A ridiculous amount of birthday love.

Was it ridiculous to turn my birthday into a month-long event/campaign/fundraiser/whatever? Yes. I am, as they say, pushing thirty. Women of This Certain Age are not supposed to wear Burger King crowns as “tiaras” and demand an ungodly amount of attention and/or ice cream. I should be embarrassed.

Does this look like the face/outfit of someone who is easily embarrassed?

Does this look like the face/outfit of someone who is easily embarrassed?

Ahem.

First and foremost, I need to thank everyone who donated to my charity:water campaign and helped me exceed my goal of saving 28 lives. To date, we’ve raised over $600! By far the most successful fundraiser I’ve ever had – even better than the time I offered personalized limericks as an incentive (And what an incentive it was – I rhymed “schadenfreude” with “does it annoy ya?” Poetry.).

I also had a lot of fun and some good response with the social media experiment portion of my birthday project – the 28 for 28 Facebook page. I like sharing things I care about, and I care about my birthday! No, I mean, I care about ways to make the world better. Thanks to those of you who got involved with that, too.

I was determined to spend my actual birthday committing 28 Random And Not So Random Acts Of Kindness. I made lists, I set a budget, I made timetables. But because I was excited, I started two days early. And because the birthday weekend involved several Unscheduled Naps, I finished two days late. That’s me all over.

I got the idea to do this by searching online, so I’m presenting this list in no particular order to maybe inspire another internet stranger one day:

Birthday (Weekend) Acts Of Kindness

1. Bought my boss tulips. They immediately folded in half and looked incredibly pathetic. But luckily I revived them (aka cut the stems) before she saw them

2. Stuck a coffee gift card on the door of a very deserving friend

3. Drew something for a friend who needs a pick-me-up

4. Donated my hair to Locks of Love.  The entire ponytail you see up above is now on its way to Florida. Factoid: the first time I did this, I was 14, and it made the front page of my hometown newspaper. I’m just trying to get to that level of fame again.

5. Tipped the stylist of my new ‘do 28%

6. Helped a stranger move a desk (or helped a stranger rob another stranger – either way, helping!)

7. Bought a friend lunch

8. Bought a different friend a beer

9. Helped yet another friend (I don’t want to brag but I have more than two) set up a blog – check it out, especially if you’re a beer fan! Also, I would like to note I agreed to do this before I knew there was going to be a paragraph of nice things about me in it. That just made me more eager to help.

10. Bought a bunch of children’s books to donate to a program I care about

11. Bought a friend tea (I was going to buy coffee for the person in line behind us, but he turned out to be a very cantankerous man, and my friend is nicer)

12. Bought a thank-you gift for someone who was nice to me recently

13. Helped the same cantankerous old man from #11 exit a “confusing” building at the St. Paul Art Crawl

14. Recycled plastic bags and donated food at a grocery store

15. Left money at a Redbox rental machine, along with a note

16. Left a 110% tip at Caribou Coffee. I did the math so that I, like every pro athlete, can say I “gave 110%”

17. Donated books to a Little Free Library (I love those things!)

18. Left money at Nice Ride MN station. I don’t want to talk about the poorly-worded note I also left there.

19. Dropped about thirty online coupons in a basket at Target

20. Donated clothes to Goodwill

21. Gave my neighbor’s dog a treat

22. Recovered a friend’s lost phone

23. Volunteered for Feed My Starving Children at Summit Brewery  (Worlds colliding!)

24. Picked up Target gift cards for The Bridge For Youth

25. Wrote thank-you notes

26. Left money at a vending machine

27. Bid on silent auction items for local fundraisers at BiddingForGood.com

28. Left quarters in laundry room for my neighbors

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So there you go. Twenty-eight mostly small, mostly deliberate acts of kindness to celebrate twenty-eight mostly great years. Thank you, everyone, for making them worth celebrating.

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28 for 28: A birthday celebration, a social media experiment

Last year, my friend Al gave me a birthday card that said, “I love those people who are like ‘It’s my birthday week’ or ‘It’s my birthday month.’ Even Martin Luther King Jr. only gets a day. Calm down people.

I’ve had it displayed in my apartment for the past year because I enjoy missing the point. And I really enjoy my birthday/week/month.

This one is particularly IMPORTANT, however, as it’s my golden birthday. The one I’ve spent my whole life waiting for. On April 28th, I will be 28.

I think the first time I went to a golden birthday party, I was 8. So was the birthday girl. I remember balloons and a serious amount of envy as I realized I’d have to wait 20 years for my extra-special birthday party. Now that it’s here, what do I want?

Last year I had friends over for mimosas, went out for breakfast, took a bus to the Twins game (which was unfortunately rained out), took a nap, grabbed a beer at my favorite local bar, and celebrated at a bonfire with a bunch of other friends lucky enough to be born at the end of April. I got a crown; I wore a crown. I woke up the next day still wearing said crown. It was pretty great.

That’s not what I want to do this year.

I’m actually giving myself the best birthday present ever – I’m taking my mom to Ireland for 10 days in April. That’s all the gift I need. But I still want to do something more.  To quote Wayne Campbell, “What I’d really like to do is something extraordinary. Something big. Something mega. Something copious. Something capacious. Something cajunga!”

I want to do something GOOD. And I want you to do something good, too.

So taking inspiration from the Birthday Project, the #26Acts of Kindness movement, GOOD.is and the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, I’m starting something. Something fun, short-term, and (hopefully) Good.

28logo

My main undertaking this month will be trying to raise enough money to save 28 lives through Charity:Water. But even if you can’t donate, I hope you’ll join me in the 28 For 28 project.

I’m aiming to do 28 Good Things in April. All I’d really like you to do – is pick one.

Join with me as I celebrate 28 good years over 28 days.

