Tag Archives: family

25 Days of Giving Day Twenty-One: Forgive and Forget

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Everyone wants to be heard. It’s a natural, inherent desire that often has the power to lift you up, and can sometimes bring you down. The up? Kind words, personal validation, anything that lightens your load. The down? Meaningless conflict, petty arguments, self-righteous posturing that takes the air out of a room and returns…nothing.

The Giving Challenge for today is to Forgive and Forget, and the scope of that forgiveness is entirely up to you. Maybe it’s as simple as ignoring a Facebook comment that only ignites one side of a debate. Maybe it’s more difficult, like excusing a longstanding grudge that, when you look at it from the inside out, grew stale long before its expiration date.

Whatever you choose, there’s one thing, based on personal experience, that I know for sure. The greatest beneficiary of your gift will be you.

I saw this on the backside of a bathroom stall at my son's basketball tournament yesterday. Proof positive that inspiration can come from really strange places.

I saw this written on the backside of a bathroom stall at my son’s basketball tournament yesterday. Proof positive that inspiration can come from really strange places.

*If you’re wondering what happened to days nineteen and twenty? So am I.

 I, Gemini Girl, have interrupted my non-existent programming to bring you the 25 Days of Giving Challenge. Please join me in my quest, over the next 25 days(ish), to make people happy. I’ll share stories of giving escapades that will be sure to wow, delight, or at least not annoy anyone who chooses to participate. Each Day of Giving will be conveniently brought to you via email if you follow this blog. And if you’re already a follower? Pass it onto your friends. If we work together we can change the world, or at least dramatically improve my hit ratio.

25 Days of Giving Day Eighteen: Make Someone Laugh

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The Giving Challenge for today is to Make Someone Laugh. If you’re not feeling particularly funny, just tickle someone, preferably not a cop, priest, or your parole officer.

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One from the archives. Happy Holidays from our family to yours!

 I, Gemini Girl, have interrupted my non-existent programming to bring you the 25 Days of Giving Challenge. Please join me in my quest, over the next 25 days, to make people happy. I’ll share stories of giving escapades that will be sure to wow, delight, or at least not annoy anyone who chooses to participate. Each Day of Giving will be conveniently brought to you via email if you follow this blog. And if you’re already a follower? Pass it onto your friends. If we work together we can change the world, or at least dramatically improve my hit ratio.

25 Days of Giving Day Seventeen: Check Your Ego At The Door

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Birmingham, AL: $481.00. Charleston, WV: $1,000.00. Moraine, OH: $15,000.00. Bellingham, MA: $20,000.00.

All the denominations listed above are payments that Secret Santas across the country have donated towards items, often toys and children’s clothes, held on layaway. I love the anonymity of these acts because secretly extending a helping hand to another person is the purist form of giving. The reward is internal, not external, yet the act is powerful, emanating from the most complicated organ any of us possess: the heart.

With that in mind, The Giving Challenge for today is to Do Something Anonymous. Even though the generous folks in the scenarios above parted with cash for their anonymous acts of kindness, you don’t have to spend money to secretly do something nice. If you’re having trouble figuring out what that might be, use the photos below for inspiration. It took me about 60 seconds to roam the house this morning for examples of how a child (let’s say mine), could anonymously make someone’s day (again, let’s use me as an example), by doing something kind in secret (one more time, for me).

 

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Thanks to mysterious shadowing created by the iconic IKEA Maskros pendant light, you can’t even tell that my middle child’s bed is never made. Like ever. Not in the history of never is it ever made. What a gift from the heavens, if, just once, I could walk into her room and not see, you know…this.

 

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One of my top Secret Santa wishes is that my kids will someday hang up the clean clothes that I wash, dry, fold, and organize into neat piles to be put away. This is a picture of those very treasured possessions, thrown in a heap onto a dresser by my youngest daughter. While no animals were harmed in the making of these photos, our dog is seriously scared shitless to go into Essa’s room.

 

We are the world. We are the children. We are the ones who make a brighter day when we f****** hang up our towels.

We are the world.
We are the children.
We are the ones who make a brighter day when we f****** hang up our towels.

 

We are the world. We are the children. We are the ones who make a brighter day when we f******* close our dresser drawers.

Ahhh, the infamous “I’ve got way too much homework to close my drawers” excuse. Full discloser: nothing in this picture was photoshopped to make my kids’ crap look skinnier than it is.

 

No words for this one.

No words for this one. Not one.

So there you have it. Several real-world examples of how to anonymously make someone’s day. With those thoughts in mind, go out and do something secretly fantastic, and stop by my house if you need some inspiration.

