Tuesday, December 21, 2010

So Cool, My Oprah Moment, and "You Can't Buy Happiness"

I'm way behind in my blogging, blame it on the fact that I still do not have any Christmas shopping done - which would make you think that I probably should have been blogging since I wasn't out shopping - but I am spending a good amount of time stressing about it. At any rate, I've got three days worth of stories to share......

So Cool

I was standing in a long line at Starbucks last week (I know that an inordinate number of my blogs begin with that line......it's all free publicity), when I heard a woman sharing with someone else in line that she was spending the entire day running from Christmas concert, to Christmas concert. Three in total, one for each son. She named each son and their concert time. When I heard her mention her second son's name, Kohen, I was shocked. As she walked past to leave, I stopped her. I confessed to overhearing her conversation and explained that I too have a son named Kohen - and it's a name I've never, in 21 years, heard before. She said (and I quote), " Oh I named my son after a former student of mine I had in grade 10. He was such a handsome, smart, cool kid, and I loved his name. Kohen Bauer." I looked at her in disbelief, " Kohen Bauer is my son," I told her. So cool. I gave her some dakbands, and ran out to the car to call Kohen and share the story with him - through my tears! (She spells her son's name: Coen)

My Oprah Moment

I'll confess that one of my dreams is to meet Oprah - I really thought the dakband project might be my ticket, but no luck so far. However, I did have a real life Oprah like moment last week. At the beginning of November I featured a story on our Facebook page about an amazing cheerleading team from Dublin High School in California. Clik on the link and watch the video, it is simply amazing. Well, last week their coach, hosted a Christmas party for all the girls, and surprised them with the dakbands as gifts. I Skyped into the party and was projected onto a big screen in the gymnasium (so Oprah like!) and told the girls how proud I was of them, and explained how to use the bands. Then they all paraded past me and introduced themselves. SO COOL. I even got to meet Rachel (watch the video). I asked her what it was like to be a star, since she has been all over the media since becoming Home Coming Queen. She told me that being a Queen has taken a little getting used to!!

You Can't Buy Happiness

That's what Allen and Violet Large assert. They should know. They recently won 11 million dollars, and gave 98% away to charity. At 78 years of age, and after 36 years of marriage, these two Maritimers, have each other, and their health - at least for the most part (Violet is undergoing cancer treatments). That's all they need. Oh, and maybe a few sets of dakbands that I'm sending them tomorrow. Read about their generosity here.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Dak Day!!

Maybe it's the spirit of the holiday season, a little bit of magic from that old silk hat, because today was a dak delight.

Today I was in Toronto to pick my daughter up from university (she couldn't possibly get all that laundry home on the Go Train). While waiting in the lobby of her Residence, I couldn't help but notice how the gentleman at the security desk, took a moment to acknowledge every single person walking by with a personal greeting. Sometimes the people he greeted would reciprocate, sometimes they completely ignored him, but regardless, he greeted the next person with the same respect and enthusiasm. I couldn't help myself. I walked over, offered him a pair of dakbands, and we started chatting. As it turns out, Lloyd attributes his positive attitude, to his 12 Step program. When I asked him how he felt when people ignored him, he answered, "It doesn't cost me anything to be polite and nice. I'm just grateful that I woke up today, and I'm here and alive and well." Amen Lloyd. Amen.

If that wasn't enough, I came home and discovered an awesome message from Shane on our facebook page. He shared about a friend of his who went above and beyond the average DAK. Brent Pilgram is a photographer from Milton, who got involved with an organization called Help Portrait. Help Portrait helps photographers donate their time, energy and skills to provide portraits to those who might not otherwise be able to afford them. An awesome idea. So, Brent, got involved with The Darling Home for Kids - a paediatric hospice care and respite services center in Ontario that supports families who have children with life-limiting or life-threatening illnesses requiring complex care and/or technology-dependent care. In fact he spent a whole day taking Christmas portraits with the children and their families. Please take a moment to read about the event (and see some behind-the-scenes photos) in his blog. We'll be sending Brent and his entire team some dakbands tomorrow.
(we'll ignore the reference to random acts of kindness in his blog :)

Shane, thanks for sharing about Brent. We'll send you some dakbands as well!!

Sunday, December 5, 2010


I realize that my posts have taken on a rather medical theme of late, but I think it is just a statistical coincidence given the amount of time of spent at the TGH this year. Recently I wrote about some of the doctors who deserve to be recognized for their kindness and compassion. And back in April I blogged about an experience I had the day I learned that a defibrillator lead had perforated my heart for the second time (requiring immediate surgery), and how that experience - the opportunity to help a young woman who had no Health Card - transformed my assimilation of that bad news. You can read about it here. This past Friday, I had another synchronous event at the hospital that made the long Go Train trek into the city (well not that long....from Burlington), and the three hours of alternating waiting and appointments, all worth while.

