Advent Day #20 Remembering to Give

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share your blessings

As a thank you to our readers, today I am going to share an audio chapter of Gift of a Lifetime:Finding Fulfilling Things in the Unexpected.

One of the most valuable lessons in my lifetime was learning as a child that the spirit of Christmas should be extended to others. In fact, being grateful and thinking of others rather than ourselves is one of the best cures for whatever ails us.

A week ago, I volunteered a few hours helping with a United Way project here in Steamboat. I was awestruck by the charitable hearts of the people in our community. Corporations, retail establishments, individuals and churches all came together to make sure no one who needs assistance will go hungry and without a gift for Christmas.

A holiday shopping market of toys and clothing and other necessities that makes Christmas feel special was set up for families in the auditorium at Colorado Mountain College. Hundreds of volunteers helped with the effort.

Kate Nowak, Executive Director of Routt County United Way is to be commended for her efforts in leading the way in pulling it all together.

Being neighborly and remembering to give of ourselves through volunteering and other thoughtful gestures means much to those who need to be lifted up. For the giver, it can also lead to a few symptoms of the advent virus – “contented feelings of connectedness with others and nature and frequent attacks of smiling.”

In chapter 29 titled  “The Gift of Life” in the award-winning memoir by yours truly there’s a poignant holiday story that families can share together about being grateful every day of your life. Listen in here. 

Warm the Heart and Spirit

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 “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”  ~ Mother Teresa 

Himalaya Mountain HeartIn the aftermath of Friday’s senseless occurrence, it is important to keep the faith in humanity in tragic times, as hard as that may be.  There are many people who do good deeds, day after day, which reflect the goodness of people in our country. Each one of us can find opportunities to help our fellow man, in some small way, to make this place a better world. 

  • During the holidays, give to the person on the street ringing the bell for charity, no matter how big or small your contribution.
  • Give Christmas cookies or a thoughtful token to someone who is alone at Christmas.
  • Use every opportunity, you can find, to let your child know you believe in them.
  • Give your unused grocery coupons to someone who needs them.
  • Carry groceries for the elderly or offer a kind word.
  • Volunteer at a food shelter or donation center for the needy.
  • Say “thank you” to military men and women on the street, veterans and those actively serving.
  • Be grateful there are men and women who are willing serve in public office positions, at the local and state level, even if you may not agree with their opinions or decisions.
  • Leave your newspaper at the coffee shop, neatly folded, for someone else to read.
  • Offer your position in line at the store to someone who looks like they need it.
  • Compliment someone on a job well done. 

There are small heartfelt things we can do to help each other know there are still people who  are warm hearted and care in this world. We can never afford to lose the faith in the human race.

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I Wish Upon A Star

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Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same.” -Franz Peter Schubert 

Three years ago, when I moved to a new community, I met a woman my age and her husband and three boys at church. She and her husband were given the responsibility and honor of raising a special needs son. When we first met, she talked with  me about their family’s involvement with the Special Olympics and what their volunteer efforts have meant to their entire family. They have found such enjoyment in the athletic events, the camaraderie felt between Special Olympians and other families with special needs children. She visited our Kiwanis Club and described the mission of the Special Olympics, too.

As time has gone by our friendship has grown closer. We have had meaningful talks about her special son, and how God has endowed him with the ability to communicate with others about faith in very unique and profound ways. 

The other day, I began to think what an opportune time it is for parents, families and individuals to share stories of special needs children who are making their distinctive mark on the world. The dynamic and growing world of independent publishing provides a fulfilling platform for teaching other families about the lessons and gifts their special needs children contribute to their family’s life. 

I wish upon a star that more families everywhere will find the means and a voice to tell their stories so others will better understand the joys and challenges of raising special needs children. 

 For more information on how ordinary people are telling extraordinary stories by educating, inspiring and informing others through non-traditional books and films, there is a new 18 minute on-line webinar published by the Colorado Independent Publishers Association that discusses the basics of independent publishing. Please visit

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Giving Back for Children’s Sake

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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 

I love reading stories of people who have a deep understanding of the value of life and convey that understanding by reciprocating their gratefulness through random acts of kindness or by a creative or a uniquely meaningful approach. 

The other day the August 2011 issue of Kiwanis Magazine arrived in my Post Office Box and I began to read it. I was interested in knowing  about the Kiwanis International  Convention, which was held in Geneva, Switzerland this year.

