Making a promise

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The terrible events that unfolded last night and throughout today in Sydney are heartbreaking. My thoughts are with those affected all over the world. Faith in humanity has been restored by the wonderful social media #Illridewithyou campaign. Thousands of people have now joined, showing solidarity in a time of tragedy.

I didn’t know it until late last night, but yesterday was the two year anniversary of the devastating events at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 children and 6 adult staff members were shot and killed. I cannot begin to imagine what the parents of those children (and adults) have gone through, and are still going through to this day.

The school is less than an hour and a half from where we live in NYC, and I have to admit, it’s one of the things that worries me about bringing up my son in the USA. The truly devastating fact is, since Sandy Hook, there have been nearly 100 more school shootings. So last night I added my name to the Standing with Sandy Hook Promise, and today, for my one good thing, I have made a donation to the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation. Led by family members whose loved ones were killed in the tragic mass shooting, the foundation aims to protect children from gun violence so that no other parent experiences the loss of their child.

There was no official public memorial yesterday, but instead residents of Newtown, Connecticut asked people to perform acts of kindness to help promote good in the world and honor the 26 victims. What a wonderful idea – another way of promoting good in the most unbelievably tragic circumstances. Find the full story here.

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Big Yellow Taxi (tipping)

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We all have good days and bad days. Since being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s my bad days come a little more regularly. I don’t know if it’s the chemicals in my body or the chemicals in the medications I’m taking, but I definitely feel a little lower than usual.

Luckily I have a cheeky two year old, a hilarious husband, a fluff ball dog, some great friends and a job I love to pull me out of the fog. And now I have my good things too. That’s another one of the reasons for doing this… I know how good I feel for doing these little things – and having something every day keeps me bobbing along. So not entirely altruistic…

Today has been one of those lower days… But luckily I did something that for no cost and no effort really boosted my mood and helped someone else too…

First, I just want to say that I never complain. Never. It’s a British thing I think, we put up with bad service, mutter under our breath and when anyone asks if everything is ok we smile and day ‘of course’! Maybe it was my bad mood, or maybe it is something to do with the fact that I’ve been in New York for over a year now and I’m toughening up, but today, when we visited the holiday train show at the New York Historical Society for the second time, and for the second time one of the exhibits wasn’t working, I asked for a refund. I was surprised when the guy said ‘Sure’!

So on the way home we ‘passed it on’ and used the refund to give a much bigger than normal tip to our taxi driver (according to my numbers whizz of a husband it was a 360% gratuity!). I had the best response yet… After we’d got out and he realized what was going on he gave us the biggest beaming smile ever. He was so happy, smiling, giving us the thumbs up and waving. It made me feel great again.

Got any ideas for me? I’d love to hear your suggestions for my ‘one good thing‘.

A donation to my own back yard

When we left the UK, the thing I was most worried about was not having a garden. With a  dog and a 2 year old, it seemed like a pretty important thing to have. Luckily, we now have a huge, 843-acre back yard…  with 21 playgrounds, 2 ice rinks, a zoo, a real live turtle pond, a boat house and so much more…it’s called Central Park.

Dog in the snow in Central Park

Our dog enjoying a snowy Central park

We go there at least once a day – in sunshine, rain, snow, hail, wind… and every day we love it. I recently noticed some great ads in the park which alerted me to the fact that the park relies on donations from the public to keep it looking it’s best. Central Park Conservancy is a non-profit organization that contributes more than 80% of Central Park’s $37.5 million annual budget. So today’s one good thing is a donation to ‘my own back yard’.

Autumn in Central Park

Autumn in Central Park

The best bit is, that from now until December 31st, a group of generous donors will match every dollar donated, up to $250,000. So my $50 donation (which works out at less than 14 cents per visit for us) has been doubled to $100. If you’d like to join me and donate to America’s most visited park, you can do so here.

