a thank-you note to the universe

Dear Universe,

You really outdid yourself with my thirtieth birthday. It was one of the most special days weeks {I mean seriously, whose birthday celebration lasts multiple weeks??} of my life. It was filled with reminders of all the people who have made every day of my past thirty years on this planet such an incredible gift. I just wanted to write a little note to say thank you.

Thank you for my parents, who created me and raised me to be kind, curious, and confident in myself, to strive for my dreams and appreciate the present, to dive forward and dig in with both hands. They turned the story of my rocky premature birth into a story of strength and determination. Every single day of my entire life I have felt loved, because of them. I was so grateful to be able to celebrate my birthday, and my dad’s birthday two days before mine, with my family in my hometown over Memorial Day weekend. We ate so much delicious food and went mini-golfing and watched movies and relaxed together on the couch and took Mr. Murbur for long walks, and it was simply perfect.

Thank you for my brother, who has been my “twin” since the day he was born when I was two and a half. It is such a blessing to have someone in my life, for as long as I can remember, who shares my history and inside jokes and who just “gets” me. He may be my younger brother, but he is my role model. He is so wise, and I learn so much from him. It was such a gift that he flew out from NYC to be there for Memorial Day weekend, and he even ran the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon and totally kicked butt! It was his first-ever marathon, and he did it in 2 hours 52 minutes and creamed the Boston Qualifier time! I am unbelievably proud of him. Thank you, universe, for the gift of being able to cheer him on for the last mile of the race and hug him at the finish line. He inspires me all over!

Thank you for my amazing husband, who drove down to Ventura by himself on Saturday morning {with my flexible work schedule, I was able to fly down a few days earlier to squeeze in more family time} and was his sweet, thoughtful and generous self all weekend, even though he was probably exhausted from a long workweek and a long solo travel day. He fits in with my fam so naturally and I love seeing them share inside jokes and long conversations. He also was amazingly helpful to my mom–she has officially crowned him “Best Son-in-Law Ever”–washing off chairs and running to the grocery store and setting up tables for our big party on Sunday. {More about that later.} And, if all that wasn’t enough, he also made me the most wonderful personal birthday gift I could imagine, and he threw a party for me up in the Bay Area the weekend after my birthday, so I could celebrate with all my friends and family up here. He spent months planning it and even baked funfetti cupcakes with homemade cream-cheese frosting for the event! Universe, you were so generous to introduce me to this man three and a half years ago. He’s made me smile every day since. #luckiestgirl

{mini-golfing!}

Thank you for the gorgeous weather all weekend–especially on Sunday, when my parents threw a big party to celebrate my birthday, my dad’s birthday, and my brother’s epic marathon! My mom worked her booty off prepping for the party, as always without a hint of complaint. She gives to others with such joy. So many people from my childhood came by–old family friends, former teachers, my cousins and aunts and uncles, plus newer friends too! It was a whirlwind of chatting and visiting, eating and drinking and laughing. I love being able to introduce various people I adore to each other!

Thank you for bringing Erica into my life in seventh grade; she has been one of my best friends ever since. She has always loved me and accepted me for exactly who I am, which is such a gift in a friend. I was so happy to get to see her twice while I was home: for one of our marathon catch-up coffee dates, at our favorite spot Simone’s, and at the party on Sunday, where her parents came along too! It was wonderful to see them again, and they got to meet Allyn for the first time. It always warms my heart to see my hubby bond with my friends. Anyway, universe, I’m just so grateful for this girl!

Thank you for the dozens of sweet cards and thoughtful messages and phone calls I received from friends near and far on my birthday. From notes on Facebook to text messages to sunflower bouquets to birthday packages in the mail, I felt like the most loved lady on the planet. Now I have cards displayed all around our apartment that give me the warm fuzzies as I go through my day. I am so fortunate that my path has crossed with the paths of so many incredible people in the past 30 years!

Universe, thank you for blessing us with more gorgeous weather last Saturday for my second birthday party—a picnic at the Lake Chabot regional park, just down the street from our apartment. Allyn reserved our picnic area back in January, and it was absolutely perfect: up on a little hill, tucked away, our own private spot to BBQ and hang out with friends.

