant leader in the classroom and with your students. When I read this article I immediately thought of my friend. So today I wrote a note letting her know how much I appreciate her friendship and that this article made me think of her.
Do you come across articles that could help a friend or brighten someone’s day?  I encourage you, the next time you come across an article that you think a friend or family member would enjoy, drop it in the mail with a special note.  It will take just a couple of minutes!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Day 17- My “to do” list will have to wait!

I am very driven by my “to do” list. The list that never seems to get smaller but is always increasing in the number of things I need to accomplish each day.  I am good at prioritizing and getting what needs to get done for each day. Due to much of my day spent either working or school many of my tasks have to wait for the weekend or when I get a day off.
Today I was off work for the observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  Usually I spend my extra day off scrambling around the house, burning calories, as I make significant progress on the things I want to accomplish.
Today was different. I gave the gift of time to two of my dear friends.  I have been fortunate enough to develop many strong relationships while living in Northwest Indiana. As an adult, I feel this is difficult sometimes because you don’t have the bond of going to the same school or growing up in the same town. I moved to “the region” after getting married and so I had no ties to the area. For me I thought it would be difficult to make friends because I work from home and I don’t have children. I think many adults make friends through connections made through work or their children.  God has blessed me with many great friends who have come into my life in a variety of ways.
I spent a significant amount of my day with my girlfriends. It was great to relax, eat good food and catch up on life.  It was a good feeling to say… “my “to do” list will have to wait!”   I know it will be there for me tomorrow.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Day 16- Boy Scouts

Today was a fun gift to give. My good friend Jeannie had asked my husband if he could do a K-9 demonstration for her son’s Boy Scout Troop. My husband has to do so many public appearances with his K-9 Boss so he was happy to help out. For his demonstrations he always provides the kids with plastic trooper hats, pencils and rulers.  And today I wanted them to have a special treat.
 Last year when I was working on a candy project for my niece, I came across police equipment candy molds. I wasn’t for sure how I would use them but I knew they would come in handy sooner than later. Today was the perfect occasion to test my candy molds.
I made individual treats for each scout. I decided to go with chocolate badges and police radios.  The chocolates turned out really well and I think were a hit with the kids. I thought about making the handcuff’s but then I pictured little boys, putting on chocolate handcuffs and then melting chocolate getting on their clothes, the car and anything else they touched. Scout mom and dads probably would not have been happy with me.
I have learned from having nieces and nephews that it doesn’t take much to put a smile on a child’s face. Think about a way you can add a special touch to an event. Maybe it is a treat for children at church, at a local daycare; boys or girls scout group or a child’s birthday party. Making homemade candies are one of my favorites!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Day 15-Global Outreach

August 1995 I arrived at Taylor University, a week before most students, to report for cross country camp.  I didn’t know at the time, but the first person I met would become one of my dearest friends.  During college my friend felt she was being called to do missions work in China.  At first I could not understand this. It was very selfish questioning on my part. I couldn’t understand how she could leave her friends and family in America to go to a world where she knew no one and to do something so dangerous. She definitely has more courage than I could ever have.  Today my gift was a financial donation to her and her family so they can continue to do their work in China. 
I have been supporting her for quite some time and always enjoy her newsletters, cards and e-mails. She is definitely living life to the fullest.   She only makes it to the states every couple of years and I was honored to be able to host her and her family in our home this summer. I love having those friends who even though you don’t see or talk to each other for years, when you do see them your conversation picks up where it left off and doesn’t skip a beat.  I miss her dearly and can’t wait for her next visit to the U.S.
If you are able, I encourage you to help your friends live their dream. Many times it is only through the support of friends, families and strangers that people are able to follow their life’s mission.  Do you have a friend that needs your help?  If you can’t donate financially ask them if there are other ways you can help. I am sure they have needs that stretch beyond money.  

Friday, January 14, 2011

Day 14-Did you know?