#26Acts of Kindness: It’s a Start

Two weeks ago, I was wondering what I could do to help. Most of the world was. There are still so many more questions than answers (although I can think of many things that are certainly not the answer), but one positive movement has come about: Ann Curry started the idea of doing 20 (now 26) acts of kindness in honor of the victims, no matter where you are. It’s gone viral and I’m so happy – relieved, even – to be taking part.

Let’s spread the word: We are better than this. This is a good world after all.

Here’s what I’ve done so far:

1: Sponsored a package through Project Night Night, which will provide a book, stuffed animal and security blanket to a homeless child. I actually heard about this through The Bloggess a while ago; this provided the extra push I needed to make the donation.

2. Donated canned goods to a food drive (hosted at my friend’s Cookie Swap Party, so really a win-win for everyone).

3. Bought coffee for all of my coworkers. This was not an act of kindness for the poor trainee behind the counter at Caribou, however. “I need one medium northern lite hazelnut latte, one large white berry sugar free raspberry mocha with no whip, one regular latte with an extra shot…” She did great.

4. Bought a coffee for the man behind me in line. He was…startled. But agreed that karma is a good thing.

5 – 8. This one is my favorite so far. I went to my favorite children’s bookstore in all the world, the Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul, and picked out four of my favorite children’s books in all the world: “Miss Rumphius” by Barbara Cooney (for obvious reasons), “Walk Two Moons” by Sharon Creech (who I also met at the Red Balloon once), “Anne of Green Gables” by L.M. Montgomery, and “Matilda” by Roald Dahl.

Four children's books

I immediately donated them to the Red Balloon’s book-donation program. It felt awesome. I could have spent all of my time and money in this store (er, which is why at least the next few of my Acts of Kindness will be on the free side).

9. Gave out candy canes and cards to everyone in my building. Well, almost everyone. I was shy one candy cane, so…

Have a VERY merry Christmas.

Special moments made…specialer.

10. Helped serve ice cream at the nursing home with my mom. And did not eat all of the ice cream myself. That’s not exactly a good deed, but I still feel like I deserve some sort of medal. I really like ice cream.

11. Made lunch for my family one day over Christmas weekend – nacho bar! At one point I had to stir some sort of meat in a pan and two (2) of my four (4) immediate family members were compelled to take pictures. Yeah, yeah. Laugh at the vegetarian. See if I offer to be nice to you ever again.

The rest of the weekend/early week was spent hanging out with my family, and it’s hard to count any time spent together as an “act of kindness” when I enjoy it as much as they do (probably more, because I only cooked that one (1) meal in four days. Thanks for feeding me, mom).

Back to looking for random acts and random recipients. Any suggestions?

In response to everything.

I wish I didn’t understand hate, but I do. I hate things a lot. Waking up before I’m ready. The sound of gum-chewing. Little Drummer Boy. Hangovers. Pants.

Sometimes I even think I hate people. Sometimes the idea of going out and facing the loud world makes me quote Liz Lemon – “people are the worst” – and listen to Get Set Go on repeat. But that’s not really hate, that’s annoyance, often brought upon myself by gum chewing, pants, hangovers, etc. On days like that I’m so unpleasant I think other people have more of a right to hate me than the other way around. But the perfect strangers who are the victims of my mean stares, eye rolls, and silently composed insults move on, and I forget about them, and we don’t bother one another anymore. Maybe that’s not really hate, but it’s not really nice, either.

I thought I hated a person or two in high school, and maybe I did. Maybe I wasn’t very nice, because they weren’t very nice to me. Nothing unique about that story. It doesn’t bring up any darkness to think about them anymore; doesn’t make me imagine insults I wish I’d been brave enough to say out loud. Doesn’t make me wish ill things upon them.  Doesn’t make me want to go out for cocktails together, either, but if I saw them in a bar I wouldn’t throw the same cocktail in their faces. So if it was hate, it too has passed with time.

I know hate does me no good. I know it hurts everyone it touches. And I believe fighting hate with hate is the most dangerous concept out there. And yet I’m still so, so much better at understanding hate than forgiveness.

When I hear about a drunk driver taking an innocent’s life, I do not feel forgiving. When another act of senseless violence is on the news, I do not feel forgiving. When I hear unkind words, even if they are not directed at me, even if they are said without malicious intent, I do not feel forgiving. Sometimes I’ll feel it later, but never immediately; I’m in awe of anyone who can do that. What to do, then, in the moment when the wounds are fresh?

It seems like everywhere I look these days, I’m seeing hate responding to hate. I could be good at that. I could get in an argument and hurl insults with the best of them. I can be snarky on purpose and cruel by accident. But why? what good does that do me, and more importantly, what good does it do the world?

So this is what I’m trying to do: shut up. For a little while, anyway – long enough to remember that no matter what side of an issue I’m on, I want to stand for love, not hate. Long enough to think, does this argument need my negative words, or does it need my positive actions? Long enough to find out if I need to forgive, and how to do it.

I’m not saying I don’t want to stand up for what I believe in. If I need to add my voice to something, I will, but I want to do it in a way that does not hurt myself or others. No matter what I believe, I have no right to attack someone who sees things differently. No matter what they believe, I have no right to wish them any ill. To put it simply: I want to do more good, say less bad.

I have a fondness for Saint Francis of Assisi, even though he is often shown surrounded by birds and rabbits (two other things I come close to hating, but that’s for another therapy session). I like this quote, most often attributed to him: “Preach the Gospel always. If necessary, use words.” Whether or not you’re Catholic, it’s a good mantra, if you believe (as I do) that “Preaching the Gospel” means love.

There are a lot of good mantras that remind me to close my mouth and move my feet.  Like this one, from the only rabbit I kind of tolerate: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”