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.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Day 46-Coupons (February 15th)

February 15th was our last full day in Mexico. We were sad to be leaving; we definitely could have a used a couple more days of relaxing by the pool.  While relaxing by the pool earlier in our vacation we met two very nice couples, one from Canada and one from Illinois. 
At the time we booked our travel we were given coupons for dinners, spa services and wine. We used some on the trip but still had several that didn’t expire for a couple of days. One of the couples was getting ready to get a spa service so I gave them a coupon for $40 off their service. They were very appreciative for this gesture and knew it was something we didn’t have to do.  I figured the coupons were not going to do anyone any good in the garbage and anyone can afford to save $40. 
Do you ever get coupons in the mail and think, “my friend or family member could use this coupon,” then throw it away because it seems like too much effort to drop it in the mail or put it in your purse/wallet?  Next time this happens I encourage you to take three minutes to mail the coupon to a friend or family member and include a little note to say, “I was thinking about you!”  I am sure this small gesture will put a smile on their face and keep more money in their pocket!

Day 45-Sweethearts (February 14th)

Sweethearts, these were one of my favorite candies as a child.  Several times around Valentine’s Day my father would surprise my sister and I with a box of Sweethearts.  We were always grateful and thought of these as special treats. I wonder if children today are thankful when they receive a simple gift such as Sweethearts or are they use to video games and dolls which were toys we only received at Christmas and on our birthday.   
Since Sweethearts and Valentines were something I have always loved, prior to leaving on our vacation I picked up an 8-pack of Sweethearts in Spanish and Valentine cards and packed them in my suitcase.  When Valentine’s Day arrived I pasted out Sweethearts and Olivia (the pig) Valentines to the staff at the resort. I received big smiles and Happy Valentine’s Day in return. Another small gift that cost me $4 in total, but went along way to say thank you and you are appreciated.
I hope you all had a Happy Valentine’s Day 2011! I know I did!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Day 44-Day off (February 13th)

My gift today was simple and didn’t cost me a dime but I think made the housekeeper at the resort happy.  This was our third day on vacation and we had spent very little time in the room.  We are neat and clean people so I didn’t see the need for housekeeping to waste their time and efforts on our room just because it is policy to clean rooms every day.  When our housekeeper arrived for the day we were getting ready to head out for a lazy day at the pool. I looked at her and told her not to worry about cleaning our room for the day.  She smiled and said “Are you sure?”  I let her know in a kind way that I was 100% sure. I was giving her the day off from at least one room cleaning today.  She said, “thank you, thank you, thank you!”  I asked for new towels and out she went. 
I don’t know about you, but I hate cleaning my home let alone cleaning room, after room everyday for six days a week.  Even though it was only one room off her list for the day maybe she was able to take a 15 minute break or leave for home earlier that day.  We rarely even get to see the results of random acts of kindness but I hope this small gift made her day.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Day 43- English Lesson (February 12th)

There are not too many things I regret in life, but one is not learning Spanish.  I completed two years of Spanish in both high school and college and still don’t know enough to carry on an intelligent conversation. If I would have given more of an effort the rewards could have been tremendous in my life today. 
Our third day of vacation was filled with riding ATV’s through the Mexican Jungle and snorkeling again in caverns.  Trying to be braver than I really am I chose the “boy” ATV tour over the “girl” tour.  The salesperson, a woman, highly recommended the “girl tour because it was smooth, slow and relaxing as opposed to the “boy” tour which was rough and for more experienced riders. I should have gone with her recommendation.  I don’t think I have ever been more scared in my life. I almost rolled the ATV and came close to hitting numerous trees.  I was so sore the next day I could hardly get out of bed. From now on, no more trying to be macho!
Our guide, Mateo, was French and knew very little English.  I usually lose my patience pretty quickly but with Mateo he was so kind and trying very hard.  Every time he would get stuck trying to describe something I would try to teach him new words or how to describe an object.  Every time he struggled with describing what he was trying to say I would teach him the word and then try my best to explain its meaning and pronunciation?  He was a quick learner and I hope some of the things I taught him will carry over to his other tours.  What I had learned from Carlos the day before was that just learning a word or a couple of words a day is a great accomplishment.
As with all other guides and staff I encountered through the week I gave Mateo a tip. This was for his patience with me while trying not to kill myself on the ATV.  At one point I wanted to quit and he offered to come back and get my bike. Unfortunately or fortunately depending on how you look at it, my husband wouldn’t let me quit and I completed my journey through the jungle on the ATV.  On this day, I learned to have patience and that most of the time others have a lot more faith in our abilities than we do. Quitting is usually easier than continuing on the journey, but if we continue the journey, even if we come out on the other side with a few aches and pains, it will be worth the ride.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Day 41-Tips (February 10th)

