Saturday, May 29, 2010

Day 25 saw me bringing in cookies from the Cake Shop for the office.

Day 26's gift was buying lunch for our regular lunch buddy who was running late.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Rewards for Charities

For many years I have participated in online reward programs, earning points or beenz (remember them?) and cashing them in for coupons or gift cards or cash. I've completed hundreds of online surveys, also for rewards.  Today I went through each of the reward programs that I participate in to see if I had enough points accumulated to make a donation to a charitable organization or two instead of saving them up for yet another gift card to the Cracker Barrel.  So Day 24 saw me reducing my point balances for my gift of the day.  For what it's worth, Habitat for Humanity (via mycokerewards) was the biggest beneficiary today.  Guess we'll have to wait awhile before we get those Universal tickets.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Days 21 - 23

Giving Day 21:  Sunday. We are regular contributors to the local congregation where we worship, so I hesitate to count our contribution as my Day 21 gift.  We passed out three more graduation cards with cash, but I've counted that sort of activity before.  DS had a piano recital and we took a fruit tray for the reception afterwards.  Does that count?  I look at the activities of the day and realize that while none of them seem out of the ordinary, maybe I've been more of a giver all along than I gave myself credit for.
 
Giving Day 22:  One of our coworkers is a remote worker. Her birthday is this week. Our boss got a card for her but didn't have a stamp. I gave her a stamp and took the card to the mailbox.  Just because you don't come into the office every day doesn't make you less a part of the office team; so we wanted to be sure to get her card to her.
 
Giving Day 23:  My DH's office has just completed a round of inspections and accreditation activities.  As a thank you to all the folks who worked hard to make it successful, we took them out for lunch today. On our dime.  Our Day 23 gift.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Day 19 and 20...

I debated about whether to count an extra graduation card / cash gift for Day 19 since the young man who was the recipient was not on my original planned-for list of graduates. And when I got to the end of the day with absolutely nothing else that I could think of that was deserving of "gift" title, I will settle for that.

Day 20 was easier - a donation of goods from our clearing out closets and such to the local Goodwill store.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A change of plans

Our local grocery store often has brown bags of food that you can purchase for donation to the local food bank. For Day 18's gift, I thought that, while I was at the store getting eggs for a last minute recipe, that I would just empty out what's left in my grocery budget for the week and spend it on that. But when I got to the store, I couldn't find them. I got the eggs and at check out, asked about the bags. Turns out they only have them around the holidays - Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.

I was stymied for what to do for today's gift. I had been the recipient of two gifts today - the shorts in the previous blog entry and birthday cookies from one of my coworkers. I'm celebrating my birthday all month. But no idea for what to do. Coming home from the grocery store, I thought about my visit with my friend on Day 8 at Hospice House. She has gone home from there for a while, but still been on my mind. And that made it clear to me that today's gift could be a donation to Hospice House in her honor. I went online to see how I could donate and they have a really easy donation page - and they have the option to use PayPal. I had money in my PayPal account from various online surveys that I've done, so click, click, click and my donation was made.

I love how easy it is to give!

One man's trash...

Or in this case, one family's trash is another family's treasure! 
 
My children and I took taekwondo lessons for several years, each of us achieving our black belt plus degrees, but then things got to where they didn't want to continue with lessons and my schedule filled up so I wasn't able to go regularly.  So our TKD gear has been in a pile in our front hallway for many months now.  We don't use our front hallway often, so it became a good storage area.
 
My husband has wanted me to go through and find a better place to store the gear so that our front hallway is open again. I decided I would do just that for Day 17's giving.  Most of the gear went right into the trashbag because the children have outgrown it so even if they began lessons again, they would need new gear. Mine was wearing out, and last summer I had tried to return to training but once school started, it just didn't fit, so I know I won't be training again any time soon.  But while I was sorting through the gear, I found a couple of items that can be passed along to others because it wasn't used-up nor compromised in any way for its performance.
 
That's where the trash part comes in.  We have a family that we often hand things down to, and one of their sons is a beginning in TKD lessons.  They are about to purchase his gear, so we gave them the pieces that are "optional" gear that can be re-used.  The family was happy to get these items because it's that much less they'll have to spend!
 