I know my money will be well spent. Soon, Conservancy Staff will shovel up to 6.5 million cubic feet of snow from 58 miles of Central Park paths, put down 80,000 pounds of sand to keep the paths safe, and hang 18,000 lights in Harlem Meer for us all to enjoy.

Central Park Zoo

Family fun at the Central Park Zoo.

We’re lucky to have such an amazing back yard. It’s important to help keep it that way.

Cake for heroes

When we first looked at our current apartment, in a high rise glass building on a  3-lane street, my husband said something along the lines of “it’s just like Carr Manor Road really” (referring to the quiet suburban street in Leeds we were moving from). To be fair it was a weekend and it was particularly quiet. But it was nothing like Carr Manor Road.

It was our first night in the apartment when we realized that we live just around the corner from a fire station and a police station. And busy ones at that. That was the first time I repeated the famous ‘Carr Manor Road’ line to him!

We don’t notice the sirens anymore, but those first few weeks we lie awake listening to them praying they didn’t wake our little boy. Most nights we were sure something really serious was going on because of the amount of noise. It took us those first few weeks to realize that was just a regular night in New York City.

So tonight, I decided to repay those hardworking fire fighters with a few treats. It was also a good way to cheer up a little guy who came home from school sick and feeling very sorry for himself. One mention of the fire station and he was happy again. So we delivered a box full of cupcakes and a thank you card to the heroes round the corner. The ones who thankfully no longer keep us awake at night.

Treats for the fire fighters

Delivering treats to ‘New York’s Bravest’

Can you feed one more for Christmas?

Mince pie

Mmmm mince pies

Everywhere I go right now I’m bombarded with images of holiday food. And it looks delicious. For health reasons I’m following a strict AIP Paleo diet at the moment, and with no grains, eggs, dairy, sugar, nightshades (tomatoes, chillies, potatoes, peppers, eggplants and more) allowed, I often feel a bit sorry for myself. I mean, who doesn’t fancy a good old fashioned Quality Street or M&S mince pie whilst wrapping presents? Today was one of those days.

I was also looking for inspiration for my one good thing. Luckily, some friends and fellow bloggers came to the rescue with the following ideas. And they’re food related too. Perfect.

No Kid Hungry – right now 1 in 5 kids in the USA is going hungry. A shocking statistic. This charity is dedicated to ending child hunger and can provide 100 meals for a donation of just $10. If you have $10 to spare, this is definitely a good way to make the most of it.

One More for Christmas – Did you know that for less than the cost of one portion of Christmas dinner (£16, in case you were wondering), you can feed a child for a whole year? Mary’s Meals is a UK organization behind the ‘One More for Christmas’ campaign, and for a donation of £12.20 you will feed a child at a place of education in some of the world’s poorest communities for an entire school year.

I did a quick online donation to each and felt good for the rest of the evening – even without a mince pie.

Lollypop, lollypop

Yesterday it rained, and rained. This morning we woke to a dreary grey sky and more rain. It was almost like being back in the North of England. Except the people weren’t being quite as friendly. I think the bad weather brings out the grumpiness in New Yorkers. So today I decided to spread a little holiday cheer for my one good thing. 

I bought a cheap bag of lollipops (or dum dums?!) and handed them out to everyone I thought needed a little pick me up.  I gave one to the grumpy security guard in my local supermarket, and one to the guy selling hats and gloves (and trying to stay dry) on the street. As the rain turned to snow I took my dog for a walk in Central Park and continued with the handouts. To the dog walkers bracing themselves against the blizzard-like conditions, to the guy who’d popped to the local store in his flip flops and got caught out by the snow, and to the doorman standing out in the cold to help others get inside quickly.

Reactions ranged from bemusement to joy. Some people were blasé (or maybe they were so busy they didn’t look up to notice what I had handed them). My only negative reaction came from a woman in the park who told me she didn’t eat sugar and handing out ‘balls of sugar was hardly a good deed’ and that I should ‘think of something else’! I should have known. It is New York after all. My best reaction came from the Traffic Cop on the corner of my street doing a great job in miserable conditions. She literally beamed at me.

