This is so true. Giving and spreading kindness is one of the best parts of living, and until you do it, you will never fully grasp the meaning of that statement. It is true, you wake up and really live when you give without expectation.

Barrett and I have always been big on giving back when we can and helping others. We give locally a lot, but do support a few national & international charities as well... and not only for charities, but just for people in general. We're those people who buy the extra sandwich to give to the guy on the street. And we do it because we can and because we should. I think about gratitude - I have things right now, but maybe one day I won't and I would be looking to the help and charity of others. That is why we give. Everyone needs a helping hand. And, just because it is the right thing to do. We do it whenever we can - even if it is something small.

We do this often and we do it without expectations. We also do it without looking for praise or pats on the back for giving. We do a lot, and we don't talk about it. I don't often share what we do for that reason - I'm not looking for the praise or for someone to say "wow, how thoughtful of you!". Sometimes I share these things on Instagram with a picture or two, mainly because I am a picture junkie and IG is my digital scrapbook. Sometimes I hope it inspires others to do the same. Like when we made care packages for the Wounded Warrior Project... I posted pictures and hoped that it would inspire someone else to do the same.

What inspired me to write this post is that everywhere on my news feed I am seeing gratitude posts and posts about kindness and giving... so in keeping with that theme, I wanted to put this out there. I  am writing this because I hope someone, somewhere, will read this and think about not just saying how grateful they are, but will think about lending a hand where they can.

Gratitude is powerful when you let it really sink in. Let me share with you a incredibly moving moment for me...
About a year ago I was in line behind a woman who couldn't afford the $70 worth of prescriptions for her husband. She walked away and I paid for them along with my own, then had them page her back to the pharmacy. As I was leaving, the pharmacist told her what I did and she came to me in tears. She went on to tell me that a few nights ago they had lost their home to a fire - everything except the clothes on their backs (I remember reading about it in the news) and how she couldn't afford the medications because she had bought food first, and the insurance money had yet to come in and they had to pay for their hotel and clothing and basic necessities. I remember hugging her and wishing her the best. I don't know where she is now, or what happened to her and her family, but I still think about that moment often. As I type this, I have tears just thinking about it - I went home that day and thanked my lucky stars for all I had. It reminded me how fragile life is. Be thankful for all you have - life can change in a minute.
I like the feeling of giving. I like how it makes me feel inside. I do it often because it makes me feel good and it helps someone out. Sometimes it just makes another person smile - but maybe, that is exactly what they need at that moment. Your kindness could be the defining moment that changes someone path for the better.

I also do it and talk about it around Madeline as often as I can. I want her to grow up with a thankful and giving heart (which she does have!) and I want her to experience the joy in giving. She loves it. I'm also big about teaching kindness and giving to my middle school students. Working with at-risk youth, they have experienced a lot of hurt in their lives - I want them to see the good in their lives and to share with others to let them experience that feeling of giving. Every single kid has expressed how it made them feel good.

One giving tradition we have as a family is to buy an entire Thanksgiving meal and donate it to the local food drive specifically set up for Thanksgiving dinners. This is one of our favorite things to do every year. We make a big deal out of it and do a full shopping trip just for the food drive, which has fostered a love of giving for Madeline - she really truly enjoys it. We get a turkey and all the fixings, and add little extras. This is one of those things I always take pictures of, because it is a yearly tradition.
Turkey and the fixings! Brownies, scalloped potatoes, mac & cheese (cause sometimes, kids hate turkey), cranberry sauce, veggies, fruits, gravy, spices, pickles & olives (relish tray!), yams, stuffing, coffee, and hot cocoa.
Maddie handing over the turkey to Lori (from our local radio station)
Maddie on the radio station FB page donating the turkey.

So, my hope in sharing all this with you is that I inspired you to help. Someway, somehow. Donate food, buy a coat for a coat drive, make a care package for our soldiers, write a letter to a nurse, bring Thanksgiving dinner to those who work to keep our communities safe and don't get to have a day off, donate blood, round off that bill to donate to St Jude's.... whatever you can do to help others. Trust me - you are going to love the way you feel.

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow

Thankfully Reading Weekend!

