A few weeks ago I blogged about ways we can all give back with our cameras, whether you are a pro or just a Mom*tog. I had an idea of what I wanted to do, but wasn’t sure if I could make it happen. I’ve been blessed with amazing clients who have kept me so busy this year. Busier than I wanted to be, honestly. I have SO much to be thankful for. So, so, so much. And I wanted to do something for some people who might not have as much to be thankful for.
After my first two days of mini sessions booked out super fast I got a lot of requests for a third day. November was crazy. Crazier than crazy. And I knew if I did do a third day of minis I wanted to do something fun with that money. Something to give back. Julie (who did an amazing job styling the sessions) and I found a way to fit in one more day. The only day we could do would be the day before Thanksgiving. Which is just crazy. But, we made it happen.
Earlier this week we got to go spend that money. It was something I always wanted to do when I was a kid. Go to a toy store and buy whatever I wanted. A big shopping spree. I imagined running down the aisles with a cart and just piling toys into cart after cart. Except the toy store we went to didn’t have carts. Because it was important to me to be able to support a local toy store rather than going to a big chain store. Just another way to give back. I pass by The Enchanted Toy Store in Fullerton all the time, but had never gone in. I contacted the owner and he was kind enough to give us 15% off our purchases. To make our money go a little further. (If you live in North Orange County you must check out The Enchanted Toy Store. Really awesome, quality toys. You can tell Jeff, the owner, really puts a lot of thought into picking out the toys he carries in his shop).
It only took us maybe 20 minutes to get all the toys. Julie picked out the girl toys and Brayden I picked out the boy toys… and some girl toys because girl toys are “so colorful and pretty!”.
Brayden was excited to be one of Santa’s elves. He was SO good. Much better than I expected him to be. I thought he would cry and cry when he realized the toys weren’t for him. But, he got it. As much as a 3 year old can get it. All he wanted was a little stuffed mouse. Which I had to get him because he was so, so, so good. The only tears came from Kennedy who cried the entire time!
We piled the toys into the back of Julie’s mini van. So thankful for her mini van because they wouldn’t all fit in my car! (And, yes. Brayden doesn’t have any shoes on. Because I’m the awesome mom who forgot my kids shoes at home! It was that kind of a crazy morning).
And drove them straight over to a local fire department for Toys 4 Tots. The firemen were so nice and let B look in their fire trucks.
Thinking that there might be kids out there without Christmas presents makes my heart hurt. I can’t even imagine. Thanks to my amazing clients for helping to make this happen. Without your continued support, referrals, and business we couldn’t have done this. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
ETA: I didn’t post this (or my 31 RAOK post) so people could say, “Yeah, Drew. You’re so awesome”. Because, trust me, I’m not that awesome and I’m not perfect. I posted it because I want to encourage others to do the same. Even if it’s something small it can all add up to something BIG!
Oprah (my personal hero) said that when she was a little girl her family didn’t have any money for Christmas presents. She was old enough to know Santa wasn’t real, but young enough to still hope that he was. On Christmas Eve nuns showed up at her door step with Christmas presents for her. She never forgot that small random act of kindess and that has inspired her love of giving. That was my inspiration for doing this. In hopes that maybe these presents can make Christmas magical for kids that don’t have a lot of happiness in their lives and maybe will instill a love of giving back to others that will last a lifetime.
It’s my birthday. I’m
29 31. Woohoo. I’m not really a fan of my birthday. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the attention. Maybe it’s because my birthday is one of the last things my Grandma and I ever talked about and it’s now just a reminder that she’s no longer here. I don’t know. But, this year I wanted to make it more fun for myself. I came across this on Pinterest a couple of months ago and was inspired. I loved what this super cute girl and her family did for her birthday. I wasn’t really sure I could do it with 2 kids and during my busiest time of year, but I knew I wanted to try. So I did.
I decided to do my random acts of kindness in the two days leading up to my birthday. I knew I couldn’t do them all in one day with two young kids. And with Brayden in school on Thursdays I wanted to make sure that he got to help.
Here are my 31 acts of random (and not so random) kindness:
1) I went to the grocery store to pick up a few things. I bought a gift card. When the clerk handed it to me I gave it right back to her and said, “Actually it’s for you”. She asked, “Why? What for?”. I told her it was just because and she was always very kind to me when I shopped there. She was extremely thankful and said it was the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for her. It was a great way to start.
2) I bought lottery tickets from 7-11 and gave one back to the clerk after I bought it. She didn’t really seem to care that much. But, I really hope she won some huge prize!
3) I tapped lottery tickets to the gas pump. Someone pulled up right after I left so I drove around a couple of times to see their reaction. Either the guy totally didn’t see them or didn’t care because he didn’t take one! When I went back a few hours later they were all gone My Grandma loved lottery tickets so it was fun to do.
