August 2011-
I am starting a 29-Day Challenge to give one gift each day and see how it affects my life. I have always considered myself a giver, but I feel this challenge will challenge and focus me on giving more. I was inspired by the book 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving can Change your Life. I ran across it 2 years ago in a bookstore in Springfield, MO, and I titled a piece of paper 29 Gifts. I found that same piece of paper the other day, and I saw it as a sign to start the challenge. You can learn more about the book and challenge at

After 1 month of giving, I have continued this challenge in giving and sharing the stories with others. Hope you enjoy reading about my adventures with giving!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Day 40: Donation to St. Mary's CYO

Today my gift was donating money to the St. Mary's CYO group of Ellis.  I received the letter below from one of my friend's little sisters.  She and her CYO group were getting ready to attend the National Catholic Youth Conference.  I attended this conference as a CYO member in high school.  It was such a great experience, and it was the first opportunity I had to go to Oklahoma and Texas.  I made many memories on that trip with one of my best friends, and I fell in love with traveling after that trip.  I want to give youth in my home community that same opportunity I had.  That same opportunity to broaden their horizons and meet new people.  Also, I hope these young people had an opportunity to deepen their faith and see the impact that faith can have on their lives.  Each opportunity, journey, or trip we had as youth has helped shape the person we are today.  Give back to those organizations, causes, or experiences that helped mold you into the individual you are today. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Day 39: Homemade Apple Pie

Today my gift was making my Dad a homemade apple pie for his birthday.  It was Saturday, so I started preparing since it was my 1st attempt at an apple pie. I did a little searching online to find a good recipe, and I made a list.  I thought I would make it this coming week before I went home for the weekend.  I went shopping Tuesday to get all my ingredients.  I picked out the best granny smith and jona-gold apples I could find.  I then purchased some butter, and I had everything else at home.  Then came Wednesday night, I set out my recipe to make the pie crust.  It called for butter, water, and flour.  I added tablespoon by tablespoon of ice water to the flour and butter mixture to finally get a dough product.  I was pumped, it even smelled like real homemade pie crust.  The next evening I got to work on slicing the apples and mixing in all the other ingredients.  Peeling, cutting, and slicing apples was a lot of hard work.  I rolled out the crust, put in the apple mixture, and put the other crust on top.  I used the little knowledge I had about pie making to complete this task.  Thanks to those couple times I helped my Mom I did it.  After 45 minutes in the oven, the apple pie was finally done.  It looked amazing!  I only hoped it would taste as good as it looked.  I carefully wrapped it up to be taken the 2 1/2 hour drive back home.  When I arrived I was so excited to present this masterpiece to my Dad.  He was so surprised that I made it all by myself.  I think this was one of my best birthday gifts I have given.  Giving isn't about finding the next best thing, or about buying some expensive gift.  Giving is about thinking of others and thinking about what will bring them joy and a peaceful feeling.  It is the thought behind gifts that make them meaningful and special.  Give the gift of making another feel special!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Day 38: Cards to Friends

Today my gift was sending two of my best friends cards.  One was getting a root canal, and I thought a Get well card would be perfect.  So I crafted up a card with a tooth fairy and big tooth looking happy on it.  If anything, it would make her laugh.  My other friend was just trying to recover from the flu along with taking care of her sick husband and son.  Sometimes we can't physically be there for our friends and family members, but we can send them kinds words and wishes through phone calls and cards.  We each have the power to make another person's journey a little more joyful and bareable.  Do something kind for someone that needs it, whether it's a stranger in the grocery store, or someone you've known all your life.

