Acts of Kindness: Christmas Vacation

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Acts of Kindness: Christmas Vacation

Days 45-50: A-OK
Heartfulness
Fri Dec 20 – Wed, Dec 25

Happy New Year!

I won’t start my final kindness blog post by shaming myself… because that would just be tragically ironic!  I will start by apologizing to those of you who have been following my journey and have been left hanging in my final 5 days of the Noel Project.  I was, as I’m sure many of you were, reveling in the novelty of family fabulousness at Christmas time.  My last days of the project were challenging because of course I was operating by the schedules of several out-of-town guests – and not on my own schedule… which made it tricky to plan and/or squeeze those ubiquitous acts of kindness.

I did make a point to at least record a definitive ‘act’ each day except for Friday, Dec 20th, but I kept the heartfulness in my actions in order to buy some extra credit from my readers (pretty please?).

On Saturday, the 21st I purchased marzipan fruit for my mother while we were at rainy excursion in St. Lawrence Market.  It was a secret project – because Ashley wanted to bring my mother a hostess gift that same evening- where she and my dad would be hosting a dinner at their condo (a vacation rental).  My mother loves marzipan…. And to be honest it’s hard for me to even think of one other person I know who LIKES the stuff.  I had been calling pastry and chocolate shoppes around the city for a couple of days – with no avail.  Finally, as I was about to give up hope, I saw a candy shoppe in the market while our small group was seated as we snacked on crepes.  I purchased 6 fruits and then clandestinely delivered the box to Ashley’s office so she could bring them to dinner and assume the honour of delighting my mother with those nasty candies.  (Sorry mom!)

On Sunday, after my sister had safely (and miraculously) arrived at Pearson before the worst of the ice storm the evening prior, I cashed in my volunteer vouchers at the tiff Bell Lightbox for 7 tickets to “It’s a Wonderful Life”.  It was the first time in my life I had watched the movie all the way through, and to be honest, every one of us was delighted at our immense enthrallment and enjoyment of the film.  I think the only way to watch it was on a big screen, with no interruptions or banter to disrupt the story or the magic of the movie.  They just don’t make characters like George Bailey or movies like ‘it’s a Wonderful Life’ the way they used to.  It was decidedly the most perfect start to our Christmas holiday.

On Monday, after a day trip to Unionville, Ryan and I handed over the apron strings to Ryan’s brother John and his boyfriend Delano for dinner.  Saying the 2 of them love to cook is an understatement, they spent the summer in France, started a recipe book, and run a small canning business back in Halifax.  Their short long-term goal is to establish their own catering company.  Keep your eyes peeled for Ellingwood on your local farmers’ market shelves.  So my act of kindness was to give them the reigns… which produced splendid fruits of their labour!  And an end result of: using every clean dish in the house.  Instead of scolding them for using so many dishes and dirtying every pan (we don’t have a dishwasher people!) I zipped my lips and quietly put my mother and husband to work alongside me for clean-up duty.  I didn’t want to play the nagging wife of the big brother role…. (they have a bossy older sister who likes to play that role for the rest of us!)

On Tuesday, Dec 24, my act of kindness (or in this case – heartfulness) was hosting and cooking a hearty Polish Christmas Eve feast for my family who had traveled from all corners of the continent to spend the holidays here in Toronto.  I enlisted my sister to help assemble the candy cane place card holders and Delano to construct the pine and birch centerpiece garland.  It was a memorable, cozy evening, and we ate, drank, and spread merry.

On Christmas Day, my sister and I went down to the concierge who was stationed at the condo desk (throughout my family’s stay at their vacation rental) and gave an especially kind clerk a box of native Arizonian prickly pear candies.  The woman we gave the candies to was so extremely pleasant and helpful to all of us throughout the week that I knew we couldn’t not thank her for her kindness.  She of course received small gifts from residents in the building that likely had much more of a familiarity with her, but she was touched by the gesture from mere visiting strangers.  The Christmas spirit in full bloom you might say.

DAY 43 & 44: A-OK

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DAY 43 & 44: A-OK

Day 43 & 44: A-OK
Gifts for strangers.
Wed Dec 18, Thurs Dec 19

Alright, so yesterday was a bust.  I delayed writing this post for hopes that I would recall a heartful or random kindness moment… but, no.  I got nothin.  The only moment I would even consider counting was while I was at Lit Espresso getting my late morning latte.  There was one woman in line behind me and as she got up to the cash, the woman at the register (mid 40s-ish) started talking how she was going to be happy when the holidays were all over.  She caught herself and said – “I keep finding myself saying things like that- wishing my life away,” and pretty soon the 3 of us were talking about the burdens of the holidays.