I, Gemini Girl, have interrupted my non-existent programming to bring you the 25 Days of Giving Challenge. Please join me in my quest, over the next 25 days, to make people happy. I’ll share stories of giving escapades that will be sure to wow, delight, or at least not annoy anyone who chooses to participate. Each Day of Giving will be conveniently brought to you via email if you follow this blog. And if you’re already a follower? Pass it onto your friends. If we work together we can change the world, or at least dramatically improve my hit ratio.

25 Days of Giving Day Fifteen: Speak Up for Someone Who Can’t Speak for Themselves

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Not long ago, I found myself rushing to the grocery store to get something one of my kids needed the next day for school. It was late and I was tired, preoccupied, and annoyed. Like most moms, I was running behind an endless to-do list that seemed to square itself and multiply whenever I wasn’t looking. Snow swirled outside, it was an unusually frigid night, and a humid chill was biting, snapping, and pushing people indoors. All I wanted to do was get what I needed, check out, and go home.

Turning down the frozen food aisle, I came upon a young boy, about my son’s age, and an old man. The man was huge; well over six feet tall, unshaven, wearing dirty old jeans, suspenders, and an untucked shirt.

The boy? Small. Cowering. A little disheveled as he gazed up at the man while simultaneously trying to avoid meeting the harsh gaze in his eyes. He reached for a frozen pizza, and the old man smacked it out of his hand, mocked his sagging posture, and demanded, “What do you think I am, an ATM?”

The boy looked down at his feet and didn’t say a word.

In that moment, I knew something was wrong.

I slowed down, eased up close, cleared my throat, and tried to make myself known. The old man realized I was there, made eye contact, and didn’t smile. I didn’t smile back. Then he grabbed the boy by the shoulder, threw a glare in my direction, and dragged him toward the door.

I felt a mixture of emotions in that moment…anger, confusion, pain, sadness…but the one that overwhelmed me and now makes me feel ashamed?

Fear.

That man scared me, and in a split second I used fear to assess and rationalize what I was about to not do…my husband was out of town, the kids were home alone, and the storm outside was getting worse. In an attempt to justify my inaction, I convinced myself that the old man was probably the boy’s grandfather, unemployed, and having a bad day.

Except my gut told me that wasn’t the case. The little boy needed help, and I didn’t extend my hand.

I’d give anything to have that moment in the grocery store back, to actually listen to my sixth sense instead of brushing it aside, to have made a different choice. But it’s gone. Left alone, the voice of indecision becomes that of regret, and it doesn’t go away.

I’m now haunted by that innocent child in the grocery store, wondering where he is, and at the same time, who I failed to be. The Challenge for Day Fifteen is to speak for someone who can’t speak for themselves. I realize this opportunity may not present itself today, but it will in the not too distant future. Whether it’s helping an elderly woman who’s struggling to get her groceries from the cart to her car, saying “hi” to a kid at school who seems to always end up on the wrong side of everyone’s jokes, or diffusing a tense situation with a smile, whenever you take the opportunity to help someone who’s in a worse place than you, you give them a voice.

If you’d like to help an innocent child, please visit http://www.casaforchildren.org.

I, Gemini Girl, have interrupted my non-existent programming to bring you the 25 Days of Giving Challenge. Please join me in my quest, over the next 25 days, to make people happy. I’ll share stories of giving escapades that will be sure to wow, delight, or at least not annoy anyone who chooses to participate. Each Day of Giving will be conveniently brought to you via email if you follow this blog. And if you’re already a follower? Pass it onto your friends. If we work together we can change the world, or at least dramatically improve my hit ratio.

25 Days of Giving Days Six and Seven: Get Inked

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I’m a textbook discarder. Anytime my husband brings something into the house, I’m on my way through a different door hauling something out. I’m all about clean lines, order, and lists. Lots and lots of lists.

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The Story of My Life. Literally.

Giving away unnecessary stuff makes me feel good, and a lack of clutter equals a lack of complication in some kind of metaphysical, big life meaning thingy that I haven’t quite figured out.

Ironically though, the only thing I won’t let go of is memories. Not the painful ones that wake you up in the middle of the night with a big, fat “why?” staring down from the ceiling. Those conveniently go out with the trash as soon as I can gather them up. I’m talking about the good ones. The real, sometimes raw, but more often relevant things from the past that have made a big contribution to my present. I have every high school note, my letters from college, cards given back and forth for special events…all of it. It’s a treasure trove of boyfriends, break-ups, and besties that I can’t live without.

