“Returning the Favor” by Mike Rowe…Have you seen it?

If you haven’t seen Mike Rowe’s “Returning the Favor”  on Facebook yet, you need to check it out! It’s one of the few, if not only, inspiring things you will find on Facebook these days.

You might remember Mike Rowe from a show called “Dirty Jobs” that aired on Discovery Channel a few years ago (2005-2012). I’ve always thought that Mike was an upstanding guy, though I’ve never met him, and this show only does more to improve my impression of him.

“Returning the Favor” airs on Facebook, and seems to come out about one episode per week. The show features stories from around the country of average people doing extraordinary things for others. Get your hanky ready, because the show will tug at your heartstrings, in a good way.

There have been four episodes so far, and I’ve watched every one.

If there’s one thing this world needs, it’s to see fellow human beings helping one another because it’s the passion of their heart. Finally, something to make you feel good about the world.

Every episode, they surprise the designated “Do-Gooder” by giving something back to them. Thus, the name of the show, “Returning the Favor.”

The first episode, “Operation Combat Bikesaver,” profiles a former army engineer who runs a therapeutic bike building program for veterans. His name is Jason, and he gives his talents, and his time to inspire other vets, some of whom are suffering from PTSD, to be part of something bigger. You’ll have to watch it to see how they return the favor.

In Episode 2, “Donovan Discovers,” they profile a young boy, Donovan, who was at one time homeless, but now makes soap to donate to shelters. Its heartwarming to see a young kid use what he’s been through to reach others. No one told him to do it, he just does. Again, I’m not going to give away the ending.

Episode 3 is called “Girls Build.” It’s about a woman named Katie who runs a trade skills camp for girls. Katie is a carpenter, and saw the discrepancy in the carpentry workforce and how it was missing women. She inspires the girls to believe that they can build anything and gets them excited about creating things. They return the favor to her by…well, you’ll just have to watch it.

I just finished watching Episode 4, “Raising the Roughriders.” It’s about Brian, a retired Lieutenant in the police department and Vietnam Vet, who coaches a sled hockey team for intellectually and physically disabled athletes. The best part of his story is that his athletes never have to pay for a thing. He fundraises to get everything they need. Again, watch it to see how they return the favor.

I’m so glad to finally see something positive on social media for a change. Keep it up, Mike Rowe!

QUICK UPDATE: THE EPISODES AIR ON TUESDAYS.

 

Advertisements

No Opportunity Wasted

Where I live, I am surrounded by over-achieving adults, and they’re passing that on to their kids, not that there’s anything wrong with that. If you have that kind of drive, more power to you.

But sometimes I think we look too far ahead to the “end product” and miss a whole bunch in between.

We miss the opportunities that happen our way, and consider them a waste of time or not worth the effort.

But life isn’t about the “end product,” it’s about all the stuff in between birth and death, and what we do with every opportunity we get.

There seems to be a big portion of the population, mostly millennials (sorry guys, I don’t mean to stereotype you, but it’s what us “old people” see – and by “old,” I mean middle-aged), who are reaching for the brass ring and missing all the silver, pewter, and aluminum rings on the way.

One thing my husband and I are teaching our kids, is that no opportunity should be wasted…ever.

Every opportunity, whether it works in your favor or not, should not be wasted.

But what does that look like?

For kids: Say you didn’t make it into the advanced placement math class this semester. Disappointing? Yes. Tragic. No. Any opportunity? Definitely. First, figure out why you didn’t make it in to the class. There are those moments when you just weren’t “smart enough” I suppose, but more likely, you just didn’t try hard enough. You didn’t study as hard as you could have. You didn’t take the opportunity for the extra credit questions because it didn’t seem as interesting, or fun, as your video game.

We carry this into adulthood too.

How many jobs have we passed up because the pay was “beneath us?” Now if you’re unemployed and have a family depending on you, chances are this won’t happen. If you’re unemployed, and the sole provider, you’ll take any job you can get. But every job can be looked at as an opportunity. Maybe it isn’t what you want to do for the rest of your life, or even for the next month. But what can you learn from it? Nothing, you say? Don’t be so sure.

You may learn how to work with people, especially the ones you don’t like. You may learn a new skill. Maybe this job is just a stepping stone to the next job…a better job. Maybe it inspires you to be the entrepreneur you’ve always dreamed of being. Maybe you’ll make connections that can help you further down the road. You may even learn something about yourself, if you’re paying attention, that is.

Opportunities stretch us, and grow us into the people we need to become. Don’t waste them.

Life rarely turns out the way we plan, but sometimes the plans are better than we could have ever imagined. But not unless we take the opportunities given us.