To be honest, I love Christmas… I love love love it.  Granted I don’t have 7 nieces to buy for, or 2 teenagers at home, or 3 kids under the age of 10 – all of which are very expensive gift-buying scenarios.  So perhaps I am not jaded [yet] when it comes to the strain of the holidays.  So for now, I will basque in my DINK-dom (dual income, no kids), and delight in December and let the glitter shoot out of my eyes.

Anywho – I listened empathetically to them b*tch, and then offered a nice gift-buying rule I had heard about on the Today Show earlier in the week called the “bring the magic back with the 3-gift concept”: modeled after the 3 gifts the magi gave to baby Jesus.  I wouldn’t say the concept will “bring the magic back” but it will definitely help manage the expectations of young’uns’ lists to Santa.  The 3 gifts must be: something you want, something you need, and something to read.  Nice, right?  The two women agreed that it was nice- but since one has grandkids and the other has none- it didn’t quite help with their Christmas list management.  But, they appreciated the sentiment – mission accomplished?

Today, on the other hand – I mindfully planned and carried out 2 acts of kindness.  You’re probably wondering who the lady in that crazy photo is… she’s a florist here in Toronto and today was her birthday.  I had to drop a cheque off to her, so I arranged via email yesterday to swing by her studio today.  She mentioned she wouldn’t be in the studio long (because it was her birthday).  En route to her studio this morning, I grabbed a pretty little bag of salted caramels from The Mercantile on Roncy – and gave them to her when I dropped off the cheque. Success!

The second act of kindness was also the distribution of sweets… but there was a slight ulterior motive.  I met a new client tonight and brought along two candy canes tied with a white satin ribbon.  Giving away candy canes to random strangers is kind of creepy (unless I’m at the hospital) but I’ve been wanting to give some away for a while because who doesn’t love getting candy canes in December?!

I was very happy I decided to bring them, because she & her fiancé are going through quite an emotional rollercoaster (not wedding related – life or death/legally related).  I hope I scored points with those bad boys – but mostly I hope I made her day, or her week a little brighter and a little sweeter.

DAY 41 & 42: A-OK

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DAY 40 & 41: A-OK

Day 41 & 42
Volunteering.
Mon Dec 16, Tues Dec 17

I’m sitting here trying to recall, “what did I do that was nice yesterday?” That means I went the entire day without going out of my way to do something nice. I will blame it on Ryan (just this once, I swear!) because he went to work and then was given the day off because the snow was too deep to pour concrete (whatever that means).

He’s a bit lost when he has weekdays off because he has a rigid distinction between a work-day versus a play-day… and all hell breaks loose when it’s a work day gone wild – aka turned into a fun day. Meanwhile, it’s still a work day in my books, so it’s always a challenge to occupy him and be careful as to not hurt his feelings by having him think I’m ignoring him or want him out of my hair. (Mom, if you’re reading this- I know you can relate!)

So mid-morning I broke up the day and had him dress up for a walk in the snow to run all sorts of errands on our street. As we were returning home – we walked by the resident beggar outside of Sobey’s (same guy from Day 3, friends!) and I was mid-conversation. I honestly, truly had zero change in my pockets or purse, but Ryan stopped to fish out his change (within seconds – I kept talking and walking before realizing what he was up to), and handed it to said homeless man. So yesterday’s A-OK belongs to my sweet husband. Well done Ryan.

Today was a gold-star Act of Kindness day as it was a Tuesday and I had my weekly 12-3 volunteer shift at the hospital. I was a bit checked out for Christmas today, and I say that because I was reluctant to fully engage for fear of contracting germs from visiting patients.

My appointed act of kindness was a small one, but it tested me. I was walking down the ground floor corridor past the elevators when I saw an in-patient wheeling herself haphazardly along. I asked if she would like me to push her to her destination since I was there and she obliged. I pushed her to the Tranquility entrance, where I discovered she had come to smoke.

There was an out-patient who was seated in his own wheelchair and the two were familiar, and began bantering like old friends, I guess ? They were friendly but she seemed to hate him a little bit. The man started lecturing me about how I shouldn’t take her out and this and that, and all the while I was regretting that I had gotten myself into this undesirable predicament with two characters that were a little less than savory.