"Everyone has a fair turn to be as great as he pleases." 
-Jeremy Collier

Day 37: Making a Sandwich

Today my gift was making a lady a sandwich just the way she wanted it.  I volunteered at Second Helping again, which is a program through the 1st Congregational Church in Manhattan, KS that serves meals each Sunday to those in need.  We had a great turnout of volunteers and even had two teenagers come to help.  Each week a home-cooked meal is made and sack lunches are put together for those that come.  This week I helped make the sandwiches and set up the tables.  As I was setting up the tables, a lady asked me, if we had any more sandwiches because she didn't get one.  I ran back to the kitchen and grabbed one of the extra sandwiches to give to the her.  As I presented it to the her, she looked at it closely.  She asked if she could have a sandwich with just cheese on it with no meat or lettuce.  I said, "Sure, no problem" and walked quickly back to the kitchen to solve this problem.  I took the meat and lettuce off and put it on another sandwich, so it would not go to waste.  I was so happy, I was going to make this lady's day by giving her a sandwich with just cheese.  As I presented the second sandwich to her, she looked at it closely again.  She replied she wanted white bread and would not eat wheat bread.  I walked back to the kitchen a little more slowly to solve this dilemma.  I took out another sandwich with white bread and thought I could just switch the white bread for the wheat bread.  And that's what I did.  I walked back over to the lady to present to her the third sandwich I had made for her.  Immediately, she looked at it, and she said she wanted American cheese not Swiss cheese.  I asked her if she was sure, and she said she was.  I walked back to the kitchen yet again to make her sandwich  for the fourth time.  I was determined to give her the sandwich that she wanted.  Other volunteers warned me that she was always making demands, but I wanted to make her happy and make her the sandwich she wanted.  So I pulled off the Swiss cheese, and I put a new slice of American cheese on the two slices of white bread.  I walked energetically over to the lady to present plain American cheese sandwich made with white bread to her.  This was the one, I just knew it!  She looked closely at the sandwich, which made me nervous.  She opened her mouth to speak, and I winced.  The lady said, "Oh, you are such a sweetheart!"  She was so overjoyed that she had finally gotten the sandwich she wanted.  I was overjoyed too that I had finally gotten it right.  The lady introduced herself to me as Diana and even introduced me to her son.  I told her I was happy I could make her sandwich right, and I told her it was nice to meet her.  As I left that day from volunteering, I thought back to my experience.  Diana was a "regular" at the Second Helping meal.  She probably did not have the opportunity to go out to eat at a restaurant or even enough food to get her through the week.  Sometimes in life, we have no control over our situations.  In those situations, I think we all react similarly to how Diana did.  We take comfort in rituals and in those things we still have control over.  I'm glad I met Diana because she reminds me that we are all going through something.  I believe with a little patience, a little kindness, and  a little determination, we can all make each other's journeys through life a little more joyful.

Our tables set up for the meal.

Sign outside advertising for the Free meal

Busy chopping onions for the Breakfast Casserole

Packing up the sack lunches

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Day 36: Volunteering at Second Helping

Today my gift was giving back to the Manhattan community by coordinating a volunteer opportunity with Second Helping.  Second Helping is a meal prepared by volunteers at the First Congregational Church for those that are homeless or in need.  I recruited eight volunteers to help out with the event.  Two of those volunteers were my friends.  It meant a lot that they came and volunteered with me.  It was such a great experience preparing the meal, serving the meal, meeting new volunteers, and knowing that we all made such a difference by giving our time for those in need.  I realized that we all are going through things in life, but we all need to be aware that someone else might be going down an even rougher road.  We always need to remember that even when we feel like we have nothing to give; we still do.  We have our kind words, our friendship, our hugs, our kindness, and our helping hands reaching out to others and expecting nothing in return.

"This, then, is the test we must set for ourselves; not to march alone, but to march in such a way that others will wish to join us."
-Hubert H. Humphrey
From The Little Book of Positive Quotations that my Brother Jarret so thoughtfully gave to me last Christmas.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Day 35: Encouraging words

Today my gift was sending a good friend of mine a card in the mail.  She hasn't been herself lately, and I just wanted to let her know that I am there for her.  I wanted to encourage her and brighten her day.  Sometimes we reach out and expect nothing in return.  Today reach out to someone in need.

Day 34: Benefit Run

Today my gift was running in a Benefit Run in Junction City along the Riverwalk to raise money for an eight year old with disabilities to obtain a service dog.  It was so inspiring being able to meet CJ and his family.  They were all so thankful for the donations and those who participated in the 5K.  In this life, there are so many opportunities to raise money for the causes you believe in.  I think running in these sort of races is such a great gift to myself and others.  I feel great when I get to participate in an event to help someone else, and it is a great way to stay healthy!  Find a cause you believe in and get involved today either by raising money, running in a 5K, or volunteering.  Get involved!

