Monday, April 23, 2012

Guest Post: Lisa Travers

I was thrilled to open my email the other day and find this guest post submission from Lisa Travers of the blog L!$@'s Life.  I have never met Lisa before, so it was exciting to have her feedback and hear her input about my project.  I love the story that she told, and am pleased to share it with all of you now:

Finding parking at university can be a daily struggle! You either have to pay to be in the carparks everyday, fight for a free close park or give up and park further away and walk in. When I am running late I often try to get a spot in the carpark and just pay. Sometimes I'll pay for the whole day, even if I know I'll be leaving early. When I do leave leave early I try to give my ticket to someone else so they don't have to pay. Just a simple gesture because I won't be needing it.

Well the other day, I REALLY needed a quick and close park because I was running quite late. Thankfully I saw a spot free, saw that the car next to it was leaving, so I let them back out and then parked. While trying to find enough money to pay for the time I needed I heard a tap on the window. Turning I saw a guy, the one who had just left, offering me his ticket that was until the end of the day. I was shocked and ever so grateful! I thanked him and then proceeded to get my things together and headed to meet for a group project. 

I literally couldn't stop smiling for the next half hour or so, I must have looked so funny, but it was nice to have someone give me their ticket when I needed it. The best bit is that I wouldn't have had enough cash to pay for the time I needed and would have needed to move my car between classes and been late to the second lot.

So be kind, help when you can, you never know when your simple act of kindness will really help someone else out.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Guest Post: Kylie Pond

You, my dear readers, are all SO lucky today!  You get both a community spotlight (see previous post) and a guest post all in one day!  As if that's not amazing enough, there is a guest poster tomorrow morning as well.  What a treat. :)
Without further ado, read on to hear from Kylie Pond of the blog Love, Always.  She gives some fantastic pointers on simple ways to spread kindness:

I've been struggling to find something to write about since Amy asked me to write a guest post.
I know it really shouldn't be that hard, but for some reason it is. However, a few things come to mind. 

1. I've been thinking a lot lately about kindness. Not just because of Amy's project, but it has helped. I wrote a post on my own blog [here] about kindness in the home. I wrote about how I'm trying to be less judgmental and to practice being kinder to my own family members. While I completely agree with Amy that kindness to strangers is very important....don't you think being kind to your flesh and blood is maybe even a little more important? How easy is it for us to get frustrated and short-tempered with those that we share close bonds with? I know no family is perfect, but I believe in striving to make homes a heaven on earth.

That being said, my husband is a great example to me. Amy already sang her husband's praises, but let me tell you about mine. My husband, TJ, makes me a PB&J sandwich every morning before I go to work, as my breakfast, because I just can't get out of bed early enough to eat breakfast before I go. He even does it on the days he has class the same time as I have work. And on the days he doesn't have class, he drives me to work so I don't have to rely on the shuttle to get there. Great guy, right? Not only does he do this, but he does the dishes every day. Even when I don't cook dinner, or when he's running low on clothing and underwear because I've been slacking on the laundry. These simple acts of kindness mean the world to me. His serving me reminds me every day that he loves me.

2. Just smile. I'm the type of person who wears my emotions plainly on my face. If I'm upset, you can tell just by looking at me. The problem is, it doesn't always translate properly. If I'm in deep thought, my brow furrows and I look upset, but I'm really not. So, sometimes I have to practice smiling. I think smiling is one of the simplest, most human ways to show kindness. Also, did you know that the mere act of smiling makes you happier? The smile muscles in your face trigger the endorphins (or something) and your brain thinks you're happy, even if you weren't previously. So just smile! It'll make you happier, and probably brighten someone else's day, too.

3. Say "Hi" or "How are you?" to the people you interact with. I work in a building that has a conglomeration of offices as well as food service. Every day, I venture outside of my office to refill my water. And most days, I pass this same food service employee who cheerfully says, "You have a good day now ma'am!" and it always makes me smile. There are others like this in the place where I work, and it just feels good to know people are trying to make others days brighter. Try it when you're at work, school, or the grocery store. You might be surprised how good it makes them feel, and how it makes you feel.

That's all I have! Thanks for reading.

