a letter to the tree they cut down outside our apartment window

Dear Tree,

I’m sorry I haven’t properly introduced myself before. I’m Dallas, and I live in this apartment with my husband Allyn, and I have loved you since the first day we moved in one year and two months ago. In fact, you were one of the first things I noticed about the apartment when we were looking at potential places to live around the city. I fell in love with your tall, thick-leaved, beautiful branches, stretching over the apartment balcony in a protective way. Your limbs waved slightly in the breeze — friendly, as if you were saying hello.

Over the next fourteen months, you gave us so much without ever asking for anything in return. During the extremely hot summer, you provided welcome shade from the harsh midday sun. Your pretty branches gave us some privacy from the neighbors all around us, making our apartment feel more secluded. When we dined al fresco on our little balcony, your lush leaves reminded me of the time we traveled to Spain and ate outdoors, and our home-cooked meal felt a tad bit fancier. My writing desk is situated right beside the window that looked out at you, and when I was feeling stuck I would gaze out at your greenery. You made me feel calm and inspired. If that wasn’t enough, birds perched on your branches and serenaded us. What more could we ask for in a companion, dear tree?

I wish I had told you all of this sooner. Sure, I appreciated you, but it was in the absent-minded way you appreciate things you take for granted. Things you think will be around forever.

{you provided such a lovely backdrop for our save-the-date photo}

A few weeks ago, the building manager knocked on our door and gave us the news. It was so unexpected. He said that you were old, and that with all of the storms lately you had become a danger. Trees fall over onto houses and apartments and sometimes they do damage and sometimes they hurt people. He said you were impeding on the apartment below us and next to us. He said you had to come down and that was that. There was nothing we could do. We don’t own the property — we are just renters — and so we don’t own you.

When the men came to cut you down, I couldn’t watch. I felt sick and sad and I kept thinking of this Jack Johnson song with lyrics about a tree that burns down. I promise, tree, that one day, Allyn and I will have a house of our own and we will plant lots of your brothers and sisters in our yard. Until then, I want you to know that I donated to The Nature Conservancy to plant a tree in honor of you.

We miss you, dear tree. We miss you a lot. We miss your shade and your beauty. We miss your quiet presence. We miss your wisdom that reminded us of the world that was here before we came onto the scene, and the world that will be here after we leave, and that maybe our problems aren’t so big after all, and maybe our lives are a little more precious than we make them out to be in the day-to-day tasks and busyness. When I think of you, tree, I think of how you were once a small seedling, and then a sapling, and how you just kept growing and growing and growing towards the sunlight. I want to be like you. I want to have your patience and your fortitude, your generosity and your grace.

Your final lesson to me was to focus even more of my energy on appreciating the lovely little details in my life. I loved you while you were alive, but I wish I had been even more present to your presence. I wish I had thanked you every day and marveled every day at the magic of having you in our lives, sheltering our little apartment and sharing your shade with us. You have reminded me of the fleeting nature of this life, and because of you I am hugging the things I love a little tighter, a little closer, a little fiercer. Because of you, I notice and appreciate all the other trees I come across {even though none of them are quite as beautiful as you} and because of you, I am saying prayers of gratitude for all the everyday riches in my imperfect, messy life.

Love,
Dallas

 

Your turn {if you want}:

  • Write a letter to a tree that has been meaningful in your life.
  • Write a letter to a different object {natural or man-made} or a place that has mattered to you.
  • What is something small in your life that you can appreciate and be grateful for, right this very moment?

a guaranteed way to make a girl scout smile

Have you noticed? It’s Girl Scout Cookie Season!

Every time I run errands, or simply drive around town, I see them: tables set up with glittery posters and a rainbow of colorful cookie boxes, and girls in green uniforms, cheerfully and patiently selling their wares. Girls in pony-tails and braids. Girls with braces and girls with gap-toothed smiles. Girls who remind me of Céline, who fill my heart and break it at the same time.

Céline was an extremely proud Girl Scout and, apparently, a cookie-selling legend. Every year in college, we would order cookies from her to support her old troop. She kept boxes of Thin Mints in the freezer. I’ve always been partial to the Shortbread and Samoas {…or, should I say, Caramel deLites?}

These days, in many ways, my eating habits are a lot healthier than they were back in college. I eat fewer processed foods and zero frozen dinners. I cook meals from scratch frequently. Instead of fat-free rice cakes and cheap booze, I fill my grocery-store cart with fresh produce and healthy fats. And I’ve cut back drastically on sugar.

Maybe you’re like me. You want to support the Girl Scouts, but you simply don’t need a bunch of cookies in your pantry.

Or maybe you DO love buying, and eating, Girl Scout cookies, which is also great. As Robyn, one of my favorite nutritionist bloggers, puts it: a healthy diet means you eat cake AND kale. Nutrition, variety, and pleasure — these are things we should receive from what we eat. Food is not just fuel, it’s also something to enjoy.

