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Unexpected Gifts

I had a completely different blog written for today, but it didn’t feel right. My morning meditation reminded me that negative words are contagious. My message was going to share some of my negative frustrations with going back to school. Then in the shower, the title unexpected gifts came to me and I noticed something on my counter. So, here is the blog that should be, the one I hope will be an unexpected gift for you today and you catch a little bit hope even if things aren’t quite going as you expected.

I remember once when I was young, my mom took me to the store to buy a birthday gift for a friend. I don’t remember why I was in a foul mood at the time, but I was. I grabbed the first toy I found and said, “Here, just give her this.”

My mom bought the toy and we went home. On the day of the party when the girl opened up her gift from me, she opened up the most beautiful doll. It was the one I had been wanting and looking at while at the store picking out a gift for her.

I was shocked. But not as shocked as I was on my birthday. On my birthday I opened my brightly colored gift expectantly hoping to get the doll I had coveted at the store and at my friend’s party. As the box opened, I dropped it and ran to my room crying. Inside was not the doll I had longed for, but the doll I had so thoughtlessly picked out for my friend. The doll was the ugliest thing I had ever seen, but even uglier was the realization of the consequences of my own thoughtlessness.

A gift should be from the heart and one you wish to receive.

I remember my mom hugging me and explaining to me that when we give a gift it should be a gift from the heart and one we would wish to receive. This lesson was not easy for me to receive and I’m sure even harder for my mother to impart, but this lesson has had a tremendous impact on me. Whenever I feel ugly or thoughtless about giving, I remember this story, the choice I made and the lesson I learned.

It seems life is full of unexpected gifts. Sometimes we are so busy focusing on what we want, we fail to see what we are giving others. This lack of empathy often comes back to us in unexpected ways. On the other hand, when we give with a full heart and intention the gifts tend to abound. I am so looking forward to sharing my gift with you. Last week on my birthday, I announced the launch of my book, Because of 4, and invited you to join with me on my journey of publishing. The outpouring of love and support is proof to me that I am going in the right direction and I am extremely grateful.

So here I sit in the coffee shop where I became a writer. When my dog Pepper died two years ago, I came to Daily Projects every day to escape the loneliness and brokenness I felt in his absence. Slowly the buzz of others working, the clicking of my own computer keys, the release of tears, and the warm coffee transformed my sadness. Every day I came and every day I wrote and as my heart healed, my story emerged. Throughout this time, a very special teacher had my back. Desiree Gillis kept her promise as my accountability partner and made sure I sent her a chapter a week. She read each one and encouraged me even when it was awful. As I finished the book, we welcomed a new puppy into our homes and hearts. We brought our horse home and invited our friend, Pam, who had unexpectedly come into our lives to board her horse with us. My writing time became consumed with training, cleaning poop and life. The next phase was editing, but I was stuck. So, I waited and moved in some different directions. I became involved with an organization called Bstrong Together. Here I met Laurie Roberts who moved me into the next phase with her friendship and coaching. In May, another unexpected turn of events with both Desiree and Laurie called on me to give and be of service to each of them in different but related ways. I realized in that moment what it means to give more than is expected and how that lesson was the true message of what I learned Because of 4. I was able to move forward and began an ambitious plan to release my book on my birthday. Laurie edited, Desiree encouraged, our horse boarder and friend, Pam, shared with me the name of a talented graphic artist, Mackenzie Murray. But life pulled in different directions, and I knew in order to do it fully and right I needed more time. I pulled back and shared with you my intent instead. This week I had a meeting with a self-publishing school. They promised to guide me and help me reach millions with my book for the low, low price of…. I almost said YES! I want this, I’m ready. I don’t know what to do next and I’m ready. I’m willing to pay for help and services, but just at that moment, I remembered the negotiating tip my dad taught me. I remember when we would shop for cars and he would get down to a price and my dad would say, “Thank you. I’ll let you know tomorrow.”

I would hide, wanting to die of embarrassment. We had spent hours looking at cars and going back and forth on price. Why couldn’t he just say, YES?!

“Oh, no!” the salesman would always reply, “I can only give you this price today.”

“Well then,” my dad would answer, “I guess we won’t be doing business. If this is your best offer it will be there tomorrow, just as it is today.”

I never appreciated this lesson when I was younger. I’ve often ignored it and paid the consequences in my own life. But something tells me I’ve made the right decision for this moment in time. If I’ve learned anything in the last few years it’s that life’s unexpected gifts follow a trajectory and timeline far different than my own. For now, I’ll move forward doing the work of today and wait for the next direction.

So, as I sit here sharing the next steps with you, I’m doing the work of today. I’m sharing my journey and I’ll continue to edit and get ready for whatever comes next. I put on my heart and whispered my wish. This heart and wish came to me unexpectedly when I opened my package from Stone Fashion (https://stonefashionchicago.com). My talented neighbors, Bill and Deb Stone, shared with me their artistry and gave Elena (my daughter) and I an amazing opportunity to model their dresses. I loved the dress and the joy I felt exploding from me when I put it on. I imagined wearing it when I released my book. When I ordered the dress and opened the package, an unexpected gift lay on top. A heart necklace with the note,

Make a wish with your heart.

Imagine it every day.

Expect it to come true,

When the charm falls away.

I’ve waited for the right wish and moment to put it on. Today is the day. I wish that today each of us gives a little more than expected and someday, Because of 4, school is a place where learners give more than they take. They appreciate their gifts and we help all learners develop and share these gifts with the world. I wish you begin to notice all the unexpected gifts life throws your way and give back with an open heart. I wish my book inspires the world to give unexpected gifts.

Thank you for your gift of following along with this journey, may you be blessed unexpectedly today and every day. For my unexpected gift today, I’d like to share with you the Introduction to Because of 4. Welcome to the story!

“Whatcha doing in here? Why are you teaching us?” greeted me as I entered the classroom. This wasn’t the spark I was looking for as I went from classroom to classroom teaching lessons.

“I’m here looking for some good thinkers for my groups,” I responded. Knowing the traditional methods of testing kids for the gifted program was missing kids, I hoped these lessons would provide an alternative for finding students.

Michael flung a comment in my direction. “Well, you won’t take me then, I’m stupid. I can’t read,” he said with a scowl and contempt coating his words like frosting.

Challenge accepted, I thought, feeling as if I was holding a stick of dynamite. Little did I know this one little spark would soon change my life forever.

I have taught elementary school for many years and have been fortunate to have had wonderful experiences. Every year there are multiple students who offer new insight into my career, create new pathways or learning, and genuinely touch my heart; but until this year I have never felt like I made a difference. That is, until the four; because of these four boys, I now know why I became a teacher. These four challenged my thinking and forced me outside of my comfort zone, beyond the daily description of my job, to a place where I was moved to discover what is truly possible when you give a little more than what is expected. Come along with me and meet the four, who I hope will impact you as much as they have impacted me.

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