As I was walking toward the entrance of the Peter Munk Cardiac Center on University Ave, I noticed a very elegant looking woman walking through the doors ahead of me. She had on a full length fur coat that floated on her tiny frame, her hair was pulled back in single pony tail, and she rocked some great ankle boots. She just happened to head straight to the Starbucks line, which, needless to say, was my first destination as well. I was right behind her, trying not to drool on her coat. She immediately tapped the woman in front of her on the shoulder and told her how wonderful her funky pink streaks looked! Then, she told another woman in line how much she loved her bag. Well, you can imagine, I am already sliding those dakbands off my wrist and reaching out to offer them to her when she turns around, looks at me, and says, "Oh my, you look beautiful - so well put together." I put my around her and gave her the dakbands, which of course she just loved. Then she bought me coffee. She is my new best friend. We chatted for some time before I had to go upstairs to my appointments, but not before I learned her lovely name, Rosalind.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Hodge Podge

Today, I have a whole hodge podge of neat, but unrelated items to share. So, in no particular order:

The first is a biggy. Dakbands are going silicone! Originally, I chose elastic instead of silicone because I thought it would be easier to exchange dakbands with people of different sizes. To a certain extent this is remains true, however, the silicone bands are cleaner, the numbers are lasered (so they don't wear off), they are hypo-allergenic, and probably stretch enough to suit most adults. We'll still offer them in various sizes, but they'll be packaged in sets of 4, instead of the current 8. They will still be same slim width - not sure about the colours. If you have any suggestions in this regard be sure to let us know.

Next big news is our new interactive map, coming your way soon. In fact it would be here now if my good friend (and programmer) hadn't just had a heart attack. Go figure!! Thankfully, he has some great doctor kindnesses to share (perhaps not the energy at the moment :) and is at home recuperating after a successful emergency angioplasty. Once he feels up to it, the mapping tool, will display the dakbands and their stories in a much more fun and user friendly manner. Even the Tag Cloud (I can hear your groans) is getting a spiffy new make-over. So stop by often to check it out, www.deliberateactsofkindness.com

Admittedly, those items were related. However, on a completely unrelated note, it seems the holiday season has begun in earnest. I generally refuse to acknowledge the season until the month of December, then without fail, it's suddenly two days before Christmas and I'm running around like a crazy person. To say that I'm a Grinch at heart (no pun intended :) is an understatement. I love the idea of Christmas, but I hate how far from the idea we've strayed. The excess most of us experience wears me down the more socially conscious and other centered I become. It seems at this time of year, more than any other, the gap between the haves and have-nots widens.

Last year at this time I had an experience that impacted me profoundly. I never shared the story because I was ashamed of how I handled the situation. But they say confession is good for the soul, so here goes.......I was grocery shopping, it was dinner time, it was the 23rd of December. It was cold, and the ground was snow covered. The grocery store was almost empty, which I was thankful for, wanting to just run in and out. As I sprinted up and down the isles I couldn't help but notice a family moving alot more slowly, and carefully than I, a mother and her two teenage sons. They were all wearing soleless, laceless, tattered running shoes, track pants that hadn't seen a washing machine in some time, and coats that really couldn't be described as 'winter'. There wasn't much in their cart, and they were choosing very carefully what was going in. As it turns out they were in front of me at the one check-out that was open, while a line-up formed behind me. The kids had begged their mother, in the candy isle, for a treat. She allowed each of them to pick one small bag of candy. At the check out, they were holding the bags of candy, no way that candy was going in the cart! The cashier rang in the groceries. The bill was $45.00. The mother handed the cashier two gift cards, just like the ones that needy families receive at this time of year. The gift cards totaled $30.00. Immediately, all these thoughts, started running through my head. I wanted to offer to pay the bill for them, but then I hesitated. Would I be embarrassing them in front of the long line of impatient customers? What would I do if she rejected my offer? In that tiny moment, the opportunity was gone. She took the boys and left. Leaving the groceries in the cart. She barely made it to the door when another clerk came and took the cart away. I'm not sure why I hesitated. I mean, I walk up to complete strangers and give them dakbands. The incident haunted me, effectively ruining the holiday season for me. This year I'm ready though. It won't happen again. I've purchased $50.00 gift cards and I'm going to lurk the local grocery stores from now til the New Year, giving them away whenever the opportunity arises.

Today I drove by a bus stop, and there was a young man, about 15 years old, waiting for the bus in a sweatshirt....Marks Work Wearhouse here I come.

Finally, to those of you who began Hanukkah celebrations yesterday, Happy Hanukkah!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

I Set a Record

I set a record this time. In and out of the hospital in 30 hours. My fourth cardiac surgery of the year was deemed successful (actually at the time, the other three were as well!), and I'm home and healing. Even the pain is manageable, although I'm more than a little concerned about the assault my brain cells have been under with all the anesthetic that's been coursing through my bruised and banged up body this past year :(

I know I shared in previous posts (during my three previous prolonged stays)that I was, and continue to be deeply grateful for the kindness and quality of care I receive at the UHN (University Health Network), but it warrants repeating. Despite the ease of finding a conversation that laments, or berates, our troubled and overburdened health care system - admittedly, I've even instigated many a few - it is astonishing to witness, from the inside, the strengths and fragility of our systematized medicine. And despite the obvious (lack of funding, lack of beds, long wait times....), this system operates by the blood, sweat and tears of individuals who are, for the most part, devoted to caring for those of us who need them. This is a shout out for the doctors.