I hope I managed to spread just a little bit of joy on this dreary grey (and snowy) day. I know it made me feel better.

Make an old lady very happy…

I’ve had some great messages of support via text, email, Facebook, Twitter and on here too. I’ve also had some suggestions for things to do. So if you’re looking for inspiration to do one good thing, here are a few ideas from this wonderful printable Random Acts of Christmas Kindness advent calendar which was sent to me by my lovely friend Dallas at Skilled With Kids.

Tape change to a vending machine

Pay for a stranger’s coffee

Donate books to the library or hospital

Give treats to the postman

There are also some fantastic ideas from the Karma Army in this book.  From leaving a sweetie on each seat in the cinema and giving someone on their way home bacon and eggs for the morning after, to buying toys for a maternity ward and telling staff to give them to whoever needs them… the book is full of personal stories and snippets and have given me some great ideas to keep up the momentum for the rest of the month. In fact I’m using one of their ideas today – but I need your help!

First a bit of background. When my mum and Dad first got divorced we moved into a tiny house in a not-so-salubrious part of town. It wasn’t a great house – the front door opened straight into the living room and the always-freezing-cold bathroom was off the kitchen. Me and my brother had to share a room and there was no garden – just a back yard we shared with our next door neighbor, Jessie.

Jessie was an elderly lady who was probably the happiest, friendliest person I have ever met. She had a bright yellow front door  to match her sunny disposition and a kick-ass rocking chair. Me and my brother loved spending time at her house (and fighting over that rocking chair). I assumed Jessie had passed on a while ago, as to my eight year old self she seemed very, very old. But I recently learned she is still alive and well – and best of all I managed to get her current address, so today for my one good thing I’m sending her a Christmas card this year. But that’s not all. I would really, really love it if she got a pile of cards from people all over the world (i.e. you lot) to simply wish her a Merry Christmas. She really is a lovely lady and I just know it would make her Christmas. I don’t want to put her address on here, but if you send me your details (or leave them in the comments), I will forward them to you and in return I will happily send a card to someone you want to wish a really, really special Christmas to too.

So let’s make an old lady very happy. And Jessie too. Thanks in advance.

A dog is for life…

According to recent research, pets really do know it’s Christmas. And this adorable video by the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home showing puppies preparing for their first ever Christmas certainly shows they are enjoying it.

Christmas puppy

Battersea Dogs and Cats Home puppies enjoying the holiday season…

Inspired by the Battersea campaign, a visit to PetCo on the school run home gave me the perfect opportunity to my one good thing today. There was collection for shelter animals – a chance to spread cheer to our four legged friends in need. It was a reminder that animal shelters all over the world will be filled with cats and dogs this Christmas.

The donation bin was looking a little sad with a few chew toys and a collar in there. So I dropped in some food, and one of these great bars that operates a one for one system and gives a treat to a pet in need for every bar sold…

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There are plenty of ways you can help out animals around the holidays – you can even do it from the comfort of your own home through the fantastically-named Santa Paws. In the past five years, Santa Paws Drive has raised more than $55,000 in toys, treats and donations for shelters all over the world – from Greyhound Rescue in the UK to the only animal shelter in Afghanistan.
And Battersea Dogs home is also asking for help with donations – you can go online to donate a present to one of their 400 dogs or 250 cats.

If pets really do know it’s Christmas, surely they deserve a little holiday cheer too?!

Dear Santa… please can I have a donation to TINT?

With family and friends back in the UK, we do our Christmas shopping in two halves nowadays. The things we need to mail back to the UK get done first… We’ve been focussing on those, so I haven’t thought about what to get for my friends and family here in New York yet. And I haven’t thought about what I’d like from Santa either…

Santa Rescue

But watching the annual FDNY Santa Rescue at the fire museum this morning got us talking about presents for each other and our little man.

