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.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Gifts of a Garden

Several weeks ago my friend sent me a text asking me if I wanted to go on a garden walk.  I immediately said yes as I had never been on a garden walk, surprisingly I had nothing planned and it would be great way to spend time with my friend and Godson.

Before the event, she gave me a booklet which was my ticket. It had stories about each of the gardens we were going to visit.  When I offered to pay for my ticket, she said it was on her.  An unexpected gift!

This past weekend we went on the garden walk and had a great time.  The gardens were beautiful and it gave me many great ideas for my own gardens.  But besides the event the day was filled with unexpected gifts:

   1.   My friend and I spent three hours laughing as we drove around trying to find locations; getting lost and watching my hair continue to expand as the humidity increased. 

   2.      We went to a community garden and I saw two signs that made my heart smile:

a.       Produce Donation Box Here-Thank You For Your Donation To Local Food Pantries
b.      Veggies for Food Pantry-By Master Gardeners

The first unexpected gift was that we laughed and laughed some more with no worries of time or the multiple mistakes we made on finding the locations. The laughing shouldn’t have been so unexpected but I think sometimes as adults we get too serious and don’t spend enough time laughing. 

The next two unexpected gifts were not gifts to me but were gifts community members are doing for those in need.   

I had never thought about donating food from my garden to local food pantries. What a great idea! But then my friend Toni at Food Just Sayin  introduced me to The Food is Free Project

The Food is Free Project grows community and food, while helping gain independence from a broken agricultural system.  The Food is Free Project is a community building and gardening movement that launched in January of 2012. They teach you how to connect with your neighbors and line your street with front yard community gardens which provide free harvests to anyone.

The gardens are built and offered for free using salvaged resources that would otherwise be headed to the landfill. By using drought-tolerant, wicking bed gardens, these low maintenance gardens only need to be watered every 2-4 weeks. This simple tool introduces people to a very easy method of growing organic food with very little work. A wide variety of vegetables along the block promote neighbors to interact and connect, strengthening our communities while empowering them to grow their own food.

I love the quote on the The Food is Free website: “Never underestimate your power to inspire and affect your community around you. Even the smallest of acts can really ripple out.” - John VanDeusen Edwards, Founder of The Food is Free Project

The garden walk was organized by ThePorter County Master Gardeners Association (PCMGA) which is a not-for-profit corporation promoting the art, science, education and pleasure of gardening in cooperation with, and under the auspices of, Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service in Porter County, Indiana. I loved to see that they not only hosted events for the community but they are giving back with time, energy and veggies from a garden that they nurture throughout the summer.  Our local food pantries are so lucky to have organizations like PCMGA to support with healthy food.

After the day was over I came home and walked around my yard and looked at the beautiful gifts of vibrant colored flowers God gives to us. My flowers are one of my favorite things in life.  Even though I hate weeding, I love waiting for all of the seasons that produce tulips and daffodils in the spring, lilies and daisies in the summer and mums in the fall. Who knew gardens could be filled with so many gifts?

Do you have a garden?  Are there gifts you can give others from your garden?  If so, I challenge you to see how you can share the fruits of your garden with others. I know I will be sharing some squash!



Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Ruck to Remember-Memorial Day Weekend

If you have been following me or read any of my prior posts you may have garnered that I have a soft spot for those in law enforcement and in the military.  I was raised in a military family with most being in the Marines.  My father instilled in me at a very young age that you always place your hand over your heart when saying the Pledge of the Allegiance and that when the National Anthem is being sung you stand at attention and eyes on the flag.  

I grew up with a huge flag pole in my front yard and Old Glory flying with a spotlight illuminating her at night.  My husband and I have carried on the tradition and a flag flies in our front yard just as it did when I was younger. 

I sometimes tear up when I hear the National Anthem because I think of the sacrifices men and women in our military have made for my freedom, for your freedom. 
I’m fortunate enough to work for a company, Cisco that allows and even encourages their employees to promote and support causes near and dear to employees. 
A fellow co-worker of mine recently sent out an email regarding The Ruck to Remember (60 to 60).  The Ruck to Remember is a mission of remembrance over Memorial weekend as individuals join and become a team of patriots – Rucking / Hiking 60 miles from Harpers Ferry West Virginia through historically revered ground, over rugged terrain, roads and through cities.  The team will descend into Washington DC in the early hours of Memorial Day morning – for a final sunrise ruck over Memorial Bridge into Arlington National Cemetery (section 60).  Wow…I get tears in my eyes just thinking about this journey.
The Team starts and finishes together on a humbling mission - remembering those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.  Not only does this raise money for a charitable organization but it has a huge visual impact as the entire group ruck their way to DC with Colors and guidons unfolded.  Hundreds of people will ask where they are going and why.  At that moment, if not already aware of the true Memorial weekend meaning, they receive a humbling education and walk away cheering the cause.

