Less Shopping, More Enjoying

This Sunday, I’m participating in “Stream of Consciousness Sunday”, hosted by Jana of Jana’s Thinking Place. The idea is to type for 5 minutes, a brain dump of sorts, and then to publish without editing the writing at all. The writing prompt for this week is… How Do You Christmas Shop?

I am not a big fan of shopping, and Christmas shopping is no exception. In fact, it’s really my least favorite time of year to be out at malls and department stores, because it’s just so busy. It seems like, the closer we get to Christmas Eve, the less kind people are to their fellow shoppers, and I’d rather not be around that… but that’s just an excuse to avoid the noise and crowds.

I like to do a lot of our Christmas shopping before December, and we buy some things online. We don’t buy much, honestly, because we just don’t have the money and we already have all what we need. When we do have to go into a store that’s cram-packed with Christmas shoppers, we go together… it helps me to deal with my social anxiety when I have David’s hand to hold onto.

It makes me a little sad to realize that my girls are getting too old for toys anyway. They don’t play a lot with the toys that they already have. They are more interested in doing their hair, experimenting with scented bath and body products and listening to music on the stereo in their room.

As the girls have gotten older, David and I have tried to spend more time and focus on doing things together as a family. We’ve walked downtown to see the Festival of Trees, driven through Roper Mountain’s Christmas Lights, baked sugar cookies and gingerbread men, and delivered random acts of kindness to strangers and friends.

Plus, we have our own house this year and that makes things so much more wonderful altogether! Not to sound overly cliche, but I’m just so grateful for my little family, and so glad that we have so much love in our home.

Our Family Christmas Card 2012

Our Christmas Tree Story

We began our December (and our Christmas tree story) by purchasing a small cedar tree for Clara. We will spend the next two weeks making Christmas ornaments for decorating this lovely little memorial tree, and once the holiday season has passed, we will plant it at the family cemetery near Clara’s headstone.

So far, we have two little bunny ornaments and an engraved brass ornament with Clara’s name and birth/death date, courtesy of McAfee Funeral Home, who handled her cremation. I bought the bunny ornaments many years ago, for Lakin and Addah, but they insisted that we hang them on Clara’s tree this year. I think they’re perfect there.

Christmas Memorial Tree and Ornaments for Clara, our Stillborn Baby Girl

Our “big” Christmas tree is up and decorated as well. We were not able to put up our own tree last year, having just moved back from Texas to South Carolina, so it was very special to unwrap each ornament and remember where it came from. We have many handmade ornaments, made by the girls, David and I.

Our Christmas Tree Story

My favorite ornaments are the fragile hand-blown glass ones that I have collected over the years — snowmen and three little bluebirds on a branch.

Hand Blown Glass Snowman Christmas Ornaments

I found the bluebirds in a shop in Brevard, North Carolina in 2006, and bought it to commemorate the first year that I was a single mom with two daughters. We were the three little birds, sticking together no matter what, huddle on a branch in the cold, us against the world. Now, as the mother of three daughters, I think of the bluebirds a little differently than I used to, but it is still my absolute favorite ornament.

Hand Blown Glass Christmas Ornament - Three Little Birds

I sat on the sofa last night with David, his arm wrapped around my shoulders. It was dark in the house, save for the Christmas tree and Clara’s tree. It was lovely: safe, comforting and peaceful. These things are in short supply most days, which made the moment all the more wonderful.

It’s proving to be a very difficult holiday season for our family, emotionally, but we’re doing our best to keep our chins up. I’m very fortunate to have my little family to hold on to when the days and nights just get too long and dark. I wouldn’t make it without Lakin, Addah and David, of that I am convinced.

“Rise up this mornin’, smiled with the risin’ sun,
Three little birds pitch by my doorstep
Singin’ sweet songs of melodies pure and true,
Sayin’, “This is our message to you…
Don’t worry about a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right.”
~ Bob Marley ~

Random Acts of Kindness Ideas #loveforclara

Random Acts of Kindness #loveforclara

The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation seeks to inspire people to practice kindness and to pass it on to others. That sounds just wonderful to me. That’s what the Christmas season is all about, to me.

I believe that you can (and should) perform Random Acts of Kindness at any time (all the time), for any reason (or no reason at all). Each action will make you feel great, spreading good cheer and happiness to those around you.