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But thanks to the worldwide web and the ghost of Steve Jobs, collecting memories is harder today than it used to be. We email instead of pulling out paper and pen, and thank you notes have almost become a thing of the past because it’s so much easier to text a quick line or two instead. Just like that, some of our best memories are deleted instead of being filed away for a rainy day.

Life is busy, and even though any kind of connection counts, there’s nothing like opening the mailbox expecting bills and finding a letter from a friend. So the task for Days 6 and 7 is to write a letter, because it’s a foolproof way to make someone you care about smile. Even though it takes more time than an email or a text, the reward is well worth the investment. All the way around.

So who are you going to write this weekend? We’re all writing to Aunt Mid, who at 96 has thrown in the towel for her annual holiday trip from Nebraska to Colorado. She’s an amazing woman, and hopefully our letters will help make her Christmas a little more shiny and bright.

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Aunt Mid at the tender age of 94.

I, Gemini Girl, have interrupted my non-existent programming to bring you the 25 Days of Giving Challenge. Please join me in my quest, over the next 25 days, to make people happy. I’ll share stories of giving escapades that will be sure to wow, delight, or at least not annoy anyone who chooses to participate. Each Day of Giving will be conveniently brought to you via email if you follow this blog. And if you’re already a follower? Pass it onto your friends. If we work together we can change the world, or at least dramatically improve my hit ratio.

25 Days of Giving Day Four: Find the Silver Lining

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When I was two years old my parents got divorced. I was lucky in a way, because at the time I was too young to understand that separation, at it’s most basic level, is the physical manifestation of pain being split in two.

By the time I’d turned five Mom had remarried. We left Atlanta, where our entire family was from, and moved to Louisville, where I ultimately grew up. Back then, fathers didn’t have the same parenting rights as today, so with a brand new puppy under one arm and a pack of candy cigarettes in my hand, I waved goodbye to my father as my stepdad’s sleek, silver Thunderbird rolled down the driveway, through Tennessee (“See Rock City!”), and toward a new life.

As time went by, pieces of my old family became seedlings for another, and when my amazing baby brother was born, my new family was complete, but in a different kind of way. There was someone else present who, even though he wasn’t part of this new unit, was still in the mix because he was attached to me.

My father.

I wouldn’t say things were perfect between my mother and father, because even when bad memories fade they leave a scar. But Mom always held the door open for visits, and my father never missed an opportunity to take any time with me that she was willing to share.

As years passed and I became increasingly comfortable with my family dynamics, I began to see myself as lucky, even though it wasn’t always easy. I was a Whitten and everyone else I lived with was a Logan, I felt like a misfit in the world of seemingly perfect families on my block, and I sometimes had to paint a smile on my face when all I wanted to do was cry. But intermingled with the sad was something that no other kid I knew could match. Not only did I have one great dad, I had two, with different but equally important ideas, strengths, influences, opinions, and dreams…and one huge commonality. They both loved me, in a way that only a father can. Times two.

So the challenge, for Day Four, is to find the silver lining in a bad situation or event. In some unfortunate incidents it simply doesn’t exist, which, regrettably, is the true definition of tragedy. But in many cases, good can be salvaged from bad. If you can find happiness in something that at first only brought pain, it’s a gift to yourself that never goes away.

Divorce, like life, is complicated. It’s messy and raw, and carefully drawn colors end up bleeding outside the lines. Sometimes though, if we’re lucky, the things that hurt most end up helping us in the end.

I, Gemini Girl, have interrupted my non-existent programming to bring you the 25 Days of Giving Challenge. Please join me in my quest, over the next 25 days, to make people happy. I’ll share stories of giving escapades that will be sure to wow, impress, or at least not annoy anyone who chooses to participate. Each Day of Giving will be conveniently brought to you via email if you follow this blog. And if you’re already a follower? Pass it onto your friends. If we work together we can change the world, or at least dramatically improve my hit ratio.

25 Days of Giving Day Three: Free Up Some Space

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It never fails that when I’m in line at Costco with a double-wide full of everything I don’t need, some guy is patiently standing behind me with three packages of flan. So I step aside.

My definition of purgatory. Image via homelyplanet.com

I’m always surprised at how appreciative people are when I let them go first, but when I think about it more deeply, I realize that I’m always rushing, pressed for time, often trying to fit way too much into a day that simply can’t stretch beyond the bounds of a ticking clock. And so is everyone else.

When you give up space, you’re literally telling someone that for the moment you consider their needs more important than yours. It’s such a simple connection point and serves as a tangible way to tell somebody, often a stranger, that they matter.

