Author Archive: Discovering Home

Novel Ways to Celebrate the Holidays

school-2276269_1920

Feeling lonely during the holidays? Ask your local elementary school if you can read a holiday favorite to younger students. It is a wonderful way to share special books with a room full of silly, smiling listeners. And being around children is a sure way to add a sense of delight to the season.

Some of our favorites include:

  • Papa Panov’s Special Day: Ruben Saillens ; Adapted by Leo Tolstoy, by Mig Holder and Ruben Saillens

 

  • Together for Kwanzaa, by Juwanda G. Ford

 

  • The Power of Light: Eight Stories for Hanukkah, by Isaac Bashevis Singer (Author),‎ Irene Lieblich (Illustrator)

 

  • any Christmas book by Jan Brett

 

  • Latke, the Lucky Dog,  by Ellen Fischer (Author),‎ Tiphanie Beeke (Illustrator)

 

  • Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story, by Angela S. Medearis and Daniel Minter

 

  • Littlest Angel, by Charles Tazewell

 

What are some of your favorite holiday books? Do you have a family tradition of reading a particular story on a special night? Do you and your friends share beloved holiday books over cocoa? What are some of your favorite memories of being read to, or reading aloud?

Advertisements

It’s All From the Heart

Today is the day – the kitchen is filled with the fragrance of roasting turkey, or ham, or both. The sweet potato and green bean casseroles are bubbling in the oven while the cranberry sauce chills in the fridge. And a multitude of pies are lined up, ready to be topped with billows of fresh whipped cream.

buffet-974742_1920

Or at least that’s the vision Mr. Rockwell offers.

For many folks, the day will be spent working at a cash register or in a hospital. Some people will be sharing memories and tears as they say goodbye to a beloved family member or friend. And for too many families, the day’s meal will be more the stuff of survival, rather than celebration.

 

 

So today is the day to make a difference. Maybe that difference will be in treating the sales clerk to a smile and some much needed patience. It might be ordering a pizza or two for the late night ER folks. It could include dropping off some hot chocolate mix or flavored coffee at Hospice.

 

And that difference could be making a personal choice to put thankfulness and gratitude into action not just for one day, but throughout this holiday season.

For the next eight weeks, we will offer some ideas for incorporating compassion into daily living, and we’ll share your own thoughts about and experiences with putting love into action – those random acts of kindness that make all the difference!

thankful-2947263_1920

Please join us as we look for ways to follow Jane’s example of quietly, respectfully and lovingly responding to those in need.

Thank you.

 

 

Pitching In

This post is shared with the generous permission of Sweet Tea Reads

Helping Doesn’t Have To Be Overwhelming

First of all, let me just go ahead and say that I realize the pictures have pretty much nothing to do with this post.  I think Howard and Frankie look adorable in them, and I’m tired of almost crying every time I see pictures of wet, pitiful pets.  I thought we could all use a break from that.  Now, on to the actual post.

I think it’s safe to say that everyone has seen far more videos and photos of destruction and loss from Hurricane Harvey than any of us ever wanted to. That level of devastation is hard to fathom.   It seems fair to say that most of us want to help, but some of us aren’t sure how, or if what we do will even make a difference.  Add reports of scams and charities that aren’t all we’d like to hope they are, and knowing how to help becomes even more difficult.

It doesn’t have to be.  I am by no means an expert, but I do seem to know a lot of really smart people who are really good at helping others.  Here are some of the ways I’ve seen people helping that seem like good ideas to me:

Start with Charity Navigator.  I love this site.  If you’re not familiar, they rate charities on their practices and how they spend their money.  It’s an excellent resource in determining who to donate to.  Most of us have a finite amount of money, and don’t want to turn it over to just anyone.  There’s a special section right now for Hurricane Harvey relief, so you can make sure your funds are put to the best use possible.

Donate supplies through your employer if they’re doing a collection.  One of the court security officers started a collection of supplies from the courthouse, detention center, and Sheriff’s Office in our county to be delivered to Hearts With Hands, as well as supplies to be delivered directly to the Houston Police Department from the Sheriff’s Office.  She handed out a list of items needed to all of the offices in the three buildings and designated a collection point in each building.

I thought this was a particularly good idea.  I’ve read that donating supplies can be tricky because of the logistics of getting them to the people who need them, but by delivering them to a charity who can coordinate delivery and distribution, that problem is solved.  Being given a long list to work with makes it easy for everyone to get involved.  It’s easy to add one or two things from the list to your weekly grocery shopping and take them into work the next day.  For those of us who coupon and sale shop, we already had some of the items requested on hand.  This gave us a way to share them.