For my family, we are choosing to consciously do as many kind things for others as we can this season, in honor of our baby girl Clara, who was born still on July 1, 2012. We have a few ideas up our sleeves for commemorating Clara, but the first one is Random Kindness for Clara.

Throughout the month of December, my family and I will be recording our random acts of kindness. I challenge you to go out and do as many good and kind things as you can — post in the comments and tell me what you and your family have done! If you share on Twitter, use hashtag #loveforclara!

Here are just a few of the many wonderful random acts of kindness ideas for spreading goodness to strangers that we came up with… with a little help from Pinterest and a lot of help from my daughters’ imaginations!

Random Acts of Kindness Ideas

  1. Leave lottery tickets on random windshields in a parking lot.
  2. Leave an extra large tip for your restaurant server, along with a note of holiday cheer.
  3. Take a plate of homemade cookies or muffins to your local fire station.
  4. Take hot chocolate and cookies to your local librarians.
  5. Leave holiday cards for your postal workers, garbage men, etc.
  6. Pay for the groceries of the person in line behind you.
  7. Visit an assisted living facility or nursing home and spend some time visiting with the elderly. They have amazing stories, and many of them don’t have family who live close enough to visit regularly. Take holiday cards to hand out!
  8. Tape quarters to a vending machine in the hospital waiting room.
  9. Send a big plate of cookies for the teacher’s lounge at your child’s school.
  10. Go through your pantry and donate any “extras” to your local food bank.
  11. Hide single dollar bills in the toy section at a dollar store… and in the children’s section of the library!
  12. Send handwritten notes to your loved ones that live far away.
  13. Pick up trash from around your neighborhood.
  14. Donate diapers, wipes and formula to your local women’s shelter.
  15. Purchase $5 gift cards for Starbucks, Applebee’s or Target {or anywhere, pick your favorite store}, and hand them out to strangers.
  16. Smile at those around you. You don’t know what anyone else is going through and your smile might be the most important thing that they see today.
  17. Help a neighbor carry their groceries inside.
  18. Put shopping carts away for your fellow shoppers.
  19. Hold the door for others.
  20. Say thank you every chance you get!
  21. Hug your friends and tell them how much they mean to you.
  22. Give a flower to somebody special.
  23. Offer a genuine compliment to a stranger.
  24. Take flowers or get well balloons to the hospital to distribute to those who are alone.
  25. Leave a small gift by a neighbor’s doorstep.
  26. Tape candy canes to ATM machines around town.
  27. Purchase and donate a toy to “Toys for Tots”.
  28. Pay library fines for five people.
  29. Send in a box chocolates for your child’s school custodians.
  30. Volunteer to walk dogs for the Humane Society.
  31. Build a bird or squirrel feeder.
  32. Knit/crochet/sew blankets/hats/booties for babies who are in the NICU this holiday season.
  33. Buy your favorite children’s book and leave in the waiting room at the Children’s Hospital.
  34. Pick a name from the phone book and mail them a two dollar bill and a happy note.
  35. Leave kid-made bookmarks in the books at the library.
  36. Have your kids make holiday cards and deliver them to the Cancer Center or Cardiac Unit of your local hospital.
  37. Donate blood and/or become an organ donor.
  38. Donate to charity: water to build wells and provide safe drinking water to people in undeveloped countries.
  39. Send a care package to any soldier in Afghanistan. Be sure to include candy and small gifts {bouncy balls, bubbles} — my brother would hand these out to children while on patrol.
  40. Prepare and serve lunch at your local homeless shelter.
  41. Assemble care packages for homeless adults in your area.
  42. Plant a tree! Mother Earth deserves kindness, too!
  43. Take popcorn and sweet treats to the Labor & Delivery nurses at your local hospital.
  44. Same as above… but for the wonderful nurses in the NICU!
  45. Make paint chip Christmas trees — great for bookmarks or ornaments to give to loved ones.
  46. Cook a meal for an elderly neighbor or friend.
  47. Offer someone a piece of gum or candy.
  48. Go through your books and donate extras to a women’s shelter or school library.
  49. Buy and decorate a Christmas tree for a family that cannot afford their own this year.
  50. Sing Christmas carols at a nursing home or assisted living facility.
  51. Write a love note to your partner and slip it into their wallet/purse before they leave for work.
  52. Be a coupon fairy at the grocery store.
  53. Write a sweet love note for your kids and put it in their backpack or lunch bag before school.
  54. Leave a note for a manager about a particularly kind and friendly employee.
  55. Pay for another family’s or couple’s meal at a restaurant.
  56. Be a kind and conscientious driver.
  57. Take crayons and coloring books to local doctor’s offices.
  58. Feed a parking meter that has expired (or is about to).
  59. Leave a flower or holiday note on someone’s windshield.
  60. Leave all of your change in the change jar at a register.
  61. Babysit for a single parent in your life, just so they can have some time alone.
  62. Tape quarters to bubble gum machines!
  63. Ring the bell for the Salvation Army representative at the mall.
  64. Help someone whose car has broken down.
  65. Praise a parent for their child’s good behavior.
  66. Clean graffiti in your neighborhood.
  67. Sweep your neighbor’s front porch or walkway.
  68. Let someone get in line in front of you.
  69. Strike up a conversation with a stranger.
  70. Write a letter to someone who made a difference in your life.
  71. Read to a child.
  72. Shovel snow for a neighbor.
  73. Be kind to someone you dislike.
  74. Donate $1 when asked to do so in the grocery store.
  75. Donate used clothing and toys to Goodwill or the Salvation Army.
  76. Hand out lollipops to strangers. Decorate it with a holiday wish for their happiness.
  77. Tell your parents you love and appreciate them.
  78. Give someone a hug.
  79. Complain less.
  80. Make a positive comment on a blog.
  81. Take the time to email someone to tell them that their blog has touched you in some way.
  82. Put gas in someone’s car.
  83. Help someone move.
  84. Encourage your child to write a positive note to a classmate.
  85. Focus on the positive by sharing a positive blog post on Twitter & Facebook.
  86. Knit a scarf for someone who needs one.
  87. Volunteer with Habitat for Humanity to help build a house for someone.
  88. Invite someone over for a holiday meal with your family.
  89. Send holiday cards to loved ones, near and far.
  90. Take treats for your coworkers and boss.
  91. Leave random change on the playground and watch kids’ delight as they find it.
  92. Place flowers on the grave of a stranger who has none.
  93. Make a list of the things you appreciate about your partner.
  94. Help others whenever possible.
  95. Ask someone about their holiday traditions.
  96. Start a piggy bank for a cause.
  97. Measure your carbon footprint and try to reduce it.
  98. Give directions to someone who is lost.
  99. Tell a parent that they are doing a great job.
  100. Be a shoulder to cry on for a friend (or a stranger).
Quite a bit of our family’s Random Kindness for Clara will be centered on NICU babies, the wonderful nurses at the hospital where Clara was born, and through our local infant loss support group.