Thank you for my wonderful in-laws, who came early and schlepped coolers and grilling trays and drinks and food and camping chairs and propane up the hill, who helped us get the tablecloths and decorations all set up, who were grill masters and made sure everyone had enough to eat. Allyn’s mom saved the day by bringing along some metal tongs—Allyn and I realized when we started unloading things for the grill that, despite months of careful planning and triple-checking to-do lists, we had completely forgotten to bring any sort of implements to turn meat and veggies on the grill, like maybe a spatula?? Haha! After a few moments of panic, Barbara realized she had metal tongs, which she brought along to serve the delicious ribs she had made for everyone. Problem solved!

Thank you for all of our dear friends and family who took time out of their busy lives to come celebrate with me. It is so rare for all of us to be together in one place—it felt a bit like my wedding all over again, in the best way! Hours flew by in what felt like a blink. It was such a treat to spend time just relaxing, eating, sharing stories, laughing, piñata-ing, throwing around the football, and soaking up the sunlight together.

Finally, universe {coming around full-circle} thank you once again for my parents, who totally surprised me by driving 6+ hours to come to my picnic party! Allyn was the only one who knew their plan, and he was a master secret-keeper. I was completely blown away! I will always treasure the memory of seeing them walking up the hill to the party, a huge smile breaking across my face as I realized… “Hey, that’s my parents!!” I couldn’t believe they would travel all that way to celebrate my birthday all over again. {Actually, I could believe it. My parents are such generous people who always make me feel so special!} I absolutely loved having them there, getting to introduce them to my friends and showing them around the park where I love to go for walks during the week. Plus, we got to hang out with them for dinner that night and lunch the next day, before they hit the road to head back home. Even though I wish we lived just down the street from each other, I’m so grateful that we’re only a car ride away.

Universe, I can’t imagine a better 30th birthday. Thank you for my health, my people, and for all the love in my life. As everyone sang me “Happy Birthday” over funfetti cupcakes with divine homemade frosting, I looked around at all the smiling faces and my heart felt full-to-the-brim with pure gratitude. How beautiful this life is. How lucky I am to live it. I am savoring these moments as deeply as I can, even while I am so excited to see what my next trip around the sun brings!

Love,
Dallas

Your turn {if you want}:

Grab your journal or open a new document on your computer, and “freewrite” your thoughts on the following prompts:

  • Write your own letter to the universe. What are you grateful for?
  • Have you ever been surprised or been thrown a surprise party? Or, have you ever surprised someone else? Write about the experience.
  • What is one of your favorite birthday memories?

year of kindness challenge: week 31

year of kindness button

Hi, friends! How has your Monday been? Mine has been productive and happy so far. Lots of fruits & veggies eaten; a great convo with my brother about his awesome first day of business school; many rounds of fetch with Mr. Mur-dog; some yoga & a sunny walk; and chugging along nicely on various writing projects. Woo-hoo! Now time to get dinner started — I’m thinking a veggie-filled pasta bake — and maybe a glass of wine, too…

This past week’s kindness challenge was to go to a playground {or any place where children congregate} and scatter a handful of “lucky pennies” for happy kids to find. I walked to my neighborhood park and scattered a dozen pennies around the playground and sidewalk. I was planning to take some pictures on my phone, but there were people around and I didn’t want to seem creepy. But it made me happy to think of the little kids finding lucky pennies all around the park! 🙂

This week I also came across a neat kindness website, helpfromhome.org, with the slogan: “Change the world in just your pyjamas!” Doesn’t that sound nice?? The website is loaded with “micro-volunteering” opportunities that are designed to fit into busy lifestyles. There are also platforms to track your actions and hours logged. Check it out!

The Week 31 Kindness Challenge is to send someone a postcard with a healing, empowering, or comforting message. Pick a postcard from your hometown, a place you went on vacation, or maybe somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit. You could even create your own postcard by collaging pictures and words from magazines. If you need someone to send your postcard to, mail it to Traveling Postcards, a nonprofit that will distribute it to a woman somewhere in the world who is working to overcome violence and oppression.  