4) At our GAP Kids there is a particularly nice salesman. When I was pregnant he would always tell me how great I looked and after I had Kennedy he had equally nice compliments. And all of us moms know how nice it is to be complimented while you are pregnant and right after you’ve had a baby! I took a thank you card for him, but he wasn’t there so I left it with another sales girl. I’m pretty sure she thought I had a crush on him and was leaving him a love note or something. It was awkward, but I hope the note encourages him to keep doing what he’s doing and making moms feel great.
5) I went into several restrooms at the mall and left “You’re an awesome mom” post it’s on the changing table.
6) I went to Sephora to buy moisturizer and the sales lady was particularly helpful and accommodating. When checking out she gave me a survey to take. I never do those things, but I took this one in hopes that it would help her in some way since she helped me.
7) I made a conscious effort to make eye contact and smile with others at the mall. Especially moms with crying kids I know it always makes my day to get a smile from a stranger!
8) I surprised Brayden with a UCLA pillow pet. Because it was super cute and I knew he would love it.
9) Brayden and I left coins in the candy machines at Babies R Us.
10) And then we hid dollar bills in a couple of the toy dollar bins at Target.
11) Left a Target gift card on a car with a note to “Be Awesome Today”.
12) I left a thank you card for our mailman.
13) Brayden and I made rainbow signs and left them around our neighborhood. He’s a really awesome rainbow drawer.
14) We went to the grocery store to buy flowers and bought an extra bouquet. We gave it to the elderly lady who had been in line in front of us. They were sunflowers. My Grandma’s favorite. The lady was so sweet. She just had her first great granddaughter. Tristan Riley. She’s 2 1/2 weeks old.
15) We drove through McDonald’s and bought the guy behind us lunch. He was stoked! Had a huge smile on his face.
16) We brought flowers to my mom at work to say thanks for giving birth to me.
17) While at Target the night before Brayden picked out two of his favorite movies and we donated them to the kids at our local Children’s hospital. I was a patient at that hospital as a kid so that was fun to do. And, wow, has that hospital grown since I was there!
18) We left change next to the vending machine at the hospital.
19) Held the elevator door open for people to get on the elevator even though I was the one with two kids.
20) When leaving the hospital there was a mom going inside with her young baby. She looked stressed and tired. I couldn’t catch her before she went inside, but I did leave a Starbucks card and a picture Brayden drew on her car. It’s a rainbow flower. Because he’s awesome at drawing rainbow flowers too.
21) When I handed my money to the parking lot attendant I also handed her a Starbucks card. It’s cold in that little booth! And she got a huge smile on her face.
22) These next two are my favorite. I brought cupcakes to the nurses on the mother baby unit at the hospital where I delivered Kennedy. I thought I would just drop them off and didn’t expect to see any of my nurses. I ended up seeing my favorite nurse. Michelle. She was awesome and totally remembered me, which I thought was crazy. I think I hugged her 5 times. Nurses on the mother baby floor are special people. I really appreciated mine and I’m glad at least one of them got to see Kennedy.
23) I brought flowers and asked the nurses to give them to a mom who might need a little pick me up. I started crying when I did this one.
24) I stopped at the cafeteria and bought a cup of coffee to the parking lot attendant. Again, it’s cold in those little booths! I don’t think he liked coffee though.
25) I sent a note of encouragement to a fellow mom blogger along with a gift card that I thought might give her a little pick me up.
26) I left a book that I enjoyed reading on a bus stop.
27) On the way to do number 27 Brayden and I saw people camping out in front of the movie theater. Twihards. We went to Starbucks, bought hot chocolate, and walked it over to them. Brayden was the one who actually talked to them and handed it out. He was so proud of himself and all 4 people that we gave it to were SO appreciative. I was very proud of my boy.
28) I’m not sure this one counts, but while at Starbucks the barista asked me what we were up to. I hadn’t told anyone what I was really doing, but for some reason I told her that I was doing 31 acts of random (and not so random) kindness for my 31st birthday. She asked a lot of questions and when we left she said she was so moved and inspired and she was going to do the same thing on her birthday. I thought that was pretty cool.
29) This was my least favorite and I’m glad I did this almost last as I think it would have discouraged me from continuing if I would have done it first. We went to the downtown area of our town to pass out balloons. Brayden was so excited to do this. He passed out the first three and had great responses. After that it totally went downhill. He either was completely ignored or people wouldn’t take the balloon from him. One dad was downright rude. How can you be rude to a cute 3 year old trying to give your kid a balloon? It made my heart hurt and we ended up only handing out 3 of the 7 balloons. I didn’t want Brayden to get his feelings hurt anymore. But, I learned a lesson from this one. From now on, I will do my best to make eye contact with everyone who attempts to stop and talk to me. Whether it be the annoying people in the mall who want to curl my hair or a homeless person asking for money. I will not ignore them. Because getting ignored and treated like crap sucks.
30) We picked up liter in the parking garage.
31) Gave a Starbucks gift card to the janitor who was working downtown. Thought he could use a coffee to warm up.
