Tag Archives: Holidays

25 Days of Giving Day Twenty-Three: Believe

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In 1992 I was twenty-two years old and living in Chicago. The market was tough for recent college grads, and after a part-time series of temp assignments and waiting tables, I took a job selling industrial products on the south side of town. It wasn’t a career move by any stretch, but it paid the bills and afforded me independence and the opportunity to spread my wings beyond the Kentucky state lines that bordered my childhood.

Anyone who’s visited Chicago in the winter knows it’s cold…complete with a biting, frigid wind that can cut you in half and come back for more before you’ve barely taken a step. It was on this kind of night, having worked late and in a hurry, that I jumped into my car, popped the clutch toward I-94, cranked up some music, and began the long drive home.

Just as the chorus crescendoed, my car started to sputter, gurgle, and lurch. In my haste to pick the right mini-skirt, tights, and oversized sweater that morning I’d forgotten one small detail. To look at my gas gauge. Before completely running out of fuel, I was able to ease my car onto an exit ramp, right in front of this:

Long before rap culture decriminalized the word, Chicago’s Robert Taylor homes were the true definition of “ghetto”. Worse than anything you’ll ever see on The Wire, these gang-riddled, drug-controlled, high-rises were the living, breathing embodiment of a failed social experiment better known as Hell.

There were no mass-market cell phones back then, so in order to get help, I had to walk right into the middle of the most brutal section of the housing development, better known as “The Hole” in my mini-skirt, tights, and not-feeling-so oversized sweater. The streets were busy that night, and for the first time in my life I was clearly part of the minority, the only white girl in a sea of black faces, hardened to the harsh elements, who, like me, were just trying to get where they needed to go. I hurried, one uncertain step after the other, to the first high-rise I came across. Surrounded by darkness, there was a security guard in a low-lit office at the base of the building. He either didn’t see me or didn’t want to be bothered, so I balled my hand into a fist and banged on the bullet-proof window.

“Please, Sir,” I yelled into the howling wind,”Can I use your phone?”

“Ain’t no phone here baby girl,” he answered. “You best keep moving and find somewhere else to be.”

I hesitated, somewhat stunned by his response, and stared through the window, willing him to change his mind. When he crossed his arms and turned to watch his security monitors instead of meeting my gaze, I knew I was truly alone.

With no other choice, I walked back into the dark night. The snow was falling with a hard sense of urgency, and the swirl of faces around me faded in an out, like ghosts. I stumbled and caught myself, the slick pavement beneath me now covered in a sheen of icy snow. Not knowing what else to do I stopped. I looked left, then right, only to see replica after replica of a building that could offer me no shelter. In that moment, surrounded by nameless strangers in a dangerous place no one wanted to own, I lost something critical to finding my way. Hope.

And then something miraculous happened.

“I know you,” I heard from behind as someone caught my elbow in their grasp.

“Excuse me?” I replied. I turned, startled to see an old lady about my grandmother’s age who seemed to have come out of nowhere, bundled up in her winter clothes.

“I saw you from the bus when your car broke down,” she said. “Follow me. I know where to go.”

We didn’t talk. The temperature had plunged to a degree that made my nostrils cringe and shocked my lungs with every breath. But slowly, step after step she led, and slowly, step after step I followed.

After weaving around multiple, desolate buildings, we moved deeper into the projects and came upon a county hospital. I have no idea how we got there and couldn’t replicate the path. Again, there were people everywhere, but I had the acute understanding that no one wanted to offer a hand. Except her.

She led me to a bank of telephones and gave me a quarter.

“Call 9-1-1” she instructed, “and tell them where to find your car.” I did exactly as she said. When I turned to thank her for the quarter, for taking time to help me, and for somehow seeing me when I felt invisable, she was gone. She had literally disappeared into thin air. Standing in her place was a police officer, who again took me by the elbow and said three simple words: “You’re going home.”

Sometimes I sit on the right side of God, and other days on the left. On that night, however, I was fully in his sight. I know, with a whole heart and eyes wide open that an angel was sent to me in the moment when I needed her most. I don’t know why or how, but something much bigger than me was at play, and it was an experience so profound that I have no choice but to believe.

I believe in the greater good of humanity. I believe that no matter the circumstance, everyone on this earth has the power within to rise up. I believe in equality. I believe in the kindness of strangers. I believe that tomorrow holds the possibility of being better than today. I believe life is worth living. I believe in me. I believe in you. The Giving Challenge for today is to Believe.

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 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.

 

25 Days of Giving Day One: Pay A Stranger A Compliment

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Greetings from the land of Gemini Girl in a Random World, better known as Siberia. It’s that time of year again, and instead of posting porn-inspired Elf on the Shelf pictures like everyone else you’re connected to on Facebook, I thought I’d try something new this holiday season.