Community Spotlight: Areina Contreras

I am very pleased to introduce all of you to Areina Contreras, my classmate from my Honors writing course for which I made this blog.  She's 18 years old, and is a full-time student at NAU.  Her major is public relations, with a minor in sociology (which coincidentally is my minor too).  She's extremely sweet, and volunteered to fill out this spotlight questionnaire to help me out with my project; my absolute FAVORITE part of this is when she says, "people are so enclosed that they forget about others."  This is exactly why I have these spotlights on my blog!  I want to remind everyone that there are others around them living their own lives, and I hope by introducing members of our Flagstaff community, these spotlights will encourage us to stop being so enmeshed in our own lives that we forget about the people around us.  Read on to get to know Areina, another Flagstaff resident:

1. What does a typical weekday look like for you?
Have my normal routines of class and work, but sometimes stressful and other weeks really nice.

2. What would you say is the one thing in your life right now that takes up the most of your time?
Right now it would have to be work and school.

3. What worries do you have in your life?
I worry about everything…What will happen next year or what my grades will be or what am I going to do over summer break? My main concerns are about school and my family.

4. What is important to you?
FAMILY is very important, but I cannot forget about myself. I have to remember to look out for myself in school, work, and healthy lifestyles. My relationship with my long distance boyfriend is also on my top list and then it goes my relationships with my friends.

5. Do you think you live in a kind community?
Yes, I think Flagstaff is generally friendly place and I feel accepted and safe in this community.

6. What are some examples of kindness you have given or received recently?
New people I have met have been generous to pay for my dinner and even drive me around town. On campus people have held doors open and even returned my lost cell phone.

7. Tell us one confession of a time you could have been kinder--whatever you feel comfortable sharing.
There are times when I randomly talk to people who I think look interesting and as a result end up having lunch with a new person who eventually becomes a friend. [I'm pretty sure Areina misread the question, because this sounds extremely kind to me!  Or maybe she's just so nice that she doesn't have any unkind moments to confess to us. :)]

8. Can you think of a time when you relied on the kindness of strangers? 
There was one time when I was in elementary school when I rode the bus to my grandma’s house and ended up getting lost within her neighborhood. I was wondering the street crying and decided to ask for someone’s help, so I knocked on a random person’s door. This sweet older lady opened the door and asked me if I needed help and I told her where my grandma lived and she gave me a ride to my grandmas and made sure I got in the house safely. I will never forget that lady’s kindness because at that moment I felt so helpless.

9. Discuss a time you observed someone being inconsiderate to another.
Inconsideration happens to often to remember specifically at this moment.

10. Finally, tell us anything else you can think of that is important to know about you as a person.
Kindness is a part of my being, but at times I do not always look out for other people. I think at times people are so enclosed that they forget about others and it sucks when you are the person that gets left behind. Especially because now people tend to hide behind technology rather than interacting with actual people, so for me I try to remember others.

Many thanks to Areina for being willing to "stand in the spotlight" for a bit!

Friday, April 20, 2012

New word for the day: Beleaguered

The word "overwhelmed" has been a major part of my vocabulary lately.  Life itself is overwhelming, both in good and...less-than-good ways.  Because I like to shake things up a bit, and I love learning and using new words, I decided to try to find a good replacement for "overwhelmed."  This is what I came up with, compliments of the Encarta Dictionary (of North American English):

Beleaguered: be-lea-guer (transitive verb)
     1.  Annoy.  to make somebody feel harassed, hemmed in, or under severe pressure
     2.  Besiege.  to surround somebody or something with an army

 Beleaguered.  Learn it, use it, love it! 

I just wanted to say to all of you wonderful readers and kindness-doers...THANK YOU.  Even though I have felt rather beleagured by life as of late, you all are still making me so happy!  The people who have submitted guest posts, spotlight questionnaires, and comments to posts have demonstrated a huge kindness to me by participating and helping out with my project.  But more than anything else, I love receiving messages about acts of kindness people have witnessed or experienced via text, email, or Facebook, often ending with "I just had to let you know because it reminded me of your blog."  Not only do these stories make me smile because I love that there are kind people out there blessing the lives of others, but they also validate my purpose here as a writer.