As always, blog about your experiences and include your links in the comments section below, or feel free to send me an email at dallaswoodburn <AT> gmail <DOT> com.

Have a wonderful week!
Dallas

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year of kindness archives:
– week 1 challenge: donate items to those in need
– week 2 challenge: leave quarters & note at laundry machine
– week 3 challenge: write & send a kind handwritten note
– week 4 challenge: give hot chocolate to someone outside in the cold
– week 5 challenge: do something kind for a neighbor
– week 6 challenge: deliver valentines to a nursing home
– week 7 challenge: donate to a food pantry
– week 8 challenge: donate toiletries to a shelter
– week 9 challenge: post a kind note in a public place
– week 10 challenge: do something kind for a child
– week 11 challenge: thank someone in a genuine & meaningful way
– week 12 challenge: deliver baked goods to a fire station
– week 13 challenge: give someone flowers
– week 14 challenge: donate books
– week 15 challenge: reach out and spend time with people
– week 16 challenge: smile at everyone you meet
– week 17 challenge: pick up litter/trash
– week 18 challenge: write a kind note to a mom figure in your life
– week 19 challenge: leave an extra-generous tip
– week 20 challenge: donate blood/join bone marrow registry
– week 21 challenge: visit a cemetery and pay respect
– week 22 challenge: practice a little patience
– week 23 challenge: call 3 loved ones on the phone
– week 24 challenge: do something kind for a senior citizen
– week 25 challenge: pay for someone’s public transportation
– week 26 challenge: volunteer at a food pantry or soup kitchen
– week 27 challenge: send a care package to someone in the military
– week 28 challenge: give at least one compliment every day
– week 29 challenge: do a favor for someone else
week 30 challenge: scatter lucky pennies around a playground

year of kindness challenge: week 24

year of kindness button

Hi, friends! I’m feeling under the weather, but fortunately my family is taking such good care of me. I’m a lucky girl. My brother spent the whole afternoon on the couch with me, watching a marathon of “How I Met Your Mother” and refilling my glass of Gatorade. He’s such a sweetheart!

me and gb

Last week’s kindness challenge came from my wonderful blogger friend Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean, and it was to call at least 3 friends and/or family members that you miss on the phone, let them know, and actually talk to them…instead of just texting or emailing!

I had a wonderful long chat with my friend Holly and an in-person coffee date with my friend Erica. I also left messages for two other close friends … hopefully we’ll get a chance to talk sometime in the next few days.

The Week 24 Kindness Challenge is do something kind for a senior citizen. This could mean calling or writing a note to a grandparent, offering to carry an elderly person’s groceries to their car, bringing in the mail for an elderly neighbor, visiting people at a nursing home … or whatever inspires you!

As always, blog about your experiences and include your links in the comments section below, or feel free to send me an email at dallaswoodburn <AT> gmail <DOT> com.

Have a wonderful week!
Dallas

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year of kindness archives:
– week 1 challenge: donate items to those in need
– week 2 challenge: leave quarters & note at laundry machine
– week 3 challenge: write & send a kind handwritten note
– week 4 challenge: give hot chocolate to someone outside in the cold
– week 5 challenge: do something kind for a neighbor
– week 6 challenge: deliver valentines to a nursing home
– week 7 challenge: donate to a food pantry
– week 8 challenge: donate toiletries to a shelter
– week 9 challenge: post a kind note in a public place
– week 10 challenge: do something kind for a child
– week 11 challenge: thank someone in a genuine & meaningful way
– week 12 challenge: deliver baked goods to a fire station
– week 13 challenge: give someone flowers
– week 14 challenge: donate books
– week 15 challenge: reach out and spend time with people
– week 16 challenge: smile at everyone you meet
– week 17 challenge: pick up litter/trash
– week 18 challenge: write a kind note to a mom figure in your life
– week 19 challenge: leave an extra-generous tip
– week 20 challenge: donate blood/join bone marrow registry
– week 21 challenge: visit a cemetery and pay respect
– week 22 challenge: practice a little patience
week 23 challenge: call 3 loved ones on the phone

year of kindness challenge: week 5

year of kindness button

Happy Monday, everyone! I’ve heard that it takes four weeks of a behavior before it really becomes a habit. Perhaps that is true, because these kindness challenges are becoming a habit — one that I am loving! It is brightening my everyday life and way of thinking. Concentrating on doing kind acts for others has made more aware of the kindnesses that are done to me. Quite simply, even after just one month, it has made me a more grateful and happy person!