Did you know you can donate gently used magazines to your local library? Over the past year I have collected a shelf full of magazines. I received free subscriptions through air miles, but don’t have nearly the amount of time it would take to read all of them. I get a wide variety including Conde Nast Traveler, This Old House, Success, Entertainment Weekly, Inc., Money, Budget Travel, Time, Glamour and Sports Illustrated. 
I have been recycling some of the magazines, but I feel so bad sticking them in recycling. I wanted a good home for them. I love magazines but had to come to the realization I was never going to read all of them. And at month’s end I would have even more!
I must admit, I am still holding onto my Real Simple Magazines.  I have them nicely organized in magazine boxes in my office closet. They have been there for two years and I haven’t touched them. I should take the advice I give my clients. If you haven’t used it in six months and they don’t have a purpose they need to find a new home.  Anyone need Real Simple magazines?
My gift today was donating these magazines to the library. It is my understanding they will put the magazines into circulation or sell them to buy new books. Do you have any other ideas of what I can do with magazines?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Day 12- Prayers to Washington

Today my gift giving efforts were a bit challenged by the fact I work from home and the snow blanketed our small community.  I knew the day would come when I would have to think outside the box to give a gift.  Living in the country and working from home gives me limited access to people. My contact today with the outside world consisted of communication through video, phone and e-mail. I love video though because I have been in offices in Oklahoma, Minnesota, Texas, Missouri, Kansas, Michigan, and Virginia all in one day!
Last week I was reading another blog and stumbled across a lady, Mary, about my age whose husband, Tyler, passed away on January 6, 2011. He had been fighting Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML) and lost the battle.  Mary’s friend had posted an address and encouraged people to send cards of encouragement. I jotted down the address, but forgot to send a card.  Today I came across the paper with Mary’s address. I thought it would be a good gift to send her a card of encouragement. I let Mary know that someone in Indiana was praying for her and her family during this difficult time.  
Ten years ago this gift would not have been possible. Well …maybe it would have been, but I wasn’t very tech savvy back then.   Many people think social media outlets are a waste of time, and maybe to some extent they are. But I look at these outlets as an opportunity. An opportunity to share the joys in my life, learn about those who are struggling, help people find jobs, reconnect with an old friends, help a friend’s baby win a picture contest  and the list goes on and on.  In my opinion, social media outlets are very positive. Take time to see what is going on in people’s life and act upon helping them. Small gifts WILL make big differences.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Day 10- Socks

Did you ever think about how important socks are?  I love socks and typically wear them around the clock.  I don’t like to be barefoot and have come to love Old Navy footie’s. My husband is a police officer and during the winter months he spends the majority of shifts working outside responding to crashes. We live in Northwest Indiana so that means just above zero temperatures on many days.  I have heard the saying many times… “if your feet are warm your entire body is warm, but if your feet are cold your entire body is cold.” And I think this is so true. 
For Christmas my husband received a pair of 5.11 Level 2 socks from my father.  At the time they weren’t that big a of a deal, just another pair of socks.  But the first night he wore them on duty he comes home and says “These socks are awesome. They are so warm.” 
Because he only has one pair he has been washing them almost every day so has the socks clean for his next shift. Needless to say, this isn’t very cost effective. So today for my gift I bought my husband five more pairs of the 5.11 Level 2 socks.  I see them as a necessity to his job and to staying warm.
Socks may not seem that big of a deal to many of you, but if you worked outside in the bitter cold, warm feet would be very important.   