So my gift for Day 17 was cleaning out the front hallway, something my husband really wanted!  And the bonus was being able to take part of that and give it a second life with a family that can use it.
 
And speaking of treasure, a coworker emailed me today that she had two bags of shorts for me to have for my sons if they could use them. Turns out they are just the right size for where my guys are.  She said she didn't know why she hadn't thought of me for handing things down to before now.  Somehow I think my participation in the 29-days-of-giving (which she doesn't know about) set some karma into the universe. What's great is that I was thinking that I needed to get the boys some new shorts for the summer. And now I don't have to!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Pizza for Dinner

We have had a long-standing tradition in our family that Tuesday is pizza night.  We used to go to Pizza Hut because they had the kids-eat-free from the buffet on Tuesday nights.  Then we switched to Papa Johns because we always had good coupons and loved their pizza, but they were a bit out of the way and we weren't in their delivery zone.  Sometimes we would go to the Leaning Tower Pizzaria for a change of pace. But for the last several months, we've been getting "2 For Tuesday" pizza from Dominoes. It's right on the way home, so my husband picks up our order on his way to get the kids from school in the afternoon while I'm still at work.  In fact, we've been getting Dominoes so regularly that when we were out of town for a few weeks, the manager asked what happened to us when my husband stopped in again.  They know his order from their phone-order system and we have the price down to the penny.
 
Because I've been actively trying to lose weight for the last few months, I don't always eat pizza on Tuesday nights, but when I do, I've saved up enough Weight Watcher points for the day to have a slice of cheese and a slice of pepperoni.  There are usually three slices left so if I don't eat any, we usually end up throwing them away.  Yeah, my kids are weird in that they won't eat cold pizza and they don't like it reheated.
 
So late yesterday afternoon, my phone rings at work and it's my younger son.  He has called to ask if I wanted any pizza and told me there were just two pieces left, one cheese and one pepperoni.  I figured if he was calling, it was because he wanted another slice, not just to find out what my dinner plans were.  Because never have they called about pizza. 
 
My Day 16 gift was to skip the pizza so that he could have it.  It was something he really wanted but he was going to skip it because in his mind, they were my pizza slices... and as such, they were mine to give!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Day 15: Congratulations on your Graduation

We know several young people who are graduating from high school this year.  It's been our tradition to give graduating seniors a monetary gift.  Usually I'm such a slacker that I end up just slipping them a $20 when I see them sometime before they go to college, no note, no card, nothing but some cool cash in the hand.  They are always appreciative and while I always tell them no need to write a thank you note (since I didn't make the effort to put it in a card), I generally get a nicely written note of thanks.
 
As part of my 29 days of giving, Day 15 found me with a box of blank half-fold cards and access to a wonderful color printer that will "flip on the short side" to print on both the front and back of the paper.  Following the instructions, I was able to design a Congratulations on your Graduation card for each of the students we know.  So with that, I wrote out the checks for those who we don't see regularly and was able to put them in the mail.  My 15th day of giving: Graduation cards and money.  And the knowledge that I didn't take the easy way out. And I'm not late!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Gift cards, donations, and coupons

The weekend yielded three days of giving, and each day was something different.
 
Day 12.  A few years ago, we were blessed to meet a wonderful woman at our son's school who has truly been someone who made a difference in him having a successful middle school experience.  As it turns out, we know her husband as well and often run into them at the local warehouse store.  Our son has only a few more weeks at this school, so we wanted to do something for her ... we know that without her taking a particular interest in him, his experience at the school would've been different, and not in a good way.  My Day 12 giving is a gift card to the warehouse store.
 
Day 13.  As we were driving into town for our weekend errands, the Shriners were out in force collecting donations for the Shriner's Children's Hospitals. Thankfully we've never needed their services, but we know how important they are for families that do. I dug into my purse and made a donation from my car window.
 