Neither were aggressive or particularly rude, but it was just kind of a “why did I put myself in the middle of this?” situation.

First and foremost – I am anti-smoker. I tend to judge a person when I discover they’re a smoker because I wonder how they’ve gone so awry in attempting to live their [most basic] best life- you are only like 50 million steps behind the rest of us if you inhale that crapola!  Look at the photos of those ravaged lungs on the d*#! cigarette boxes people!  What more do you need to convince you that you have taken a seriously wrong turn?!

Gah.  Inner battle commencing at the hospital entrance with obviously ill patient choosing cigarettes over life.

All that being said, my act of kindness (while all this inner turmoil was happening) was to bite my tongue, smile, and spew intermittent pleasantries while trying to abandon ship.  I brought the patient outside and parked her where she asked me to (which was in a non-smoking area… secondary act of kindness… sorry public health department), and then bade her adieu as I retreated to my post outside of the ER.

Today, being kind meant biting my tongue and acquiescing to a job I may not have agreed with, but was already committed to.

Goodnight to my fellow Noels around the globe!

DAY 39 & 40: A-OK

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DAY 39 & 40: A-OK

Day 39 & 40: A-OK
Cleovoulou Christmas or bust.
Sat Dec 14, Sun Dec 15

The snow came a-fallin and a-fallin hard on Saturday.  There wasn’t much of a warning about the kinds of conditions we’d be experiencing… but it was, if Johnny Mathis could attest, a winter wonderland.

Ryan and I had some running around to do before I left for the train to Burlington, and he to his catering gig that evening.  I had to pick up a cake and deliver it to a venue for a client’s birthday – and it so happened that the venue was a bit more than a hop, skip, and a jump away.  We both made it no later than and no earlier than RIGHT on time for our origin destinations, but the journey didn’t end there.  I had  plans to head to my cousin Kat’s annual Christmas party – and I couldn’t have been happier that I had chosen to take the train from the get-go… by the time 3:00pm rolled around the roads and highways were a white-out.  There was parts of the QEW that were totally shut down.

I arrived precisely on time (well maybe 15 minutes late) but certainly all in one piece.  My cousin Dave picked me up at the train station, we made a pit stop to the market, and then home to the Cleovoulous.

I was the guest of honour no doubt – because other than Jimmy’s sister dropping in with her husband and 2 little girls for an hour, I was the only party-goer.  So Saturday’s act of kindness was my showing up (via the Polar Express) come hell or high water…. or in this case… record breaking snow.  It was a most wonderful evening of being snowed in.

On Sunday morning – Dave and I made breakfast soon after Ryan showed up to fetch me, and yes, it was a small act of kindness, but a heart-ful one at that.  What is kindness when it is not bursting with love and warmth.

Sunday evening Ryan and I braved the frozen streets and snow painted city to attend a 2nd Christmas soiree.  Luckily, it was an easy 10 minute drive over.  The crowd was delightfully chatty and the hosts served mouth-watering sustainably raised meats, organic hors d’ouevres, and European desserts.  A 2nd celebratory success of this December’s snowmageddon!

DAY 38: Ryan’s Birthday

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DAY 38: Ryan's Birthday

Day 38: A-OK
My husband’s birthday celebration.
Fri, Dec 13

Thursday night Ryan had taken a catering [bartending] shift- and didn’t get home until 2am! Crazy I say. He does it for extra cash, and most of the time he quite likes it. Thursday was a corporate “Naughty or Nice” party at a design firm downtown and the guests were rowdy and belligerent. Needless to say he had a tiring night behind the bar.

But, in proper Ryan form, he was up at 6:15 to get ready for work. I was up a little earlier and set the dining room table up nice, made fresh squeezed orange juice, turkey bacon, and waffles. Ok, they were Eggo waffles… but I had baked a cake the night before and knew that his heart really set on a homemade cake- not Belgian waffles hot off the iron. Not that we have a waffle iron, but my point is- the man has a weakness for cake. Chocolate cake, to be exact.