Over the past number of years I've been truly blessed to call Dr. Yoav Brill and his lovely wife, good friends. Through their close friendship, I've come to learn the sacrifices great doctors make for their patients. Great doctors work in the same limited system we find ourselves struggling in, they fight battles for OR time, funding, beds, and research, they advocate for patients, and occasionally even get some quality time with family. When patients consistently identify their doctor as kind, and compassionate, as well as skilled, you know you've got a gem. If you need a OBGYN, see Dr. Brill.

And if you need a cardiac surgeon, ask for Dr. R.J. Cusimano. Similar to Dr. Brill, comments from patients regarding Dr. Cusimano are filled with such praiseworthy distinctions as, 'kind', 'brilliant', and 'an excellent bedside manner'. When I read some of the stories and comments on RateMD's.com, it illuminated for me the pressure and stress under which these men function everyday, in order to care for us. I am not unaware that my little defibrillator problems, although huge to me (and the functioning of my heart!), are trivial compared to 98% of the surgeries R.J. does every day; yet, the point is, he treated me with the same concern, sincerity and kindness that he would a patient undergoing open heart surgery.

The kindnesses that doctors like Yoav and R.J. share are really profound because they are most often exchanged during times of desperate anxiety, and emotional trauma. Their kindness cradles us, and dignifies us. They really deserve some dakbands.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Gratitude for 1000 Gifts

I had no plans to write another blog post this evening. I made up my mind that I was too tired - exhausted really. The 5:30 am alarm, leaving the house by 6:00 am, driving to Toronto to endure an entire morning of pre-admission tests for my impending fourth cardiac surgery of the year, next Tuesday, wiped me out. I decided to spend the evening in front of the television watching a movie that we intended to watch last night (but worked on a grant proposal until 11:00 pm instead!). While waiting for my husband to wake up from his pre-bedtime nap (he's putting our son to bed), I thought I'd catch up on some blogs I enjoy. So much for the movie......

Ann Voskamp writes a blog called A Holy Experience. Reading her writing is like drinking in peace, entering sacred space and feeling at home, like you never want to leave. Admittedly, I don't follow her blog often enough, or I'd have written about her book before now. One Thousand Gifts: Dare to live fully right where you are, is a book that chronicles her writing of a list of one thousand gifts. Not gifts she wants, but gifts she already has. Everyday gratitude. She calls them daily graces. I like that. Here is her blogpost about the beginning of her journey to recognize all the gifts God has placed in her life, her heart and soul. Some gifts from her list: “… the smell of the florist’s… the sound of kernels of corn streaming, tinkling…. leaves floating in puddles…”

In the same post I found this wonderful quote from John Milton, “Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.”

I realized, reading her post, and Milton's quote, that dakbands are those epiphanies. Moments of kindness (transcendent awe), that change forever how we live in the world. I want people to experience those moments, that new way of being in the world. I want people to create those moments, not wait to stumble upon them. At the end of Ann's post she invites the reader to begin their own list. I am accepting her challenge and will share my list here, and on our facebook page. Choosing to recognize the simplest moments, as gifts, will inspire even more kindness in the world - join me.

#1 filling my house with the exotic smell of indian spices as I try to produce equally exotic tastes

#2 drinking homemade ginger/cinnamon tea

#3 my husband putting the four year old to bed, while I write

#4 curling up in front of the fire to watch that movie.....

Friday, November 12, 2010

Who Knew!

Tomorrow is World Kindness Day. Who knew? Not me, that's for sure.
At least I learned about it before, instead of after.

World Kindness Day was initiated by the World Kindness Movement, an organization I promptly applied to join on behalf of Deliberate Acts of Kindness. This is a description from their website:

The idea behind the World Kindness Movement (WKM) crystallised at a conference in Tokyo in 1997 when the Small Kindness Movement of Japan brought together like-minded kindness movements from around the world. The WKM was officially launched in Singapore on 18 November 2000 at the 3rd WKM Conference. The mission of the WKM is to inspire individuals towards greater kindness and to connect nations to create a kinder world.

If you have a moment check out some of the great events that are taking place around the world:

In the U.K......

In Singapore....

Now, what can dakbands do help celebrate World Kindness Day?
Anyone who leaves a comment, shares a dak, or makes a suggestion, here or on our facebook page, will receive a free set of dakbands - send me an email with your address after you post and together we'll celebrate World Kindness day.

Here is a kindness video to inspire us, from Humanity Healing International

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Kind Memories

James Herriot says in the introduction to his book, James Herriot's Dog Stories: Warm and Wonderful Stories About the Animals Herriot Loves Best, it is a sad truth, that dogs do not live long enough. But he also makes this observation, "It is a reaffirmation of the truth which must console all dog owners; that those short lives do not mean unending emptiness; that the void can be filled while the good memories remain." Thus his advice to clients who are mourning the death of their cherished dog, get another immediately. It has been a week since we had to euthanize our beloved border collie of almost 15 years, Damon. Although we have another dog, Mojo, it is difficult to express how empty our home is without Damon.

I've posted about the innate kindness of dogs before, sharing how much our dogs enrich our lives. Damon was only a few years younger than both of our oldest children, so his life is entwined with theirs. There were few vacations that did not include his exceptional life-guarding skills, or Hallowe'ens that he managed to find and eat all of our daughters' loot. The countless hours we spent playing hide-and-seek in the corn fields behind our first house, the peels of laughter as he pulled the kid's snow boots off and made them chase him across the lawn in their stocking feet, his incredible ability to catch any flying object, and the best party trick ever - he could flush the toilet, are memories that helped to define my children's childhood. He celebrated every holiday, and thankfully, every graduation. He loved not only our family, but all the children's friends over the years, and often made that apparent by trying not so inconspicuously to crawl on to beds, or into the middle of mass of bodies sleeping all over the basement floor.