"Think of an idea to change the world, and put it into action." -Eugene Simonet, teacher on the movie Pay it Forward

My writing professor assigned essentially the same project.  "Think of a way you can use writing to change the world."  Even if I haven't inspired my readers to go out and be someone's hero, I at least know that my blog is helping people (myself included) be more aware of the kind deeds that others are doing around them.  And increasing awareness is the best way to mobilize change.

Again, from the bottom of my heart: thank you, dear readers!  I am...overwhelmed...(beleaguered just didn't seem to fit the sentence) by all of your love and support.  Keep on spreading the kindness, and stay tuned for another guest post and another community spotlight coming up in the next couple of days. :)

Challenge for the Day:
Leave a surprise gift on someone's doorstep

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Guest Post: My Mom!

I promise I'm not blackmailing my family into helping me out.  They are just my biggest supporters, I guess!  And this is only TECHNINCALLY a guest post.  My mom just emailed me a link to this awesome news story clip with a single sentence attached to it...but I'm going to go for it and call it a guest post.  (Click the link to view the video since I can only upload vids from my computer or YouTube.)  Here is her sentence-long post:

Just a short clip that shows kindness is alive in the valley, too.

"It is amazing, the power of kindness in our community."  --Mark Curtis, 12 News

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Guest Post: Leigh

 I am pleased to introduce all of you to my second guest poster, Leigh.  Some quick background info about Leigh to help put the following story into its proper perspective: she is a mom of three little boys, ages 3, 2, and almost 1.  She is also very pregnant, and lives in a place in Arizona where the weather is hot and the inside of a car is even HOTTER.  Read on to hear her story about relying on a stranger's rescue:

Today I learned that child locks are dangerous.
I was loading the kids in the car after a shopping trip at Target. Since my 3-year-old and 2-year-old JUST moved to the third row of the car (to make room for baby), I climbed in to help buckle them into their booster seats. Trying to be courteous in case the owner of the neighbor car left while I was strapping my kids into the car, I closed the door ALMOST all the way. It shut. I thought nothing of it. I buckled my youngest in. I buckled the other two in.  Gave them sippy cups and a few fruit snacks (which I bought because I was hungry... But I knew they would insist on sharing with me). And I tried to get out. It took a second to realize why I couldn't open the door. Child locks. I thought for a minute about my predicament. I couldn't open the door, obviously. The keys were in my hand, so I couldn't roll down a window to access the outside handle of the door. I am nearly 8 months pregnant, so I couldn't crawl over my youngest's carseat (which is in the middle seat of the second row), nor could I crawl over the passenger's seat. There is just no room for me to go over anything. I couldn't go out through the back for the same reason. Besides, there is no inside handle to the rear door. I am trapped in my car with my three babies.  Trying to remain calm, I waited for someone to pass by. It takes a while for someone to actually walk by. I started pounding on the windows while shouting "help". The woman glanced up. A conflicted look crossed her face. And she started veering to the other side of the row, occasionally looking at the car. She did not stop to help. The boys started crying when they saw me getting agitated. Another lady walks by, so I try again. "Help me! Please!" I pounded harder. The second person stole a quick look at my car and sped up. She did not stop to help. I was hysterical. I screamed. I pounded. The boys screamed. And cried. I think a third person walked by without stopping to help. But I was so frantic it just didn't register. A man appeared outside my car next to me. He must have come up behind from the front of the car. I managed to shout, "please open my door; I am trapped" between sobs. Without hesitation, he opened the door. I started bawling uncontrollably. He made sure everyone was safe and sound as I scrambled out of the car. I thanked him profusely, not knowing what else to say to this stranger who has just saved me and my babies from baking inside my car. I quickly climbed into the driver's seat and just cried for a few minutes. I was so grateful for the stranger who helped; I was so appalled by those who just walked past. 
I get it, though. If the situation were reversed, what would I do? 
As a pregnant woman with kids in tow, I would feel vulnerable. What if it were a trap?
But I don't think I could just do NOTHING. Especially after my experience.
I would call 911. Or at least let security know someone might be trapped.
There are still good people in the world, even if few and far between.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Community Spotlight: Nicki Jones