Day 14.  I'm frugal to some degree, and if there's a coupon to be had for something, I usually know about it.  On Sundays, we go to a local Mexican restaurant for lunch.  Sometimes they have coupons in the MiniMint, but the only one we can use is for the free cup of queso. They have another one that is $5 off $25, but we never spend that much for our lunch.  On Day 14, we saw some folks we know from church who were having a family dinner.  Mom, Dad, both their grown sons, their spouses, their children, and a friend.  We chatted with them for a few minutes and then after we went back to the table, I realized that they just might be able to take advantage of the coupon.  So I gave it to them.  After we were done, they were leaving at the same time as us, and as it turned out, one of the sons was able to use it not just for his family but because he was picking up the check for the friend (who is a college student).  He told me afterwards thanks for the coupon because it pretty much covered the lunch for her that they were going to get for her. So it was a gift that gave a bit more!
 
Two weeks in, two weeks to go.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Day 11's Gift

A couple of years ago, my office was hiring someone to work for a short period of time on a grant we had received. And while our office is part of a larger organization, we are a small unit and don't have much in the way of space, equipment, or furniture. So we scavenged the hallways for stuff that other groups were replacing or just getting rid of to put together enough to furnish the closet that we were turning into an "office."
 
Fast forward to a few months ago and we were yet again in the position of hiring someone to work with us on a grant, and unfortunately for her, the space was just as crammed and ill-furnished as our first hire was. And the furniture is a little worse-for-wear.
 
A notice came out that another group was getting rid of "surplus" furniture. Usually "surplus" means the leg is bent, the drawer sticks, the wheels won't roll, or something else entirely is wrong - either functionally or aesthetically - with the item.  But I went to look anyway, and lo, and behold, there was an intact computer desk on wheels that worked, with a sliding drawer that slides, and shelves that actually have all the supports for them. The only thing "wrong" with it was the dust that was accumulating from it having been in an unoccupied space for several months.
 
I knew it was so much better than what our coworker has in her space. And that it would not only fit in her space, but it would provide a better working surface for her.   So Day 11's gift is the gift of a new used computer desk.  While it wasn't originally mine to "give," it was mine to "find" and then give to her.  She is thriilled with it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Give life. Donate blood.

So the previously reported Day 10 giving of chocolate was really on Day 9.  I won't go back and edit it to change it, but just wanted to mention that.
 
The real Day 10 giving is the donation of blood.  I usually give blood when the bloodmobile comes to my workplace every 10-12 weeks, but then the blood donation center is right across from work.  So instead of making a convenient donation of when they are at my workplace, I made a purposeful decision to go across the street to donate blood.  It takes about 45 minutes from the time you go in until you're done. 
 
 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Chocolate hugs

Giving Day 10.  My office has had a long-standing tradition of a candy dish.  There's no particular rule about it in terms of who fills it or with what, but generally it has chocolate, and it is usually generously filled, particularly after a chocolate-holiday like Valentine's Day and Easter.  But for the last three weeks, the dish has sat on the credenza in a state of utter emptiness. 
 
So this morning, I decided my gift would be to bring in some chocolate for the office.  Our local grocery store had Dove chocolates on sale.  We all like the good chocolate.  And while most of us prefer the milk chocolate, there are a few who prefer the dark, so I bought a bag of each.  My coworkers are happy to have chocolate again. And interestingly enough, the wrapper for the piece I just had says inside:  A hug is a great gift -- one size fits all.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Of peppermints and Hospice

Giving Day 7:  I've always carried peppermints in my purse. I mostly like to have one when I'm driving or when I need to sit quietly, and I much prefer having a piece of candy to chewing gum.  As such, most Sundays and Wednesdays, I enjoy having a peppermint during the Bible class lessons or sermons.  There is an older couple that usually sit behind us, and through the years, I've been his peppermint-supplier.  But then one day, I ran out, and our local warehouse store didn't carry them any more.  That was several months ago.  I've looked for them elsewhere but never found the ones I want until the afternoon of Day 7 when I spied a large bag at Walmart. 
 