I'm not sure how long it will take before I stop waking up to let him out in morning, or opening the front door with the expectation that he will be resting against it, or wondering where his food dish is, but let me assure you, it was the kindness of friends and family who supported us this week with their phone calls, cards, emails and hugs, that made the passing of his too-short-life bearable.

In particular, we were touched by the deliberate act of kindness of our daughter's floor mates in residence, who all chipped in to buy her flowers and an ice cream cake.

I'll leave you with a few pictures of our beloved Damon:

Today we went to look at puppies.......

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Daks: improve your well-being

Recently I stumbled across a super TED speech by Happiness Researcher, Nic Marks. Not only is he a great speaker, witty and poignant, but the concept is foundational to the future of our planet. Mr. Marks has created the Happy Planet Index, which essentially measures national well-being against the use of resources.

I guess it isn't surprising that the worlds most developed nations do not rank highly on the list. In fact, Costa Rica is the most highly ranked country, followed by the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. The index is a compilation of three measures: life expectancy, life satisfaction and ecological footprint. Canada is ranked 89 out of 143 countries, the U.S. is 114th.

What might this have to do with kindness and the dakbands you ask? Well...the New Economic Foundation (nef), of which Nic Marks is the founder, was commissioned by the U.K. government (in 2008) to develop a set of evidence-based actions that improve well-being. They reviewed the inter-disciplinary work of 400 researchers and came up with five evidence-based actions. I am encouraged. The first of the five is:(image is from the nef website)

It's time to make the dakbands a national phenomenon, we definitely need to improve our ranking. Apparently, the U.K and the U.S. need them as well :)

With that in mind, I have to make another plea for your votes. Please take a moment to vote for us (scroll down to find the Deliberate Acts of Kindness project), for the grant from Freerange Studios and ask everyone you know to vote as well - we need your help to improve the well-being of people around the world.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Over the Top

Last weekend was definitely 'Over the Top'. Not only did we Canadians celebrate Thanks Giving, but I spent two days with friends at the Women of Faith conference in Rochester New York, aptly themed Over the Top. A couple of years ago I led some workshops at the Christian Camping and Conference Association annual conference - and loved it; but, this was my first time at a conference of any kind as simply an attendee. Unfortunately I was only able to attend the first of two days, however, I was sorely tempted to skip all the prep work I had to do in order to host Thanks Giving dinner, so I could stay.

The music was great and the speakers were amazing. Patsy Clairemont and Andy Andrews were the keynotes of the day. Patsy is funny, poignant and the best dressed sixty-something I've ever seen - look what she is wearing in the Youtube link at the bottom of the post. She rocks. Andy was also incredibly funny, inspiring and relevant. I left with both of his best selling books. And as good fortune (or answered prayer) would have it, we were able to give them both a set of dakbands.

To top the day off, Steven Curtis Chapman performed and his wife, MaryBeth Chapman spoke about her new book. It was pure magic.

But you know what really made it the most fun? Being there with my friends. From left to right: Lori, Vicky, Me, Connie, MaryAnn. Lori hosted MaryAnn, Connie and I in her lovely century home, and had forty-seven other friends who attended the conference. That's definitely, over the top. We arrived on Thursday evening at Lori's and spent the evening huddled around the dinning room table with a bottle glass of wine, doing what women do best......emoting :) MaryAnn spread the dakband love, all day Friday - I think every policeman in Rochester now has a pair - which was really fun. I'm still waiting for an update on how Saturday went, but I'm pretty sure Connie and MaryAnn (my fellow Canadians) are out walking off their turkey dinners, just like me.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Dak Magic

This was the first dak of a dak filled day. And for those of you who may share my coffee
addiction dependency, might understand how important it is to have the necessary condiments. For me that condiment is cream. So, when I woke up yesterday and my husband brought me my coffee he announced, "There was no cream, so I just used milk." He may as well have announced that there was no coffee at all. Despite the mental note, I woke up this morning and realized, I forgot to buy cream. But when I staggered into the kitchen, I found the coffee made and a little love note from husband - disguised as my half and half.

After dropping our son off at school I had an hour before my hair dressers appointment. Naturally, I stopped at my local Starbucks for my second and final coffee of the day: a double long half caf. The baristas know me well, very well. It might be the daily visit. Today the barista bought me my coffee. Two coffee daks in less than two hours. It was almost magic. Fortunately I was wearing my dakbands......

It doesn't stop there. In a caffeine haze I arrived at my hair appointment, ready to enjoy the next two hours and get some work done while the colorist worked her magic. The woman beside me was already lathered up and buried in a magazine. There must been dak fairy dust in the air, because instead of burying myself in the advanced statistics book I'd brought to study, I found myself in a therapy session with a complete stranger. Well she started out as a stranger reading a magazine, with her head covered in hair dye, sitting beside me in a beauty salon. She left as Jennifer, my friend, who was kind and generous, and confident enough, to share the story of how her sons were able to overcome emotional trauma caused by her severe post partumn depression. She did this to encourage me and give me hope for my son, who experienced severe emotional trauma when he entered the adoption system as a two year old. By sharing her story, she gave me courage to share mine, and perhaps even gave me tools to change the outcome. We exchanged numbers and I gave her my last two dakbands.