Day 33: Supportive words

Today my gift was sending a Facebook message to someone I rarely see face to face.  I noticed their status said somethings that pointed me to thinking that they were upset about something.  Sometimes we see that others are going through something, but all too often we ignore these people and think they will figure it out on their own.  Especially in this world of social media, when someone cries out for help, we think they are simply trying to get attention.  Today when you see those messages of someone needing help, send words of support, words of kindness.  We all can do a little to make an impact in those around us.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Day 32: Helping out a lady at DG

Today my gift was helping a lady put her groceries into her car.  I noticed her when she was exiting Dollar General.  She had several heavy items such as kitty litter and other items.  It took a couple minutes out of my day to help this woman put the items into her car.  We can give the gift of service to anyone we see that we feel may need a little extra help. Seek out someone like this today and give the act of service as your gift today. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Day 31: Helping Delbert

Today I was going about my busy day; going to work, going to class, going to the recycling center, and then going to volunteer at Boys and Girls Club.  While I was at the recycling center, I went about my normal business sorting my plastics, cardboard, paper, glass, tin cans, and other recyclables into the different compartments.  I got done rather quickly.  As I exited Howie's, I glanced over to see an elderly gentlemen unloading his recyclables onto a cart.  I quickly put my recycling bins back in my trunk and sat down in my car to start it.  I glanced over to see the elderly man continuing to unload his recyclables.  I started my car and put my car in reverse and then I reached for my phone and looked at the time.  It was 3:45 and I had to be at Boys and Girls Club at 4:00.  Thoughts raced through my mind.  What if he gets mad and doesn't want my help?  What if I leave and don't help him?  What if I do help him?  Then I thought of this, my blog, my inspiration, my want to really be the change we want to see in the world and how each day we are presented with these situations in which we choose to help someone or to ignore them.  I put my car back in park and turned the ignition off.  I walked over to the elderly gentlemen and told him I had some time to spare and asked him if he needed some help.  He kindly said that it would be fine.  I soon began emptying boxes of cardboard, bags of plastic, and bags of heavy papers.  It took about five to seven minutes to help this kind man out.  He kept saying "It is so kind of you to help".  I just knew I was supposed to stop and help him.  It's such a gift to offer help and have another receive it.  He was so kind and introduced himself as Del, short for Delbert.  He was so friendly and said it would have taken him much longer to unload all of his recyclables.  We all can be those helpful, friendly, and giving people in our communities.  Each day we are presented with situations that we have to make a choice about.  I hope this story opens your eyes to helping someone in need or just helping someone out to brighten their day. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Day 30: After 29 Days of Giving...

So I think after 29 days of giving, my life really is changed.  I feel so thankful, so inspired, and just so HAPPY!!  Most days it seemed opportunities to give just fell into my hands.  I don't know if this normally happened each day, or if I was just paying more attention to the opportunities to give in front of me.  I feel each day was such a blessing.  I got to give a gift each day, and each day I feel like I received so much back from giving that gift.  It seemed some days things were just going my way and nothing could affect my mood and happiness.  It was just such a great, inspiring journey.  I am sad it's over, and I guess I have already decided it's NOT over.  I am going to change my blog to "Giving Back:  29 Gifts and Counting..".  I am excited for the challenge, the new experiences, and just to continue to do what I love.  I hope you enjoy reading about my experiences with giving, and I hope you will continue to read.  God Bless.

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“Life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more”

 Anthony Robbins quotes

Day 29: Thank Yous to Former Teachers

Today my gift was sending thank yous to one of my former high school teachers and one of my former college professors.  Both have impacted me and my learning.  I feel like a better writer because of my high school English teacher.  She always challenged me to do my best.  My college professor had a different way of teaching and was more of a constructivist teacher.  He inspired me to create my own questions, explore the world, and to be curious about the world.  It was very empowering.  I had always wanted to send both of them thank yous and I thought this would be the perfect time to do it with school starting. Teachers are such inspiring people!  Thanks to all those teachers out there, and I hope I can make an impact as my teachers did on me. 

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell, where his influence stops.”
Henry Brooks Adams

Day 28: Celebrating August Birthdays

Today my gift was going out with the girls to celebrate the August birthdays in our group.  I love spending time with my friends.  It's always such a great time to go out to supper and just talk about whatever is on our minds.  I think spending time with the ones we care about is such a gift, and sometimes we do not take the time to do it.  We get busy with the craziness of life, opt out, tell ourselves we don't have time, and we seclude ourselves.  Sometimes spending time with our friends or family is just what we need when we are overstressed or overworked. 