As I browsed the articles, I learned something about actress Jamie Lee Curtis. She was honored at the July 2011 Convention with the World Service Medal for her charitable work for children’s hospitals. She is also a best selling author of children’s books such as and “Tell Me About the Night I was Born” and “I Feel Silly: And Other Moods that Make My Day.” These books are illustrated by Laura Cornell and are geared for young children four and up. 

Philanthropy in the world of entertainment often gets drowned out in the media by the stories of those that create sensationalism of another kind. Entertainment and media “notables” partnering with organizations such as Kiwanis International for the purpose of accomplishing fulfilling missions and goals that make this world a better place inspires ordinary people to become superstars in their own right by volunteering for causes that are near and dear to their hearts.

 All around the world there is a service club and it’s members are “dedicated to improving children’s lives one community and one child at a time” they are tagged as Kiwaniians! I am very happy to be included in this group.

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Little Things Mean Alot

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My husband has been glued to the news channel, following the ups and downs of the stock market, as well  being engaged in squabbles in politics. The other day, I said to him, “I refuse to get drawn into listening to too much of this. Yes, I have my opinions, but, at the end of the day, I really have zero control in what Washington and the Stock Market does. I am going to disconnect and pay attention to what  I have going in my own life that I am grateful for.” 

This week and next is what matters to me most, right now. They are full of little things that will mean a lot. On Tuesday, I ushered for a Youth and Family concert that tickled my funny bone and warmed my heart. Bill Harley, longtime commentator for NPR’s All Things Considered helped me to recollect my own days of going to school and as well as hilarious moments of parenting a child. Many of his “slice-of-life vignettes” made me realize that many things that I worried about as a child,  really didn’t quite matter at all.

Last night was a special treat, too. Volunteering my time once again brought me perks of getting to see a show that I would not have wanted to miss. Strings Music Festival Director and Conductor Andres Cardenes led a night to remember of a picture perfect program, focused on famous movie musical scores which incorporated classical music. Tunes from Fantasia, Amadeus, Psycho, Platoon, a 2011: A Space Odyssey, Titanic and the God Father brought great pleasure to my evening. 

Next week on All Things Fulfilling will be my interview of an author and actress. The back story will appear on Wednesday, August 17. On Thursday, the interview will appear on this site as well as on the author and actress’ virtual book tour. 

Join us next week as Mara and I discuss how our lives came together and what we find to be mutually important in this big wide world called Life.

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Gardens Heaven Scent


Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero 

Doesn’t it feel good when our heart sings? That is the result of being involved with things we are passionate about.  

On Saturday, I played guide for the Strings in the Mountains Kitchen & Garden Tour. The home I was assigned to was a little slice of Vermont right within the city limits of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The lush green gardens were filled with most of the same species of plants that my extensive gardens inVermont contain. 

When I first arrived at the gardens where I was to volunteer, it was as if the names of the perennial flowers had been filed away in the archives of my brain. I had to dust off the files and dig back into the records of my mind, to remember the names of a few. Once the names of all my favorite flowers were brought to the fore, there was no stopping me. The names all came spewing forth. I had identified each type of bloom before it was time to leave. 

There were Master Gardeners at the site, and I was in heaven for just a few hours, talking the language that plant aficionados find so fulfilling to speak. We talked botanical names vs. common names, climactic zones, acidic soil, shade plants, sun lovin’ plants, invasive species, succulents, ground covers and so much more. 

It has been two and one half years since I have returned to my home in Vermont. This weekend was heaven sent. I  visited Vermont without having to travel and I nursed my dire need for some garden talk, all at once. 

How grateful I am that I have lived in two beautiful nature-inspiring, mountain communities. One is as magnificent as the other, in very different ways. Thanks to the folks that organized the Kitchen and Garden Tours  for assigning me to this most appreciated locale. I was able hear my heart strings sing, very loud and clear.

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Bringing New Life

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Teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech and a life of service and compassion are things that renew humanity.”      ~ Buddha 

On Monday night, my fellow Kiwanians and I gathered together to paint. There were no easels, cotton duck or linen canvases in sight. Not even a hardboard panel or a can of gesso anywhere to be found. Only drab, scratched surfaces, well-worn by hundreds of children’s hands and feet. 

