Thirty Days of Kindness

 

Thirty days of kindness (1)

The countdown to the holidays has begun! The options for marking each passing day are seemingly endless.  As children we eagerly awaited our turn to crack open a tiny paper door on our cardboard Advent calendar to reveal that day’s seasonal picture.  Pinterest is chock full of creative ways to craft a countdown system.  And of course there is the ever popular opportunity to consume mediocre chocolate from a grocery store calendar.

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Although each of these options certainly have their merits and I have wholeheartedly enjoyed many of them in the past, I have a different plan for this year. I’m hoping to actively infuse these days with some mindful acts of kindness.  Hopefully my everyday life contains frequent moments of kindness-whether deliberate or by chance. However, I’m planning to step it up a bit for the next few weeks.  Having done something like this a few years ago I know that perhaps I will be the one receiving the greatest gift.

If this sounds like something you’d like to try, here are thirty ideas that might inspire you.  Whether you decide to embrace a daily act of kindness or opt to select just a few, I wish you joy during this season and beyond.

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  1. Buy two poinsettias or other holiday plants.  Keep one and ask the checkout clerk to give the other one to the next person that comes along.
  2. Brush snow off of another car in the parking lot.
  3. Consider offering a small plate of goodies and/or a hot drink to the person that delivers your oil, mail, or packages.
  4. Leave a scratch lottery ticket and a penny in a card on the windshield of a car at the hospital, post office, or other place where you may find especially harried people.
  5. Give someone a compliment.
  6. Send a card to someone you haven’t been in touch with for a while.
  7. Buy a reusable bag and ask the sales clerk to give it to the next person who doesn’t have one.
  8. Download the Charity Miles app and use it to have a donation made to the charity of your choice (from the more than 35 options listed) every time you run or walk inside or outside or bike outside. It’s easier than it sounds.  Just open the app, select a charity, and click the activity that you are doing. One of the sponsoring corporations will donate 25 cents per mile for running and walking and 10 cents per mile for biking.
  9. Be kind to yourself and spend some time doing something that makes you happy.
  10. Return a loose shopping cart to the appropriate spot.
  11. Do a household chore that is normally done by someone else.
  12. Thank someone for their good service.
  13. Contact your local animal shelter to see what you could do to help-donate towels, food, cleaning supplies, or possibly volunteer.
  14. Donate coats to a community program that gives them to those in need.
  15. Take time to enjoy a local holiday concert or play.
  16. Mail a card to a home complimenting them on their holiday decorations.
  17. Make a commitment to reduce single use consumption. Try switching to re-usable grocery bags, bring your own cup when you get a take-out beverage, give plastic wrap alternatives a try, avoid plastic water bottles by using bottles such as S’well bottles, swap cloth napkins for paper ones.
  18. Check with your local school to see if they have a Backpack Program that provides food to food-insecure children on weekends and holidays when they don’t have access to free or reduced school meals. Donate money or items that they suggest.
  19. Don’t take the closest parking spot and enjoy your gift to another driver as well as the gift to yourself of a bit of extra fresh air and exercise.
  20. Consider feeding the birds this winter.
  21. Pick up trash from the side of the road. Recycle what you can.  Redeem returnables and donate that money to the charity of your choice.
  22. Support local artisans when purchasing gifts for others or for yourself.
  23. Make plans to create or donate to a Little Free Library or donate books to another cause.
  24. Refrain from unnecessary negative comments.
  25. Take some time to savor nature-the sky at dawn, the frost patterns on a window, the pattern of leaves on a plant, the smell of the air.
  26. Make a donation to a charity that is meaningful to someone on your gift list. Wildfire relief, animal welfare, environmental causes, world hunger, and organizations that support youth are just a few possible ideas.
  27. Don an ugly sweater or tie some jingle bells to your sneakers and run or walk in a holiday road race that raises funds for a good cause.
  28. Donate your time or special skill to a community event, a neighbor, or someone in need.
  29. Let someone go ahead of you in line.
  30. Share the chocolate from your Advent calendar with a friend.

It beautifies everything it covers.

Visions of Sugar Plums…well actually just a few photos from this past week

It has been a wonderful week of preparation, festivities, relaxation, and runs.  Here are a few tidbits of what’s been happening.