I am so excited for all of you to meet Nicki Jones, the first of my community spotlights!  She is a chatty lil lady, so grab a snack, sit back, and take a few minutes out of your day to get to know a member of our Flagstaff community.  Read on and take a peek into the life of someone who once was a complete stranger to you:

My name is Nicki Jones, I am 24 years old. I am a Latter-Day Saint of 6 years. I have been married to my best friend for three years. I have my AA in Performing and Cinematic Arts (Eastern Arizona College), a BS in Theatre Studies (NAU) and I am currently working on a Masters in Secondary Education Certification (NAU). I am from the north Phoenix area originally but I have moved around a lot to places like: Thatcher, AZ; Valencia, CA; Florence, Volterra and Guissano, Italy; Ketchikan, AK and Flagstaff, AZ. I love the colors yellow and red, but not together. I always have a craving for spicy Thai food (no, I am not pregnant) and chocolate, but not together. I also have an affection towards dancing and singing, but I can’t do either very well. My dream is to one day teach high school theatre and I have a strong desire to live in Hawaii and become absorbed into their culture someday too. Also, I am a little weird and sometimes eccentric, sorry, can’t help it.

What does a typical weekday look like for you?
Well, I work two part time jobs equaling a total of about 30 hours of work a week. I absolutely LOVE one of my jobs, and the other….well, let’s just say that it ends at the conclusion of the semester and I can’t wait. Ok, so, I work a lot. Oh, did I mention that I am a full time graduate student at NAU right now? Who’s idea was this?! As a result, I spend as little time doing school work as I possibly can because I am trying to juggle it with my home life (cleaning the house, spending time with the Hubbie, etc.) too. So a typical weekday looks like this: Get up at 6:30 in the morning, get ready to go to my first job together with my husband (he only has one), work for 4 hours at NAU, then come home, eat lunch, get ready for my next job. Most of the time when I have a day like this, it ends up being a 12 hour work day. Sometimes, I try to make time for myself by doing yoga….or the dishes. Whichever. By the time I get home late at night, my husband has been watching TV all night waiting for me to come home and sometimes, he makes me dinner, sometimes, I cook. That’s pretty much a normal weekday for me!

What would you say is the one thing in your life that takes up the most of your time?
Work and school. I will be totally honest, I can’t stand my classes and the busy work I am given takes up a lot of my time.

What worries do you have in your life?
I worry about EVERYTHING!! Just ask my husband! It’s probably because I watched way too many movies and too much television as a child, but I worry that when my husband goes off to work every day, that he will get in some sort of terrible accident and I will never see him again. (Ok, so I am letting my crazy out a little here, bare with me!) I also worry about drive by shootings and someone stealing my mail. I worry that my husband will leave me because I am a very needy wife. I worry that I won’t be a very good mother- I worry that I will turn out like my mother (or mother-in-law). I worry that we will be up to our eye-balls in debt for our entire lives. I am constantly worrying about losing that job that I absolutely love because I am just not as good as my boss thought I was going to be when she promoted me. I worry that I will never be able to realize my future dreams as a high school theatre teacher. I worry that if I ever do get my dream job, that I will freeze and not know what to do…….yeah, I worry about a lot of things.

What is important to you?
The number one most important thing to me is my Temple recommend and my relationship with my Heavenly Father. I have lost both at one time in my life, and it was so painful that I never want to feel that way ever again. However, my husband and our relationship is also very important to me. I know that some people, if their spouse dies before them, are encouraged to re-marry for a number of reasons. I know that I will never remarry if that unfortunate event were to happen to me. He is mine and I am his. I don’t ever want to be married to another. He is my world and my home. Wherever my husband is, I am home. And that’s that. I also think that hard work and determination is important to me. I have never done anything or gotten anywhere in life without those ingredients. I also believe that being someone to look up to is important to me, that is one of the reasons I want to be a teacher. I want to be a good example to my students. 