Each year the event organizers support a different wounded warrior charity organization.  This year, the charity is the Semper FiFund.  The Semper Fi Fund, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and its program are set up to provide immediate financial assistance and lifetime support for injured and critically ill members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families.  They urgently need resources to post 9/11 service members from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Reserves.  They provide financial, emotional, and tiered support for our injured/ill service members and their families through the following programs: Family Support, Adaptive Housing, Adaptive Transportation, Specialized Equipment, Education and Career Transitioning, Rehabilitative Sports programs, and more.  This charity only has a 6% overhead, 94% of contributions go directly to Vets, and they have an A+ rating.   
 If you feel led to support the event, please go to the following website and make your financial contribution (

God Bless our Military, Veterans and God Bless the United States of America.


Friday, February 28, 2014

Part I: Please Help Honor World War II Veterans

Several years ago as I was boarding a flight from Chicago to Boise, I was stopped in my tracks as I started to walk down the aisle to my seat.  I saw a sea of black hats.  I immediately recognized the hats because my husband has one on his dresser, it was his grandfathers. The hat signifies what war a soldier may have fought in, if they are a veteran and sometimes what branch they served.  I was overwhelmed, wanted to take a picture because it was a beautiful sight, but I didn’t want to offend anyone. I quickly learned I was on an Honor Flight full of World War II Veterans.  They were flying back from Washington D.C. where most were seeing the World War II memorial for the first time.

When we arrived in Boise, the veterans were the last to exit the plane. Many of us on the flight stayed around and welcomed them home, a Hero’s Welcome they never received after the war.  Tears welled up in my eyes and all I could do was clap and smile as one by one they passed by. 

Indy Honor Flight is a non-profit organization created solely to honor Indiana’s veterans for all their sacrifices.  There are similar organizations throughout the country with the same mission: to transport America's Veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit those memorials dedicated to honor their sacrifices. Currently, the top priority is given to the senior veterans-World War II survivors, along with those veterans who may be terminally ill. 

“Of all of the wars in recent memory, it was World War II that truly threatened our very existence as a nation- and as a culturally diverse, free society. Now, with over 700-900 World War II veterans dying each day, our time to express our thanks to these brave men and women is running out.” Indy Honor Flight
Several weeks ago a fellow colleague sent out an email asking for support in writing letters to veterans that will be going on an upcoming honor flight.  I knew this was an opportunity to give and hopefully get others involved.  This is TOP SECRET!  The Veterans on the flight don’t know it, but each Veteran will receive 10 or more pieces of mail.  The emotions that “mail call” raises are a testimony to the character of these men and women and how much these small acts of kindness mean to them. 

My Cisco colleagues, Vic Minatel, accompanied his uncle on an Honor Flight trip last September and stated, “During the war, mail call was a great day! It was a day that raised their spirits.  Mail call during the honor flight is a total surprise and they were humbled and very grateful for all of the letters. The veterans are humbled by the outpouring of support that is shown to them by friends, family and strangers.”
If you are reading this blog, you have freedoms that were fought for by the men in World War II and other wars. 

Please take a couple of minutes of your time to write a letter to say, THANK YOU!
Deadline for letters: March 28th (if you miss this deadline, there is another flight in May)

·       Please address your letter to: Dear Veteran

·       Do not date your letter

·       Example signatures: Stephanie, Mrs. Jones or simply A Grateful American

Please mail cards and letters to:

Indy Honor Flight

c/o Mail Call

9093 S SR 39

Moorseville,IN 46158
The schedule has the veterans returning home to Indianapolis on April 5th and another flight returning home on May 10th.  Again, I would encourage all of you to take a few minutes and jot a couple of notes to our Veterans who will be on the flight thanking them for their service and sacrifice that allows us to enjoy our enduring freedoms and liberties.   

“We can’t all be heroes, some of us need to stand on the curb and clap as they go by”

–Will Rogers

Thank you to Vic Mantel and Indy Honor Flight for pictures and information on the Indy Honor Flight experience. To learn more about Indy Honor Flight check out their website at

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Have you done this before?