What a day.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Daily Acts of Boldness

I receive a DailyGood in my inbox, a daily story of inspiration. Often these stories are the inspiration for my blog posts, and individuals from these stories are often the recipients of our weekly dak giveaways. The story for today was subtle, yet bold, as the title implies, and the website it originated from is interesting.

The author shared a wonderful quote, which I will shamelessly include for you as well:

Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it….Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The author went on to encourage each of us to live boldly each day. I like this because dakbands are acts of boldness. Instead of moving through each day hesitantly, waiting for the other shoe to drop, do something - put a thought, hope, feeling, wish, dream, into action. Push yourself to do something outside your comfort zone. Do something for someone else. Be aware of others. Be on the look out for small acts of kindness that you can reward, even if you don't know the person. Live boldly, offer them a dakband and then watch as they live boldly and pass that dakband on to someone else, who acts boldly and passes it on ......before you know it we have lit up our map with acts of kindness that have emboldened us all.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What if.....

What if I told you that last weekend our son was invited to a birthday party that involved about 15 boys from his class and another class at school.....

What if I told you that this party, like so many, was held at an indoor playground....

What if I also shared that the parents attending the party never introduced themselves to one another and spent much of the time on their blackberries, or reading the newspaper, while all the children ran around completely unsupervised (despite presence of at least six adults)....

What if I shared my broken heart and told you that I caught four boys holding down and jumping on, crushing, one little boy who had been the brunt of their teasing since he arrived.......

What if I told you that these were four and five year olds........

What if I said, "This is why we need dakbands."

Friday, September 17, 2010

Facilitating Kindness

to make easier or less difficult; help forward (an action, a process, etc.)

That certainly sounds like kindness, doesn't it?

Every year I lead ( I like to think, facilitate) many workshops. Usually the theme revolves around sportsmanship. But it isn't often that I have the opportunity to participate in an event that is led by a professional facilitator. Yesterday, however, I had the absolute pleasure of being part of a brainstorming session that took place at the True Sport offices in Ottawa, led by professional facilitator/artist Judy Kent.

Facilitating is such an art. It is the ability to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of each individual at the table, pull out those strengths, encourage contribution and consensus, all within the framework of a specific agenda. To make this appear easy, is ironically, no easy feat. When a facilitator can point out the elephant in the room with a gentleness that is no less frank, it not only moves the agenda forward, but preserves everyone's dignity. Not surprisingly, Judy is the lead facilitator for Generations for Peace.

Generations for Peace:
Generations For Peace is a global organisation founded by HRH Prince Feisal Al Hussein of Jordan, to contribute to the world’s need for greater tolerance and understanding between conflicting communities; ultimately helping to lead to a demand and desire for peace.

Launched in Jordan in April 2007, Generations For Peace uses sport to empower leaders of youth from hostile regions, to act as agents of change to help instil tolerance, understanding and ultimately peace. Generations For Peace will teach them sport, peace education and how to cascade the programmes in their own communities and regions.

When the session ended, I gave Judy some dakbands in recognition of her kind leadership throughout the course of the day. Since she is off to Russia next week, who knows where they might end up. I have a feeling the stories of kindness will inspire us all.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


A year or so ago I had this great idea to send dakbands to individuals and/or organizations that were featured in the media for their kindness, generosity, compassion, etc...Somehow I just never got around to getting myself organized enough to carry it through. Yet, the past couple of weeks, I have happened upon some stories that inspired me to stop making excuses, and start making the time. Sort of.

It really isn't my time, but Maryann's. Over and over again she offers to help with the dakband project and for the most part I haven't had anything really concrete to offer her. So guess what she is doing now? She is our official media dakker. I send her the links to stories, she does the requisite research and sends out the dakbands - with a little note from the Dak Team. I dropped all the materials off at her place today.

Every time we send some dakbands, I will follow-up with blog post and a facebook post so you can share in the excitement.

To kick things off I prepared our first two mailings this evening.

The first package is going out to Clare Kravchenko who was featured in today's Star. Her story is both inspiring and heart-breaking. I am moved by her strength and grace, and look forward to seeing all the acts of kindness that her bands generate.(Not to mention that she raised $30, 000.00 for the Weekend to End Women's Cancers.)

The second package waiting to go out the door is for Mike Holmes. That's right, Holmes on Homes. He announced a new project that will involve partnering with the Assembly of First Nations to build green, affordable housing in aboriginal communities across the country. The goal for the first year is to build 50 homes. Talk about finally. Finally, an opportunity to not only improve the condition in which many First Nations people live, but raise awareness as well. I hope Mike's act of kindness is something we can all follow and share through the dakbands.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

When Timing is Kind, A Quick Goodbye

On Sunday, we took my daughter to university - a day I had been emotionally avoiding for months. Both my children are now officially out-of-the-house - for the time being anyway (I'm told they come back). It seems significant. The greatest part of my job is done. Not sure how I feel about that.