We gathered at Young Tracks, a ChildCareCenter, to fulfill our obligations of volunteer service. We went about putting a fresh coat of stain on structures designed to shade the children from damaging ultra-violet rays, we put a fresh coat of paint on building trim work and worked at other tasks that were needed to spruce up the facility. 

When the tots return to the place they call their other “home,” they will probably be much too busy playing to notice the look of renewal and rejuvenation. But, our spirits as a club were lifted, as we once again served our promise to each other and to our organization of “improving the world, one child and one community at a time.” 

For more information on Kiwanis International and the work the service organization does in communities in this country and around the world, please visit

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You are Worth it!

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The best thing you can do is be a teacher to young people” ~ Rick Pitino 

Have you ever asked any kind of volunteer “if it is worth it?” In my experience, many will respond “YES,  that volunteer work is both fulfilling and satisfying, and that is payment enough.” 

Last week at our Kiwanis meeting,, three mentors from the Partners in Routt County Program, a program associated with AmeriCorp., visited and spoke with the Kiwanians about the admirable work they do in mentoring children at risk.

The program pairs mentors with children, at local schools, who have been identified as being “at risk” for a number of reasons – perhaps poor family dynamics, drug or alcohol addiction problems, low self -esteem or kids who struggle socially or educationally. The mentors develop comfortable relationships with the at-risk children and they become someone the kids will confide in when things get rough. 

Did you ever wonder what your time is worth, as a volunteer? On average $20.58 per hour! However, it does to vary from State to State. To see what value your state of residence puts on volunteering, please visit

I was glad to hear that these valuable volunteers from Partners in Routt County are compensated by way of a small stipend and the benefits include being able to “pay back” educational debt. It makes volunteering even more worthwhile. However, what the volunteers are paid does not fully compensate for what these volunteers are worth according to the statistics given by the  chart. 

By donating their time, volunteers from Partners in Routt County are saying to each and every child they mentor “YOU ARE WORTH  IT!”  And that is like music to children’s ears!! 

Thank you, Volunteers – you are worth it, too!

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The Winds of Change

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“The thing that lies at the foundation of positive change, the way I see it, is service to a fellow human being.” ~ Lech Walesa

I am of the belief that in order to change the world for the better, all of us as human beings need to join hands within communities and between communities to inspire change. In my opinion, a change in values needs to happen on a familial level, political level, community level and within the workplace. When folks with the same moral compass share beliefs and convictions, and join forces to get a job done, change can happen.

Over the past year, I have increased my participation in community involvement. And you know what? It feels good! I have found support from others in all kinds of ways that I have not expected. It has kept me focused on positive things rather than the daily sobering news of our country and our world.

Through one of my social media networks, a question was posed to all of us that share the network. It read “Is your glass half empty or half full?”  The response has been a revelation! Regardless of the news of rising gas prices, real estate foreclosures, terrorist threats, companies going bankrupt, very few persons have stated their glass is half empty! These are the folks that I want on my side!

I choose to believe that the positive responses that have come out of this question are a result of steadfast belief in our fellow man to bring about change! However, without active participation, words mean nothing. We need to move from rhetoric into action. It would benefit us all!

Think! If there was one single thing that you could change to make your own world better, what would it be? Share it with us! I bet there are others that feel the same way you do. Let’s see!

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Holiday Fulfillment

“Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.”                    ~Albert Camus

I bet you have noticed, that when it comes to all volunteer efforts, few carry the load for many. Pick your cause, it is always the same thing. Whether it is lending a hand for a service organization, a bake sale or volunteering for a Parent-Teacher Association it seems that those that have the least amount of time, give the most.

Over the past few weekends, I have volunteered a little of my time to sell Christmas ornaments for Kiwanis. Kiwanians raise funds for worthy projects around the world. Since 1915, this international service organization has been supporting projects that help grow strong communities and assist children.

There are so many ways to give, that mean so much, to those on the receiving end. If you can not give financially, give the gift of your time by volunteering for a worthy cause. Give a donation  of canned goods for a food shelter, hats,coats, mittens to those needing warm clothing for winter, put your spare change in a collection bucket, there are so many ways to share and care about those who really need assistance.

Not just during holidays, but all year long, we need to remember those that are in dire need of our help. The giving spirit will feel good and right,  give it a try!

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