Day 27: Recruiting for 5K

Today my gift was helping recruit runners/walkers for the Benefit Run for CJ in Junction City, KS on September 11th at 8am.  It is a 5K/10K to raise money for CJ, an eight-year old with disabilities, who is in need of a service dog.  I took advantage of Facebook, and Twitter to spread the word.  Also, I hung up posters at work and around KSU campus.  I hope that my recruiting will help get more people involved.  It's a great reason to run to help a child, and a great opportunity to be active!  I am passionate about helping others, running, and kids, and I am so happy I have the chance to run in this race.  We can all be instrumental in helping spread a message we believe in. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Day 26: Helping Michelle

Today my gift was helping my friend Michelle move her classroom supplies and resources into her mobile unit.  Michelle's elementary school here in Manhattan has been under construction this summer, so she had to move out all her stuff at the end of the school year in May.  Michelle needed someone to help her move the supplies and resources back in, and my roommate, her boyfriend, and I were up for the challenge.  It's amazing how quick we moved the stuff from our basement, into three cars, over to her school, and into her mobile unit that will be her temporary classroom.  What four people completed in one hour would have taken her probably four hours or longer.  We all have the opportunity to help others each day.  Today take that opportunity to help another person.  Show them what you have to give.

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."
Theodore Roosevelt

Day 25: Back to School Gift

Today my gift was sending my Little Sister from Big Brothers & Big Sisters a Back to School gift.  I sent her a new book to read, some pencils, and erasers.  I thought the gift might get her excited for school since last time I talked to her she wasn't too enthused for school to start.  I know as a child getting new school supplies was always such a joy.  I hope my gift will inspire, excite her, and bring her joy for the beginning of her 5th grade school year. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Day 24: Donation and Birthday present

Today my gift was donating to a raffle to raise money for Breast Cancer Awareness and giving my friend Sara a sweet running watch for her birthday.  I went home with my friend Sara and I got the chance to experience Old Settlers Days in Mulvane, KS.  It was quite the small-town experience equipped with fair rides, an awesome parade, lots of friends and family, and a rodeo to top off the evening.  My favorite part was probably riding the Tilt-a-Whirl with Sara, Kendra, and her little cousin Cara (aka Carebear...yeah she calls me Sherbear).  I was nervous at first.  I'm not a big fan of spinning rides, stemming from a bad experience at my own hometown Ellis Riverfest.  Cara insisted that we all needed to ride it together.  We stepped up, and we all gave the worker our tickets.  We picked out a cab towards the front and sandwiched all four of us in.  Once we started around the first curve, I felt the rush of the first tilt and whirl, and at that moment I knew it was going to be fine.  I screamed like a small child and laughed uncontrollably.  I felt so free and childlike.  What a great experience.  Sometimes the greatest of our experiences make us nervous or anxious, but I think that's the beauty in any experience.  We never know how things will turn out, but we have to take risks to truly experience life to the fullest.

Day 23: Birthday card

Today my gift was sending my Aunt Rhonda a birthday card in the mail.  I love sending and receiving snail mail.  In this fast-paced world, I love sending cards in the mail that make others feel your love and caringness from miles away.  Send someone you care about a card the old fashioned way through the mail, it'll brighten their day guaranteed! 

"In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love."  Mother Teresa

Day 22: Phone Calls

Today my gift was two phone calls to two friends.  The first I called to talk about a previous conversation we had.  I wasn't satisfied how we left things and wanted to fully understand why she was upset.  I wanted to show her I cared and wanted her to understand my point of view as well.  The second I just called to tell her how much I appreciated her friendship.  Simple acts of kindness and forgiveness...can make a difference in your life and in the lives of others around you.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Day 21: Thank yous

Today my gift was giving Thank You cards to three of my professors and one of my former supervisors.  I was writing to thank them for writing me letters of recommendation for Grad School.  Each of them were so willing to write me a letter of recommendation.  They didn't have to write the letters and could have easily said no.  I appreciate their help in helping me pursue my Masters degree in Special Education.  It's nice to know there are people that are willing to help me out with my future endeavors.  Today send a thank you to someone that has helped you with something big whether it was last week or 10 years ago.  I'm sure they will be glad to hear from you, and your thank you will be appreciated.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Day 20: Helping out a Neighbor

Today my gift was helping out two elderly ladies here in Manhattan, KS.  Both of their apartments were flooded after large amounts of rainfall in early June.  One of the ladies needed help moving her furniture around in her apartment and setting stuff up.  The other needed extra help unpacking her dishes.  They both were so grateful for my help and another volunteer's help in organizing, moving, and unpacking.  One of the ladies offered me a juicy peach after I was done helping her move.  I was so happy I could help her out.  What I and the other volunteer did in an hour wouldn't even have been possible for either of the ladies to do.  I feel thankful that I am capable of helping people out and making a small difference in my community.  If you see someone in need today, take the extra time to help them out.  You will benefit and so will they. 