This was a hard project. It was tiring physically, mentally, and emotionally. I was surprised in both positive and negative ways by peoples reactions. The hardest tasks were the ones where I had to interact with people. It’s easy to leave something for someone to find. It was harder to interact with someone, make eye contact and explain why I was doing what I was doing. But, those were also the most rewarding tasks.
I’m glad I was able to complete the 31 acts. It did make my birthday fun. Rather than going and buying a new outfit for myself I was able to spend that money to make others happy. And making others happy is what makes me happy.
For my birthday I would love if you could perform just one random act of kindness today. It would make my heart happy and I’m sure it will make yours happy as well! And I would love it if you would leave a comment saying what you did! Happy 11/17!
If you follow my friend Julie’s blog then I’m sure you’ve seen The Happy Day Project. While I haven’t been doing the tasks in order and it might take me more than a week to finish everything, Brayden and I have had fun spreading a little unexpected sunshine each day. It’s given me an opportunity to talk to him about giving and to try and teach him about what this season is really all about. It’s not easy with a 3 year old, but I can see it starting to sink in. Just a little. And a little is fine with me. I’ll do another post soon on our experience with the project, but seeing what Julie and Jeannett have done and how they have inspired others to give with their whole hearts inspired me to do more.
We all have cameras. What can we do with our cameras to put a smile on someone’s face? Can you take pictures for a family who deserves beautiful family pictures, but can’t afford it? Can you do a day of sessions and donate the session fees to an organization? Can you gift a session to your family and friends who have made a difference in your life and the lives of your children this year?
You don’t have to be a professional Mom*tog to do this. How many of you are always behind the camera and would just love a simple picture with your kids? Take your fancy camera and schedule a play date with your mommy friends. Set your camera on auto and take turns taking pictures of each other. You can do something to give back to your friends and you’ll get a cute shot of you and your kiddos as well!
I know we’re all busy. Trust me. I get it. I’m busier than I’ve ever been this year. But, I’m sure you can find an hour (or two, or three) to use your camera to do some good.
Julie and I have something in the works. And I’m really, really excited about it. I have so much to be thankful for. It’s kind of ridiculous. I’m happy to use my camera to be able to spread a little sunshine to those that need it.
*** Are you using your camera to put a smile on someones face? Post about it in Real Mom*togs!
Who do you shoot for? Do you shoot for yourself and your family? Or do you shoot for your blog? For other photographers?
It’s so easy when you’re starting out to obsess over other photographers work. To wish you were someone else. Don’t. Trust me. Been there. Done that. Don’t waste time comparing your work to that of other photographers. Don’t strive to be like other photographers. Strive to be yourself. To find your own style. Don’t be the next _______ (insert the name of big photographer here). Be you. Shoot what you love. Who you love.
If you are a professional photographer, shoot for your clients. Don’t shoot to get featured on some blog. Tell your clients stories. Put yourself in their shoes. What would you want to remember about your family at that very point in time? 10, 20, 30 years from now they won’t remember what blog their session was featured on. Or how many comments were left on their blog post. But, they will be able to look back at the pictures you took for them and be able to remember the love they were feeling for their family at that time.
“Each one of you has your own platform. Do not let the trappings here fool you. Mine is a stage in a studio, yours is wherever you are with your own reach, however small or however large that reach is. Maybe it’s 20 people, maybe it’s 30 people, 40 people, your family, your friends, your neighbors, your classmates, your classroom, your co-workers. Wherever you are, that is your platform, your stage, your circle of influence. That is your talk show, and that is where your power lies. In every way, in every day, you are showing people exactly who you are. You’re letting your life speak for you. And when you do that, you will receive in direct proportion to how you give in whatever platform you have.” – Oprah Winfrey
As a mom, I want my children to be kind and compassionate. I want them to understand the joy of giving and not just receiving. I want them to know that one person can make a difference no matter how small or big their voice is.
I love helping others. I love giving. And I’m fortunate that you all keep coming back and reading what I have to say giving me a small voice in this blogging community. I want to use that voice to do what I can to help others.
I’m not going to lie. I was a bit disappointed with the outcome of Soul 4 the South. When I did the math in my head I thought we could raise SO much money. We could help SO many people. If everyone who stopped by here donated $10 we could raise $20,000. I realize that people are hurting now. Times are tough. But, $10 is skipping your trip to Starbucks twice one week. Or bringing lunch to work rather than eating out. Especially with the chance to win such great prizes.
And then my friend sent me some encouraging words and a link to this post. It made sense. I got over being disappointed and realized that whatever we raised was going to help someone and that’s all that mattered.
I didn’t quite realize how much until last night when I got an email from BeRemedy telling me how far the money we helped raise went. How WE, together, with just small donations of $10 were able to help Nathan, a single Dad of four in Joplin recently diagnosed with cancer get back on his feet. Every single donation of $10 helped. YOU helped to change their lives.
So, know that whatever you give or do, no matter how small can add up to something big. Thanks to each and every one of you who donated, helped spread the word, and to our amazing vendors for making this possible! I’m happy to have been a small part of this and I hope you are too.