Random Acts of Kindness: Surprise with a Note of Thanks

Random Act of Kindness


One of my favorite acts of random kindness is sending an unexpected basket from Edible Arrangements. While I love flowers, I love fruit more :-)

One year, I sent a basket to the compliance department at Scentsy, which is based here locally. The Scentsy employees had the unfortunate task of contacting consultants who were not adhering to corporate policies. I couldn’t imagine having to deal with that on a day to day basis, and the basket was a way to show appreciation, knowing that their work is important.

Another time, I sent a basket to a friend, whose daughter was hospitalized with a horrible respiratory infection. I knew that eating healthy foods was difficult in this situation but also important for this particular mom.

And today, I sent another to a group of people who I am sure work very hard, are often under-appreciated, but who make our literary world that much better.

Often I find myself surrounded by people whose jobs aren’t glorious, are sometimes messy, and sometimes even make others disappointed. But their roles are just as important, and they help keep order. Who do you know who may be under appreciated? What can you do tonight to reach out and say thanks?

I hope this finds you surrounded by peace and joy. And if not, let me know how I can help.

2014: Donate to your Food Bank

25 Days of Kindness Food Bank

Welcome to 25 Days of Kindness, 2014 Edition.

I love Thanksgiving. I love the food in particular: turkey, gravy, mashed sweet potatoes, orange rolls. It’s a great day to celebrate abundance.

It’s why I felt kicking off my 25 Days of Kindness project with a donation to the Food Bank was so appropriate. I am thankful for so much in my life and am grateful to have the luxury of a hot meal every single night. Many aren’t as fortunate. I have donated money in the past directly to the homeless. Sometimes I still do. But I find myself leery of this more and more and worry that the money is not actually going where I intended and that I can do far more good by donating to those who have the resources to reach the hungry.

I am also grateful that our grocery store has a way to donate to the Food Bank directly from the store. I know that cash donations can sometimes be more valuable than food directly. They know what is needed and are much better at managing resources than I am (trust me!!).

Here are some great resources about donating specific items to the Food Bank:
10 Things Food Banks Need But Won’t Ask For
What Food Banks Need Most This Holiday Season

I’ve also included the Food Bank locator here from Feeding America.

I look forward to sharing this month’s journey with you once again!

Christmas is over… now what?

When I started this project December 1, I knew that it couldn’t just be about December. It’s eas(ier) to get people interested when a cause or charity is focused around the holidays. Trust me! I saw the donations POUR in to the homeless shelter the week before Christmas. But who is going to be there this week and next to sort through those donations?? Kindness and charity don’t stop December 25. They are just as needed, and maybe more so, the days, weeks, and months after.

The logical next step is 365 days of kindness. That’s a great goal, sure. But is it realistic? What about the days where you just feel grumpy? Or the days when you are sick and just getting out of bed is a challenge? An act a day for the next year isn’t my goal. Instead, I am going to write about my journey to add more kindness into my life. Where I have realized I need to concentrate those acts is toward myself and my family, which, for me, are the places I struggle the most.

I hope you will continue on this journey with me and share the ways that you are adding more kindness, more compassion, more love into your life.

Gift of understanding

I fell to the floor, hysterical. In hindsight, it feels like an overreaction. You don’t really know how you are going to react, though, when you hear something so life changing. Cancer. Lymphoma. Stage Four. Fifty percent survival… at best.

My dad was on the other end of the phone. He had just spoken with the doctor who found the grapefruit-sized tumor in his abdomen and immediately called to tell us he’d be in surgery the following Monday.

My dad lived in Boise, a 2,000 mile plane ride with a layover in O’Hare between us. I was used to spending my summers there; I had been doing it since I was two. The summer after my freshman year of college was supposed to be one of the first where I stayed in one place, got to do what I had planned and wanted to. Instead, I would be on another plane, traveling across country again, hoping that this time wouldn’t be the last.

I’m kind of a take-charge, no bullshit, Type AAA person. Even though I was eighteen, I fell right into line, stepping in to coordinate my single dad’s treatment and care for the summer.

It was exhausting. My dad and I had a somewhat strained relationship as it was. Chemo and steroids and mortality looming did little to improve the underlying issues created when I was much, much younger.