I’m a bit embarrassed by this gift. Not at the gift itself but more so that I didn’t do more.  Today as my husband and I were pulling into Costco we noticed a man standing at the entrance to the parking lot. He was scruffy looking and holding a sign I couldn’t read.  I commented to my husband that I had seen him there before and that was the end of our conversation.

By the time we parked, got our cart, toured the isles looking at a bunch of stuff we didn’t need, filling our cart with the essentials such as Kleenex’s, paper towels, trail mix, etc the man asking for money on the side of the road slipped my mind.
I don’t call him homeless because I’m not sure of his situation. He may have a home but needs money for food. He may not need money but still trying to collect it from those passing by. I don’t know his story and at the end of the day does it really matter?

Fast forward through check-out, unloading the cart into the car and now we are pulling out.  We are several cars back and I see the man still standing on the side of the road with his sign.  He is standing on my side so in just a few seconds I have a decision to make.
I’m embarrassed to admit this, but if you’re honest with yourself you have probably done the same thing.  I know in the past I have looked the other way.  We justify if we don’t look we don’t see the person.  Today, I’m going to admit as we were approaching the man the thought crossed my mind that it would be easier to turn my head, act like I’m in conversation with my husband and just ignore him.  But this time, I couldn’t do it. 

As we approached I looked the man in the eyes, nodded my head, gave a simple smile and a slight raise of the hand.  I acknowledged him.  And you know what happened? He smiled back and waved. We had made a connection.
Whenever I see someone on the side of the road I often struggle on how to help them and sometimes judge if they really need help. The judgment on my part is wrong, because it doesn’t matter.   Even though I’m embarrassed that I didn’t do more, I feel what I did may have been greater than giving him money. It may have been harder to look him in the eye and smile.  And for some reason I feel like for him maybe that is what he needed today on the side of the road, just a smile from a stranger.

I’m interested to hear if anyone else has struggled with this issue in the past.  I hope the next time you pass a stranger on the side of the road you will at least smile.
Have a blessed week!


Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Christmas Shoes

I read a lot. I love to read!  For the most part I try to read positive or inspiring books. Every so often I’ll get pulled in by James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club books or a book on Navy Seals. I have a bit of an obsession with the SEALs.

Anyway, Friday night my hubby was having a guys night so I decided to throw my “to do” list out the window and take a little time for myself.  I first stopped in at Edible Arrangements to pick up a fruit bouquet for a friend who had been spending the better half of the last month at hospice with a family member who unfortunately passed away yesterday.  I’m so glad I listened to that nagging feeling that kept telling me I needed to do something for her, something to bring a little sunshine in the dark.

After dropping off the fruit bouquet I pulled into the Walgreen’s parking lot.  I had an appointment with a coaching client and wanted to give her my full attention. I didn’t need to be driving and talking anyways.  Not very safe! After catching up with my client I headed to Target. Oh I love not to be rushed in Target.  I had a short list of things I needed to pick up, but I also enjoyed looking at shoes, office supplies and kitchen gadgets. I impressed myself that I didn’t buy anything that wasn’t on my list.  I’m really trying to stick to buying needs over wants this year.  It’s a work in progress but I have to start somewhere and getting out of Target with no extra items was a little miracle in and of itself.
I considered going home, but Barnes and Noble was calling my name.  Okay, so I peaked inside Pier 1 and after picking up a few things, I put them back. Again, things I wanted but didn’t need.  My husband would have been impressed. I spent zero dollars at Pier 1.  Get the Guinness Book of World Records to Valparaiso, Indiana because that has never happened!

Finally, I entered into the world of my true weaknesses…Barnes and Noble. I think I literally smiled and took a deep breath as I pull open those large, heavy wooden doors and entered.  It’s like the land of adventure for adults.  I had no particular book in mind. I just love to browse. I picked up many books.  I read the inside covers then put most books back down. Some I made a mental note to pick up at the library and others I don’t think are worth my time.  Then, as I always do, I stumbled upon the clearance books.  They had an entire table of $2 books.  SCORE! I was ecstatic to find three that peaked my interest and that I would purchase.  Think Like a Winner, Lost December by one of my favorite authors, Richard Paul Evans and The Christmas Shoes.  I had read the Christmas Secret by the same author and loved it. I also remember my mother mentioning this book. 
I finished The Christmas Shoes, by Donna VanLiere, this morning. I must be honest I cried through the last forty pages. My husband even walked in and said, “Really, a book is making you cry that much?”  Well I’m emotional and yes, it’s a sad book!