This little guy came right up to the fence as we went by on our long run on Sunday.

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During the week, Bentley was uncharacteristically excited about me doing Pilates. Having an enormous, slobbery, furry friend excitedly hover above you as you try to do leg lifts is actually quite alarming. Eventually he just plunked down on my mat which was also less than helpful.

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Abby, on the other hand, is happiest when she’s sitting by a blazing fire. We call her our little “heat seeker” and figure she loves the warmth because she was a rescue from Tennessee.

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Mike and I went out to do a little shopping last weekend and stopped for a delicious lunch at When Pigs Fly. This special was listed as “soup” (their quotation marks).  It had clams, sausage, fennel, Meyer lemons,  broth, and fingerling potatoes.  It was divine!

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Their extensive beer list is one of the reasons we love to go there.

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I did an early Christmas Eve morning interval run. The weather was drizzly but the temperature was relatively mild.  Amelia’s Spotify Christmas playlist was the perfect soundtrack for this holiday run. I couldn’t resist snapping a couple of photos. It’s been unseasonably warm here in Maine so the snow is dwindling and the ice has melted.

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I thought this wreath on the wrought iron fence surrounding a historic town cemetery was picturesque and festive. I returned home feeling strong and pleased with the run.

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I have realized that I am a big fan of presents when they are still wrapped.

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Christmas Eve was very quiet-just Mike, Hannah, and I.  But we made the best of it and enjoyed trying out a new-to-us cocktail, a Moscow Mule.

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I liked the drink but I really loved the traditional copper mugs that they are served in.

Christmas day was quiet and relaxed.  We missed having Amelia and Matt here but we are working on adjusting to the new “normal”.  Having our long-time friends join us for dinner was perfect.  I was slightly alarmed to realize that my shoes matched the tablecloth! But, I do LOVE plaid!

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The day after Christmas Mike and I  headed out for our weekly long run.  We are in week two of our half marathon training for the Houston Rhythm and Blues Half Marathon which is on February 15th.

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We did eight really hilly miles and felt terrific about our efforts.

This morning the sunrise was spectacular.  I couldn’t stop taking pictures.

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I walked up into our top field to get a new perspective.

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The clouds were beautiful.

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On my way back to the house, Hannah’s pony, Chelsea, called to me as she looked out of her window.  She may have been a little miffed that I had put photographing a fleeting sunrise ahead of her breakfast. Poor Chels!

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We hope your week was warm and festive.

What was the best part of your holiday week?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ugly Sweater Run-Chicago

Deciding to go to the ASHA (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association) Convention in Chicago a year ago was easy.  Having the opportunity to immerse myself in my profession for several days has always been something that I’ve enjoyed.  But now that we were on our quest to run a road race in every state, the opportunity to go to Illinois and check off another state was the clincher.  We decided that I would go to Chicago on my own for the Convention and Mike would meet me Friday night.  We used our trusty runningintheusa.com site and found what I thought could become the most festive race yet.

Once I took a peek at the The Ugly Sweater Run website, I knew we had to do it. The video of hoards of people dressed in “ugly sweaters” with gigantic blowup Christmas decorations lining the route looked awesome.  It’s an un-timed run that is just for fun. Substitute hot chocolate for water stops and wool hats for t-shirts, keep the traditional beer party at the end and you’ve got an Ugly Sweater Run!

Before heading to Chicago, I did my best to find Mike and I ugly sweaters.  Since we had been hitting thrift stores on a regular basis as we collected white plates for Amelia’s wedding (see previous post for more details on that), it was not hard.  So I headed to Chicago with my special ugly sweater in my suitcase.

The conference was great but I was eager for Mike to join me. Unfortunately, there were a number of flight delays that resulted in him arriving at our hotel very late on Friday night.  However, he made it in time for the Saturday morning race.  Carefully planning and packing my race day attire is always my first priority when traveling.  So although it felt very bizarre to be getting ready for a race by putting on our hideous acrylic sweaters we were ready to run. We looked ridiculous.  It was perfect!