For weeks leading up to Sunday, if I even thought about saying good-bye to my daughter, I'd begin to tear up. I'd also cry thinking about how quiet the house was going to be without her presence, or how awkward it would be to set the table for three instead of four, even seeing her bedroom floor (something I haven't seen in years) made me cry, knowing that all her clothes are now scattered somewhere else. Most of all, I'll miss her day to day kindnesses: her willingness to contribute and help out (most of the time with smile), her sunny disposition which was infectious, her generous babysitting and chauffeur experience, and the "love you"s as she rushed out door.

As the end of the afternoon approached, the new bed was made, the clothes were hanging in their new closet (for the time being), mini fridge was plugged in, lunch was had, the knot in my stomach moved to my throat. I could feel the tears beginning to well up. Suddenly, we all realized that she was late for a mandatory meeting of her new dormitory, and we still had to make a suitcase/computer exchange. She ran upstairs to her room while we ran down into the parking garage, we met back on the main floor with barely time for hug. Then she was gone. There were no tears, no hysterical sobbing, no embarrassing displays of emotion at all - there simply wasn't time. Sometimes timing is everything, if not kind.

Mother and daughter.

Monday, August 30, 2010


Dear Lori from Faun Lake

It isn't often that someone we haven't yet met offers us a gift. When that gift represents an aspect of that person's spirit it is rarer still. I wonder, what does that say about you, the giver? What do I know about you?

I know that you are Maryann's friend. That fact alone makes me smile.

I know, through Maryann, that you extended me an invitation to join you and some friends at the Women of Faith Conference in Rochester, New York, in October. I accepted.

I know that on blind faith you committed to selling 50 tickets and despite the $80.00 price, purchased those tickets before selling any. You've sold them all.

I know that for all your friends from Faun Lake (and me) who are attending as a group, you've purchased a small gift of thanks. We should be thanking you.

I know that you have given me pause to reflect on the mystery of faith. There are moments when I am wrapped confidently in it's embrace, moments of frantic searching when it seems elusive, and then profound relief when people such as yourself help the rest of us rediscover our green pastures and quiet waters.

Thank-you for your kindness and inspiration. I LOVE the book and note cards.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Extraordinary Kindness

Today I didn't even put the paper down before I began to write this post. When individuals can reach through (what must be) profound grief to extend kindness I believe we all evolve just a little. Such acts of generosity touch the sole of humanity.

In today's story, 'An exceptional gift of life' two women, mothers of babies born four months premature, find their lives and stories entwined. Nicole's baby, Lillian, was born March 4, while Jennifer's baby, Max, was born April 16. Both babies were born at Overland Park Regional Medical Center in Kansas. Breast milk was critical to the survival of both babies due to the medical conditions with which they were born. Both mothers were pumping their breast milk for their critically ill infants; however, Jennifer soon ran out milk for her son Max. Nicole on the other hand, had a freezer full since her daughter Lilly was too ill to use it. They were saving it for her recovery. When Lillian died in May, Nicole gave all of her breast milk to baby Max.

On August 17, after four month in the neonatal critical care unit, Max went home for the first time. Nicole was there to see him off. Kindness can be so bittersweet.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Tolerance: A Special Kindness

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. --Leo F. Buscaglia

I facilitate workshops for sport associations and sport governing bodies that focus on sportsmanship - which is it's own special kind of kindness (and why we have sportdaks!). One of the messages we present is the abolishment of 'zero tolerance' policies. I never quite understood how they gained so much momentum in the first place. Municipalities and organizations invested far too much money creating documents that essentially sent exactly the opposite message to the one that was needed! We need to teach, model, encourage and reinforce tolerance in every aspect of our lives. Tolerance is critical expression of kindness.

When I came across this article in the Toronto Star the other day I made sure to put the story in a place where I could find it easily - not the garage:)Despite a history that spans centuries of cultural and religious wars, all it takes is a few individuals with compassionate hearts and minds, and an understanding that tolerance can change the world, to inspire us.

If you share a comment about an example of tolerance that inspired you, I'll send you some dakbands - for free!!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Playground Kindness

I often save sections of the newspaper whenever I come across a story that may be fodder for a post. However, as you might guess, when I finally get around to writing I can rarely find the story that inspired me to save the paper in the first place. This is strangely frustrating, and convinced that perhaps I saved the wrong section, I spend an inordinate amount of time in my garage leafing through papers in my blue box. Thank goodness I found the article I had in mind this evening because my garage is like sauna (albeit a smelly sauna).

Please take a moment to read this article from the Toronto Star, it is the epitome of community, kindness and contribution.

Here is the link to the organization responsible - they have a really cool video that shows the volunteers building a playground.

If you haven't already seen our new website design please have a look, it's awesome. Of course now, I have to keep our facebook page updated and perhaps even try to tacke the twitter phenomenon.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Never too young

I had every intention of posting this story last Thursday evening - when it occurred. But, like many of my good intentions it was relegated by life. However, now that I have finally finished unpacking from our two day camping trip that began and ended with a four hour drive (note to self: future camping trips will always have a five day minimum - just to make it even with the time it takes to pack up, and unpack!), I have seized a quiet moment to share a great act of kindness I witnessed.