The one thing I did have was hope. And humor. I researched my dad’s cancer to the point that doctors asked about my medical background. I questioned my dad’s oncologist when she seemed overly concerned about his lack of response to the treatment… I had read it could take several months (and as it turned out, I was right). When my dad’s hair started appearing around the house and I told him it was time to shave it, I bought hot pink and neon green hairspray and turned my OCD, attorney father into a punk. It might be one of the greatest memories he and I share.

There were many days still where I felt very alone. It is hard to understand the realities of being a caregiver until you are sitting in a hospital chair with a sleeping family member trying to figure out when you can go grocery shopping between chemo sessions, blood draws, and appointments with specialists.

On my birthday, one of the greatest moments of my 30 acts of kindness was taking flowers to the oncology floor and asking them to give them to someone having a particularly rough day. Today, I will take flowers not only for a patient but also a caregiver. Those are lonely days filled with fear. It is very easy to believe that no one understands. I hope that today there is at least one person who knows that someone does. And that they care.

Day of Sadness

I spent the morning at City Light, the local shelter for women in children here in Boise. Small rooms lined the facility, but they were rooms of comfort and hope, safety for these women and their kids in times of hardship.

How sad I was to come home and see the news that children in another part of the country were denied that safety today.

As a mother, my heart aches. I send my four year old off to school every day, never doubting that he will be kept safe. Those parents, too, sent their kids to school with the same assumption, believed they would be coming home today. I cry for their losses.

I was fifteen when Columbine occurred. I don’t remember mass shootings before that time. If they did happen, I was too young to know. In the past fifteen years, however, I can name a list of mass shootings: schools, political rallies, movie theaters, universities. The question is always the same: why?

Why, in a world that I believe to be good, would someone open fire on a group of people… a group of children? What could be so horrible in that person’s life that murdering twenty children is the answer?

I just spent over an hour in a facility that houses nearly one hundred homeless women. Fifty eight of them sleep in beds a few feet from one another. And they still have hope. They still believe in the goodness of humanity. What could be so horrible to justify such a horrific act?

I don’t know the answer to those questions, though I know the media will ask them for days and weeks to come.

I do know that I believe the world is still a good place. Maybe I am overly idealistic, but I believe that even on a day like today with such unbelievable violence, there are people across our country engaging in simple acts of kindness that have the potential to change lives.

I will mourn for all of those who lost their lives today. I will hug my children tightly tonight and cherish the moments I have with them in my life. I will also go out into the world, open my heart, and extend kindness in hopes that the small deeds help change the world and create a space where violence is no longer welcome.

Let it go

I have a lot to be angry about.

My parents divorced when I was two, leaving me without *one* memory of a life within a nuclear family and a childhood of layovers at O’Hare. My dad was diagnosed with Stage Four non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma when I was eighteen, and instead of a summer working at a camp for adults with disabilities, I spent it in chemo boot-camp, just me and my dad, learning a whole new language: Rituxan, large B-cell, follicular, CHOP. When I was eight months pregnant, my house – and neighborhood – were engulfed in flames, my baby’s recently completed nursery in ash. The week my son learned to smile, I lost my ability to do the same. Just Bell’s Palsy the doctors said. *Just* paralysis.

I know anger. It’s familiar. It’s easy. It’s a scapegoat. I can deflect the responsibility for my own emotions through the anger I have for my life’s circumstances. It’s easy to believe that others, that extenuating circumstances, are responsible for where we are, right now, in this moment. But you know what? Anger doesn’t serve me. It isn’t helping me get where I want to go or be who I want to be.

Being mad about my parents’ divorce(s) when I am thirty years old is insane. Begrudging my father for the poor parenting choices he made doesn’t change anything about the moment I am living in right now. Getting angry at my husband for being late doesn’t make him any earlier. Being angry only does one thing: hurt me.

Let it go.

Let go of the anger and you will find that love, happiness, peace are standing in the doorway behind it.


I’m Sorry

I pushed the stroller four paces behind him.

We were on a skinny dirt path, I reasoned. I can justify walking in a single file line.