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Day 9-Living Hope

I have been fortunate enough to find a church and a pastor that fits my needs.  Today my gift was a financial gift to my church, Living Hope in Valparaiso.  Living Hope and Pastor Rich are very active in the community from helping with housing homeless men in the winter to providing an Alzheimer’s service to residents of a local senior community and much, much more.  The money is always spent wisely and I know it will help to provide needed services in our community.
My second gift today was to donate diapers and canned goods to our local food pantry. Our church is a collection site, so donating is very simple. I am always amazed that when I look for sales on diapers, canned food and paper products adding a couple of things to my shopping cart are not that costly.
Do you have a food pantry in your community?  If so, go through your cabinets to see if you have anything (non-expired) goods you can donate. Or the next time you are at the grocery store pick up a few items that is most needed by your local food pantry.  A couple of dollars can go a long way to help feed a family in need.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Day 8- Success Trek

One of my dear friends, Theresa Valade is the CEO of Success Trek. Theresa is a business coach who helps individuals and organizations achieve their goals more quickly.  We met nearly five years ago at a chamber event. As she was starting her business, I was starting mine.  Over the years we have learned a lot from each other. And not only did our businesses grow but our friendship flourished.
I have been blessed with a God given gift to help people not only organize clutter in their homes and offices but their thoughts and ideas.  Today I helped Theresa with strategic planning for Success Trek.  This is typically a service I offer for a fee. Today I choose to give my time and talents as a gift to my friend.
The two-hour planning session was very motivating as we bounced ideas off each other and started to build a plan to help Success Trek continue to grow.  I have to commend my friend. Many businesses only focus on the bottom line. Success Trek, even though the bottom line is important, have contributed in the past 4 year more than $40,000 of pro bono work, gifts and volunteer services to local non-profits and community organizations.
We all have God given gifts.  Are you using your gift to your best ability? Or is it sitting on a shelf collecting dust?  Now is a great time as any to start using your gifts to make a difference in the lives of those around you. You may be surprised by the opportunities that will come your way.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Day 7-Recipes

Well one week down and fifty-one more to go in my Year of Giving! Over the Christmas break I had eleven days off of work. This was a much needed break. Even though I love my job it is a brain drain. I need a good healthy break every several months to keep my energy up and to stay focused. On one of my days off I spent an entire day in the kitchen.  Even though I can’t cook worth a darn, I can bake and create scrumptious candies.  Or at least that is what my friends and family tells me.
After I shipped and delivered my treats, friends followed up with e-mails asking for the recipes. For my gift today, I sent my recipes to not only the friends that asked, but several who didn’t ask. I thought they may like to add several new goodies to their collection.
Do you have a recipe that everyone loves or that you love to make? If so, share it. I love pulling out my recipes and seeing the person’s name at the top who gave it to me. It is like having them beside me in the kitchen. I don’t know about you but many of my recipes bring back a memory or a special occasion or time in my life. And that always makes me smile.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Day 6-Donuts

I love donuts. But I can’t keep them around the house. Donuts and really any other sweet are like chips, I can’t eat just one.  Over the Christmas holiday I had to go to the hospital for a mammogram. I have a friend who always says, “Mammograms are like getting your boobs smashed in the garage door!” And I think she is right.
Anyway, the nurse performing the test was wonderful.  Once she took me back to the dressing room there was an emergency and I was left to wait. She continually checked in on me to make sure I was okay. She got me water, magazines and chit chatted for a bit.  My usual experience in the hospital is people rush in your room, get what they need and rush out. She was so caring and showed true compassion.
This morning I had to stop by the hospital to pick up the films and report.  I took the nurse a thank you note and a box of Munchkins from Dunkin Donuts.  She wasn’t there so I had to leave them with the receptionist. I hope this put a smile on her face when she arrived at work today.
I also surprised my husband with his favorite, a jelly filled donut as a second gift for the day.
My challenge to you today is to send an e-mail or mail a card to someone who showed you true compassion. This could be something from last week, last month or last year. I am sure no matter the length of time that has passed your kind gesture will warm their heart.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Day 5-Dinner and a Good Book