We both went our separate ways (Ryan to work, I to my meetings, but luckily he was released early and came home to catch a couple winks before the evening’s festivities. I arrived home while he was asleep, showered, cleaned up the kitchen, and then woke him in time for his appointment at the Ten Spot. I had booked him a MANicure- which he absolutely loved, because he works in the cold with his hands all day- rain or shine or snow or subzero temps. When we left he said to me, “It’s like an old barber shop in there!” – of course inferred that women don’t go to the spa just to get their nails painted – it’s a community thing.

Afterwards we headed up to La Cubana on Roncesvalles and ate a mouthwatering Cuban meal… it has been on our list of places to eat since it opened earlier this fall. MAN was it incredible!

After our frigid walk home, I lit some candles on the cake and Ryan opened his presents. We finished the night with a glass of red wine and a war movie as per the birthday boy’s request.

DAYS 36, 37: A-OK

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DAYS 36, 37: A-OK

Days 36, 37: A-OK
Wed Dec 11, Thurs Dec 12
Biscotti, Subway musician.

Wednesday I was up in a charming little town called Unionville for a meeting, and found myself at the village Starbucks to stream a little WiFi.  The place was absolutely packed, which was funny because there had been barely any pedestrians or auto traffic on Main St.  I trekked up to the 2nd floor and found a cozy spot next to the window in a cushy armchair.  I shed my winter layers and placed my things down to act as a ‘personal belongings holder’, and then asked the man adjacent to me if he would mind keeping an eye on my seat.  He was maybe a couple years younger than my parents, mild-mannered, and happy to be inside on a cold day nursing a hot bevvie.

I came back with my passion tea and a gingerbread biscotti for him as a thank you for watching my things.  We didn’t converse until he got up to leave, and then he encouraged me to come back again soon to Unionville- and told me where to head for a meal.

On Thursday, I had just come down from street level into the subway concourse at Dundas West station, and as I stopped to grab a Metro, I listened to a musician playing guitar and singing a Christmas song.  It sounded familiar but it wasn’t one I could hum from memory.  I smiled in amusement as I quietly speculated how talented he was- but caught myself before I walked away, and dug into my bag for a toonie I saw floating around earlier in the morning.

DAYS 34, 35: A-OK

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DAYS 34, 35: A-OK

Days 34, 35.
Trek to suburbia, volunteering.
Mon Dec 9, Tues Dec 10

I have been VERY delinquent in keeping up with my acts of kindness posts, but that doesn’t mean I’ve been sitting around twiddling my thumbs!

On Monday, I had a bit of a cheat day. I was in my home office working for pretty much the entire day and didn’t leave until about 4:00 to head out for 2 meetings.
My first meeting was only about a 25 minute commute (not bad for public transit!) but my second meeting was in an area I have never ventured to… a land called Scarborough. Remind you of Scar from Lion King? Me too. It’s just as rugged and evil.

I met a client out off the subway line and a bus ride away, but I am counting that commute as my act of kindness because I didn’t blink an eye when she told me where her preferred meeting point was. Sometimes being kind means not having a negative reaction (or a hesitation) when faced with a less than ideal situation or scenario.

On Tuesday, another gold-star volunteer day! I took a photo of myself in the mirror outside the coat room in the volunteer office… I had never noticed the phrase written on the top before that moment! The other volunteers on shift change teased me for taking a selfie… but in all fairness it was for the Noel Project. Agreed?

So my act of kindness at the hospital was watching a little girl who was clearly going stir-bananas cray cray. Her mother saw me in my vest and called me over to ask if I could watch her daughter and her stack of belongings she had placed on a chair in the ER wait room.

I have actually never been asked to watch a child before at the hospital, surprisingly, (except for one time a few months ago when a mother was on a mad hunt for feminine products and her daughter had to wait for an appointment in a specific area), so it caught me off guard. I have an unwarranted fear that the second a guardian leaves their child, the kid will suddenly morph into a terror and do something uncharacteristically destructive, and the parent will come back as I’m standing dumbfounded and helpless in front of the disaster that has ripped through the scene.

I’m sure you’re wondering what in God’s name happened, but crisis averted, no terrible conundrums befell this impromptu babysitting job. The little 3.5 year old girl was mostly delightful, terribly curious, and a tad hocked up on candy canes which Steven had been giving out to the kids in the ER this week. Her mother, however, was extremely grateful and came back (from the washroom, perhaps?) refreshed and certainly more relaxed than when she had rushed away initially.

Being kind means carry another’s burden for a moment or two to bring them back down to sanity, or perhaps even serenity.