This past week was my favorite yet for the #yearofkindness challenge! The Week 4 Kindness Challenge was to give hot chocolate or coffee to someone out in the cold who could use a bit of warmth. I immediately knew who I wanted to reach out to: the kind older man who works as the parking lot attendant for the local public library, which is just a couple blocks from Purdue’s campus. He reminds me a little of my Gramps and whenever I go to the library, I always wave hello to him.

Last week was a cold, snowy week in Indiana, especially on Wednesday. I woke up and thought, “Today’s the day! I’m doing my act of kindness!” During my lunch break, I walked to the Einstein Bros. that is right next to the library. I had a coupon for a free coffee or frappuccino, but I wasn’t sure if my friend would want caffeine, so I opted for a hot chocolate instead. My act of kindness was a team effort because the nice people working at Einstein Bros. let me use my coupon for a hot chocolate instead of a coffee. {Of course, I *would* have paid for the hot chocolate if need be, but I thought I might as well use the coupon that I had. It’s a frugal act of kindness!} 🙂

I felt a little nervous as I carried the warm cup of hot chocolate over to the parking garage. Doing acts of kindness can feel like putting yourself out on a limb, and I hoped he would like it.

Well, I should not have worried one bit! He smiled and waved hello when he saw me walking over. I said, “I thought you might like some hot chocolate on such a cold day” and handed him the cup, and he just lit up. It was such a neat moment! He smiled the biggest smile and said, “Thank you so much, dearie. That is so nice!”

I beamed the entire cold, snowy walk back to my office. It was the best part of my day and surely a highlight of my week!

Here are some other good things that happened in my world this past week:

  • I received a beautiful card from my dad telling me he loves me and is proud of me. I am incredibly lucky to have the best dad who tells me those two things all the time, but I could never get tired of hearing it! I miss him so much and it is always a wonderful surprise to see his handwriting on an envelope in my mailbox.
  • A waitress gave me a to-go glass of the tea I’d ordered in the restaurant so I could enjoy it on the drive home.
  • A kind maintenance worker came out to my apartment one evening when the heater stopped working. He not only got it working again, he also brought space heaters just in case and could not have been nicer. 

Now on to the Week 5 Kindness Challenge: do something kind for a neighbor. This might mean bringing the newspaper up from their driveway to their front door, shoveling their front walk after you shovel your own, taking their trash barrels up their driveway after the trash is collected, striking up a conversation in the hallway of your apartment complex, baking cookies or making a casserole to bring over … or whatever idea strikes you!

Blog about your experiences and include your links in the comments section below, or feel free to send me an email at dallaswoodburn <AT> gmail <DOT> com.

Have a marvelous week!
-Dallas

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year of kindness archives:
– week 1 challenge: donate items to those in need
– week 2 challenge: leave quarters & note at laundry machine
– week 3 challenge: write & send a kind handwritten note
week 4 challenge: give hot chocolate to someone outside in the cold

happy anniversary, mom & dad!

Today is my parents’ 30th wedding anniversary. They were college sweethearts and married young, right out of college — two years younger than I am now. I feel so grateful to have them as parents — I won the parent lottery! My whole life, they have been a living example of a real-life love story. I can’t ever remember seeing them argue or yell at each other. They talk through things; they admire and respect each other; and they laugh together all the time.

As I write this they are somewhere in the waters off Alaska, on a week-long cruise my mom has been dreaming about for years. I am so happy for them!

Congrats, Mom & Dad! I love you. Thanks for showing me every day how to love and be loved.

❤ Dallas