In any case, whether you plan to buy one or one-hundred boxes of Girl Scout cookies, here is a guaranteed way to make a Girl Scout smile. This is something Céline learned from her experience as a Girl Scout, and something she would do whenever she came across a green-vested girl selling cookies. Now it is something I do in her honor — one of my favorite ways to remember her.

girl scout cookies

Step One: Ask the Girl Scout what her favorite cookie flavor is. {She will think you are asking her for advice about which kind of cookie you should try.}

Step Two: Buy a box of whatever her favorite type of cookie is.

Step Three: Hand the box to her and explain it is a gift for her to enjoy. Here’s what I say, “My friend was a Girl Scout and she told me how hard it was to be selling all these cookies without being able to eat any yourself! So these are a treat for you to have. Keep up the great work!”

Step Four: Enjoy all the warm fuzzies filling you up inside.

One Final Note: This is not only a way to make a Girl Scout smile, it is a guaranteed way to make yourself smile, too. 🙂

Happy Friday, friends!

amber rubarth house concert in seattle

When I wrote a letter on this blog to Amber Rubarth back in May, I didn’t expect that she would ever read it. I hoped my words might somehow reach her – I wanted her to know how much her music meant to me – but, even if she never read my letter, I still felt writing it meant something. Even if the words were just for myself, I wanted to reflect on how I had carried her songs within me for years, how they had impacted my life and had been my companions and helped me grow into someone braver and stronger and more assured in myself, more rooted in my being. It was a small gesture, but it felt hugely good.

me and amber rubarth 2

Even though I wrote that letter for myself, when I published it here on the blog, something amazing happened.

The positive response was overwhelming. People shared with me their own thoughts about how music has made a difference in their lives. The post was shared widely throughout the Facebook and Twitter communities. And, within a few days, my words made their way to Amber herself.

I got goosebumps when I logged onto Facebook one afternoon to find a notification that I had been tagged in a post by Amber Rubarth:

Ah my heart!!! Just read this beautiful post from Dallas Woodburn who came to my show last week in San Francisco. My heart is fluttering with gratitude. Thank you Dallas for your beautiful words and gorgeous soul. Wow. So moving. You are a beautiful writer.

It was the opposite of that frustrated feeling I experienced after our brief interaction post-concert, the one that spurred me to write the post in the first place. Now I felt buoyant and peaceful and more connected to the community around me. I had been able to express what had previously felt inexpressible. I had let someone know that their work was important to me. I was happy and grateful that my words had rippled outward and found their recipient. It seemed like a small miracle.

But the ripples did not end there. I received messages from both of Amber’s parents, letting me know how much my words meant to them. Amber and I became email pals, and she even tweeted congratulations on my wedding day!

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And I received an email from a man named Bill.

Hi Dallas,

Long-story-short… My wife and I have been hosting a house concert series in the living room of our house here in Seattle for the past eleven years. Amber Rubarth played our series back in 2013. She’s eager to return and we recently talked about this coming October. Before contacting Amber I did some poking around online to see what Amber was up to and came across your blog post. Wow! It had me and several  friends I shared it with in tears. This type of feedback provides the fuel for touring musicians to continue doing what they do. So here’s the deal… If Amber plays here, I’d like to invite you and a guest to come to the show. And I’d pay for the airline tickets for you both to fly to Seattle. I know, this sounds like a scam. Believe me, it isn’t. As soon as I read your blog I knew what I wanted to do. My brain and stomach (intuition) were aligned with each other and agreed this was the right thing to do. Hope to hear back from you and get your thoughts.

I was absolutely blown away when I read this email. To receive such warm and thoughtful generosity from a complete stranger! Immediately, I replied to Bill with an enthusiastic: Absolutely, I would love to come!!

We hammered out the details over the next few months, and then suddenly it was the end of October, and our trip up to Seattle had arrived! Allyn wasn’t able to attend because he had a previously scheduled commitment for that weekend, but my dad was kind enough to fly up from L.A. to join me for the trip. It was my first time seeing him post-wedding it was SO great to get some time just to ourselves, to catch up and enjoy each other’s company. We lucked out with beautiful sunny weather in Seattle and spent the day exploring Pike’s Place Market, walking around downtown, and eating delicious seafood. My favorite was the clam chowder we ate overlooking the water!

 me and dad chowder seattle

We also visited the amazing Chihuly Museum, which I dubbed “Dr. Seuss books come to life”… the delicate, vibrant, larger-than-life blown-glass sculptures were extraordinary to behold! Tickets were a liiiittle pricey, but worth it. We were both really happy we went there.

chihuly museum

Walking back to our hotel, we stopped at a Starbucks {because, when in Seattle, right?} to escape the brief drizzle and enjoy our hot drinks. And then it was time for the concert! After stopping at a neat local brewery for dinner, we took an Uber to the quaint historical Captiol Hill neighborhood where Bill and his wife Micki live.

It was a funny situation because, although Bill and I had emailed back and forth quite a bit, I had no idea what he looked like. When Dad and I stepped inside the beautiful house filled with people {who mostly all knew each other from previous house concerts there} I was unsure what to do! A white-haired man came up to us in the entryway and I asked, “Bill?” He laughed and said, “No, I’m Jim — but Bill’s making cider in the kitchen. C’mon!” And he led the way back through the house.

Bill knew what I looked like from this blog, and as soon as he saw me, he beamed. He and Micki were both so friendly and welcoming to me and my dad. We enjoyed chatting with them in the kitchen before the concert began, and Bill introduced me to some of his friends who had read my piece here on the blog. It was so special to meet them in person!

As soon as Amber came out “on stage” my heart leapt — I was so excited that my dad would get to hear her music live! I knew he would fall in love with her beautiful songs, and he did. I had never before attended a house concert, and I was captivated by the intimate vibe of the night. It was a mix of a casual concert and a Q&A, with the audience jumping in with questions and song requests.

amber rubarth house concert

Partway through the concert, Amber asked, “Is Dallas here?” I waved my hands so she could spot me in the crowd. Amber then sweetly told everyone about my blog post and the story of how I ended up being at the concert that night. Then she wished me and Allyn congratulations on our recent wedding day and played her “Song to Thank The Stars” for us — out of all her songs, it is my favorite and the one that reminds me the most of Allyn.

I was nearly in tears, it was such a special moment.

After the concert, which flew by way too fast, we got to visit with Amber in the kitchen. It was wonderful to get some time to chat with her about her music, the creative process, my wedding, her upcoming tour and new album, and our families. She is one of the most genuinely kind, warm and authentic people I have ever met. Oh! And she recently starred in a new movie that will be released in 2017! It is called “September 12th” and also stars musician Joe Purdy. I can’t wait to see it!

me and amber 2

{A little blurry, but the best photo of the bunch!}

The trip to Seattle was one of the coolest experiences of my life! What a testament to the generosity and connection of people — former strangers, now friends — and the beauty and love present in our world. I feel so very grateful for this experience! Thank you Bill and Micki from the bottom of my heart. And thank you, of course, to my new friend Amber Rubarth!

You can pre-order Amber’s gorgeous new album, Wildflowers in the Graveyard, at her website: http://www.amberrubarth.com/

what our smelly little compost bin has taught me about hope

Where I live, waste management services not only take our recyclables and trash, they also take our food scraps to be composted. Composting is so important because it helps keep biodegradable waste out of landfills, thus not producing methane — the most potent greenhouse gas. {For more information on why this is so important, here is a helpful link.} Another amazing thing about composting is that it takes what was once “trash” and turns it into something useful — our banana peels and apple cores and egg shells eventually become nutritious fertilizer to help grow the next generation of plants, flowers and food.

However, in our apartment building, not many people compost. Here are the reasons the building manager gave: the little green bins get “stinky” {true — which is why you take them out often} and could potentially cause bug problems {not true in our experience}… also, that they are “a hassle.” But, when you think about it, pretty much everything that is good for you is a hassle! Brushing and flossing your teeth is a hassle. Cooking healthful meals is more of a hassle than the fast food drive-through. Going out of your way to help someone else is “a hassle.” All of these actions are more than worth it because they ultimately make our lives, our health, our communities and our world better.

Besides — especially when you live somewhere like we do where waste management services take care of dumping the big compost bins and carting the compost away every other week — composting is not that much of a hassle at all.

Still, something I have learned in life is that we can try our best to convince and persuade and motivate others, but when it comes down to it, we only truly have control over our own actions. Allyn and I cannot control whether the other people in our apartment complex care enough about the environment to compost their food scraps. But we can choose to compost our own food waste. We can choose to make grocery lists and buy less so food does not go bad wastefully. We can choose to buy food in bulk instead of in plastic containers. We can choose to carry our reusable bags to the grocery store. We can make small choices every day that reflect our values and make a tiny difference that, over time, adds up to big change.

*

When I was in high school during the second Bush presidency, one of my teachers was a Vietnam war veteran. He taught physics, but would occasionally go off on tangents about current events and politics. One day in particular, during the height of the Iraq War, he started ranting about the terrors of war. In a firm voice — the same tone he used to teach us the facts of the universe from our physics textbook — he predicted that there would once again be a draft and none of us would be able to get out of it. We would all go to war.

The fear in that room was palpable and contagious. One girl in the front row even started crying. She had a scholarship to play softball in college the next year, and by the end of class she was convinced that she wouldn’t be able to go to college because she would be drafted into the military. I remember comforting her in the hallway during passing period, my own fear a steady pressure in my chest. I don’t think our teacher meant any harm. I think he was dealing with his own worries and his own memories of war, and we were a captive audience. But I learned that day about the power fear has to take hold in you, and how quickly the flames can be fanned. The dark cloud of fear can eclipse your bright hopes for the future, unless you are vigilant and guard against it with the best resources you have. When the smoke of fear billows up in your life, you have two choices. You can use the fear around you to fan the flames of your own fear. Or you can choose to try your hardest to blow away the smoke with faith and patience and love and hope.

*

Many people in our nation — in our world — are hurting and scared. This is always the case, but it is especially true right now. Maybe you are hurting and scared. What can you do today to show yourself self-care and self-love? How can you be gentle with yourself? How can you choose love over fear today? And what is at least one way you can reach out and help someone else who needs it?

*

When I lived in Indiana during graduate school, composting was not the norm. Recycling was not very prominent, either. I still remember collecting all my bottles and cans that first month of living there, and searching online to realize there was no place to redeem them as there had been in my California hometown.

I have always cared about the environment. When I was a little girl, I used to daydream about planting trees along the grubby highways when we would drive to Los Angeles to visit relatives. It sickens and frightens me to think about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the decimation of rainforests, the looming extinction of many animal species, and our rising sea levels. And I do profoundly believe that the actions we take make a difference.

However, during this time I let myself sink into complacency. I did not make the effort to compost, or recycle as much as I could, or cut down on my plastic waste. I drifted along in the easy culture of consumption, letting myself forget that the trash I produced would actually GO somewhere — it didn’t magically disappear by a magic wand when the garbage collector took my trash bags away every other week. I didn’t take the time — didn’t go through the minor extra hassle — to truly ACT on my values. I let myself fall into the trap of believing that my small actions weren’t important “in the grand scheme of things” — that my actions, for some absurd reason, could be exempt from having consequences.

There was a lot going on in my life at that time, and I could make a lot of excuses for myself and my behavior. But I don’t want to. I feel sad that I let myself get carried away on the tide of apathy, but soon enough I found myself back on the shore. And, now more than ever, I know that I never want to be apathetic again. The thing about letting yourself “off the hook” — of choosing to look away, to not care, to pretend that you have no choice or power to change — is that it comes with a steep price. The guilt catches up to you.

*

Allyn very sweetly is the one who always takes our smelly compost bin out to the big green bins lined up by the parking lot and dumps our food scraps into the communal bin. When we first moved in ten months ago, he said there were hardly any other food scraps in there. Even worse, sometimes the big bins would be contaminated by trash or recycling.

But slowly, over time, a shift has happened. Allyn has started to notice the communal compost bins are fuller and fuller each week, and there is less and less contamination. Little by little, more people are beginning to compost their food scraps, even though it can be smelly, even though it can be a hassle. More and more people are beginning to care.

Every time I reach under the kitchen sink, lift open the lid of our compost bin, and dump in a banana peel or an apple core or an egg shell, I think about hope. I think about change. I think about beauty and love and selflessness. I think about doing whatever I can, in this singular life I have been given, to act on my values and do my part to make our precious world a better and brighter and more compassionate and inclusive place. Today, and tomorrow, and the day after that, and onward and onward, I will make choices. I will choose to try. I will choose to care. I will choose to fight for justice and goodness and love. It is all that I can do.

I hope you will join me.

be the sun, not the wind

In a recent issue of Glamour Magazine, there was an interview with Kiera Knightley, an actress I have always liked {but I like her even more now after reading this interview!} She seemed very down-to-earth, witty and intelligent. I especially loved this story she shares from her mother:

“Remember, you have to be the sun, not the wind.”

(The Glamour interviewer says, “Huh?”)

“You don’t know that story? Okay, the sun and the wind see a man walking down the street, and they have a competition to see which of them can get his coat off first. So the wind blows and blows, and the man just does his coat up tighter. Then the sun simply shines and shines and shines. My mother has sort of lived her life like that, really.”

I think this is so beautiful and true.

be sun not wind

Questions of the evening:

  • How can you be like the sun, rather than the wind?
  • Is there something in your life you are struggling with? What if you took this approach to it instead? What would that look like?

mid-week meditation #11

Happy Wednesday, everyone! Oh man, I went to yoga last night for the first time in for.ev.er and I am sore today! It’s the good kind of sore, though. I’m already looking forward to class tomorrow! It’s nice to be getting back into my regular routine after such a busy, travel-filled summer.

When I got home from yoga last night, there was this gorgeous cake sitting on the kitchen counter. Apparently one of our neighbors saw my grandma walking with her walker and learned about her hip operation. So she baked this homemade lemon cake as a get-well gift. Such a thoughtful gesture! It warmed my heart {and my belly — delicious!} Next time I see her, I’m going to ask for the recipe so I can share it with all of you.

lemon bundt cake

Last night, my fave contestant Tavis Smiley was voted off Dancing With The Stars. 😦 But I’m happy to be heading into San Francisco today to hear Tavis give a talk about his new book about MLK, Death of a King, at The Commonwealth Club.

Death of a King

Then I’m off to teach my first class of the semester for Communication Academy — I’m excited to meet my students and get started! Tonight I’m heading over to my aunt Annie’s house to watch the season premiere of Nashville with her and Arianna… the other show I watch on a regular basis in addition to The Good Wife. Any other Nashville fans?

Before I go, here’s a September-inspired meditation to add some calm to your week:

September quote

Have a beautiful day!

remembering 9/11

No matter how busy you are, let’s all take a moment today to step back from our lives and remember. Let us honor all of our nation’s heroes who sacrificed themselves for the good of others on this horrifying day thirteen years ago.

It’s difficult to find words on days like today. So, instead of words, I want to share with you some photos my brother took this summer when he visited New York City and went to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. His caption simply states: “Breathtaking and heartbreaking.” I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

9-11 memorial 1

9-11 memorial 2

9-11 memorial 3

9-11 memorial 5

9-11 memorial 6

9-11 memorial 7

9-11 memorial 4

In honor and memory of those we lost, I am going to do an act of kindness for a stranger today.

“Even the smallest act of service, the smallest act of kindness, is a way to honor those we lost, a way to reclaim that spirit of unity that followed 9/11.” — President Barack Obama

27 birthday gratitudes

me with bday sundae

Hi, friends! I’ve been working on this post slowly over the past couple weeks, ever since my birthday — which has seemed to stretch out for quite a while because I’ve gotten to spend time with my loved ones and celebrate my birthday belatedly with different circles of people. Now, I think things have fully calmed down and I can unequivocally think of myself as 27 years old! 🙂

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This birthday, more than any other before that I can remember, has left me SO filled with gratitude. So, in the spirit of this month’s year of Wooden challenge, and as a companion piece to my 27 acts of kindness for my 27th birthday, here are my…

27 birthday gratitudes!

1. The cards I received in the mail from my mom, my dad, and Gramps that I opened up while lying in bed the morning of my birthday. It made me feel so loved that, even though I was going to see them in less than a week, they went through the trouble of mailing me birthday cards so I could open them on my actual birthday. And their written messages were very sweet!

birthday cards

2. My grandma snuck into my room while I was in the shower and left me a flower and a card from her and Grandpap.

flower from grandma

3. Greg was out of the country in China, but he made a birthday video for me before he embarked on his trip! It was a huge surprise to wake up to an email from him in my inbox, not to mention this amazing video that I will treasure always. Wow! I can’t imagine a more loving and supportive brother, and I am so beyond blessed to be his sister.

me and gb at the deck

me and greg walking

{Greg got me that cute purse for my birthday, too! It’s from a market in Thailand.}

4. I received dozens of text messages throughout the day from lots of friends, former classmates, and relatives. Such a treat to hear from people I care about who are scattered far and wide but still remembered me on my birthday!

5. I also received phone calls throughout the day from friends and family, which was wonderful.

6. And so many thoughtful Facebook messages/posts! It made me smile throughout the day to get Facebook notifications on my phone. I made myself wait until the end of the day to read through them all, and it warmed my heart immensely. Perhaps my favorite thing about Facebook is how it enables you to keep in touch with people from all different parts and times of your life, and nothing showcases this more than on your birthday.

7. My friend Lauren sent me these gorgeous flowers!

laur flowers

8. Janet and Chidelia also sent me gifts and cards from far away {Wisconsin and North Dakota}… I miss them both and it was so kind of them to take the time to send me something on my birthday!

9. Speaking of thoughtful gifts, Allyn spoiled me with a few — including a mix CD that I have been listening to in my car nonstop since he left — and this cute card. He didn’t even know when he got it that I have a thing for adorable owls. {I have an owl-printed apron, an owl-decorated coffee mug, and some owl-embellished stationary!}

card from Al

10. Allyn also took me to the California Academy of Sciences for the day, which is located in the beautiful Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. I had never been there before and I loved the various exhibits, particularly the rainforest dome and the planetarium show!

academy of sciences me with trex

On an unrelated note, I could not stop taking pictures of butterflies. I have more than a dozen on my phone!

butterflies

11. After the California Academy of Sciences, Allyn and I headed back to my grandparents’ house where my grandma held a birthday dinner for me! She made a fancy salad and baked ziti and Grandpap grilled chicken. Annie and Arianna came over and it was lovely to visit out on the porch in the sunshine before the meal.

annie arianna my bday gpap grilling

12. Arianna helped me bake and frost my funfetti cake! Allyn and Bianca did a pro job with sprinkles distribution.

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al and bianca

13. My aunt Mary and cousins Makena and Bianca joined us for dessert, and as we did back in January for Arianna’s birthday, everyone went around the table and shared one word they would use to describe the birthday girl — in this case, me! Their words were so heartfelt and beautiful and I got teary-eyed listening to such loving tributes. I am a lucky girl!

14. As if that around-the-table tribute wasn’t enough, my aunts and uncles also gave me gifts and cards. I especially cherish the card from Arianna — every time I read it, I feel about ten feet tall. She’s a kind and gentle soul!

me and arianna

15. The day after my birthday, my dear car Charley had a little temper-tantrum. Something was wrong with the alarm system and it kept going off while I was driving — blaring noise, windshield wipers going, lights blinking. It was crazy! Luckily I was able to get Charley towed to the dealership and the concerned tow-truck driver insisted on waiting with me until my ride showed up. My grandparents came to the rescue, and my grandma let me borrow her car to drive to my birthday party and work the next day.

charley!

Something else to be grateful for: Charley is up and running again smoothly now!

16. That evening, some dear friends joined me at an ice cream parlor to celebrate my birthday! Even with my car fiasco, I was only five minutes late. We stayed for nearly three hours, sharing lots of stories and laughter and, of course, enjoying delectable ice cream!

bday friends

me and al bday creamery

17. These sweet friends sneakily paid for my sundae! I got the chocolate-peanut butter special: chocolate ice cream, peanut butter Oreos {did not even know those existed!} and Reeses. Plus a candle!

bday candle

18. The card Dana gave me was particularly special, since this is our first year as friends! She found a journal entry she’d written last September, when she learned through this very blog that I was moving up to the Bay Area, and was wondering whether she should reach out to me. Well, she did, and I am SO grateful for it! She included an excerpt from the journal entry in her card and it gave me goosebumps. She also gave me this beautiful wooden sign — I love its message! Dana, my life is so much richer with you in it!

birthday sign

me and dana my bday

19. Allyson and Henry drove all the way to Walnut Creek from Fremont in Friday traffic to come to my party, and they brought me a gorgeous bouquet of sunflowers to boot!

20. Allyn’s family made me feel very special — his mom sent me an incredibly nice birthday card, and his dad and stepmom Laurel gave me this pretty sunflower stationary. Laurel also baked delicious mini chocolate lava cakes as a surprise dessert and they all sang happy birthday. I was very touched!

sunflower stationary

21. The Wednesday after my birthday, I got to fly home for a few days to celebrate my birthday and my dad’s birthday, and also enjoy a few days with Greg before he left for his summer internship in D.C. Dad surprised me at the airport with sunflowers! {Haha, are you sensing a common theme here? I ❤ sunflowers!}

sunflowers

22. I loved all the gifts my parents gave me, including a night out at a local play, but probably the one I’m most excited about is a Magic Bullet blender! I forgot to take a picture of it, but it will no doubt be getting a LOT of use and popping up on the blog quite a bit! Hello, summer smoothies!

23. Gramps took me and Greg out for lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, Andria’s. Their grilled fish sandwich is my fave!

me and Gramps at Andrias

24. Erica drove all the way out to Ventura to see me after she got off work on Thursday evening. It was such a quick visit home, I was not sure if I would be able to see her, so it was an extra-special treat. And the birthday muffins she made me were the bomb!

cinnamon muffins

25. Dana donated blood at her work’s blood drive for my birthday! It was her first time donating blood and she confessed it was a little frightening {and she felt a little faint at one point!} but she bravely did it and I am so honored by the gesture. Plus, it’s wonderful to know that others will be helped by her donation!

dana donating blood

26. Holly’s entire visit was a ginormous birthday gift to me! Not only did she fly out to see me, she also got me a T.Swift birthday card and two terrific devotional/meditation books and a super-cute pair of flats… all wrapped in High School Musical wrapping paper, of course! That’s pretty much our friendship in a nutshell: deep conversations + Disney movies aimed for 12-year-olds. 🙂

gift from holly

me and holly lombard st

27. Thanks to all of YOU for your blog comments and for doing random acts of kindness to celebrate my birthday! You made my special day even more special.

I used a random number generator to select the winner of my birthday giveaway {an autographed copy of my book 3 a.m.: a collection of short stories} and the winner is… Annanori!

giveaway winner

Email me at dallaswoodburn<at> gmail <dot> com and we’ll get your book to you!

Questions of the morning:

  • What are you grateful for today?
  • What were some highlights of your most recent birthday?

27 acts of kindness for my 27th birthday

Last week, I shared that my birthday wish for this year was to create a “kindness chain” … I spent the week doing 27 random acts of kindness, in honor of my 27th birthday. It was my favorite birthday celebration ever! And even though my birthday has officially come and gone, it’s not too late to join in on the kindness chain. Please feel free to share your stories and acts of kindness in the comments section below!

my birthday wish

here they are…

my 27 acts of kindness:

1. Leave a complimentary note in a public place. I left these notes in the bathroom at Starbucks.

bathroom notes

2. Pay for someone else’s coffee drink. I bought a $5 gift card at Starbucks and asked the barista to use it to pay for someone else’s drink later that day. I asked if he would use it for someone who seemed stressed out, or someone who was particularly friendly or nice to him. “That’s really cool!” he said, giving me a big smile.

starbucks card

3. Give a meal to a homeless person. Last Friday night Dana and I went out to a delicious pizza place in Berkeley called Jupiter and we split a wood-fire pizza topped with a variety of cheeses, garlic, potatoes and bacon. At the end of our meal we had a few slices remaining and I took them to go. On the way to my car, I gave the boxed up leftovers to a very grateful and sweet homeless man, who offered to share them with me but it was late and I told him I needed to be on my way. “Bless you!” he called after me. I would have taken a picture of him, but it was dark. You’ll have to use your imagination and picture him smiling.

4. Write a kind note. I wrote cards to a number of friends + family members this week to say hi and let them know I’m grateful to have them in my life!

kind notes

5. Pay for someone else’s meal. I bought a $20 gift card at Panera and then handed it back to the cashier and asked if she would use it to pay for the meal of a family that came in. She looked surprised and said, “Oh my goodness, really?” I explained that it is my birthday. She said, “It’s YOUR birthday and you’re giving this to someone else?” Yep, that’s the idea! 🙂

Panera surprise

6. Put money into strangers’ parking meters. I left a handful of quarters on top of this parking garage payment machine.

parking garage payment

7. Reach out to a friend. I sent messages to a few friends I haven’t been in touch with in a while, and got wonderful responses in return!

8. Write a note of appreciation to a co-worker. I wrote a note to one of my co-workers at Communications Academy who did a terrific job subbing for me when I was out of town for Julie’s wedding.

9. Pick up litter. Over the week I collected a pretty big bag of trash, simply by picking up litter on the ground I saw in my daily life!

litter

10. Bring snacks to yoga class. When I think back to my 26th birthday, it’s crazy to realize that I hadn’t ever taken a yoga class at that point. Yoga has become one of my favorite rituals — definitely one of the best habits I’ve picked up in the past year. I absolutely love my biweekly Hatha yoga class. I’ve become friends with my fellow yogis, who always brighten my day with their warmth and positivity. This week I brought some energy bars to class to say thank you!

yoga snacks 20140529_092909

11. Visit residents in a nursing home. In honor of my dear friend Jewell, who was also born in May — we used to always celebrate our birthdays together — I brought some homemade cookies and kind notes to a local nursing home. I think Jewell was smiling! Love you and miss you, my sweet friend.

jewell

12. Give a treat to a toll-booth worker or gatekeeper. I gave cookies to the man who works the security gate at my neighborhood. He was surprised and excited — I guess it had been a long day working, and he was hungry! Chocolate-chip cookies always do the trick.

13. Corral shopping carts in a parking lot. I went shopping two times this past week, and each time I took a few minutes to push a handful of stray carts into the designated areas.

14. Donate books and magazines to the library. I donated about half a dozen issues of The New Yorker magazine and two books to my local library.

15. Send a thank-you note. I sent a couple thank you notes this week … and now I have a many more to send to thank my friends and family for their generous, thoughtful birthday gifts yesterday! 🙂

thank you notes

16. Write a 5-star review on Amazon. I wrote 5-star reviews for three books I’ve enjoyed lately: The Bigness of The World by Lori Ostlund; Beautiful Soon Enough by Margo Berdeshevsky; and 20-Something, 20-Everything by Christine Hassler.

17. Compliment a salesperson to his or her supervisor. I had a really wonderful and helpful woman ring me up at CVS, and afterwards I thanked her and asked how I could pass along my compliments about her to the higher-ups. She wrote down the info on the bottom of my receipt, and as soon as I got home I sent in feedback. Debra, you are fantastic!

receipt cvs

18. Bring treats for my students. I brought chocolate-chip cookies to my Communications Academy classes, and oh man were the kids excited!

cookies

19. Scatter lucky pennies on a playground. I picked up a roll of pennies from the bank and drove to a playground close to my neighborhood, where I sometimes go to write and read under the trees. I scattered the pennies all over the playground and around on the sidewalks. I also left some pennies on the edge of a nearby fountain for people to use to make wishes.

lucky pennies

20. Bring treats to the hospital staff. My Gramps and two uncles are surgeons, and my cousin Julie is currently in medical school {so proud of you, Julie!} so I know personally the dedication, selflessness and generous care that doctors and nurses give their patients. I brought half a dozen muffins and scones to the emergency room at the local hospital as a small gesture of thanks.

hospital treats 20140530_122639 20140530_124457

21. Let someone go ahead of you in line. At the A’s game on Monday, I let a number of people go ahead of me in the {always long!} line for the women’s restroom; a couple mothers with children were especially grateful.

me and al a's game

22. Donate clothes to charity. I went through my closet and found a dress and two shirts that are in great condition but that I never wear. Allyn also gave me a bag of clothing that he wanted to donate, so I dropped everything off at Goodwill.

clothes for goodwill

23. Pay the toll for the car behind you in line. When Allyn and I drove into San Francisco to go to the California Academy of Sciences for my birthday {so much fun!} we paid the toll for the car behind us in line. The tollbooth worker was at first confused, then surprised, then pleased by the gesture. It was especially sweet of Allyn to indulge me in this act of kindness because he has a Fastrak beeper and we had to go through the slower line to pay cash for another car’s toll.

24. Give a note and a chocolate bar to the mailman. Our mailman is very friendly and nice, always taking extra care to bring packages to the door if it is raining, and always waving hello when we see him on the street. I left a chocolate bar and thank-you note in the mailbox as a surprise for him.

thank you for mailman

mailman note

25. Surprise a child with a balloon at the grocery store. When I was waiting in line at the grocery store, these pretty balloons at the checkout stand caught my eye. I thought about how excited I was to get balloons as a child, which gave me an idea: I bought one of the balloons, then handed it back to the checker and asked her to give it to a child who passed through her line sometime that day. She was excited and delighted to do so.

grocery store balloon

26. Leave a really big tip. I gave an especially big tip to the friendly barista at one of my favorite independent coffee shops, who recommended a delicious tropical green tea to me.

27. Give someone flowers. I bought a bouquet of carnations at the grocery store, and then removed the rubber bands and separated the bouquet into individual flowers. When I went to the bank to get a roll of pennies to scatter at the playground, I gave the flowers to the bank teller and asked if she would pass out flowers to customers. As I left, I heard the man in line behind me ask in a surprised voice, “Did she just give you flowers?” I hope she gave him one! 🙂

20140530_132211

birthday carnations

Thanks so much to everyone who helped in my birthday acts of kindness; to everyone who sent me words of support and encouragement; and to everyone who joined the kindness chain and did acts of kindness this week! You have made this birthday my most special yet, and this is definitely a birthday tradition I hope to continue for many years to come!

Lots of love and thanks,
❤ Dallas

* If you liked this post, you might want to check out the archives of my year of kindness challenge from last year!

fabulous friday #23

Happy Friday, everyone! Hope you are enjoying the sunshine and have fun plans for the weekend! Before I get into the rest of this post, I want to take a moment to thank everyone who has served and is currently serving our country. Yes, Memorial Day weekend is typically associated with BBQ get-togethers and amazing shopping sales, but let’s make sure we remember the real purpose of this holiday weekend: honoring the bravery and sacrifices that our fellow Americans have made to keep us safe.

To veterans, current military servicemen and women, and your families: my deepest thanks for your service!

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. Your kind comments and enthusiasm for my birthday kindness chain! Today I’ve been busy working at my computer, so I’ve done a handful of kind acts from my desk: sent an email of praise to a coworker, wrote some thank-you notes, posted three positive reviews on Amazon, and reached out to an old friend I haven’t been in touch with in a long time. More proof that you don’t even need to leave the house to make the world a better place!

2. Starbucks work sessions. I have a big cup of green tea w/honey, I’m surrounded by the hustle and bustle of people, there’s light jazz in the background … perfect ingredients to power through my to-do list!

starbucks

3. This inspiration from Nicole @A Life Less Bullsh*t to quit being afraid and just get started already:

a year from now

4. I won the Swanson Vitamins giveaway that Danica hosted on her blog!! I can’t ever remember winning even a raffle, so this was a huge surprise and I am so excited and grateful. Happy early birthday to me! I’m going to buy myself some nut butters and baking supplies. Thank you, Danica!

I won a giveaway

5. Phone dates, Skype dates, Google Hang-out dates, and in-person dates with people I love who make me feel loved. I talked with Holly, Allyn and my parents on the phone yesterday, I’m Skyping this afternoon with my friend Chidelia, Greg has called me via Google Hang-outs twice from Thailand {so thankful he is safe and having fun!}, I saw my aunt Annie and cousin Arianna for dinner last night, and I’m seeing Dana for dinner tonight. Nothing warms my heart more than time with so many amazing, loving and generous people I’m blessed to have in my life. ❤

P.S. Look at how cute my Grandpap was in his choir concert last weekend! I couldn’t resist sharing this photo I snapped of him!

grandpap choir concert.jpg

Questions of the day:

  • What are you loving this Friday?
  • What are your plans for the weekend?