Two days ago I returned from a very relaxing trip to Riviera Maya, Mexico.  I gave a gift, many days multiple gifts, while I was on vacation so don’t fret, my year of giving continue but my blogging did not.  Over the next couple of weeks I will be catching up on my days of giving while I was on vacation. I tried to use the computer as a little as possible. I checked my work e-mail once a day and updated my Facebook status and that was it. 
Gifts on vacation were easy to come by. Even though I was at an all-inclusive resort the workers depend on tips for their lively hood.  The staff at our resort was exceptional. They were friendly and always willing to help out and serve anyway they could. They were also very polite and funny.  They loved to make jokes and have people laughing and smiling. The staff didn’t stand around waiting for tip but it was the right thing to do.  My gifts today were to the guy who picked us up at the airport, to the bellman that took our luggage to our room (I felt sorry for this guy, no elevators and we were on the fourth floor), and the waiters who served us at meals and brought us drinks by the pool. 
All of the employees work very long days, most six days a week for a small salary.  We learned quickly that we, the guests, are the way they make their money.  Our resort was at 77% capacity, which I thought was good. But according to many we talked with tourism is down in this part of the country due to fear caused by what is going on in the Northern part of Mexico.  Mike and I were talking to a friend yesterday and he said, “Mexico, I wouldn’t go to Mexico with all the drug violence, weren’t you scared?” 
I must admit this was a concern of mine prior to leaving but through a lot of research and talk with my travel agent we really had nothing to be concerned about.  The majority of the violence is along the northern border and with people who are involved in the drug cartels.  We weren’t traveling to the northern border and we are not involved in drug cartels.  We felt extremely safe our entire trip.  We even took adventures two days away from the resort traveling to different parts of Mexico.  Everyone was very friendly and made us feel safe.
If you are thinking about planning a vacation I wouldn’t count out Mexico based on the fear the media is putting out there.  If that were the case many wouldn’t travel to L.A., Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis and other cities that have gangs and drug violence in the United States.  You have to be smart when traveling. Tourism is a big industry in Mexico and people living there rely on us to help them make ends meet.  If you are planning a vacation in the near future, have fun and be safe!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Day 39- More letters and another tip

Is it ever going to be spring? Living in Northwest Indiana this time of year is a bit depressing.  We received another 3.5 inches of snow today due to lake effect.  My husband and I were out for a couple of doctor appointments this morning and did not realize there was going to be whiteout conditions.  One of the doctors was over an hour late due to weather.  So to treat ourselves for the miserable morning in traffic and waiting rooms we went out for lunch.  My first gift was a nice tip to the waitress. She was very attentive and deserved a little more today than the usual 15%. 
My second gift today was letters to four families that have lost a loved one in the line of duty.  Back on Day 24 I wrote to all the families of officers who had been killed in the line of duty so far in 2011. I have decided that a part of my Year of Giving I will write every family who loses a loved one in the line of duty.  I know it was unrealistic, but what a blessing if I never had to give this gift.  Unfortunately in the past 15 days, four officers have given the ultimate sacrifice. Those officers were Officer Califano, Col. Malloy, Officer Biendl, and Officer Pomales.  To learn more about these officers and the sacrifices they made to protect our communities please visit http://www.odmp.org/.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Day 37 & 38- Candles and Wings

I apologize for not posting yesterday. I spent the evening watching the Super Bowl and then reading a good book and to be honest I needed a little break from the blogging. But I am rejuvenated and ready for the week!
 My gift yesterday was simple and to my husband. He loves the ear candles. I have never tried them be he says they work wonders. I was in a health food store on Saturday so I picked him up two packages and gave the ear candles to him yesterday as my gift. He was grateful I had thought of him and bought the candles. Now he can clean out his ears and have no excuses for not hearing me when I talk.
I remember reading 29 Gifts and Cami, the author, not only talked about what she gave but what she received.  This evening my husband and I had to meet with our accountant to get our taxes completed.  Before we left the house a couple of Mike’s friends called to see if we wanted to meet them for dinner.  We accepted and let them know we could meet them after our meeting.  Our tax prep this year went much better than I had expected.  I told Mike, if it would be okay, because of the good results of our meeting I would like to pay for our friend’s meal as my gift for today. He was fine with this. When we got to the restaurant my friend gave us a coupon for our dinner. It was a gift for us!  We had a great evening eating good food and catching up. It was really a guy’s night with one girl…me!   At the end of the evening I asked the waitress for only one check.  The guys were very surprised and appreciative. I am thinking they liked having me out for guy’s night!  I also gave the waitress a very nice tip. This was my second gift for the day. She did a good job and I wanted to reward her for good service.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Day 36-Eye Glasses