So for Day Three I’m asking you to let someone else go first. Whether it’s a spot in line, a parking space at the mall, or simply pausing to let the person behind you walk through the door ahead of you, give it a try. It’s a kindness that costs next to nothing, and you’ll find that the reward is truly worth the wait.

I, Gemini Girl, have interrupted my non-existent programming to bring you the 25 Days of Giving Challenge. Please join me in my quest, over the next 25 days, to make people happy. I’ll share stories of giving escapades that will be sure to wow, delight, or at least not annoy anyone who chooses to participate. Each Day of Giving will be conveniently brought to you via email if you follow this blog. And if you’re already a follower? Pass it onto your friends. If we work together we can change the world, or at least dramatically improve my hit ratio.

25 Days of Giving Day Two: Say Thank You

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Thank you. Why are two of the simplest words in the English language sometimes so hard to say?

When I was a senior in high school, I applied to two colleges. The first was the school I was destined to attend. The second? An afterthought, just in case the world’s largest sink hole, triggered by a flying unicorn tethered to an alien spacecraft piloted by Tom Cruise, happened to swallow my first choice whole.

Image via ewrewd.files.wordpress.com

That didn’t happen. Instead I was wait-listed, which for me, was the equivalent of being tethered to an alien spacecraft piloted by Tom Cruise. After getting the news, I became completely unmoored and sullen, sequestering myself in my closet with Erasure’s Oh L’Amour pounding through the headphones of my Sony Mega Bass Sports Walkman over, and over, and over.

After about a week of intense suffering, understood only by Sting via his howling lyrics on King of Pain (which was also in heavy rotation on the cassette player in my car), my dad told me to shower, put on some clean clothes, and pull out my 1/2 inch curling iron…it was time for a father-daughter road trip.

Somehow, we ended up at Miami University that day, and before I knew what was happening, I found myself face-to-face with the Dean of Admissions, better known as The Dream Crusher. I sat, immobilized by fear, as Dad listed virtues I didn’t even know I had in his pitch to get me a spot in the incoming freshman class. This wonderful man, who had never, not once in my eighteen years of life, raised his voice against me was raising it for me, to the roof.

If you asked, Dad would tell you what he did was no big deal, and that he really just wanted to create some space between himself and my constant feed of synthesizer-heavy, sappy songs. But I disagree. I think what he did was extraordinary. He stood up for me at a time in life when I didn’t know how to stand up for myself and taught me that when you want something to change, the first thing you do is ask. Huge lessons on a short road trip that got me into the school of my dreams and altered the course of my life. For that?

Thank you Dad.

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My Dad

If you can, make today’s thank you a little special. Think about something you’ve left unsettled, listen to the voice inside your head that never sleeps (I have about twelve), and dig a little deeper under the surface of obvious. Thank you. Two simple words that, the more you say, the easier they are to pronounce.

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I, Gemini Girl, have interrupted my non-existent scheduled programming to bring you the 25 Days of Giving Challenge. Please join me in my quest, over the next 25 days, to make people happy. I’ll share stories of giving escapades that will be sure to wow, impress, or at least not annoy anyone who chooses to participate. Each Day of Giving will be conveniently brought to you via email if you follow this blog. And if you’re already a follower? Pass it onto your friends. If we work together we can change the world, or at least dramatically improve my hit ratio.

 

How To Put The “Me” In Just About Every Meal

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Thanksgiving is here, and while many aspiring at-home chefs dream of salt pigs, Crisco, and Paula Deen, I’m trying to decide how to kick my relatives out of the house so I can focus on the one holiday each year that really matters.

My Birthday.

Yum.

In order to plan the secret getaway my husband will surprise me with next June, I need time. And space. And solitude. I also need money, but I’m pretty much gonna leave that one up to him.

Since airfare is cheapest right around 5:00 p.m. (and a rainbow unicorn will clean the kitchen before everyone gets here in a few hours), I need to focus on avoiding a connection through O’Hare at the exact time every afternoon that I should be whipping up a wheatgrass shake, some raw calf liver, and a side of kimchee for my kids.

Yum.

Most mothers have a hard time prioritizing themselves over everyone else, but I’ve pretty much gotten it down, probably because I’m left handed. And a fast learner. And desperate.

Anyway, following is my six-step plan to put the focus where it should be on Thanksgiving and just about every other day of the year. Yourself. You can thank me later, preferably in American Express Travelers Cheques that are pretty much untraceable and can be used to upgrade my seats.

1. Decide, after nine years of looking at the same kitchen table, that it’s time for a change. Like Obamacare, claim your new table is meant to include everyone, even though it’s really just intended for the few citizens who can hack their way through a complex matrix of broken code and steal all your bitcoins. That’s right, angry Russian expats.