We will be including these little cards with our acts of kindness, to honor those that we know who have also been touched by miscarriage, stillbirth and infant loss. You are welcome (and encouraged!) to download and print them for your own use.

Random Kindness for Clara
Click to download a PDF of this Random Kindness for Clara tag!

You may choose a different focus for your random acts of kindness… or no focus at all except to be a kind person. Either of those, or any variation thereof, sounds wonderful to me. Go forth… and be kind. Then come back and tell me about it… or share on Twitter using hashtag #loveforclara. I can’t wait to hear your stories!

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”
~ Aesop ~

Remembering Our Baby This Christmas

It has been two days since I last posted, and I have to say, it was a welcome break from the frantic posting schedule of November’s NaBloPoMo. I am still fighting the remnants of bronchitis and hoping to see the last of it very soon.

It is obvious to us that we’re going to have a rough few weeks coming up… it’s already hard. We should be celebrating our five month old baby’s milestones — sitting up, rolling over from back to tummy, grinning and teething — and instead we’re wandering around like sad, lost zombies, trying to find meaning in the gloom.

David, Lakin, Addah and I have been talking a lot about how to honor our little Clara during this Christmas season. We don’t want to let our grief completely surround us, so that we miss out on opportunities to celebrate how special our baby girl is to us.

The girls have had wonderful ideas — and our favorite is Random Kindness for Clara, which will we introduce tomorrow on the blog. We’ve been making a list and plan to implement as many of these as possible this holiday season.

We invite you to participate in Random Kindness for Clara, in honor of those touched by miscarriage, stillbirth and infant loss. Check back tomorrow for more information!