I was in Walmart that day looking for a Mother's Day card and thinking that buying the card on Mother's  Day and mailing it the day after would absolutely not count towards my giving project.  I was thinking I might pick up a bag of chocolate for the office to use for Day 8, but I still didn't have anything for Day 7.  But when I saw the bag full of red-and-white round discs, I knew what I had to do!  After getting the peppermints home, I found a quart-sized baggie and filled to to the very top where it would barely zip closed and then put the baggie with my church bag for the evening.  When we arrived at services, the couple wasn't there, but they did come in just as things were getting started.  I was so excited to give him the surprise bag of peppermints!  His wife took them from me as I handed them back so she could dole them out to him.  Later on during services, I heard the familiar muffled crackling of the wrapper.  All was well!
 
 
Giving Day 8:  When I began college, I met a wonderful couple who served as the Campus Ministers at the church I attended. They were there to help guide us as we were on our own for the first time and keep us focused on what's important - our faith.  They provided me with support, love, kindness, a place to study or just to get away from roommates.  As the years went on and their work shifted to other areas (both continued in areas of support and assistance to others), I would see them from time to time.  They came to my wedding.  I would see them around town at various places and always stop to say hi.  We always picked up right where we left off.  
 
 In recent years, she began an arduous battle with cancer.  Much of it was during a time that I didn't see them; her battle kept them from their usual places which meant I didn't run into them.  Time went on.  We became friends on Facebook, and about a year and a half ago, we got together on purpose for lunch. She was doing well at the time, but then the cancer came back.  And this time there isn't much left to do but manage the pain.  I got word that she is at the local hospice house, but my contact wasn't sure if she was still there or not. 
 
So this morning as I was driving to work, I felt compelled to find out.  My workplace is only a few blocks away, so I thought I would get into the office and call to find out.  But as I was driving, my car turned down the road to the house rather than to the office. And I am so glad it did.  She was awake and alert and seemed glad to see me and for the visit. Her husband was out getting coffee at the time, so I sat with her until after he came back. It was so good to see both of them.  My gift today was the visit and I hope a bit of encouragement and a lot of love. Some people have an effect on you that lasts a lifetime.  For me, she's one of those people.  A blessing.  My thoughts and prayers will continue with them.
 
And a great big shout-out to Hospice!  My charity of choice.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Stamp Out Hunger

I was trying to decide what I might do for today's on-purpose giving
while I was clearing off the dining room table from the week's mail
and school papers. And there in the midst of it all was a postcard
saying that today, May 8th, is Stamp Out Hunger day. That means that
the mail carrier will pick up non-perishable foods for the local food
bank.

Several months ago I had cleared our pantry and have made every effort
to not buy things that would just be wasted. So when I checked the
pantry today, the items I picked for donation were all things that we
would actually be using. So this wasn't just a convenient way to clear
out the pantry, it was a wonderful way to fulfill Day 6 of giving.

Friday, May 07, 2010

A birthday gift card

My niece is turning 15 this weekend. It's been hard enough for me to think of her as a teenager, but to know that she's turning 15 just solidifies that she is well and truly on her way to being a young woman.  She's been taller than me since some holiday early last year, and I know she's smarter than me about loads of book-stuff. She's inquisitive and kind. And she's having a birthday!
 
Slacker-aunt that I am, I didn't get a card mailed to her.  And I didn't send her a check that she'd have to get her parents to take her to cash, and I don't like sending cash in the mail, and I didn't get to the store to get her anything. But thanks to the wonders of e-commerce and a broadband connection to the internet along with some extra funds in my paypal account, I am sending a gift card to WalMart to be delivered directly to her in the next five to seven business days.  This girl loves shopping at WalMart and always has a wish-list, so it's perfect for her.
 
So happy birthday, dear niece of mine!  I'm glad you'll be the recipient of Day 5 of of my 29 days of giving.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Money in the Boot

Day 4 - May 6th.
 
My uncle died with muscular dystrophy when he was twelve years old.  That was back in the early 1960s, before I was born, and before as much was known about this debilitating disease.  I remember the picture of him hanging in my grandparents home, and now it hangs in my parents' home.  My mother was quite a bit older than her half-brother and she had wonderful stories to tell about him growing up, and then not-so-wonderful memories of his body failing him as a youngster.
 