 

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I guess I was feeling a tad self-conscious about our attire as we waited to take the elevator downstairs because as soon as the elevator doors opened I blurted out, “We’re doing the Ugly Sweater Run!”  The people on the elevator thought my disclaimer was humorous but I wasn’t taking a chance that they would think we dressed like this for real.

We had debated about taking a taxi or public transportation to the race but our decision to go with the bus was perfect.  There was only one other obvious race participant on the bus when we got on but within a few blocks every stop added in more and more people who were obviously headed to the same event.  Suddenly my ugly sweater looked pretty mundane compared to the festive outfits and accessories that many people had donned. I have to admit I was actually having some sweater envy as I eyed the array of attire before me.

The pumping Christmas music blasting from the start told us we had arrived even before we saw the enormous inflatable decorations.  It was extremely windy and some of the inflatables looked precariously close to ditching their moorings.  The mood was incredibly festive and obviously the participants were not in it for a PR. Although we are used to having beer at races (and basically consider it an essential component of a good event) we were not used to seeing runners drinking beer before the race.  But they were.

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There was a sea of runners topped off with our swag wool hats.

There was a sea of  Ugly Sweater Run wool hats.

After getting the crowd jazzed up with holiday music and an enthusiastic announcer, they began to release waves of runners. The course wound around the park-like area surrounding Soldiers Field and along Lake Michigan.  The water was so choppy that waves splashed up onto the concrete sidewalk lining the lake. Along the route we were cheered on by a variety of holiday characters. When we came to the hot chocolate/water stop I definitely was not in the mood for hot chocolate and happily nabbed my paper cup of water.  Despite the cool temps and brisk wind, I was hot. Apparently acrylic ugly sweaters don’t wick away sweat. However, we finished the race feeling enthusiastic and energized. It was a great race that we would definitely think of doing again in another location

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We sampled some Sam Adams and soaked up a little more Christmas spirit before heading back to our hotel. After changing into much less festive attire we ventured to the Navy Pier for lunch at Riva Cafe.

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There was a great view of Lake Michigan and we enjoyed watching large ferries/tour boats (?) maneuver into their moorings.

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That evening we enjoyed dinner at an upscale beer pub recommended by our hotel concierge.

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The beer and drink menu was extensive so we celebrated the completion of our 15th state.

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The presentation of our dessert donuts and dipping sauces was adorable.

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The next morning we awoke to a thunder storm so opted out of an early run. The storm passed but it was incredibly balmy and windy as we walked to Millennium Park after breakfast.  We were enthralled with the Cloud Gate sculpture, also known as “The Bean”.  The skies were intense which made for some dramatic photos.

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I love this shot where you can see me taking the photo of Mike.

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We reluctantly left the city for the airport.  With the intense winds and previous thunder storms we were anticipating that our flight might be delayed.  But American Airlines kept indicating it was on time…until exactly five minutes after we arrived at our gate at which point the flight was cancelled! Very intense storms were suddenly pummeling the airport.  “Cancelled” statuses were filling the flight screens. We miraculously found a desk with a gate attendant who was able to book us on a flight the next day AND gave us vouchers for “a good rate” at an airport hotel.

We checked into our hotel and found that it was indeed a very good deal, i.e. free!  We felt lucky to have been given this perk. However, as we watched the news coverage of the storms, we learned that more than 40 tornadoes had touched down just south of Chicago.  Sadly, four people were killed by these severe storms. We felt so fortunate to have only been slightly inconvenienced by having our travel home delayed by a day.

Despite the unexpected ending to our trip to Chicago, we had enjoyed a fabulous time in the city and had a very merry Ugly Sweater Run.  Although my runs at home this time of year don’t have quite the excitement of the Ugly Sweater Run, I am loving running to this festive Spotify holiday playlist that Amelia created. Hearing sleigh bells as I run or doing intervals to “Run Run Rudolph” really adds to the Christmas spirit. It’s a perfect soundtrack for actual running or for running around doing holiday prep and just enjoying the season.

Merry Christmas!

State: Illinois

Quest Race #: 15

Date Run: November 16, 2013

The Bottom Line: The Ugly Sweater Run was definitely the most fun race we have done in our quest.  We think that doing Ugly Sweater Runs in other locations would make a great holiday tradition.