Have you ever passed up an opportunity and you wish you could have a “do over?”

Jane & Maria – 2nd Installment of the Coffee Shop Vignettes

coffee-983955_1920

Maria wrapped her hands around her coffee cup to warm them.

“So, tell me…how did it go?” Jane asked Maria, as she handed her son a coloring book and some crayons, and moved her coffee out of his reach.

“I’m not sure,” Maria said.

“Well, was it a good interview? Do you think you gave the answers they wanted?”

“I’m not sure,” Maria said and slumped back in her chair.

“Oh, come on. It couldn’t have been that bad,” Jane tried to be encouraging. She turned to her son, “No, no…only in the book…not on the table.”

Maria smiled.

“It’s just that it’s been so long since I’ve been out of the workforce, you know?” Maria said.

“Oh, I’m sure that won’t matter that much. You have the experience they’re looking for.”

“Yeah, but from 200 years ago!” Maria said and laughed.

Jane laughed at Maria’s exaggeration.

Maria sighed. “I don’t know. Part of me is excited to go back to work now that the kids are in school full time, but the other part of me wants to be home for them. I hate the idea of sending them to daycare. I should be helping them with their homework, not some stranger.”

“I’m sure there will be plenty of homework for you to help with. Besides, don’t a lot of their friends go to the same afterschool care?” Jane asked.

Maria nodded.

“What about the job? You’re scared, aren’t you,” Jane said.

“I hate to admit it, but yes, I am. I haven’t had to work for anyone in a long time. I’ve been the one telling people, well, little people that is, what to do for the past ten years. I don’t even know if I remember how to take orders from someone else,” Maria said.

“Sure you do. I’ve seen you take orders from Sarah all the time!” Jane teased.

“Oh, please! I don’t take orders from my 14 year old.”

Jane raised her eyebrow.

“Okay, okay, maybe sometimes I do. But don’t you dare tell her that!” Maria admitted.

“Mama…other book, other book,” Jane’s son insisted.

“I see you have your own dictator,” Maria teased.

Jane frowned at her as she got out another coloring book for her son.

Maria’s phone rang, and she looked at the number. She put her finger to her lips, and Jane told her son to be quiet.

“This is Maria,” she answered, and listened.

Jane kept her son occupied and watched Maria’s face for any indication.

“Yes, I’d be happy to. Okay. Okay. Thank you. I’ll talk to you then. Bye,” Maria said.

“Well?” Jane asked.

“I got a second interview!” Maria exclaimed.

“I knew you could! See, I told you! When do they want to see you again?” Jane asked.

“Tomorrow morning,” Maria said. She let it sink in.

“How does going back to work sound now?” Jane asked.

“It sounds pretty good, actually. Look, I better go. I have to find something different to wear tomorrow. I haven’t had to wear a skirt for two days in a row in a long time! I’ll call you tomorrow, okay?” Maria said as she got up. She waved to Jane’s son on her way out.

“Bye!” Jane called after her, but she was already out the door.

“Bye bye,” Jane’s son imitated.

Jane smiled at her son, grateful that she had a few more years before she’d have to go back to work, but excited for her friend. She picked up a crayon and helped her son color his picture.

The Coffee Shop Vignettes – Jessica & Daisy

coffee-983955_1920

Jessica wiped Jared’s pudgy face and he cooed at her. She’d already dropped the older two off at school, and had time to go to the gym. She wanted to enjoy her cup of coffee in peace, but Jared had a cold and couldn’t go to day care, so she had to bring him with her. So much for “me” time. She checked her lipstick in the review mirror one more time before getting out of the car.

She stood in line, with Jared perched on her hip. Two people ahead of her stood a woman holding a baby with out of control curly blond hair and a toddler, with equally crazy hair, hanging on her prairie skirt.

“Stop that, David…put that down,” she scolded. The one on her hip let out a single scream, and David laughed at him. Within minutes, David realized he had an audience with his brother, and began dancing in line. The woman struggled to control him, but it was clear she was going to lose that battle.

Jessica craned her neck to see the spectacle. Jared cooed and she shushed him. He obliged.

By the time the woman had gotten to the front of the line to order her coffee, David was in full entertainer mode, dancing around standing patrons. The woman struggled to give her order and then find her money while still keeping track of David. Other customers grimaced and gave her dirty looks. Jessica rolled her eyes.

“No control,” Jessica mumbled to herself.

“You got that right,” the well-dressed man in front of her said.

David continued to dance around the tables and the younger one screamed in delight as she made her way to the table. Jessica had to raise her voice over the commotion so that the clerk could hear her.