Choose what matters most to you to help with.  Unfortunately, we can’t all give money and supplies to every worthy organization helping with relief efforts.  I think a good way to decide is to help a cause that you’re passionate about.  For us that typically means animal rescues and first responders. For Nick’s mom and step-dad, it has been animal shelters and a program to replace school books.  A coworker of mine chose to send an Amazon order of diapers to one of the diaper banks.  We’re all different, and we all have different needs, passions, and ideas.  Think about what you might want or need the most if you were in that situation.

Don’t hesitate to step up and organize something if you see a way to fill a need.  Someone had to get the collections started at work, and I think we’re all grateful to the officer who did.  It’s surprisingly easy to coordinate a group effort.  I saw a post on Chewy.com’s Facebook wall from a volunteer at the San Antonio Humane Society asking if they could donate kitten milk replacer, puppy milk replacer, canned kitten food, and canned puppy food.  That seemed like something I  could coordinate, being no stranger to ordering pet supplies online.  I posted on Facebook asking if anyone wanted to contribute to sending them a box.  Nick’s mom got involved as well, and within 24 hours we raised over $220.00 for the supplies they had asked for.  There’s now a box with needed items on the way to them.  It’s a small thing in the grand scheme of what’s needed, but I’m telling you about it just to show you that it’s not difficult to pick something you care about, and coordinate an effort to help.

Consider donating closer to home to help with relief efforts. Is your state, county, or city sending a swift water rescue team, or other volunteers to help?  Consider making a donation to them to help with those costs, or to use as they see fit in the affected areas.  Contact some of your local emergency response agencies to see if they’re collecting supplies to send to similar agencies in affected areas.

Don’t underestimate the value of doing one relatively small thing.  It’s so easy to feel like what we’re able to do won’t be enough to make a difference in such a huge disaster.  Everything counts, though.  I think that’s the beauty of so many people helping one another.  Don’t feel like your monetary donation doesn’t matter because it’s not a huge amount, or your supplies aren’t enough to bother with.  If you what you’re able to give is one dollar, or one package to a bin for supplies, then do it.  None of us can do everything, but most of us can do something.

So what about you?  Have you discovered any ways to help that are especially meaningful to you? Are you aware of a particular need of a particular organization?  Please feel free to share your ideas in the comments for any of us still looking for a way to help.

Listening By Heart

buddha-statue-546458_1920

One of Jane’s many gifts was the ability to really listen to others. She went far beyond cursory greetings and polite nods of the head; instead Jane paid attention and asked meaningful questions. She also remembered that your second cousin had been ill, or your older cat was having a hard time adjusting to the new kitten.

cat-9256_1920

Now that families and friends update one another through texts, quick emails and the increasingly rare phone call, the need to be listened to, the desire to be really heard is greater than ever. And it’s not just folks comfortable with technology who are exchanging information, but not connecting. There are many people of all ages and socioeconomic areas who simply don’t ‘do’ technology. Those neighbors and relatives and coworkers want to be heard, too.

phone-785396_1920The next time a stranger starts talking to you about their 17 year old cat, or how amazing hair styles are, or what they think of the flavor ice cream you are buying – just stop everything and listen. Listen to their story not as a busy, important, tired, hungry, disinterested stranger. Listen as if this were your loved one, as if it might be you in a few years, or as if it has been you when you were lonely or excited or just talkative. Listen as if this human being is worthy of being listened to.

Some of the most beautiful stories come from people we don’t even know – or those whom we think we know, but rarely hear. These glimpses into the hearts of another person can touch our lives in ways we would not have imagined and their faces, voices, and personal experiences can remain a part of us forever – if we simply take a little time to listen.

girlfriends-2472369_1920

Please share some of the wonderful stories you have heard from someone in a ticket line, or when searching for an ingredient on the store shelf, or while walking dogs at a park. And please feel free to share the ways in which you have reached out to another human being through the simple but profound act of listening.

 

 

When Trouble Comes …

… make a casserole.

That might sound frivolous, especially in light of the magnitude of many family challenges and problems that take place every day, but the simple act of caring for someone with a hug and a hot meal can make a real difference.

woman-1246587_1920

If cooking isn’t your thing, or if you live hundreds of miles away, or if you really cannot spare even one more minute no matter how your heart goes out to someone facing a crisis, consider the following options:

 

  • Make arrangements for a local contact to pick up a meal that you have pre-ordered and paid for from a restaurant the family likes.
  • Mail gift cards (for a local grocery store, fast food restaurant, or coffee shop) directly to the person or family going through a difficult time.
  • Ask mutual friends living in the area to bake something and be willing to pitch in for the cost of the ingredients and their time in the kitchen.
  • Ship a box filled with canned soup, a box of crackers and a package of cookies along with a cheerful card – and maybe a pretty bowl or a silly spoon.
  • Purchase a subscription for a meal delivery service – or fresh fruit, tea, desserts, coffees, etc. – for someone facing a long recovery or a family dealing with financial challenges due to an illness or catastrophe.