Besides The Christmas Shoes having sad moments it also had the underlying lessons of what this giving journey has taught me and what I’m on a mission to share with others.  The mission and message is simple.   It’s this. It is that things don’t make you happy.  That being rich with money and having nice things or going into debt to have nice things will never make you happy.  Thinking that children will be happy with rooms full of toys and stuff. That we have to spend lots of money and give tons of time to make a difference in the lives of others.  None of that is true.  My gift giving journey hasn’t been about big gifts and giving people things, though it may happen once it in awhile. It’s about the small things that may impact people in ways we will never know. It’s the small simple things that literally may change the course of someone’s life.  It may change the course of your life, like it has mine.  It’s holding a door, giving a smile, a hug, or a compliment.  It’s making a meal for someone in need, praying when there is no other way to help, sending a card to a stranger, and the list goes on and on as there are always simple opportunities to give.

I encourage you to read The Christmas Shoes. It may change your life and it may not.  I hope the author, doesn’t mind, but I’ll leave you with the Afterword (some of this won’t make sense if you haven’t read the book, but you’ll get the point):

“If we’re open to it, God can use even the smallest thing to change our lives…to change us.  It might be a laughing child, car brakes that need fixing, a sale on pot roast, a cloudless sky, a trip to the woods to cut down a Christmas tree, a schoolteacher, a Dunhill Billard pipe…or even a pair of shoes.
Some people will never believe. They may feel that such things are too trivial, too simple, or too insignificant to forever change a life.  But I believe. 

And I always will.
Blessings, Stephanie

P.S. I would like to send my copy of The Christmas Shoes to someone that wants to read it and will pass it along.  If you get this far in the blog and are the first to respond, I’ll send you my copy of The Christmas Shoes.  Once you read it, if there are others that want the book, I ask that you send it along to them. Email me at if you are interested. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

How to Give Gifts during a Blizzard

Gift giving can be a bit difficult when one is stuck inside for a day or moredue to weather, illness or lack of transporation.  My original gift was thwarted (you will see it in the next couple of days) so I had to come up with Plan B. 
Here are a couple of ideas of gifts to give when you are homebound:

·         Donate airline miles or hotel points to friends, family or charities
·         Online financial donations to non-profits, as most have online giving options
·         Send encouraging texts to friends or family members
·         Write letters (I would have done this, but since mail doesn’t come on Sunday I couldn’t.) Note: When I write letters, I count it as a gift the day I send, not the day they receive it. Just makes it easier for me to track since many times I write to people I don’t know.
·         Phone a friend or family member
·         Bake goodies and deliver to neighbors (be careful if conditions are extreme)
·         Make treats or dinner for your family
·         Spend quality time with your family baking, playing games, building a puzzle, working on a project, setting goals for the year, planning a vacation, dreaming, etc with no interruptions from the phone, iPad and computer.
·         Shovel snow for a neighbor
·         Pamper your pets
·         Email favorite recipes to friends
Today since I’m stuck in the house I donated
United AirlineMiles to the Wounded Warrior Project. 

Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) is a nonprofit organization with a mission to honor and
empower service members who incurred a
service-connected wound, injury or illness on or after September 11, 2001. WWP started when a group of veterans and friends was moved to action by the stories of the first wounded service members returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq. Through 18 mind, body, educational and economically-empowering programs, WWP helps wounded service members and their families make a successful and well-adjusted transition back to civilian life.

Please share other gift giving ideas for when you are stranded at home.
Be safe and stay warm,

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Saturday, January 4, 2014

Tips for donating clothing and coats this winter to shelters

Today my Gift Idea of the Day came from a friend who posted on her FB page that she was cleaning out her coat closet to donate coats to the local shelter.  This is a wonderful idea!

Over the years I have had the privilege of volunteering with many organizations that house and help the homeless.  Every organization is different in how they operate and what donations they will accept.
Here are some tips for donating your clothing and coats this year:

1.       Search your closets for gently used clothes that you haven’t worn in awhile or that doesn’t fit.  Something that you consider no longer useful may be considered valuable by someone else.

2.       Check for stains, holes and other defects.  You want what you are donating to be able to be worn and to make those wearing the clothes feel good about themselves. Rule of thumb, if you wouldn’t wear it. Don’t donate it!

