Thursday, November 30, 2017

Kindness Rocks

 "It's the thought that counts."

We've all heard it ... though hopefully not when the wrapping paper is coming off of a present we've carefully chosen.

When you look up the origin of the phrase in the Oxford Dictionary, it says this:
Used to indicate that it is the kindness behind an act that matters, however imperfect or insignificant the act may be.
It seems to be the perfect phrase to describe my PEO chapter's foray into a national project, Kindness Rocks.
Photo from the Kindness Rocks website
When Randy and I were at the Black Hills National Cemetery, we found a rock on a memorial marker there. (See below.)
Later, when I was trying to come up with an idea for a PEO program, I remembered the rock. I was chairman for our annual PEO fundraising night. In recent years, each member has brought homemade or purchased items for a silent auction. The proceeds would go to PEO Projects - both our annual local scholarship for a high school senior girl and for PEO International projects, many of which benefit education for women.

This year, we decided to try something different: Each PEO member was asked to figure out the financial investment of time,  effort and supplies she would have expended to make baked goods, frame a photo, construct a handmade quilt or some other project. Then, she could just contribute that amount of money to the treasury. 

Part of the entertainment in previous fundraisers was the silent auction itself. So I was looking for a fun activity to fill the time. Our Stafford Recreation Commission Director Jan VanDam came to mind. She brought the Kindness Rocks Project to Stafford. She'd worked with children at Oktoberfest and led a session at the Senior Center. She'd toted her rocks and paints to the Stafford Library and other organizations. We seemed to fit the demographic - in other words, anyone who could wield a paintbrush or a marker!

So, what is The Kindness Rocks project? According to their website,

Goal #1: Inspire others through randomly placed rocks along the way…

Goal #2: Recruit every person who stumbles upon it to join in the pursuit of inspiring others through random acts of kindness

Jan brought the rocks and paint. The committee supplied some oil-based Sharpie markers. And the PEO ladies brought the ideas. 

Some are true artists. Some - like me - are not.

But all of us brought a can-do attitude. And the results were as varied as the people who made the rocks. And there's true beauty in that. For some of we "paint-challenged" ladies, I'd purchased some scrapbook idea-ology word bands and metal wire at Hobby Lobby (an idea I found on the blog, Skip to My Lou.
But there were plenty of artists in our group, too, as evidenced by these creative rocks:
When the evening was over, Jan took the rocks and sprayed them with a clear acrylic coating. And these missives of kindness and hope went out into the streets of Stafford. As the video says:  

What our world needs now is kindness and connection.

What if we were able to block out all the negativity that surrounds us 
and we were only receptive to thoughts, ideas and images
 that were positive and uplifting? 

What if kindness became a connecting force for good?

Together, we can make it happen ...
With the deluge of disheartening news in the world, I hope that the someone who finds a rock that says "Smile" or "Be Kind" or "Enjoy" gets a gentle nudge to do just that. 

Spreading a little kindness? It seems like a good idea to me. And even better? We raised more money for PEO projects than we had in recent years - a total of $890! That money will spread a lot of kindness, too, both locally and nationally.  

Here's a link to a downloadable "how to" from The Kindness Rocks website. And here's another blog that gives tips for crafting the rocks, Crafts Unleashed.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

"Leafing" Fall Behind

Thanksgiving weekend helped us "leaf" fall behind. But not before we had a little fun in the bountiful leaves in Manhattan.

We rendezvoused at the Riley County Historical Museum Wednesday afternoon for family photos for our Christmas cards.
Photo credit to Jill Grogg Photography, Manhattan

After the pro left, I couldn't resist getting my camera.
 We all had some fun - the girls in the leaves and Grandma attempting to capture the moment.
 It's not so easy with amateur equipment (and an amateur operator)!
That evening, we went to the K-State women's volleyball game. Brooke was getting tired, so any attempts at documenting her first volleyball game photographically were unsuccessful.

However, Kinley was a fan. She said she understood the game much better than football or basketball. Randy and I couldn't believe how small Ahearn looked. When we were K-State students, that's where we cheered on the Wildcat basketball team. Now it's home to the volleyball team.
We made more photo Christmas card attempts with my parents on Friday morning. (I took most of those on my mom's camera, so I think the better ones are on there.)

Grandpa Randy took the girls to the park while Jill and I did a little Christmas shopping Friday afternoon. But then it was time to usher in the Christmas season with the Manhattan tree lighting that evening.
 (You can barely see the girls, Jill and Eric as they went through the candy cane tunnel.)
The Blue Earth Plaza has 100,000-plus lights. Santa was there. But I think our local celebrity - football coach Bill Snyder - got just as many cheers.
We skipped the line for Santa and for hot chocolate. The girls indulged a little hot chocolate with marshmallows at home instead. 
The perfect end to the weekend with a last-minute victory in "Farmageddon," the football game between Iowa State and Kansas State.
Yes, Brent, Randy and I stayed to the end so we saw the Wildcat touchdown as the time expired.

 We also watched the Wildcats take a victory lap around Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

As the "society page" used to read in the weekly newspapers, "A good time was had by all!"

Thursday, November 23, 2017

A Thanksgiving Prayer

A Thanksgiving Prayer
By Rev. Linda McDermott
First United Methodist Church, Fort Worth, Texas
(Illustrated by me - many of the fall photos 
 were taken at Dillon Nature Center in Hutchinson, 
some this year and others in previous years)
God who loves us, who deserves our gratitude for so much that is good,
We offer our prayers of thanksgiving to you:
For the beauty of the earth — bright orange leaves mixed with green,

 a gentle rain, 

 a spider’s delicate web.

For friends, for family, even acquaintances who offer us kindness, 

who bring us laughter, who hold us to a higher standard.

 Lord of all that is good and nourishing to our well being, we give you thanks.

All of life is a wonder. The very breath we take, the ability to rouse ourselves each new day,

 a single blade of grass that holds such miracles of symmetry, 

a tiny distant star whose real size boggles our minds.

We take our lives for granted — as if it were our right, and not our gift.
We take our days and our loves and our passions for granted — as if tomorrow will verify their importance and our present moments have other things to occupy us.
Gracious God, who lavishes goodness upon us even in some of our darkest moments,
 help us to see your goodness, remind us to have grateful hearts, 
give us receptive minds,
 and grant us ever-gracious ways of living in harmony with each other.
And in our gratitude, make us to be instruments of your peace.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Pavement Ends: Photos Begin

As we were driving home from Manhattan a week ago, the sky was offering a final encore for the evening. We had just turned off I-35 at McPherson and were working our way home via K-61 highway.

"If you need to stop, we can," said my ultra patient husband when he saw me pull my camera from my purse and try to capture the moment through a bug-specked windshield.

We turned off on an unfamiliar road just south of McPherson. I hopped out of the car and started snapping away. Then I noticed a sign: "Pavement Ends." I traversed the steep ditch and snapped a few more pictures, this time including the sign in the shot.

And I thought about how fitting it was that we'd turned off onto that road that very night.

Earlier in the day, I'd attended a 20th anniversary brunch at Kansas State University's Staley School of Leadership Studies. This summer, Jill sent me a link to an opportunity connected to the anniversary celebration. The Staley School invited alumni, friends, faculty and staff to submit photographs to be displayed in the building.
When the school moved into its new building in 2010, they'd asked photographers and artists with a connection to Kansas and K-State to share their work, with the thought that the pieces would be refreshed and rotated over time.
With the 20th anniversary celebration coming up, organizers believed it was "the time." The photos that had been hanging in the building would be auctioned off, with the proceeds to go to support leadership students.

For the new artwork, photographers could submit up to five images to be considered by a panel which included professional artists, faculty and former students. For each image, the photographer was to submit an artist statement about how the image could reflect leadership.

I looked through my photos, wrote artist statements and polled my family. paring the 11 photos I'd pulled down to five. Late in October, I was notified that one of my photos had been selected.
They happened to choose a photo that I have hanging in my own living room. (I have a grouping of my photos that reflect the seasons, a celebration of Ecclesiastes 3. The green wheat with dew is my "spring" image in my home.)
Now, its bigger cousin hangs as an "archival print" in a conference room on the leadership building's second floor. It was thrilling to see it there.
My parents and Randy joined me at the Staley School reception.
Conner, a leadership student, led us around the building, telling us a little about each of the new photos. We walked into another room, and I did a double take. On the same wall with an image of Bill Snyder, there was a photo that looked really familiar. Another of my photos had been chosen, and I didn't know it until I walked into that room.
But there it was. I called the image Faithful to Our Colors, a line from the K-State Fight Song.
I couldn't believe it: Two of my photos had been chosen.  My letter had said one, but there was another.
I later found out that more than 200 images had been submitted in the Leadership Lens initiative. Only 26 were chosen to be hung in the Staley School of Leadership Building. I couldn't be more honored.
And that brings me full circle back to that Pavement Ends sign.

As we walked through the building and looked at the photographs, there were images from around the world. One featured a colorfully-dressed woman in Haiti. A captivating image of a baby baboon had already been included in a display at the Smithsonian Institution after being recognized as one of the best photos in National Geographic. Another showed an elephant family ... and it wasn't taken in a zoo. It was taken in the elephants' natural habitat.
And, still, an amateur farm wife photographer from Central Kansas could take photos from where the "pavement ends" and be included. My usual habitat features cattle and farmyard cats, not baboons or elephants.

There is beauty everywhere. It's in city skylines, but it's also found on an early morning walk on a dewy morning down a dirt road in Kansas. It's just a matter of opening our eyes to the wonder.

In a few years, my photos and others that were just installed will be auctioned off as a fundraiser. This inaugural auction raised nearly $10,000 for programs at the Staley School.

And that is beautiful, too.

For more about the Staley School of Leadership Studies, click here.

I have photos hanging in K-State's College of Business Administration. Read about that here.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Beauty of Fall

After a couple of hard fall freezes, many of the world's colors have faded like fabric left too long in the sun. But during the past few weeks, as I rushed from one "go-fer" activity to the next, I sometimes paused for a snapshot.

While the autumn scenes are fast fading to the more sepia tones of winter, I'm glad I took the short detours to capture fleeting beauty.
Several of my daily emails from Guideposts have urged me to relish my surroundings:

A Time to Think

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it,
and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth
seeking the successive autumns. —George Eliot

A Time to Act

Autumn is a beautiful time of year—the crimson hues of fall foliage
are awesome proof of His presence.
 Notice this amazing gift that is Jesus’ signature
 and praise Him for His glory.

A Time to Pray

Dear Lord, my spirit cries out for You. I praise You for this beautiful world
and Your presence in it.

A Time to Think

Imagination is what convinces us
that there's more to the world than meets the eye.
 And isn't that the first principle of faith?
—Jonathan Rogers, author

A Time to Act

Treat yourself and relish in the beauty of life.


A Time to Pray

Dear Lord, I praise You for simple pleasures.
A sunrise. A walk through the woods.
Remind me to take the time to notice the aspects of Your handiwork
 that thrill my soul.
Quivira National Wildlife Refuge

A Time to Act

Look to the trees and the scattered leaves on the ground
and be inspired to let go of the weight of past hurts and disappointments,
 forgive yourself of any mistakes.

A Time to Pray

Heavenly Father, help me release feelings and thoughts that are holding me back
 from becoming all I am meant to be.