Daymaker - a person who performs acts of kindness with the intention of making the world a better place.
~ David Wagner
, author of Life as a Daymaker; how to change the world by making someone's day ~

DayMaker - any thought, word, or deed that spreads happiness, compassion, or fruitful ideas.
~ Annis Cassells ~

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Look for the Gift

Dawn, night, and taxes are three things that we can all count on as we go about our daily lives. And, we’ve heard of Murphy’s Law, where anything that can go wrong will go wrong. We need to roll with the punches – take it in and let it go. Make lemonade out of lemons. The clich├ęs are never-ending.

It’s also said, “It’s not what happens to you, it’s how you react to what happens to you.” Remaining calm and keeping a clear head when things don’t work out exactly as we’ve planned is key. Something better is probably in store for us. What feels like a missed opportunity or a dreadful situation usually brings a gift to our lives.

When the unexpected happens, we also need to look for the gift. What good thing is going to come out of these unplanned or unforeseen circumstances?  Sometimes it’s hard to believe there could be a gift while in the throes of a tough situation. But proving that “hindsight is 20-20,” taking time to reflect often reveals the gift.

How many of us, after being delayed from leaving home and later coming upon a traffic jam or accident have said, “If I’d left on time, I’d have been right in the middle of that mess!” The gift: we’ve been spared aggravation and possible injury.

Sometimes the gift is a heart gift. I can remember our friend Ruth saying that having cancer had brought her many gifts. A major one was the realization of how much people cared for her. The disease had rallied long-time friends and family around her and had brought new friends into her life. Having cancer led to fresh attitudes and learnings and a sense of freedom. These were not only gifts for Ruth, but also for those of us who were so fortunate to become close to her.

Knowing that there is a gift in every situation helps us get through it. Looking for the gift brings us opportunities for growth and happiness.

What gifts have you found, thanks to a tough situation you’ve faced?

~ xoA ~

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Gift of Life

Blood. It's not just for Halloween.

More than 20 years ago I became a blood donor -- something I’d never imagined I’d do. But, one thing that inspired me was a book I’d read,  Eric, by Doris Lund. It was a mother’s story about her vibrant, teenaged son who was diagnosed with leukemia and his and the family’s journey through the illness.

Lund educated her readers on the importance of giving blood. She painted a portrait of the blood donor as a hero. She portrayed the blood bank and hospital personnel as ever-so-cheery and appreciative, supplying donuts and other treats for donors. By the time I’d read the last page, she almost had me convinced to go down to our local blood bank and donate.
Then, something more personal happened. A teacher friend came to the house one day. Distraught and worried, she told about a friend of hers who needed blood transfusions. This woman had been diagnosed with breast cancer early in her pregnancy and had recently given birth. The pregnancy had exacerbated the cancer. Now there were some complications. If they could roust some blood donors, that would offset the cost to the family. Several of us began telephoning other friends and colleagues, and we were quickly mobilized.
That was the start of my relationship with the good folks at Houchin Community Blood Bank,, where I regularly donated blood for many years. Since 2001, my own health issues prohibited me from further blood donations, but today, my goal is to support the blood bank in whatever way I can. So, I am using this forum to make a pitch.

On October 20, from 5-8 p.m., my branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) is partnering with Houchin Blood Bank for a blood drive and evening social. We need donors to sign up in order to make this event a "go." If you, or your family members, friends, or neighbors, have thought about giving back to our community, donating blood is a great way. Who knows whose life your blood may save. 
Our blood drive and evening social is also a great time to become better acquainted with the AAUW mission and to learn about our work in Kern County, helping girls and women to have economic and educational opportunities.

This is an event for non-members as well as members. Light refreshments will be served. Gift cards from some favorite local eateries will be drawn as door prizes each half hour beginning at 5:30. Please call ahead to organizer Erin Hawkins at 661-706-9269 to inform her of your commitment to being there.

Come on over to Houchin Community Blood Bank on Truxtun Avenue between 5 and 8 on Thursday the 20th of October. What could be better than having a good time while helping to build up our county’s blood supply. Neighbors helping neighbors. If you reside outside of Bakersfield, maybe you’ll consider getting over to your local blood bank and donating. It’s a satisfying feeling to give the gift of life.

~ xoA ~

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Clearing the Clutter

From 1995 to 2000,  I was a grad student at  California State University, Bakersfield, in their counseling program. This week, I threw away my masters degree notes and papers. If they had been kids, some of those notes and papers would be old enough to drive a car.

I hadn’t intended to ditch my college notes, hadn’t even thought about them in several years. But, one thing does lead to another, and somehow I found myself doing the unexpected.

Observing that the encroaching clutter in the house was beginning to cause claustrophobia, Judy and I embarked on a marathon sort and purge campaign. I’d snatched long-neglected clothing off the hangers and out of bureau drawers and had taken them to the Discovery Shop, the local American Cancer Society resale store.

Clothing on its way to be recycled

Then, after hauling out everything in my office and three days of going through it, deciding what to keep and what to toss, I took a couple of boxes out to the garage, thinking I’d store them in the cupboard marked “Annis’s Stuff”. There was no place to put them. Every shelf was full. The next thing I knew, the dusty garaged boxes were strewn over the cement floor.  Lids off, or their four corner flaps untucked, the opened receptacles revealed yellowed loose-leaf and typewritten pages, ink-faded 3x5 cards, and rubber bands that had baked brick-hard.

I rolled our large brown garbage can into the garage and began following the “Clearing the Clutter” instructions that I’d written on a card for myself as a psych class assignment in 1996. (Every now and then, that card floats to the surface of my desk.) It reads like this:

* Remember to use the self-instructions while you’re working on those piles.
* Keep going. Don’t stop to READ the papers.
* Throw away or put away the stacks.
* ‘Atta girl! It’s coming.
* Great! That table (desk, floor, shelf) is cleaned off!
* Don’t worry. You’re getting there.

And, I did get there. Heaving and tugging and stacking, ruthlessly getting rid of Statistics 520 and other items that brought back memories of sweat and tears, failures and triumphs. Three hours later, there was space galore on the shelves, and I rolled the full, heavy, hard-to-steer garbage can to the back yard. I was glad I’d been working out at the gym.

Feeling a bit lighter myself when finished, I wondered, Why do we hold onto that stuff?  Sometimes out of necessity? Or comfort? Or just plain forgetfulness? Maybe all of the above.
Office closet -- everything in its place

One thing’s for sure: clearing the clutter feels good. Knowing that I’ve dealt with my stuff, and not left it for someone else to manage, is satisfying. There’s pride in accomplishment when I see the neatly-arranged treasures I’ve kept. Yes, there’s plenty more that needs to go. But, this week I’m on a roll and hitting par. 

How's your stuff? How do you keep it under control?

~ xoA