Because of this family connection, the Muscular Dystrophy Association (www.mda.org)  was an organization that my family supported financially through the years. I remember watching the MDA Telethon every Labor Day weekend as a child and even making my own pledge from money I'd been saving.
 
This morning after dropping my children off at school, the local fire department was out collecting money for the MDA.  My gift today was a monetary contribution to the MDA, dropped into the firefighter's boot. 

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The Gift of Doing

Today is my third day of 29 Gifts giving.  I knew last night what I wanted to give today. But first a little background.
 
My husband takes great care of me, our children, our house, our yard, all the things both big and small that make our family comfortable. When we married over 18 years ago, we made an agreement that while I would take care of the family paperwork, bill-paying, etc., he would clean the bathrooms.  That seemed like a fair exchange as I don't mind the paperwork and do mind bathroom cleaning, and he minds bill-paying, but doesn't mind cleaning the bathroom.  Over the course of time, the bathroom cleaning became all sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming.  In addition, he takes care of the yard, the car maintenance, and the garbage.  And he doesn't complain.  He doesn't procrastinate.  He just gets in there and takes care of what needs to be done.  I asked him about that recently and he said that he just does it because it needs to be done. He doesn't enjoy it, but he knows when he has something that has to be done, it's best to just get in there and do it.
 
Today is garbage day.  Which means when he comes home from work, he'll have to drag the recycle bins and garbage can from the street back to the house.  He leaves for work so early in the morning that the sun hasn't even come up.  When I was thinking about today's gift, I thought that I would surprise him by bringing the bins back to the garage.  So when I heard the recycle truck go by, I did just that!  I haven't told him, and I won't ask him about it when I get home from work myself. I wonder if he'll even mention that the bins were already collected. 
 
The best part is that even if he doesn't, I know it made his afternoon a little easier.  And that giving doesn't have to be tangible things. That sometimes the best gift can be having something done for you, especially if it's something you do because you have to.
 
 

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

29 Gifts - The Beginning

A few months ago, I read an article about the book 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life, by Cami Walker ( http://www.29gifts.org/ ).  Our local library's summary reads:
 
"This is the powerful story of the author's struggle with multiple sclerosis and how a healer's unusual prescription of mindful altruism--to "give away 29 gifts in 29 days"--ignited her energy, her happiness, and invited more abundance into her life."
 
I was intrigued by the concept of making a conscious effort to give for 29 days in a row.  To make a concerted effort to give something, anything, to someone else.  I read the book and felt compelled to participate.  One of the premises is that if you skip a day, you should start over.  And that you should chronicle what you give.  My initial read of the book was in late December - a perfect time for giving, or so I thought. But five days in and I missed a day. And then another day. Followed by another.
 
But my thoughts about doing this didn't leave me. And I again feel compelled to try again. My birthday was on Sunday. I treat my birthday much the same as many people treat New Year's Day - as a beginning, a time to restart.
 
So I'm giving this a go again.  (Sorry for the pun.)  I began yesterday, May 3rd. I may not post every day about what I find to give, but I am committed to making a record of it even if I collapse several days into a single entry.
 
May 3rd.  A co-worker has been out for a few weeks awaiting back surgery (which she had today). Between the days out ahead of surgery and the days she'll miss for recovery, her paid-leave has been exhausted. Our workplace allows us to donate sick-leave to other employees in circumstances such as hers. My gift for Monday, May 3rd, was the gift of a day.
 
May 4th.  Regarding my aforementioned birthday, I received some unexpected gifts from friends. I have been truly celebrated and profusely expressed my thanks in person. My gift today are the hand-written thank you notes which more than just say thank you for the gifts, but specifically tell them what they mean to me and my family.  I think it's important to not only tell people that, but to hear it about yourself.  So maybe my gift is a "warm fuzzy feeling" to them. I hope so.
 
If you get a chance to read the book or visit the website, please do. And if you're moved to participate in the 29 Gifts, let me know; I'd love to read about your journey.