I am blind as a bat without my eye glasses or contacts.  I typically wear a watch to bed so if I wake up during the night I know what time it is because I can’t see the numbers on the alarm clock. If I take my glasses off I couldn’t see the computer screen to type this blog or send e-mail. 
Until yesterday, I took the fact that I am able to afford eye glasses for granted.  This is a luxury for many around the world even though it should be a necessity.  One of my best friends from the police academy had a little boy, Cameron. Cameron was three or four at the time.  He was always running into things and his parents thought he was just a little clumsy.  They could never get him to focus when they were reading him a book or try to teach him colors and shapes. He would get frustrated very quickly.  They weren’t for sure why no one had checked it before or caught it, but Cameron needed glasses.  It wasn’t that he was clumsy or didn’t want to learn it was because he couldn’t see.  My friend felt so guilty and I nearly cried when he told me the story.  The day Cameron received his new little glasses his world changed. He could see clearly for the first time. Things weren’t just blobs.  To someone this little he didn’t know what he didn’t know.
Yesterday my gift was donating my old eye glasses to the Lions Club. I have seen this collection bin at my post office for years and never took the time to bring in my old glasses.
I went to the Lions Club website at http://www.lionsclubs.org/EN/our-work/sight-programs/index.php and it is amazing what they are doing with their Sight Programs.
Here is a little excerpt from their website:
“In just about any dresser drawer, one can find a pair of eyeglasses that are no longer being used. That same pair of eyeglasses can change another person's life.  Most of the recycled glasses are distributed to people in need in developing countries where they will have the greatest impact.”

If you have an old pair of glasses I recommend going to their website and finding a collection bin near you. A simple way to make a difference!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Day 35-Time

Time was my gift today.  Today was the first day my husband has had off since the big snow storm.  This past week I only got to see him a couple of minutes each day.  He would wake up just in time to get ready for work and then when he got home I was already in bed asleep. 
I tend to be a workaholic. I have been swamped this week with meetings. I had plans to spend this evening getting caught up so I could breathe a little and not fill like my e-mail inbox was suffocating me.  But at around 5:30 I decided the work could wait and I would spend the evening with my hubby.  We made homemade pizza’s, had a glass of wine and watched the movie The Town.  It was one of the most relaxing evenings I have had in awhile.  Work life balance is something I have always struggled with but I think today life won.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Day 34- Shoveling

Looking from the inside out it appeared to be a beautiful day outside. Then I opened the door and was smacked in the face and the realization that it was 6 degrees outside and felt like -6.  I have been cooped up in the house since Sunday.  To say I have cabin fever would be an understatement. 
Since snow blowing the driveway two evenings ago we received more snow and it was starting to accumulate making it difficult get a car in the driveway.  I decided my gift today would be to go out and shovel Mike’s side of the driveway.  I wanted to use the snow blower but I am pretty sure it weighs more than I do. I envisioned it dragging me around the neighborhood until it ran out of gas or I hit a tree! 
Today I was very thankful for running tights and gloves, 5.11 socks, thermal shirts, snow pants, boots and an insulated coat. I looked like a weeble wobble going to play in the snow. 
Several times while I was shoveling I had to stop, not because I was tired, but because I was in awe of how majestic the scenery was around me.  I often complain about living in the country because it seems like I have to drive everywhere. I dream of the days where I live in the city and I can walk or ride a bike to the grocery store or café. But today I was thankful for living in rural Indiana. The sky was painted purple and blue to the east and pink and orange to the west.  It was so calm and peaceful. No cars, sirens, kids screaming…just perfect silence. Even though I was trying to give my husband a gift today, God gave me one in return.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Day 33-Blizzard 2011

I am not for sure what part of the country or world you are reading this post from, but I live in Northwest Indiana where over the past 24 hours we have received approximately 20 inches of snow.   Last I read this is the third worst snow storm on record and definitely the blizzard of 2011.  Some days I am not for sure if working from home is a blessing or a curse. Most of my friends were off work today due to the snow, but since my work is here at home my day was filled with meetings and projects.
My husband was supposed to be off work this week on vacation but when a blizzard like this roles in all vacations are cancelled for the state police.  He was called out yesterday at noon and got home around 1:30 a.m.  I am not quite sure how he made it home. At one point he was pulled out of the snow by a Good Samaritan and then thankfully a county snow plow was nearby to guide him the remainder the way home.  I must apologize to my neighbors because he had to snow blow the driveway at 1:30 this morning to get his car off the road and into the garage. He was back out at work today and will work another twelve hour shift. From what I am hearing on the news, tomorrow will be even worse; with not only the snow blowing but the wind-chill temperature will be between -20 and -40 below. I am so glad my days as a cop are over!
My gift today was to my husband.  I made him a batch, from scratch, of peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. They are waiting for him in the kitchen whenever he gets home. Which for his sake I hope is sooner than later. 
During these times, please remember to say thank you to those that keep the streets clear and the roads safe.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Day 32-Children’s Hospital

When I was younger I spent quite a bit of time in the hospital for asthma related illnesses and bronchitis.  I can still remember all the people that came to visit me and the gifts they brought.  My favorite gift was an orange xylophone with animals on the keys. 

My cousin Logan, eight years old, was admitted to Cincinnati Children’s hospital this weekend and will be there for at least another week.  Today I called the hospital gift shop to have a gift bag delivered to his room.  He is a Cincinnati Reds fan. They lady I spoke with was so nice. She was going to get a red gift bag and put in a couple of games, a red’s hat and a Red’s Mylar balloon.   I hope the gifts were a great surprise and the games take his mind of being in the hospital.