This year, in an effort to be a little more minimalist and keep our tiny 2-bed apartment as clutter-free as possible, we are using something I spotted as a comment on this site… And buying the following for each other…

Something we want,
Something we need,
Something to wear,
And something to read.

Still plenty to open without going present-crazy. My husband, who is a great gift giver was also talking about a few stocking fillers (or stocking stuffers as they say out here in the US). Instead of a few inexpensive novelty items I asked him for something else instead… A donation to The Isaac Nash Trust. (TINT).

Earlier this year, the young boy of an ex-colleague was swept out to see off Anglesey. He was 12 years old. He was swimming with his younger brother Xander when tragedy struck. Their father managed to rescue Xander, but despite heroic attempts their grandpa just couldn’t hold onto Isaac. He was lost.

Isaac Nash

Isaac Nash, the 12 year old boy from Huddersfield, who died after being swept out to sea.

You can read the heartbreaking story here.

The family also have a young girl who’s a similar age to my little one, and although I only knew Adam (Isaac’s dad) for a short time whilst working in Leeds, the news from home deeply affected me. I can only imagine what the family is going through and my heart goes out to those two young children who will forever be without their big brother.

The Trust is aiming to raise £100,000 for a skate park in Isaac’s memory and an additional £10,000 for the RNLI who worked hard on the day of the tragedy (as they do every day of the year – including Christmas Day). They have raised more than £60,000 so far, and it would be a great Christmas gift to help them get a little closer to their target. If you want to help too, you can donate to the fund here, or if you prefer, purchase a Huddersfield Examiner 2015 calendar full of stunning images from the local area for just £6. All profits go to The Isaac Nash Trust.

Feeling inspired? Why not ask Santa for a donation to a charity close to your heart for Christmas this year? There are so many great causes out there, but if you know Adam or the Nashes, or simply want to help this wonderful family, consider a donation to TINT.

It’ll be lonely this Christmas…

NYC Christmas tree home

Taking home the tree

Today has been a day all about one thing – Christmas. This morning we picked out our tree and schlepped it home (New York Style), we wrapped gifts listening to the Salvation Army playlist, and we wrote cards for friends and family back in the UK. It was cold and wet, so it was the perfect afternoon for it. I was only missing one thing – the mince pies.

I know that Christmas cards are becoming obsolete. In fact I read something today that said 2014 is the year the Christmas Card died. One of my best friends has decided to use the money she would have spent on cards to donate to a  charity close to her heart instead, which is a fantastic idea.

I was thinking about a few certain people back home who I really need to write to, and it got me thinking – there are plenty of people who don’t receive cards or gifts and would love to receive something in the mail – especially at this time of year. So I had a look online and found a wonderful organisation called The Forgotten Ones Card Exchange for the Elderly.

Here’s what they have to say:

The Forgotten Ones: International Card Exchange for the Elderly
 
Walk into any nursing home today, and you’ll see them: The aging lonely. They are easily recognizable. Look for the sadness on their faces, the pain in their eyes. With a television on for company, these men and women sit alone in their rooms. Their shelves are bare, their bulletin boards void of pictures, cards, or any memento denoting love from the outside. Those sad eyes may even hold a twinge of bitterness, asking, “Why am I still here with no one to love me?” by Karrie Osborn 

So I added a few addresses to my card list. I’m sending cards to residents in need of cheer at nursing homes, rehab centers, and hospices – from as close as a few blocks away in Harlem to as far as Nairobi and Australia. I chose a few places close to our hearts too – such as Manchester (where my husband’s from) and Edinburgh (where we got married). I sent a few pictures my son had painted/drawn to add a personal touch, and also included a stamped, addressed envelope in case anyone wanted to reply.

Card Exchange for the Elderly Cards

This is definitely a Christmas tradition I will be keeping. I’m already looking forward to next year. What about you? Do you have a few spare cards? If so, don’t put them away for next year, send them to someone who will really, really appreciate the effort and bring a smile to someone’s face.

Got any comments or suggestions? I’d love to hear what you are doing. Get involved below.