This wasn’t the walk I had envisioned when I went to bed last night. A week of chaos was winding down. Our lovely guests would be leaving bright and early. And I could finally sit in relative silence (at least for two minutes before one of the kids started crying). We would take a walk in the brisk air, reflect on his brother’s visit, plan for the week.

Instead, hurtful words were exchanged minutes before we left, words that revealed damage that had been done over seven years earlier. I had said something unkind, not intentionally malicious but unkind all the same. We had visited those words before, briefly. I didn’t expect to be swallowing them again in this moment.

Who is going to talk first? I wonder. I always start the conversation. I don’t want to today. Instead, I let thoughts percolate in my mind. I get angry. Even when I try to refocus my thoughts, I get angry.

Doesn’t he know how much he’s hurt me?

It’s been SEVEN years.

I am not that person anymore.

I shouldn’t be blamed for something so long ago. 

We stopped. He talked. I listened. And just as I was about to get defensive, I hear myself say, “I’m sorry.”

I’m sorry.

Two little words that make a big difference.

I’m not good at saying I’m sorry. It’s far easier to be right, to deflect blame. But I knew I had been wrong, that version of me had been wrong to say what I did. I wanted to remind him I was different, had changed. He didn’t need that reminder. He needed an apology.

It was in that moment, our words changed, our tone changed, our defenses lowered. I’m Sorry.

Is there someone in your life who needs an apology? Make that a part of your month of kindness. I’m sorry. Such simple words that much such a difference.


You are fat.

You are abrasive.

You say the wrong things.

No one likes you.

You don’t deserve to be loved.

I could fill a post with all of the critical thoughts that go through my head every day about myself, all of the parts of myself that make me unworthy, that make me unlovable. Even as I extend kindness to others, the person I am hardest on, the person who receives the least amount of kindness from me each day is ME.

Criticism is normal to me. Our family time involves judging others, making fun of those who are “lacking.” Growing up, we would watch Wheel of Fortune every night at dinner. As I’ve gotten older I realized it wasn’t for the puzzles; it was a different kind of sport. Make fun. Laugh about their clothes. Laugh about their weight. Laugh about their accents. Judge them.

My grandfather is a rancher. Trips to his house are far more enjoyable if you bring a few stories about others, if you gossip with him while he rocks back and forth on his wooden rocking chair. Criticizing others is how we bond as a family. It’s disgusting, but it’s what I know.

I was a kind child. I received the Citizenship Award at school every year. I did for others. I was generous, kind, loving. Through the last decade of my adult life I’ve wondered what exactly happened, where did that person, that kid, go? And I’ve listened, listened to my family talk to each other, listened to myself talk about others, about myself. Where did that kind person go?

She was swallowed by all of the negative thoughts, a reality I created within myself. I realized that all of the negative self-talk was a defense.

If I tear myself down first, no one else can hurt me.

If I point out all of my faults, if I pick myself apart, there is nothing left for anyone else. I call this self-reflection. Truly, it is self-annihilation.

When I was twenty-two, about to graduate college, I had a life-changing realization: I’m not that important. I know that sounds counter to this entire post, but it’s true. We are a selfish species. Everyone else is so caught up in their own crap to be worried about mine. Sure, they might talk about me occasionally. Hell, they might even be talking badly about me. But mostly, they are worried about themselves. Yes, my family is critical. Yes, they judge everyone. But they aren’t the whole world, and I can choose to surround myself with those who focus on building others up, rather than tearing them down. But first, I have to change my own thoughts about myself.

Of all the thoughts that course through my head each day, rarely do I hear You are beautiful. You are smart. You are strong. You are worthy. You are loved.

You are beautiful.

You are smart.

You are strong.

You are worthy.

You are loved.

Take time today to be kind to yourself. Write yourself a letter about how wonderful you are. Treat yourself to a massage, a workout, a walk. Sit in silence and breathe in you. You are here, now. And you are beautiful.


I started clearing my house out last week. Too much clutter. Too much stuff.

My house burned down four years ago. I had nothing: no toothbrush, no pillow, no change of clothes. But we rebuilt. And we acquired. And acquired. And acquired. If you were to walk through my house now you would have no idea that I lost all my “stuff” only four years ago.