girl-in-bed-2004774_1920

If, however, you are handy with a whisk and potato ricer, you might prefer to cook up a favorite recipe or two that folks can use right away or freeze for a later meal.  Below are links to some of our favorite comfort foods:

 

https://sweden.se/culture-traditions/classic-swedish-food-meatballs/

http://sweetteareads.blogspot.com/2013/09/summer-vegetable-pizza.html

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/204133/old-fashioned-potato-kugel/

http://sweetteareads.blogspot.com/2015/10/zucchini-frittata.html

https://www.thespruce.com/easy-spinach-balls-appetizer-3050704

http://sweetteareads.blogspot.com/2016/03/tuna-casserole.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/irishbeefstew_73826

http://sweetteareads.blogspot.com/2012/05/creamy-slow-cooker-macaroni-cheese.html

tea-cup-2107599_1920

Please add your own recipes, links, and suggestions for foods that can be easily shared with anyone who is struggling – near or far.

Birthday Celebrations

Summertime is upon us and with it, the the 241st birthday of the United States on July 4th.  Creamy potato salad, grilled burgers and dripping popsicles will probably be on the menu; friends and families might gather to play tag, swim in cold mountain creeks, or simply doze off on a hammock, and deafening booms and enchanting, cascading, shimmering colors will fill the night sky … it is quite a birthday celebration, and it happens every year!

fire-works-744047_1920

But how do we as individuals celebrate our birthdays? Do our best four-footed, or two-gilled pals brighten our day? Or is it by meeting a close friend or two for a swanky dinner or home-cooked meal? Or is being pummeled by giggling children at dawn who bring breakfast in bed, complete with spilled coffee and slightly burnt toast the best celebration ever?

Unfortunately, for many people, birthdays are simply another day to be sick or homeless or alone.

Jane was very aware of this loneliness and was adept at making other people feel special, so it was no surprise when she began baking a monthly birthday cake for a local ‘soup kitchen’. Jane would bake and frost a cake for the folks who were celebrating a birthday during that particular month – complete with a candle and singing. She often talked about how important it is to humanize those impersonal labels – homeless, poverty, illness. And she believed that to be forgotten, to have no one to celebrate your birthday, your existence – that doesn’t always have to be the case. It is possible to do something about it.

cake-727854_1920

Family friend and former co-worker Alice works with developmentally challenged children, and came up with her own caring way to let her students know that they are treasured: She makes little goodie bags for each of them on their birthdays. With a trip to the dollar-store, she is able to fill one of the 3-for-$1 gift bags with a snack cake, noisemaker or toy, colorful pencil and small notebook, and candy or gum. There is always a personal note inside the birthday card and a big hug for the birthday boy or girl.

Although fireworks and ice cream and games in the lake are fun ways to recognize the country’s birthday, it is easy enough to celebrate our fellow human being’s birthdays in smaller ways – a birthday cake, a card, a hug – that are no less important.

Please feel free to share the ways in which each of us can let our neighbors know that we are glad that they were born. Thank you!

smartphone-1987212_1920

 

 

Five Ways to Pack Less but Make More of a Difference

This post was inspired by Katherine’s actions – Thank you!

The wisest travel advice we’ve ever heard is, “Take half as many clothes, and twice as much money.” That might be why savvy travelers carry less luggage and wear clothing with more pockets than the average tourist.

baggage-1697327_1920

With or without those over-sized pockets, as folks take advantage of good weather and saved vacation days, they can find plenty of opportunity to make a difference in other people’s lives while on the road and out of town.

hiker-1607078_1920

 

The following five ideas are simply starting points; please share your thoughtful travel ideas in the comments section below.

 

  1. Buy locally made souvenirs from independent vendors, local markets, or from shops like One World or 10,000 Villages.  You’ll support a craftsperson/artist while having a unique, region-specific treasure to remind you of the great time you had.
  2. Pack your less than favorite – but still nice – clothes. When you arrive at your destination, buy locally made clothes to wear and enjoy, donating your clean but no longer loved clothing from home to folks who would appreciate it.
  3. If going to an area where the residents struggle with poverty, pack small toys, one-size-fits-all gloves, or little notebooks and puzzles to give to any children you might meet. These small items are a better choice than candy or chocolates because they may not have regular access to dental care, or there could dietary/religious factors to consider.
  4. Take an instant camera along. New models are small, colorful and under $100. The instantly developed pictures are fun for kids to make silly faces for; exciting for people who don’t have access to cameras/their own pictures to see, and the completed photos can be given to the subjects themselves to keep or share with their family and friends.
  5. Upon your return, consider sponsoring an endangered animal, family in need, conservation effort, etc. in the area you just visited. Look into giving gifts of service/action to family and friends back home instead of plastic doodads from a tourist-trap. Some good choices like Heifer International or SEVA Foundation can be found at Charity Navigator. Sometimes it’s easier to learn about the needs of a country or region firsthand, and then take action.

travel-778338_1920

No matter where you will roam, or how you plan to travel this year, there are many ways in which you can make every day of your vacation one of service, gratitude and compassion – it all begins when you tuck a little hope, a little light into your luggage.