Day 19: Listening

Today my gift was being a good listener.  Sometimes people need someone they can turn to.  Someone that will listen, someone that won't judge, someone that won't give advice, and someone that really cares, really listens.  Sometimes we get consumed in our own lives, in our own worries.  We need to open the blinds and realize that we aren't the only ones with problems, heartaches, and the only ones fighting battles.  We can all be good listeners for someone in our lives whether it is a stranger, a loved one, a co-worker, a neighbor, or a child in your life.  We all know the feeling of getting something big off our chests.  Give that gift today by providing a listening ear for someone in need.

"Be kinder than necessary,
for everyone you meet is fighting
some kind of battle."
— T.H. Thompson and John Watson

Monday, August 15, 2011

Day 18: Birthday card, Pictures, and Organizing Binder

Today my gift was sending my friend Becca a birthday card.  I found it at Orschelns and thought it was simply perfect for her.  We have had such a ball this summer spending time together, and I feel lucky to have her as a friend.  I remember when I first moved to Manhattan; I remember thinking Becca is so kind to others.  I remember wanting to be like her and being inspired by her kindness.  Thanks Becca for being my friend and inspiring me to be the kind of person I am.

Another gift today was sending my friend Brandi some cute pictures of her and her boyfriend.  I kept joking when I was taking pictures of them that I was going to send her some  4 X 6's.  And that is just want I did.  Photographs are so special and can bring us back to the exact moment the photographs are taken.  Cherish the special moments in your life by looking through your old photographs. 
My last gift today was buying my friend Michelle a binder.  She is a newly engaged woman that has a wedding to plan.  I thought that she might need a binder to help her organize all the ideas, dreams, and plans she has for her wedding.  I'm really excited for her and her fiancee because they are simply great together!  So happy for them!

Day 17: Grandma's 80th Birthday present

 Today my gift was giving my Grandma The Book of Awesome for her 80th birthday.  It's filled with small blurbs about the simply AWESOME things that we experience in life.  The book can make anyone smile; I'm fairly confident.  I think my Grandma should be in The Book of Awesome and below is my blurb about my Grandma. 

Grandma Gladys
The woman that always makes me feel special with a hug, a smile, a simple look, a card, a letter, a present, or simply the words, "I'm so proud of you honey".  The woman that can make anything taste excellent including JELLO with walnuts, carrots, or anything else she throws in it.  I'm pretty sure there's always a little love that makes each dish delicious!  The woman that is kind, sweet, generous, beautiful, and simply AWESOME!

I feel lucky to have a Grandma like her, and I wrote that in her birthday card.  I tell her often how much she means to me.  Never take people for granted.  Share your feelings with them, and show them how much you care
Grandma and I at her birthday party

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Day 16: Spending time with Family & Helping Prepare for the Party