This is not my idea of a good time. Image via fb-troublemakers.com

Inspired by a genuine lack of desire to fill our family advent house with candy (soooo pre-gluten-free 2011), I decided it was time to mix things up a little and stuff each tiny compartment with a good deed. I’ll admit that at first, my children were disappointed with the change, but there’s nothing like the threat of carefully placed, age-inappropriate mom comments on their Instagram feeds to get everyone moving in the same direction.

After working through the 25 days of kindness-inspired tasks for my kids to fulfill, I thought…”Why not extend the invitation to do good to friends, family, and the thousands of three people who still follow my blog?” So if you’re here, right now, reading this post instead of maxing out your credit card buying stuff during the Cyber Monday free shipping window that you can conveniently access on every single other day of the year? You’re in the club.

So here we are at Day One: Pay A Stranger A Compliment. I chose something easy this morning because it’s the simplest things in life that are most meaningful. O.K. I just made that up. In reality, a pyramid scheme full of cash raining down on you from selling fake annuities to the elderly can be pretty great too, but I’m pressed for time.

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It feels good to do good. Plain and simple. So join me on my journey to make someone happy today by paying a stranger a compliment, because it’s fun, easy, and your smile will be as wide as the person you choose to help.

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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 option 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 Party Like A Pro This Holiday Season

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It’s that time of the year again when truckloads of invitations get dumped on the doorstep and you’re forced to ditch your Juicy sweats for spandex and a pair of sparkly shoes. Following are my tried and true tips to make this holiday season the most festive ever, especially if you’re new to the neighborhood or spend a lot of time in the garage whittling Star Wars figurines.

There are so many things wrong with this picture I don’t know where to begin. Image via blogspot.com.

1. When choosing which party to attend on any given night, steer clear of the District Attorney’s house. Nobody wants to hear that you lit it up with the county D.A., and by nobody I mean anyone who’s ever been the subject of a body cavity search or watched an episode of Breaking Bad. Partying with any law enforcement officer will make your friends feel sick and squeamish, especially the ones who accidentally forgot to pay child support for the last six years.

What do we have in here? Image via digitaljournal.com

2. Always take a posse to a holiday party, especially when the invitation has an ice luge on the cover. Generally speaking, people with enough money to blow on things like disposable sculptures don’t have a lot of friends because they’re too busy making enough money to blow on things like disposable sculptures. You’ll be doing the host a favor by bringing thrill seeking add-ons who’ll K.O. all the Finlandia in the house and yell “Hit that dawg!” at the top of their lungs every five minutes.

Some of us have happier holidays than others. Image via blogspot.com

3. Everyone has a creepy uncle who doesn’t get out of the house much because he’s too busy grooming his stuffed hamster collection. To cut back on those noxious fumes coming from the basement, send him over to the D.A.’s party with your regrets. By doing so, you’ll simultaneously perform a random act of kindness and keep your family’s name off the police scanner in 2014. It might be nice to tape a note on his back with his iPhone passcode just in case he gets lost or someone wants to do a random screenshot search.

That’s not my uncle. Image via kindofcreepy.com

4. When it’s time to carb load, skip the prime rib station and head straight to the host’s pantry. That’s where you’ll find the good stuff, like Funions, and the adult toys Santa plans to put in a secret stocking the kids have already found, taken pictures of, and Snapchatted around the entire middle school with the tag “My parents know how to party!”.

Guess what? The pic you just took on Snapchat is gonna be around a lot longer than 10 seconds. Image via businessinsider.com

5. It’s important to hydrate at holiday social events because the secret to getting asked back next year is to look really hot. To give your skin a soft, dewy glow, try supplementing Jager Bombs with a Michelob Ultra every now and again.  A 5:1 ratio is usually the perfect mix for me, but you might want to go something like 7:1 on account of all that excess hair.

On second thought, just stick with tequila. Image via clinicaladvisor.com

6. Everyone loves a party guest who commandeers the Kenny Loggins Christmas station and slips in a custom-made playlist, especially if the self-proclaimed mix master is wearing a lot of make-up and no pants.

Who says Miley Cyrus doesn’t make good choices? Image via media2.onsugar.com

7. When the party’s winding down and it’s time to go home? Everyone loves unexpected overnight guests, especially the ones who pass out on the ice luge. To make yourself a little more inconspicuous and give your host a holiday surprise in the morning, try crawling into the dog kennel. It’s cozy, padded, and if you happen to throw up a little while you’re in there? You and my creepy uncle will be the only ones who know.

Surprise! Image via theblaze.com

Happy Holidays from everyone at the Gemini Girl in a Random World staff, which is pretty much just me and my mom.