3.       Check the pockets of the items you are donating for personal items, money and other valuables.

4.       Wash the clothes and make sure they are clean and fresh.

5.       Identify the shelter where you want to donate your clothing/coat items.

6.       Verify the shelter is taking clothing and coat donations.  You can either do this by calling your local shelter or check their website.  For instance, in my community the local men’s shelter takes clothing and coat donations but the women’s shelter does not as they receive their clothing donations from local resale shops.

7.       If they accept donations, verify collection dates and times. 

8.       If they don’t accept clothing donations, either locate another shelter accepting donations or donate to a resale shop that donates their profits and clothing to shelters.

These are just a few tips I thought of off the top of my head this morning.  Please share other ideas and recommendations for donating clothing. I love learning from others!
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Friday, January 3, 2014

January 3, 2014

Several months ago my husband started a new position at work.  He now spends some days in the office and others out on the road.  His first week at the office he comes home and says, “You know the other guys wives make treats to take in to the office so if you can start making stuff to take in that would be great.”
Well I have tried to live up to the standard of making sure my man has goodies to take into work. This summer I picked apples from the tree in our backyard and made homemade applesauce. This was a big hit!  I also made homemade salsa.  Mine was a little plain so my hubby added more jalapenos to the mix to spice it up. Then it was good. I have made several types of cookies, candies and even a cheesecake.  Today one of my gifts was a plateful of homemade candies.  It included the pretzel/rolo/M&M candies I mentioned yesterday and then Trisha Yearwood’s Crockpot Candy.  Note to self on the Crockpot candy, only cook for 2 hours instead of the recommended 3!

Today was also cleaning today. I am blessed enough to have someone clean my house once a month.  I know what you are thinking, “her house only gets cleaned once a month!?” No, my husband and I clean it the remainder of the month, it’s just nice to have a break every couple of weeks. Anyways, we have a 90lb German shepherd, Boss.  For the most part he spends his days either in the police car or in his indoor/outdoor kennel in the garage.  If you live in the Midwest you know it has been like living in the arctic around here lately. Due to the cold weather we keep Boss in the house most of the time.  He sheds like crazy. I’m a bit of a neat freak so his hair drives me CRAZY!  Last night I was glad the housekeeper was coming because I needed to vacuum and I knew she would clean it up.  But when I got up this morning I thought, no you are going to vacuum the carpets and sweep up the hardwood and tile floors of the dog hair to make her job a bit easier.  So I did just that. Not a glamorous gift, but still a gift!

My final gift I will blog about later as it is something this journey has taught me.  Check back later to find out!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

January 2, 2014

Some days my gifts are planned and others days they are spontaneous and random. Today they were planned. I started prepping last night by making banana-pineapple bread and homemade candies. I delivered baked goodies to three of my neighbors. It was frigid outside and snow was coming down. I loved it. I have been cooped up in the house all day, so getting fresh air was welcomed.


Why I Started Giving Daily

In late 2010 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. I never really understood why 29 days, so it became my goal to go beyond the 29 days and do an entire year of giving.  
I gave a daily gift for 522 consecutive days.  Why 522?  Read here to see how the journey ended.

After my journey ended I took a little  time to reflect what the journey meant and I knew I had to keep giving.  I would say on most days from then until now I gave a gift. I just wasn’t good at tracking and sharing.  As the end of 2013 drew near I kept getting this feeling I needed to make a commitment to the daily giving and to share what I was doing.  It has always been my hope that the giving isn’t about me and my gifts, but that my stories motivate others to get involved and start giving.  There are so many ways to give and I’m a big believer that sometimes the smallest of gifts have the biggest impact.  A simple smile to a stranger could change the course of their entire day.  An encouraging text or email to a friend may come at a time when they need it the most. 

I would love for you to come on this journey with me; share with me and others how you are a making a difference, as I truly believe, 1 can make a difference but many can change the world.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

January 1, 2014

I'm starting my daily gift giving journey again in 2014. 

Today's gift: 

#1-  A phone call with my mom. We spent most of the hour talking about our goals for 2014. 

#2- I cooked a spaghetti dinner for my husband. Original I know, but I had spaghetti sauce that I canned this summer that I needed to use. I must say it was delicious!

I have also started a facebook page for my journey. I want to share this journey with as many people as possible so we can continue to make this world a better place. I hope you will join me on facebook and share with others your gift giving ideas.