My Aunt Rhonda and Aunt Lauree mixing the potato salad
 Today my gift was spending time with my family and helping prepare for my Grandma's 80th birthday party.  The morning started out with a 7:30am morning walk, which was a little early.  It was well worth it to spend time with my Aunt Rhonda though.  After the walk, we ate breakfast at my Grandma's and started getting pictures organized for the collage we were going to make.  It was an adventure looking through all my Grandma's old pictures.  There were lots of pictures of us grandchildren and plenty that showcased my unique sense of style. ;)  Thank you Mom and Dad for letting me express that unique sense of style.  After gathering all the pictures, my Aunt Rhonda and I headed up to my Aunt Lauree's house to make the potato salad.  I was in charge of peeling the eggs, which was quite the task since the eggs were fresh.  It was fun to cook with my two aunts and to see how each of them operated in the kitchen.  After the potato salad adventure, my Aunt Rhonda and I went to Hays to get some more supplies for the collages and some flowers for my Grandma.  We got balloons too!  Boy was that an adventure!  We went to the PaperMart in Hays, and we picked out an 80th balloon with three regular balloons.  After leaving  the store, one of the balloons popped before we got out of the door, so we went back to get it replaced.  Then we headed out to the car again.  My aunt was putting them in the car door, but right before she closed the car door all four balloons flew out.  There was one chance when the balloons came down to tease my aunt right before they started ascending into the sky.  I could not even move I was laughing so hard.  Right when the balloons went up into the air; this guy in a Jimmy Johns delivery car was driving by saying "ahhh...dude..I'm soooo sorry!"  It was a hilarious experience!  So we went back into PaperMart, and we purchased some more.  I was in charge of the balloons this time, and we made it back to Ellis with all four in tact. :)  We hoped maybe the other ones would magically end up in my Grandma's yard, but we weren't too hopeful.   Then I went to work on the collages, and I really enjoyed looking through my Grandma's pictures.  In 80 years, it looks like you can have a lot of love, laughter, adventure, friendship, and joy.  I really hope I get to live to be 80 years old.  You get to see so much, experience so much, and love so much.  Live each day because we are truly lucky to be alive.  When I asked my Grandma how she felt about being 80, she replied, "I only get to be this once, I'm going to live it!"  Heed my Grandma's advice,  we only get one chance to be the age we are now, so start living your life to the fullest! And truly appreciate the beautiful moments along the way.

The Birthday Girl!
Collage of Grandma's Pictures

 Other two Photo Collages

Second set of balloons and beautiful flowers for Grandma

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Day 15: Surprising my Mom with Lunch

Sternberg Museum, where my Mom works
Today, my gift was surprising my wonderful Mom with lunch at work.  I was headed back to Ellis for my Grandma's 80th birthday party this weekend.  I left Assaria after getting ready for the day, and along I-70 I ran into a lot of construction.  It took me longer than expected to reach the thresholds of Ellis county.  I was about 10 miles out of Hays, and my gas light went on.  It was 11:40, and my mom's lunch break is at noon.  I went into a slight panic, but I figured it might be an adventure to run out of gas.  I hoped and prayed that I would have enough gas to reach Hays.  Soon enough, I arrived in Hays at 11:45, and I stopped at the first gas station I came to called Quest Gas Station.  They were charging $3.99 a gallon for gas, when I drove down the street to see every other gas station was charging $3.42 a gallon.  I was a little frustrated, but I made my way down the road to Jimmy Johns.  Super Freaky Fast is there slogan, and that was what I needed to make it to the Sternberg Museum, where my mom works, before noon.  At the drive-thru line, I handed my debit card to the worker, then she handed me my drink and had my debit card still in her hand.  I assumed she ran it, and she was giving it back to me.  I tugged on it, but it wasn't coming out of her hand.  I tugged again, and she gave me a look and said she hadn't ran the card yet.  I let go, and then I giggled to myself thinking..AWKWARD moment.  After my Jimmy Johns adventure, I looked at my phone reading the time as 11:52.  I drove out of the parking lot and headed in the direction of Sternberg Museum, but I took a wrong turn.  I turned around and got back on the main road.  I drove a little ways down the road, and finally, I saw the entrance sign to the museum.  I drove in the entrance, and I parked my car in the first parking spot I saw.  I reached down and grabbed the bag of food and two drinks (a task in itself).  I walked into the museum and asked the front desk lady if she knew where my mom was.  Luckily, my mom was talking to her co-worker on the stairs leading to the exhibits, and she hadn't gone to lunch yet.  Yes, I had made it!!  She was totally surprised to see me since I sneakily had called earlier and told her I was eating lunch with my friend, Dani.  Ha ha...little did she know I had been scheming my lunch surprise plan.  It was SUPER awesome to surprise my Mom for lunch, and it was an enjoyable experience just to hang out with her and catch up.  After lunch, she showed me this old snapping turtle on exhibit at the museum, which was another cool surprise.  Today make life a little more exciting and try surprising someone with something special.  You might just experience some surprises of your own.