“David! Get over here!” the woman raised her voice.

Jessica watched her along with the entire café. She shook her head as she got her coffee and tried to find a table anywhere but near David and his Mom, but there was none. She was forced to sit right beside them.

Jessica no sooner set Jared in the high chair and he began to cry. She gave him a pacifier, but he spit it out. She gave a quick and inconspicuous sniff, but his diaper was fine. She could feel the eyes of other patrons on her and it made her uncomfortable. She was getting more flustered by the moment, and felt the need to leave, but she really wanted to enjoy her coffee. Still, what would people think? Even the older woman across the way waved at Jared and smiled at him, but he continued to cry. It was turning into a fiasco.

And then David came over to her table.

“Is he okay?” he asked.

“Yes, he’s fine, thank you,” Jessica said trying to shoo David away. She didn’t want people to think David was with her.

“But he doesn’t sound okay,” David continued.

“Thank you. I can take care of it,” Jessica said. Why wasn’t David’s mother attending to him?

As Jessica was struggling with Jared, he arched his back, knocking over her coffee. It spilled all over the table and onto the floor. Jessica was mortified. She reached for napkins, but only had a few.

David jumped back. “Mommy, Mommy! The baby spilled!” he announced to the café.

Jessica restrained herself from yelling at the child.

“Here let me help.” It was David’s mother. She appeared from nowhere and held a rag in her hand. Without a word she began cleaning up. David ran to the counter, got more napkins, and began helping too.

Jessica continued to tend to Jared. He’d started to quiet down as he was distracted by all the commotion. She didn’t want the woman helping her, but she really did need the help.

“Thank you,” Jessica said.

“No problem. This is nothing compared to the mess my boys make,” the woman said.

Jessica looked at the woman’s baby who sat quietly chewing on his pacifier. She felt guilty for judging the woman.

“I’m sorry. Jared’s not usually this much trouble. I don’t know what happened. But thank you for your help,” she said.

The woman handed the rags to David and he took them to the counter and handed them to the clerk.

David retuned with a cookie.

“Look Mommy! The lady gave me a cookie!” he said.

“That’s because you’re such a big helper. Thanks buddy,” she said to him.

“Again…thank you,” Jessica said.

“No problem. We mom’s have to stick together,” the woman said.

“Yes, I guess we do,” Jessica agreed. She held out her hand, “I’m Jessica.”

“Oh, I’m Daisy. I know, it’s a weird name. It’s what happens when your parents are hippy’s,” Daisy said.

“It’s lovely,” Jessica said.

“I’m David,” David said very loudly.

“It’s nice to meet you too,” Jessica said.

“Do you have any coffee left?” Daisy asked.

Jessica looked at her cup which was empty. “Nope, so much for that cup of coffee.”

“Here, let me go get you another. What was it?” Daisy asked.

“Oh, you don’t have to…” Jessica started.

“It’s okay. I’m sure they’ll give you a free one.”

“Um…Mocha, thanks,” Jessica said.

“David, watch your brother,” Daisy instructed.

David dragged his brother’s high chair over to Jessica’s table and sat in the chair across from her.

“That’s my brother. His name is Riley,” David said.

Daisy returned with Jessica’s coffee and they spent the next hour talking about their kids, and Jessica realized they weren’t so different after all.

Introducing “The Coffee Shop Vignettes”

coffee-983955_1920

Sometimes it’s hard to think of an idea for a Blog Post, but it’s much easier for me to think of a story. I think I get it from my dad.

When I was really little, he used to sing a bedtime song to me that he made up called “Jackie Penguin.” In the song, Jackie Penguin would just happen to have the exact same day I did. And Jackie Penguin’s day always ended happy or learned a lesson, just like I did. #thanksdad

That’s where the inspiration for “The Coffee Shop Vignettes” came from: for the days that I don’t have a Blog Post, but I do have something to share…or at least my fictional characters do.

My hope is that the reader would see themselves in the situations, or their friends, and would find connection and comfort.

This is a compilation of encouraging conversations from everyday life. Imagine yourself sitting at your local coffee shop cozied up with a book, surrounded by other patrons. It is alive with conversation, of people coming and going, and slowing down just long enough to get a glimpse into one another’s lives. These are the stories of your neighbors, your friends, your family, and maybe even your own story. They may sound familiar to you, and you may have even overheard a similar story at the table next to you.

My hope is that some of the stories bring you comfort, reminding you that we’re all in this together. Your stories are my stories, my stories are yours. Please check out the first installment of “The Coffee House Vignettes” listed under the “Categories” sidebar.