 

 

 

On the Quiet Side

It’s been a little while since we last posted on this site, but not due to complete inactivity on our parts. We’ve been catching up with the busy-ness of life; the care and feeding of family, friends, careers – but then, you already know all about such things. We’re just glad to be back; grateful for the opportunity to share some pleasant news and helpful information with one another.

baby-1854475_1920

One of Jane’s many gifts was a softness that she shared with all living things. Her ability to soothe and heal a variety of animals was a beautiful thing to see. She once explained that she did nothing more than provide a safe place for rest, a little food and water – and time. That may be true, but there was a peace within her that baby bunnies and small birds trusted, allowing themselves to be gently picked up after being wounded by a cat or falling from a nest.

In following Jane’s example of caring for these vulnerable creatures of the woods and fields, lakes and sky, we have shared some of the ways in which you, too can learn about and help animals in need of, as Jane used to say, “a soft place to land”.

bird-1081980_1920

  • Baby Birds (Nestlings)

http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/health/rehabilitation/baby_birds.html

  • Golden Retriever Rescue

http://www.fhgrr.com/

  • Baby Bunnies

http://rabbit.org/category/care/babies/

  • Sea Turtles

https://conserveturtles.org/

  • Animal Rescue

http://www.peggyadams.org/

  • Raptors

http://www.carolinaraptorcenter.org/

 

Please add your suggestions for reputable sources for animal rescue and education in the comments section. Thank you.

 

For the Love of Poetry

(contributed by Susan Ray)

poetry-688368_1920

Although April is actually National Poetry Month, it’s never too soon to delight in the song, the truth, the joy, the diversity that is poetry.

Mona/Jane kept books of poems at her bedside always. She found comfort, peace and wisdom in poetry that was especially welcome at the end of the day. Mona/Jane loved the beauty, the melody of the words, and encouraged those new to poetry to enjoy the fun of the language. She shared her gift of connecting with the poet by inviting new readers to imagine what the poet might have seen, felt, experienced when writing.

picture-book-1983812_1920

A few of her cherished, better known poets were W.H. AudenChristina Rossetti, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickinson, Rainer Maria Rilke, Walt Whitman, Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and perhaps her favorite, Robert Frost.

 

 

On Jane’s Day of Service this February 28th, consider the following ways in which you can share Mona/Jane’s lifelong love for poetry:

  • Memorizing a poem that holds special meaning to you
  • Reading poetry aloud to your child’s classroom
  • Posting an uplifting poem on the bulletin board at work
  • Sharing your family’s favorite poetry with the elderly at a local nursing home
  • Sitting down and writing some poems of your very own

writersorganization

Forbearance

Ralph Waldo Emerson, 18031882

Hast thou named all the birds without a gun?
Loved the wood-rose, and left it on its stalk?
At rich men’s tables eaten bread and pulse?
Unarmed, faced danger with a heart of trust?
And loved so well a high behavior,
In man or maid, that thou from speech refrained,
Nobility more nobly to repay?
O, be my friend, and teach me to be thine!

 

You are always welcome to contribute your ideas and suggestions in the Comments below, and please join others in sharing your poetry and  photos of the ways you’ve chosen to participate in Jane’s Day of Service on our Facebook page:

http://www.facebook.com/JanesDayOfService/

Babies Are the Hope of the Future

(contributed by Susan Ray)

baby-1332209_1280

Mona/Jane adored babies. She always believed that each new, fresh, wonderful child welcomed into the world brought with him or her a bright hope for the future. She always said any baby could grow up to change the world for the better.

As an only child, she had a very lonely  childhood, so always dreamed of one day having a home filled with babies and children and love. One of the programs she hoped to become more involved with were those allowing volunteers to hold and comfort very small and/or very ill babies.

Although some medical centers welcome ‘cuddlers’, some hospitals prefer the community care for these most fragile of babies in other ways, such as crocheting blankets for them, knitting caps, donating preemie diapers to the family, or by taking advantage of other less hands-on, but just as necessary opportunities.

If snuggling with these tiny bundles of sweetness and hope is something that you’ve always wanted to do, please check with your local medical community to find the ways you can best support the newborns in need of so much love and care and cuddling. Below are a few links to get you started:

http://www.carolinashealthcare.org/types-of-levine-childrens-hospital-volunteers-lch

http://womanshospital.com/about/volunteers.dot

http://www.methodisthealthsystem.org/Volunteeropportunities

http://www.thepreemieproject.com/links

Thank you.

baby-1333742_1920