Snapping Turtle, he's so cute! :)

Another picture of Mr. Snapping Turtle

Day 14: Visiting Dani

Today my gift was visiting my friend Dani, her husband, and baby Caden in Assaria, KS on my drive back home.   I was very excited to see Dani and her family since I hadn't seen them since Memorial Day weekend.  Caden has grown up so much since I last saw him at 1 month.  He was a little grouchy from no sleep, but you wouldn't be able to tell from these photos.  He's a happy little guy, and Dani says he never wants to miss out on anything.
Caden smiling at me :)

Caden laughing at Dani, his Mama :)
After Caden went to sleep, I got to spend some good quality time with Dani.  We went for a walk around Assaria, and it was just such a beautiful evening to spend time outside walking with a good friend.  After walking, I got the honor of doing Zumba for the first time with Dani.  It was my first experience with Zumba, so I was a little intimidated.  Dani loves dancing, as do I, but I'm more of a freestyle dancer.  If I got off beat or step, I would start laughing, yelling at the video instructor, or overemphasizing certain dance moves.  Needless to say, Dani and I laughed a lot, and I ended up enjoying the Zumba experience.  There is nothing better than just being your dorky self in front of your friends or family.  Ahh....nothing better.

 "There are short-cuts to happiness, and dancing is one of them."  ~Vicki Baum

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Day 13: The Book of Even More Awesome

Today my gift was letting my friend Shawn open his birthday present early.  He said he was feeling like a kid on Christmas and that his Mom always gave in and let him open one present.  I decided I would let him open the present early because I could hear the excitement in his voice over the phone.  I sent him The Book of 'Even More' Awesome because I knew my friend would enjoy reading about the little awesome things in life.  Also, Shawn is one of those AWESOME people that make you smile ear to ear and giggle til your belly hurts.  He spreads joy wherever he goes kind of like Santa Claus or the CandyMan. ;)  I made Shawn read me the first entry about coming home from a trip and sleeping in your bed.  The feeling of your own bed is AWESOME!  Appreciate the awesomeness in each day and share it with the others around you!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Day 12: Kung Fu Panda Book and The Smurfs movie

 Today my gift was giving my little sister, Shea, from Big Brothers & Big Sisters a Kung Fu Panda book and taking her to the movies. She was so excited, and she said it was only her third time at the movie theaters.  Shea is one of those kiddos that really appreciates the small things in life.  It was delightful to watch her laughing at the movie and to be spending time with her.  After the movie, Shea was so polite and let several others exit in front of us.  I instantly complimented her on her kindness and polite attitude towards others.  We know kids can learn a lot from adults, but I think a lot of times we can learn so much from kids.  We can learn to be kind to strangers, to appreciate time with others, to appreciate the small things in life, and to just laugh at anything.  "Enjoy the little things in life..for one day you will look back and realize they were the big things." 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Day 11: Hanging Out with Friends

Today my gift was spending time with some A-mazing friends.  I went over to Junction City to help my friends stain their deck, but we realized we needed to let it dry at least a day after power washing it.  So we spent the day picking vegetables out of their A-mazing garden to make some canned salsa and pickles. We all worked together to get the tomatoes canned and pickles pickled. :)  The day was spent with lots of laughs, a small dance party in the kitchen to the song "Copperhead Road", and a couple random adventures to a garage sale and Orschlens, where I bought some sweet gifts for future days.  Each day is such a gift.  Truly a gift.  My heart felt so full today.  We need to realize the potential in each day for beauty, laughter, friendship, love, and gratitude.  I feel so grateful for my life, friends, loving family, job, education, inspiration, and experiences.  Appreciate the beauty, friendship, and love in your life today and each day
Beautiful Sunflower growing in my friends' garden

Double Rainbow I saw on the way back to Manhattan

Another photo of the double rainbow

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Day 10: Volunteering at White Memorial Camp

Today my gift was organizing my first volunteer trip with ECM and volunteering at White Memorial Camp .  We had six great volunteers who gave up their Saturday to come volunteer at the camp.  The camp needed help restoring some old picnic tables, and my group was up for the challenge.  We spent the day scraping off old paint, replacing rotted boards, and putting two new coats of white paint on the restored picnic tables.  The maintenance person was so grateful for our help.  He was so surprised when he found out we came to volunteer out of the goodness of our hearts.  We weren't in any way required to come volunteer, but personally, I feel called to volunteer and help others.  Giving to others gives me so much back in return.  I feel this great sense of peacefulness swept over me when I am volunteering and giving back to my community.  I felt so grateful and joyous that three of my personal friends came out to volunteer today.  It made me so happy to share the volunteering experience with friends.  Thanks again to my group of volunteers! If you have never volunteered before, try it just once.  I guarantee you will be hooked for life.  I challenge you all to use the gifts and talents God has given you to help and serve others in your community and world. 

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."  Margaret Mead