Can you believe that it is almost Thanksgiving!? Where on earth did the month of November go? I feel like we were just celebrating Halloween. This time of year always flies by and I always get so caught up in the hustle and bustle that before I know it, the new year is upon us.

Thanksgiving is a busy time for us, more so than Christmas, actually. Our schedule with Madeline's mom allows us to spend Thanksgiving with her, but this year it will only be for part of the day. Unfortunately, Barrett works Thanksgiving and goes in at 12:30, so Madeline will be going back to her mother's house and will not be coming to Thanksgiving with my family, which is where the 3 of us normally spend it. We had planned to visit both Bear's family and my family, but that didn't work out. It's unfortunate the way it did work out this year, but I am grateful we get to spend the morning with her and she will be at our home for the rest of the weekend. Much of my family will still be in town, so on Friday we will be able to get together (thank goodness Bear has Friday's off!!) and have a second Thanksgiving - and avoid anything relating to that awful Black Friday nonsense!

With this being a pretty busy time of the year for me, I am signing up for Jenn's annual Thankfully Reading Weekend with the intention of just reading what I can. I'm not going to create a book stack or set goals for myself, because I know I won't be able to meet them. This is going to be a relaxed reading weekend for me, mostly at night because our days will be busy. I'm also thinking of incorporating Wednesday into my reading weekend (unofficially) because I have the day off and will have a quiet house.

For those of you who don't know... here are the rules:
Rules? There are none! Our goal is just to devote a good amount of time to reading during this holiday weekend. Thankfully Reading runs from Thursday, November 27th to Sunday, November 30th and you can sign up by adding your linky to Jenn's opening post. We're also using the hashtag #thankfullyreading for all your twitter and instagram sharing pleasures. Join in the fun and sign up today!

So, what are your Thanksgiving plans this year? Will you be avoiding the crowds on Black Friday and reading instead?

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow


Sorcerer's Stone collection

I'm obsessed.
There, I said it.
Everyone who knows me, knows I an a HUGE Potterhead.
So, naturally, I had to join the rereadathon.

I finished The Sorcerer's Stone reread last night - marking the 13th time I have read it! (yes- really!) On the inside cover of my paperback copy, I write the dates I have read the book. The first 5 dates are only years because that was before I wrote specifics. I started to add months when I started reading it more than once in a year.

Now, here is a sad revelation as a Potterhead... I must admit, I was one of those people who didn't get hooked right away.
I read The Sorcerer's Stone back in '99 and didn't really care for it. It didn't hook me and make me salivate for more, like it did most first time readers. At that time in my life, I was 14 and completely obsessed with RL Stein and Stephen King. I devoured both authors regularly, so I think the switch to the magical world just didn't go over well for me. I didn't pick up the series again until the end of high school in 2003. That was when I found a love for the series, and the rest is history.

Sorcerer's Stone is where the magic begins, and every time I sit down to read it, I feel like I fall in love with it all over again. Even though I have read it 13 times, this time was just as magical as the 2nd (because, like I said earlier, that 1st time wasn't highly magical for me). My love and obsession for all things Harry Potter has grown over the years, and what started as just a love for the books has grown into a love for the entire empire.
It started with rereading the series. As I read them again and again, I was constantly finding new things.... things I had not noticed before, things that were surprising, tiny details that hinted at the future, details that tied it all together... the thought that was put into the series is what kept me coming back for more. And more... and more.
As the years wore on, my collection grew too. I started grabbing books, memorabilia, tshirts, and really anything Harry Potter related. I have tons to show, but today I will just share my copies of the Sorcerer's Stone.
My 2nd copy of the book - I donated my very first set to my classroom when I first started teaching.
The beautiful updated version that came out this year
The mass market "for schools only" edition
My crowning jewel - the leather bound collectors edition
I also have the ebook editions, which is actually what I read from this time. I plan to read this entire rereadathon on the Kindle so I can highlight and make notes while reading, which I have never done before.

I love to collect, so of course I would love to get more versions of all of the books, but especially the 10th anniversary edition of The Sorcerer's Stone with the Mirror of Erised cover.

So everyone - what versions do you have and which one did you read from this time? Have any of you listened to the audio books? (they're awesome, btw!)

Can't wait to browse all your posts and hear what you all thought of The Sorcerer's Stone this time around!

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow