Monthly Archives: July 2016

Baby clothes for Marie Curie – 220! 

Between us LJM 1 & I have 4 little LJMs and many friends with little ones too. Having the youngest baby has meant that a lot of friends & family have passed on baby clothes to me. When my son outgrew the smallest sizes I decided I needed to donate some as he hadn’t worn so much of it. I kept enough back should I or LJM1 have any more children in the future but I still managed to get together 220 items of clothing in the smallest sizes! 

Yesterday I took the huge haul to our local Marie Curie shop to donate. 

She never needed Marie Curie nurses but I know there are many who rely on this wonderful charity. I hope these items help raise some money for the great work it does. 

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Kindness Rocks! 

Kindness Rocks! It does indeed! 

LJM2 visited me last weekend and together we collected a few beach rocks and decorated them with the children’s paints and some varnish. 



On Thursday I took the rocks on holiday with me to the highlands of Scotland where we are staying on holiday. This morning we went for a walk around the small loch in the village and my little LJMs helped leave them in places by the water-side footpath. We also left a couple of posters at the entrance points to the Loch to explain what they were.


Our hope is that the rocks end up spread far and wide and that people will take them home or take them and leave them somewhere new for someone else to find. The rocks are designed to bring happiness to the finder and as such they may pass on that happiness in the form of kindness to others. 

If you have found one of our rocks please let us know. Leave a comment on our blog or tweet us! We’d love to know where our rocks end up. 

This Random Act of Kindness is our 50th! How exciting is that! 

Book Rescue #49

I finished work for the holidays last week. The building in which I work is being destroyed and, as a result, we had to empty everything. I came across a lot of teenage literature which was just waiting to be binned. So, I decided to rescue it all! There were two boxes full of books. Today I took them to my local Teesside Hospice charity shop. 

I once accompanied her to an appointment at the hospice. I don’t remember a lot about it other than it was the most peaceful and surprisingly cheerful place. Hopefully the books I rescued will help raise money for the hospice as well as provide a teenager or two with something to read! 

I’m looking to do the Hospice’s colour run in September, too!

An honourable person 

It would be an honour to tell you all about this RAK, but I’m afraid I can’t. You see, it has to be a secret, that’s the rule. It will also remain a secret for at least 12 months, more likely 18.  This act of kindness from us could amount to nothing but, equally, it could be massive. HUGE. We so hope it is. We hope that others will come to know about an amazing person’s way of life, through this RAK.  If this does not pan out the way we hope it will, we will still celebrate in our own way, and we will share what this post is all about in more detail. 

For now,  I will tell you some things about the person for whom this RAK is dedicated. This person is the most selfless of people and even she, for whom this project is dedicated, would have conceded that this person trumps all others in this way. She held this person in such high regard, as do we, and she would be ecstatic that we are attempting to do this for them (apologies for the gender-neutral pronouns, I’m trying to keep it as secret as possible!)

Given that this project will reach its end before we know of the status of this RAK, I need to remain vague as I would not want the person to recognise themselves or work out what this is all about nor for others to either. Suffice to say that this RAK is the one that has taken me the most time in preparing, even longer than the hours I spent running in the May My Marathon! The idea first came to me well over a year ago. I have spent hours, if not days, working on it, researching, and asking others for help. People were only too willing to contribute to this and I value their contributions greatly. Furthermore, having spoken to people about our RAK recipient, it has only made me prouder and more determined to make this work out for them.  For they have no idea, no idea whatsoever, just how extraordinary they are, how they are held in the highest of high regards by so many. They do not seek thanks or praise and are humble. There are not enough superlatives in the English language to do this person justice. 

Very few people know about this RAK, such is its nature. I can think of 8 if you include LJM1 and LJM2 and my husband. They have all been sworn to secrecy for the recipient is not to find out unless it is all a success. I hope that in two years’ time, if not before, I am updating you all with good news and that this person’s kindness and honourable nature can be celebrated in the way that we have planned. Kindness and altruism are at the fore of this RAK, and not from us. Ours is an act of kindness like no other in this project. It is not so much random and about us being kind but it is unique and rather special, rather like its recipient. 

p.s. There are a few clues in this post (picture included). But if you work it out, keep schtum! 

Living eulogies & obituaries 


There were perhaps 200 people at her funeral. The church was packed, even more than it had been 18 days previously when she walked down the same aisle arm in arm with the very same vicar before she watched her eldest daughter marry. 

We stood there at the pulpit LJM1 & I, and read her eulogy. We took it in turns, a paragraph each. I laughed at recalling a memory involving a donkey. I didn’t cry, not until everything was over and we were outside the crematorium. I felt remarkably strong, just as she had been when confronting what was facing her. 

She didn’t tell us she was dying. We knew there was no cure and that she was running out of options but she hid it well (she had planned to tell us but she didn’t have as long as she thought in the end). It’s not as though you can prepare yourself anyway; knowing outright wouldn’t have made it any easier. She made sure she left plans, made things straight forward. Shortly after her death I found a notebook in which she listed the steps to go through. She thought of everything: bank accounts, death registration, pension. I remember touching the page of the notebook where her hand probably rested. She also told me something one afternoon in LJM1’s old bedroom. I don’t know why we were in there but we were gazing out of the window looking down the street and she told me to help our dad find someone else. I kept it to myself for a long time, until it was needed. Even when faced with the most horrific outcome for herself, she made a decision that would have broken her heart to vocalise. She was truly selfless.
One of the RAKs that is in the pipeline got me thinking about her eulogy and about living obituaries. I wish she could have heard what we said and I wish she could have read everything we’ve written about her in this blog. Perhaps then, we should take the time to write a living obituary to our loved ones? Show those around us how much we value them now in the present day and not wait until they are no longer around to hear what we have to say? 

Perhaps we could use it as a self-evaluation tool? What would people say about me? What would I want them to say? We encounter self-evaluation in work all the time, but realistically how many of us evaluate ourselves & try to improve ourselves in our day-to-day lives? We don’t set ourselves ‘targets to improve’ bar an often light-hearted New Year’s Resolution that lasts a couple of weeks. Perhaps it’s time we did. I guess that’s what we’ve done these past 11 months. We’ve definitely thought about others in a different way, looked into their lives more and tried to understand them. But what about when our initial project is over? It certainly won’t be the end… It’ll soon be time to evaluate and improve once more!

Innate kindness 

Recently my 20 month old scared his baby brother. I saw him look at me for a reaction, his bottom lip pouting, tears in his eyes. He didn’t cry but I could see something in his face: he didn’t like his baby brother being sad.
“It’s ok” I said, “you just got too close”.
He looked back down at his brother who was still whimpering slightly, touched his chest then laid down next to him. He calmed and he leant across and planted a noisy kiss on his lips.

This observation got me thinking about the nature of kindness. Are people born kind or do they learn kindness? We talk a lot about growing up around her kindness but are we kind because we’re part of her or because we were brought up by her? Is kindness innate or learned? I decided to look into it and my research first took me to the work of psychologist Michael Tomasello.

I read a study called Altruistic Helping in Human Infants and Young Chimpanzees and one of the first paragraphs drew my attention:

img_9143a.jpg
This was exactly what I had observed with my son this morning.

The research in this paper shows that although human infants help and cooperate more than other animal species (even with strangers and when they receive no benefit in return) other primates also show similar tendencies, albeit on a smaller scale.  This research suggests therefore that altruism was present in some form in our common ancestor, thus demonstrating its innateness.

A later study, however, showed some flaws in Tomasello’s argument.  Two professors Rodolfo Cortes Barragan and Carol S. Dweck carried out similar experiments only this time there was a control group in which the people carrying out the experiment interacted differently with the infants during the ‘warm up’ getting-to-know-you part. The experiments concluded that toddlers learn social cues very quickly and the short amount of ‘warm up’ time before the experiment in the initial study primed the toddlers into an altruistic mindset. The full study is here.

After reading both studies it is my belief that we are born with the ability to be kind but to what extent is developed by how we are nurtured. I like to think therefore, that we, LJM1 & I, are kind not only because we are part of her, but because of how she nurtured us. I’m hopeful that all the little Love Join Mes will inherit her kindness; they will certainly be nurtured with it. 

Unkindness has no purpose

Today I had a negative thought. I found myself thinking that someone who I have been kind to is being unkind to me. Perhaps they’re not (I do have a tendency for introspection) but nevertheless it prompted my thoughts on everyday kindness. 

I came to the conclusion that society is slowly changing to a more self-centred view.  Perhaps people are so immersed in their own lives that they do not realise that they’re being unkind to others, though I am certain that some unkindness in this world is deliberate. It’s perhaps an unwanted side-effect of doing a kindness project: noticing kindness and thererefore its antithesis everywhere you go. 

Modern society has made huge progressions in many ways but it has also changed in less desirable ways too. Whereas once upon a time, as the saying goes, it took a village to raise a child, now it takes the parent(s) with less and less involvement of others. People are less trusting and less kind. Utilitarianism is now obscure, almost laughable. A sense of entitlement pervades; a sense that we should be self-sufficient, focusing on the individual, on our own needs. We have the apparent need to ‘treat ourselves’, to have ‘me’ time.  We see it everywhere. It’s the parking in a ‘parent and child’ or a disabled space because you’re “only going to be five minutes”. It’s the doing things because “it doesn’t harm anyone”. It’s the “because you’re worth it” mentality.

It is the Generation Y effect (those born from the early 80s to mid-90s), those who want better than their parents’ generation and feel a sense of disappointment when their expectations do not reach reality, such is their feeling of entitlement. In the 80s there was a growing sense of needing to improve the lives of the next generation, for it to be better than what the parents had. But the unintentional effect of that has been a generation of young adults who misunderstand the meaning and purpose of work and, dare I say it, the meaning of life. The previous generation of hard workers, who would take a job simply through the need to provide for their family has given rise to a generation of people who need to be fulfilled in their job. Their job serves their own well-being and sense of achievement, not just as a means to provide for themselves and their families. It’s this need for self-satisfaction that contributes to our now self-oriented society: 

a society that loves a good-old egoportrait, as is the Canadian neologism for a selfie (a much more accurate term, don’t you think?); 

a society where we chop and change jobs to please ourselves, to gain more of a work-life balance, because we’re not feeling fulfilled or worthwhile;

a society where a successful career is an expectation and it’s more the case of which path to choose

It is no wonder that this ‘millennium generation’ has landed itself with the epithet “the ME-llenials”. 
I am not going to pretend that this has escaped me completely (after all, I am on the first cusp of Generation Y myself). Nor will I say that job-satisfaction etc. are not important considerations (after all, life is too short, as I know only too well).  Yet, the egocentrism prevalent in society troubles me. Britain is very much in  unstable times. People have lost sight of the big things. And the big things are sometimes the smallest of things.

The point of this post? Let’s rekindle the once-frequent everyday kindness of folk. It’s there, of course (and I’m aware this post is very much a generalisation of generation),  but it is most definitely less prevalent. People are too busy to be kind. Or they’re choosy of who is worthy of their kindness. They have their careers, their families, their errands to run and their because-I’m-worth-it moments. They do not see the bigger picture. Being unkind serves no purpose.

If you have nothing to give, give your time. If not your time, a smile. A kind word. A reply to a message. A returned call. An RSVP. A how are you? asked with the intention of actually wanting to know the answer where the person feels that they can give more than the usual “ok, thanks. You?” 

Let’s not pretend that anyone is any more important than anyone else. Let’s just be kind.

No Australia update…

I’m worried! 34 days since I posted the Australia parcel for this RAK and I’ve not heard anything. Here are possible scenarios:

  1. It’s on its way – I have no idea how long it takes to get to a remote island off the coast of Brisbane!
  2. I got the wrong address (I didn’t ask my cousin as I wanted it to be a surprise)
  3. It’s arrived but they didn’t notice my name in tiny print on the customs sticker and haven’t shared it on social media, for whatever reason
  4. It’s arrived but hasn’t found its way to them (I have emailed their place of work/address to see if it’s arrived but have had no response). 
  5. It arrived but Australian customs have rejected it (tea bags allowed?) and it’s on its way back.

So, M & N, when this project is revealed and you still haven’t got your surprises, I am so sorry! I owe you some chocolate/sweets/cups of tea upon your return, if not before! 

In the meantime, I really hope it arrives!

Falling

“I fell. My chair wasn’t positioned correctly and one leg went off the patio into the grass. I’m stuck on the floor still in my chair, I don’t know how to move to get up. Many years ago I’d have jumped up quickly hoping no one had noticed. I might even have laughed about it with my friends and they’d have cracked jokes about how clumsy I was. Today isn’t like that. Today I’m stuck where I am and I can’t move. The girl I’m with isn’t strong enough to help me alone; she makes sure I’m not hurt while looking around and thinking about what to do. 

A woman sees me and heads over, her children strapped in a pushchair are content with ice cream and sleep. She is a similar build to my companion but together they can probably help me. They move the chair from under me and each place a hand under my arms to help me to my feet. I’m unsteady and nervous. What if I fall again? I daren’t hold on to the chair or table. Slowly they guide me to a chair and reassure me that I can sit. I imagine I feel heavy in their arms. Years ago I could have picked them both up at the same time. I wonder if they can see how I used to be strong. I’m trembling but I start to calm down as I feel the chair beneath me. Finally, I’m sitting again and my coffee arrives.  The lady asks if I’m ok then walks back to her children. I breathe a long sigh.”

Sometimes I like to pretend I’m someone else and wonder about how they think. Usually I do this because I’m a worrier and I hate to think I might have upset somebody or have done something they’ve not liked. Occasionally, I imagine I’m the person I’ve just passed in the street – sometimes I imagine their whole life. Today, after I helped an elderly gentleman up into a chair I imagined I was him & wondered what he would have thought of the situation he found himself in. 

I do that a lot when I think of her too. What would she make of this & that? How would she respond when I tell her X or Y? I guess that’s fairly common when we think of the dead but perhaps we should do it more with the living too.  It certainly helps to gain a new perspective. 

You didn’t even say ‘hello’

Despite my previous post being about grief and losing her, it’s not something that I talk of often at home. However, I have had chats with my biggest little one about her, about mummy’s mummy.

So it was somewhat out of the blue that, in a brief moment of Sunday-afternoon quiet, Little LoveJoinMe1 piped up, “Please can I go up the big rock (where her ashes are spread) to say goodbye to mummy’s mummy because … because she, what’s it called? Is it died? Because she’s gonna … died?” 

I was so taken aback. I gestured for him to come and sit next to me and I hugged him while I said “She’s already died”. His response was a simple “but I didn’t say goodbye!” I explained how she died before he was born, “was I in your tummy?”, “No, before that”. 

I’m not sure where it came from. But more and more he is showing me his perception, his emotional intelligence and at not even four and a half years old. It’s reflected in the tone he uses, a gentle voice, quietly probing because he knows it makes mummy sad. 

We were telling daddy about our conversation later and as Little LJM1 said “I didn’t say goodbye”, his father said, sadly, “you didn’t even get to say hello”. Neither he nor Little LJM1 have read my previous post on grief yet this is precisely what I had written about. He didn’t get to say hello. Hellos are infinitely happier than goodbyes.  This makes me saddest of all. My little boy: he sees it with a clarity and gentleness beyond his years. He makes me proud and he makes me want to tell her