Two of my favorite things to do in life are have dinner with friends and read a good book.  There is something about good food and great conversation that can turn a hectic day into a pleasant one very quickly. 
This evening I met one of my dear friends for dinner at Panera Bread. I have been fighting a cold so chicken noodle soup was the only thing that sounded good to me while we were planning were to meet.  My gift today was picking up the tab for our meal. I know it is not expected, but it is something I like to do when I can.  I always think I am receiving the better end of the deal when my friends take time out of their busy schedule to have dinner with me.
 The second gift I gave today stemmed from an event I attended in October for our local domestic violence shelter, The Caring Place. I was fortunate enough to meet the author, Kate Collins, of the Flower Shop Mystery series.  At the event I purchased the first book in the series, Mums the Word.  I loved the book so much I bought several copies to share with friends. I gave the book to my friend I met for dinner because I know she is always looking for something good to read.
I have started the second book in the series, Slay it with Flowers. You may, or may not, be wondering why I like these books so much. I typically only read books where I can get out my highlighter, take notes and learn something.  And even though I enjoy the books I read, sometimes I want to relax and not learn. The Flower Shop Mystery books are fun, carefree and have a bit of mystery and romance, but are not trashy.  They are what I like to call my bath books. The book I want to read when I am sitting by the fire or soaking in a nice hot bubble bath.   If you love to read, I highly recommend checking out A Flower Shower Mystery.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Day 4- Homemade Treat Bags

Do you say thank you to the people that provide services for you on a daily, weekly or monthly basis?  When was the last time you thanked the teller at the bank or the person who delivers your mail or picks up your garbage. I am good about verbally saying thank you but rarely show my appreciation through the form of a gift.  Through this gift giving challenge I hope I can recognize those that provide essential services that help keep my everyday life healthy and balanced.
I am fortunate to have a cleaning service clean my home on a monthly basis.  I work long hours and am working on my MBA.  I had to learn awhile ago that I can’t do everything and it is okay to ask for help.  Today three ladies from Whistle While We Work Cleaning Services, LLC came to clean my home.  Much to my surprise they provided me with a gift of hot chocolate and a note stating “A smile is a curve that sets everything straight.” Phyllis Diller
As the ladies were leaving I provided each of them with a homemade treat bag I had assembled the night before. I used small cellophane bags, colored ribbon, a card I downloaded from www.29gifts.org and a treat. I made the treats by spreading peanut butter between two Ritz crackers, dipping the cracker sandwich in melted white chocolate and sprinkled with colored sprinkles.  I think they were surprised and grateful!
I encourage you to think of ways you can use your talents to say thank you to the people that make your life a little easier. 

Monday, January 3, 2011

Day 3-Christmas Cards

I love Christmas and everything that comes with celebrating the birth of Jesus.  One of my favorite things about the season is Christmas cards.  I work out my home so an excuse to get up and stretch is to go retrieve the mail.  During the holidays it is extra special because I know there will be beautifully decorated cards from friends and family around the world.  Whenever I open a Christmas card I feel special that someone took the time and money to mail our family a card.
When postage increased and e-mail became more prevalent I briefly thought about doing away with sending cards. This thought was fleeting and I figured if I loved receiving Christmas cards I knew others must also.  They are tiny gifts that bring smiles to thousands of people each year.
Even though time and money goes into the Christmas card, I can’t save them all. In years past I threw them away. Sad, but true.  This year, through reading another blog, I discovered a Christmas card recycling program through St. Jude’s Ranch for Children (SJRC). The mission of SJRC is to serve abused, abandoned and neglected children and families, creating new chances, new choices and new hope in a safe, homelike environment (http://www.stjudesranch.org/about_mission.php).
Today my gift is donating my Christmas cards to SJRC.  They will create new Christmas cards which will be sold as a fundraiser for the organization.  It is exciting to think that a Christmas card someone sent me this year will bring JOY to someone else next year.  If you haven’t thrown out your Christmas cards, I challenge you to help out St. Jude’s Ranch for Children. For more information: http://www.stjudesranch.org/help_card.php

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Day 2-Hershey Kisses

I was excited for my gift giving today. It was a simple gift.  I learned from the book the gifts don’t have to be extravagant and even the small things can have a great impact. On New Year’s Eve we were out with some friends and on the tables were baskets of Hershey Kisses. I don’t drink or smoke, but I think it is safe to say I have an addiction to chocolate.
As the clock ticked down to midnight I easily consumed 20 Hershey Kisses.  One of our friends asked me if I would fill my purse with the treat so he could take some home.  As the night wore on, I had forgotten about the request. When I got home from our evening there sat a bag of Hershey Kisses on the counter and I knew they would be a part of my gift giving journey.
Every year around Christmas, this year the week after, I spend an entire day baking cookies and candies for friends and neighbors.  This year I didn’t get to my beloved peanut butter blossoms.  This is a peanut butter cookie with a Hershey Kiss pressed in the middle. Since I had intended on making these cookies I had a baggie full of Hershey Kisses.  I am not for sure how, probably the distraction of Miniature Snickers and chocolate covered cherries, I hadn’t consumed the bag of Hershey Kisses.  So today I printed a little card I downloaded from www.29gifts.org, placed it in the bag and sent the gift to work with my husband to give to his co-worker (the guy from NYE who wanted me to stick Hershey Kisses in my purse).  According to my husband, our friend was a bit surprised and very thankful. Two days down and many more gifts to give!

The Year of Giving

Several weeks ago I read the book 29 Gifts. It was an amazing book of a young women's battle to regain control over her life after being diagnosed with MS.  In the book, the author, Cami Walker challenges everyone to go through the 29 day giving journey.  It is my goal to go beyond the 29 days and do an entire year of giving.  I also started a blog on http://www.29gifts.org/, but wanted an opportunity for anyone to view my thoughts and not just those that were members of http://www.29gifts.org/.

Day 1-Phone call and laundry
Can you believe it is 2011?  I am always excited for the new year. New beginnings and new adventures.  I read 29 Gifts several weeks ago when a dear friend of mine recommended it on her Face book page.  It was a quick read and I was excited to start my own 29 day journey.  I feel since I have read the book I have been giving on a daily basis, but I didn't want to make it official until today...January 1st! 

I have thought about my giving journey and if I was going to plan what I was going to give or if I would just let giving opportunities present their self to me. I have decided a combination of both will make for a great 29 days.

Today I wasn't for sure what my gift would be. I had no plans to leave the house. After dinner, a movie and hanging out late with friends celebrating the new year I wanted to have today to get things done around the house and relax a bit.  I thought today is going to have to be a day where my gift idea would come to me and sure enough it did.

I have given two gifts today.  The first was a phone call to my dear friend Vanessa who moved to Iowa the first of December. Vanessa is not just any friend, but a special friend who holds a dear place in my heart.  I am a former police officer and my husband is a state trooper. We participate in an event every year called Shop with a Cop. This event is held in our community to provide clothing and Christmas gifts to children in need.  In 2009, I had the pleasure to shop with Vanessa and her two great nieces.  They desperately needed help and only purchased clothes because toys were not a basic necessity.  This pulled at my heartstrings and I called Vanessa the next day and asked what we could do for the girls for Christmas. Through this one call we develop a year long friendship in which God has truly blessed me to have them in my life.  My first gift was a call to Vanessa and the girls to see if they had settled in and adjusted to their new life in Iowa. I was glad to hear all is well.

My second gift today was to my husband.  He left for work and I noticed he had a several piles of laundry that needed to be done and a basket of clean clothes that needed to be folded. We have been married for seven years and I am not for sure when it happened, but at some point we started doing our own laundry. I am guessing it occurred after he shrunk some of my clothes!  Anyway, my gift to him today is to wash, dry and fold all of his laundry. I think he will be pleasantly surprised when he gets off duty that his laundry for the week is complete.