Last Thursday I ran out to the dollar store at our local mall for a few last minute items. While I was waiting in line, a couple with a young son about 7 years old, was at the cash register. The 7 year old was proudly marching around with a new helium balloon atop a long plastic stick. While his parents were paying for the balloon and a buggy full of other things, he wandered in and out of the store with his precious prize. A two year old in a buggy outside the store saw the Canada themed balloon floating on the stick and immediately made every attempt to exit the stroller and get closer to the balloon. When the older boy saw how much the little boy in the stroller coveted his balloon, he ran back into the store, grabbed another balloon, ran out of the store and generously gave it to the toddler. Unfortunately, the lady behind the counter was not quite so impressed, she wanted two dollars for the balloon. When the father saw how proud his son was to have made the little boy in the stroller so happy, he quickly and quietly paid for the balloon.

I ran down the mall, with my cheap parfait glasses clattering away, one pink dakband in hand. I caught up to the three of them at the ice cream stand and explained to the balloon bearing youngster that I had seen how kind he had been at the dollar store. When I gave him the dakband, his face broke into an enormous grin. It made my entire week.

Parents, your children are never too young to be kind.
(Oh yeah, the mother of the two year was so moved by the deliberate act of kindness that she was still gushing ten minutes later when I walked by to get to my car)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

All it takes is a smile

Did you know that by simply using the same facial muscles that are used when smiling you can improve your mood! Researchers at Cardiff University explain that the brain evaluates mood by monitoring those those muscles. When we smile a feedback loop is created that tells ours brain we are happy. In other words, start smiling - it will make you feel better and it creates a positive connection with other people.

Let's just say that last Tuesday I wasn't making any positive connections with anybody. I was invited to appear on the Live @ 5:30 show on CHCH News. Little did I know that it would turn out to be a debate with Scott Radley of the Hamilton Spectator, about the front page article that appeared in the Toronto Star regarding my research.

I arrived a few moments early, feeling good, looking good (or so I thought). I was introduced to Scott. We were placed on the set, miked, given a few pointers - one of which was "look into the camera when you are talking". Testing: one, two, three. Check. Lights, camera, action. It felt like it went really well. The host, Mark Hebscher, said it was great. Thankfully I did not phone everyone I know to tell them to watch. However, I did gather my family around the TV (and I did call a few people). My daughter's comment summarizes the segment perfectly (she is 18), "Mom you looked really angry".

Instead of looking in the camera when Mark was asking a question (he is in another room and he speaks through an ear piece), I was looking down, concentrating, really hard. And it looks like it. My answers were stone faced and serious, while Scott looked like a poster child for the smile researchers. And I have no excuse. This is not the first time I've done a television spot, but it was the first time I did an interview that involved my research. I think I was trying to appear 'professional'. Unfortunately angry is not professional.

So my new project is involves smiling 90% of the time. Really. It amazes me how often I have to think about putting a smile on my face. Now I drive and wander about, smiling aimlessly. And I do feel happier!

Today I gave a woman some dakbands just for smiling back at me. Hopefully she'll not only pass the dakband on, but the smile as well.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Subway Kindness

This morning I was on the subway, heading once again toward the Toronto General Hospital for a check-up, when I witnessed the cutest act of kindness to date. My sister and I were sitting against the back wall of the train. The train was full. Across the isle, in the seats beside the doors, was a young man really enjoying what looked to be a breakfast burrito. Two elderly women were sitting in the seat perpendicular to his seat, which is to say, their knees were practically touching the edge of his seat. They were trying, somewhat unsuccessfully, to give him the privacy required to enjoy his breaky. But they were squeezed in tight and it looked to us like they were inadvertently sharing some of his meal. I forgot to mention that the young man was dressed quite nicely, business casual, as they say. With just a few bites to go he scrunches up the wax paper wrapped around the end of the burrito and savors each mouthful, unaware that all those yummy juices are now dripping out the end onto his lap. Mortified, the two women looked at each other, then discretely at him, then back at each other, then back at him......finally they couldn't stand it anymore. One woman reached into her handbag pulled out a napkin and laid it on his leg. Startled from his breakfast mission, he looked at them. With more than a little reluctance, they pointed to his lap, where now a good deal of the breakfast burrito had made it's mark. He began the mopping up, as they supplied him with an endless number of napkins from those purses.

I was so engrossed in the story that I didn't realize we were at our stop. As I jumped up to get off the train I tried to pull the dakbands off my wrist, but my hands were full with an umbrella, double-long virgin espresso, purse and newspaper. I missed the opportunity to give these two breakfast superheros their dakbands, but I want you all know that someone is always watching. Kindness is always good for the heart.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

When Kindness Hurts

For the past couple of weeks I've had three young adults in the house, two of my own and one visitor from Belgium. Mine include a son and a daughter, the third feels like she is my daughter. They range in age from 18 to 21. (Don't forget I have a four year old as well). Last week there were two break-ups in 24 hours. My two were the dumpees. A coincidence that left me exhausted because of course these estrangements occurred at 3:00 am., and I don't think my snoring would have been interpreted as very comforting while I tried to be as consoling as one can be at that hour of the morning.

Many cups of coffee later, as I pondered the pain and heartache of young love, it struck me that despite two very different manners of dumping, the outcome was the same - sorrow. The first dump arrived by email and was followed up by a bankrupting long-distance phone call. The second was personal, gentle, respectful and even kind.