Do you think you live in a kind community?
Do I feel that I live in a kind community towards myself? No. And I say that because I am constantly ostracized for my beliefs at NAU (work or classes). I have very “traditional” values that are not really accepted in such a liberal community such as NAU. Don’t get me wrong, I chose to come here. But I figured that everyone would just leave me alone and not make fun of me, pass judgments or make snide comments because of my beliefs. I figured that because I don’t do that to others, then others won’t do that to me. How naive. On the flip side, do I feel my community is kind to others? Yes, I do. We are a very “green” community here in Flagstaff, and I can appreciate it- mostly. I think it’s great that the community is doing its part to help save the planet. Yeah for Mother Earth! woo.

What are some examples of kindness you have given or received recently?
Um, I offer people rides home from work so they don’t have to walk in the dark………….. I don’t know…..I don’t know how to answer this question. I enjoy being kind to people on a regular basis. My favorite thing to do is to make sure I say please and thank you. How often do we forget to actually thank someone? I LOVE giving genuine thanks because it lets that person (or those people) know that what they have done makes a difference. And, I figure, I appreciate being appreciated, so why wouldn’t everyone else? I have received many acts of kindness recently. For example, Shawn (my husband) did all the dishes for me while I rested and took care of myself yesterday because I wasn’t feeling well. He didn’t ask for my help and did not say anything. Just did the dishes. And this morning, he started doing the laundry without me asking him 

Tell us one confession of a time you could have been kinder—whatever you feel comfortable sharing.
To this day, I still feel awful about the time where I got mad at a server at a restaurant. We had taken my mother-in-law out to dinner for her birthday and our server must have been new but he kept on forgetting things like our food, utensils, napkins, etc. When he finally brought our food, but no utensils to eat with, I mentioned it to him. He apologized and said he would get them. I then said something along the lines of “great because instead of just looking at my food, I would rather eat it, thanks” in the most snarky tone of voice possible. How rude of me!!! I couldn’t believe it! Where did I even get the guts to even say something like that out loud?! Needless to say, I felt terrible and wasn’t able to enjoy the birthday dinner after all. I think we gave him a decent tip to maybe try and make amends.

Can you think of a time when you relied on the kindness of strangers?
Yes I can. When I was living in Italy, after I got my TEFL certificate, I was moving from Volterra to a small town 30 minutes north of Milan called Guissano. Anyways, I had to pick up and move all of my belongings, which luckily fit into two suitcases and a couple of bags. In order to get there, I had to take three different trains. It was about a five hour trip overall. Well, like any really old train station, Milano Centrale is nothing but stairs-lots and lots of stairs. And I was having a lot of trouble getting all of my luggage up and down those stairs in order to catch my connecting train. Every single time, some guy would see me struggling and I had no idea what he would say to me in Italian except I recognized the word “mano” meaning “hand” and I would always say “si, perfavore”. The kind strangers would help me either up or down the stairs with hands full of luggage and then would just walk off after I said “grazi”. And that was it. They didn’t ever expect anything in return. But I will never ever forget how helpful they were to me that day.

Discuss a time you observed someone being inconsiderate to another.
Ok, this may sound like I am ratting out someone, but I am not. I am just answering the question. So earlier this semester, as part of my job here at NAU as the Theatre Department Public Relations and Marketing Coordinator, I am required to ask for volunteers to help put up posters around town to advertise for our shows. Anyways, I asked the cast of a show to help and I got four volunteers. One of the volunteers was all gung-ho about doing the work, that I didn’t think I would have problems. Well, come to find out, this person didn’t do any of the work I asked of them while the other three fulfilled their jobs completely. I kept trying to contact this person and I never got a response about their progress. I know for a fact that this person never did what I asked of them and therefore, let the entire production down. Who knows how many more people would have come to see the show if this person had done what I asked of them and just got their posters out to the community? I feel that their actions were completely inconsiderate to the production over all, especially because this person did not communicate with me at all.

Finally, tell us anything else you can think of that is important to know about you as a person.
Um, even though I have a lot of stressors in my life, I love life. Life is never as bad as I think it is. I live by many mantras but this one I will share: “you are never fully dressed without a smile” (cheesy, right?....I have always loved it!) I am also grateful for the ability to be here on this beautiful Earth at this time. 
~ - ~ - ~
And there you have Nicki!