For one, we had kids (a month after the fire to be exact). And kids tend to require a lot of “stuff.” After the first, we saved all of our baby items for the eventuality of the second, who made his appearance last February. I have consigned much of our baby goods, and some of it I continue to save for the next sale, hoping to finally rid my house of this “stuff” I no longer need.


I have enough. All of these baby items, all of this stuff, is just taking up space in my house, space I would like to use to move, to breathe. Even if it’s just in the garage, this stuff is weighing me down. I knew about the fundraiser for the women’s shelter and had planned to go. But instead of just going, I decided I would sort through all of my things, try to get rid of that which I no longer needed, all of the stuff that was sitting in my closet or a tub in the garage or on a back shelf that was no longer serving me. It still has purpose. It still has a need.


Today I donated a pack n play, maternity pants, a baby tub, blankets, lotion, diapers, diapers, diapers, tylenol, vitamin C. I took a car load of items to help this shelter. Part of their mission is helping those recovering from addiction as well as the homeless.

In addition to the items donated, they raised over $6000 today for the shelter at this fundraiser. The director of the program told us that was enough to cover the cost of food for a YEAR for their programs. A year of food. Oh, we have enough.

What I have realized in the 5 days so far of this challenge is that we all have something to give, even those moms who are recipients of that charity. It might not be money. It might not be time. But we are all capable of generosity. We all have enough of something. Our lives are abundant.


Kind words

I’m a yeller.

It’s not something I’m proud of, and it’s not something I will readily admit most days. But I am. I grew up with yellers. And it’s how I’ve learned to get someone’s attention, whether it’s my husband, my kids, or someone caught in the crossfire.

I don’t yell at everyone. I rarely yell at strangers. I rarely yell in public. (I do write a sharp letter every so often though laying my feelings out on the line.) Those I am most likely to yell at are those closest to me.

Last spring I received a phone call that opened my eyes to the destruction yelling was doing to my family. I own a web design and development company, and this client wanted a blog about her challenge, the Orange Rhino Challenge she called it, to stop yelling at her FOUR kids… for a whole year. I admittedly thought she was crazy. In some ways I admired this challenge. In other ways, I thought it was… well, wrong isn’t the right word. It’s not that I admired yelling, it’s just that I looked at it as my parenting tool. I don’t spank my kids, so I still needed a way to let them know they were in trouble.

The thing is, yelling wasn’t really all that effective. I’ve always said that I felt like spanking didn’t really teach my kids anything and teaching was the ultimate goal of discipline… and the biggest tool in the parenting toolbox. Spanking to me was about release of anger for the parents. When I considered it, yelling didn’t really teach anything either and was more about me than my kids. Sure, it made me feel better for about half a second, at which point I got even angrier about whatever I was yelling about.The more I thought about it though, I realized that yelling was my spanking. And that didn’t make me feel very good.

My goal was to try to avoid yelling for the entire 25 day challenge; if our client could do it for a year, surely I could make it 25 days. And then Sunday happened (a whole day and a half – go me!). Family drama ensued. And we all raised our voices. And we all ended up feeling really badly. A day, surely I could do it for a day. I set myself up today, prepared mentally to not yell. And yet, I woke up this morning and my day started off like it always does: I’m awake, my husband isn’t, the four year old comes into our room and immediately hurts himself and starts crying for a band-aid for the cut the size of a poppy seed and then the baby starts crying and needs to be held and changed, and it’s already 7:20 and my son needs to be at school by 8:30, and the dogs still need to be let out and fed, and the kids need to be dressed and fed, and… well, my mornings are really challenging. I felt myself getting worked up. I had been awake for twenty minutes and already had forgotten about the challenge. I was starting to raise my voice. I caught myself. I breathed and remembered and calmed down and didn’t yell.

It’s ok, Brooke. 

I found this quote yesterday and it has been playing through my head all day: “Raise your words, not your voice. It’s rain that grows flowers, not thunder.” Raise your words. Raise your thoughts. 

It’s so easy, I think, for us to get caught up in our chaos, and even as we slow down and do for others, we forget about the smallest (and yet the most powerful) part of our day: our thoughts. Kind thoughts breed kind words that make kind actions. Kindness starts with our thoughts. Today, think kind thoughts. Speak kind words. Grow flowers.