2. Refinish above-referenced sad piece of furniture with something that takes 30 days to cure. So what if you realize you can’t use it for a month only after you’ve slathered your table with it? It might contain asbestos, kryptonite, non-soluble gluten particles, or something equally hazardous to your family’s health. Don’t try to bend the rules and serve a meal on day 25.

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Come eat at my new table and prepare to die.

3. Find some big, androgynous, shiny, circlet-like decorations that could be Thanksgivingish but are probably some designer’s attempt at an Ambien-inspired joke. Place them right in the middle of the table, rendering it fully inoperable.

This could be a thought-provoking centerpiece or ground zero for your next garage sale.

This could be a thought-provoking centerpiece or ground zero for your next garage sale.

4. Tell the kids that if they touch your new, expensive table art you’ll take their phones. Just for fun, go a step further and tell them that if they touch anything belonging to you, you’ll erase all their apps. This should make it virtually impossible for them to Snapchat their friends about your secret stash of painkillers.

5. Accidentally misplace the keys to the refrigerator. That’s right. Don’t be a hater.

6. And on Thanksgiving, when everyone in America is running around trying to find the instructions to their infrared thermometers? Sit back, relax, and dream about my birthday, because when you have a table no one else can use, you’re pretty much relegated to a bottle of wine and a store-bought pie.

If you don’t know what a bitcoin is, go here, buy one, and send it to me for my birthday.

This is a Simple Story About Love

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All a mother wants, above and beyond anything else in life, is for her child to be happy. It’s a subliminal inclination fueled by emotion, like the echo of a throb…a primal instinct driven by that first, curious flutter in the womb.

And it never goes away.

My grandmother is no different from any other mother in this respect, even though her youngest was born with an umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. Unable to breathe, my Aunt Micki was rushed to a nurse instead of Grandmother’s open arms while doctors worked to change Micki’s color from a pallid shade of blue to something that looked a little more like life.

Micki survived only to suffer her first seizure when she was nine months old. It was the earliest of many signs that something about her seemed different. Abnormal. Uncommon. Not right.

As months turned into years, “different” transitioned to “retarded,” a term loaded with so much meaning that it overflowed, creating a non-navigable chasm between Micki and other kids her age. Words can be transformative in both good ways and bad, and “retarded” became a life-size label that would shade just about everything she did, starting with the length of the bus she boarded for school.

Both Grandmother and Micki learned to move under a cloak of filtered light that could only throw shadows on the stolen glances and downcast eyes of the world at large. Yet in those everyday moments where growth can’t really be measured, the bond between mother and daughter grew.

Given enough time, life will teach you that the only thing you can count on is change. Yet Micki’s role never has. She is and always will be my grandmother’s constant companion. Not her retarded companion, just a loving daughter and friend.

When my mom left home for college, Micki stayed. When my uncle took the same path seven years later, Micki stayed. When my grandfather died of a heart attack at the age of fifty-one, Micki stayed.

We don’t use the word “retarded” anymore, or at least, we don’t admit it when we do. From my grandmother’s perspective, that word has always misrepresented her youngest child. If you ask, she’ll say Micki came into the world just the way she was supposed to be.

Today, at almost ninety-three, the time-honored light in Grandmother’s eyes is fading. She’s more feeble now than even a few years ago, and bones that used to bend under the weight of life now break. Yet she pauses and lingers longer than most because her remaining purpose sits beside her, quietly holding her hand. Theirs is silent proof that under the right conditions, the narrative of a love story can last forever.

My grandmother will tell you that she’s here today because of youngest child. Not her abnormal, uncommon, retarded child, but her sweet, loving, beautiful daughter.

She’s not a surgeon, or a star, or even that girl from high school you wish you still knew. Yet if you ask Micki if she’s happy, she’ll nod her head and reply, “Yes. Yes I am.”

You don’t have to ask Grandmother the same question. The answer is obvious in the way she looks at her daughter, without bias or pity or doubt. To a mother, a child is simply a child and love is just love. Micki is her life’s greatest gift. We should all be so lucky.

On October 5, 2010, President Obama signed legislation requiring the federal government to replace the term “mental retardation” with “intellectual disability” in many areas of government. This measure, known as Rosa’s Law, strips the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” from federal health, education, and labor policy. According to the World Health Organization, about 15 percent of the world’s population — or 785 million people — has a significant physical or mental disability. 

For anyone accustomed to my attempts at more humorous, light-hearted posts, I’ll be back next week to talk about either what I found in my neighbor’s trash, or the time I spent in my version of prison, or both. These topics aren’t remotely related, but probably should be.