Then 24 hours later, both dumpees were reunited with their respective boyfriend/girlfriend. Before I had even caught up on any sleep, the tears and the sobs had been replaced by the incessant and familiar clicking of texting keys.

It made me pause though and think about how sometimes even kindness hurts.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Soccer kindness

Some of you might consider this post an insignificant blip on the kindness radar, but it's the World Cup and I'm a huge fan. It has taken me a few days to figure out how to share our spectating experience of last weekend and weave in a kindness theme. Finally today it came to me: it was very, very kind of the School Bakery and Café to open at 7:00 am last Saturday so 300 (or so) Holland supporters could gather together to cheer on their team. (This is the place to watch the match if you are a Dutch fan - I learned this from another blog, which apparently every other Dutchman in Toronto reads as well)

Unfortunately, despite getting up at 5:30, leaving Burlington by 6:00 am, and arriving at the Café by 7:00, we were at the very back of this line. Apparently there are fans far more committed than us. We stood in line, enjoying the comaraderie, listening to the dutch, and admiring the shamelessness required to wear some of the costumes. We were not even close to getting inside and we seriously considered standing outside, but my need for caffeine and food was stronger than my need to commune with 200 dutchmen, dressed in orange and wearing wooden shoes. So we ran, literally, down the street to the Liberty Street Bistro. Where one very kind waitress, with the help of the manager, managed to serve everyone, including those on the patio, in the doorways, and on the street, with a smile. (We had first row seats inside!) I'm pretty sure this was the first time ever they'd opened at 7:00 am.

Holland won 1:0.

The next match is 3:30 pm on Thursday. I may still have to get up at 5:30 am to get a table at the School Bakery and Café, but I'm determined to experience at least one game there - who knows maybe it will be the final!!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Kind food!

Remember how I mentioned having a blog post I just couldn't find the time to write. Well, this is it. Despite being a crazy busy day (that included the best chocolate croissants this side of Paris, at Patisserie D'Or), I put my camera in the car and headed for downtown Burlington, in between lunch and a major Costco excursion.

A few weeks ago we were downtown looking for breakfast treats and we happened to park the car across from a new cafe. My husband noticed it as I shrieked in delight. It is called, 'kindfood'. Now how cool is that! So today I stopped by to take some pictures, introduce myself to the owner and drop off some dakbands, because anybody with that kind of consciousness deserves to be recognized. I just missed Kelly (the owner), but I met their awesome staff and took these pictures: (that's my reflection on the door)

Look at their terrace. If this doesn't make you want to rush on over to taste their yummy offerings, nothing will. I felt happy just standing outside looking at the place!

Here are some helpful links:


Stop by and support the kindness!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Mish Mash

It has been so long since I've posted that now I have a little collection of post ideas to offer. A potpourri if you will. However, I will confess that this scrapping together of completely random stories is a guise, designed to alleviate my guilt, and buy me more time to cover the real story I had planned (but just haven't had time to follow up with).

Story #1

Last week John Wooden died, at 99. For those of you who do not follow sports, John Wooden is considered one of the best coaches who ever lived. Not because he holds an unbeatable record of 10 NCAA championships, but because he was an exceptional human being. Please follow these links to learn more:

Nine Insightful Reminders After the Passing of John Wooden

John Wooden: Untouchable record, incomparable man

Story #2

Also last week Savannah left a comment on my Birthday Kindness post (the one that has been up for two weeks). She invited me to leave a kindness story on her organization's Acts of Sweetness facebook page for an opportunity to win some great prizes. So now I'm inviting you........

Story #3

I ran my first half marathon last october. It almost killed me - literally. I felt fine until the last three kilometers, when I suddenly felt like I couldn't catch my breath, my heart rate was all over place and I desperately wanted to quit. (As it turns out, a few short months later I was diagnosed with apical ventricular hypertrophic cardio myopathy. The not-being-able-to-catch-my-breath, and erratic heart rate were symptoms). So, unfortunately that was my running career, short. Now I experience my runners high vicariously. Today I learned about a 61 year old nun who is running an ultra marathon (50 miles)in all 50 states, beginning April 19, ending June 19. The project is called, Running Hope Through America. The cause is Aids Orphans Rising. Oh yeah, she runs in her full habit!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Birthday Kindness

I love birthdays. I'm not very good at remembering them, but I like to celebrate nevertheless. Thankfully my friends and family are much better at remembering birthdays than I am because my recent birthday was feted in the kindest of ways.

My dear friend Carolin made the trip from Toronto. She has to take a bus, a streetcar, the subway and finally the GO train to get here. She arrived carrying this:

(The cute white dog was not in the carrying case - he is mine)

Then in one day she did this:

She conscripted the entire family. It was the best gift ever. A transformation. All I had to do was watch. (Now, however, I do a lot of watering - which I carry out with great pride every morning and evening.)

Birthdays are wonderful because people who care about us make a conscious effort to be kind. They go out of their way, they plan, they work hard, they work together, to make us feel special and appreciated. The front yard wasn't the only transformation that day. I was expanded.

It's somebody's birthday today. Right now. It might be the person standing behind you in line at Tim Hortons - buy them a coffee. It might be the person running to catch the elevator - hold the door. You don't have to dig up a yard and build a garden, you just have to be consciously kind. It's transformative.