Monthly Archives: June 2011

The Party’s Just Beginning

What do you call a blog that’s 100 posts old? If it was human, it would be a centenarian. So what… a centebloggian? Doesn’t that sound like some kind of hybrid alien with horse legs and a penchant for archery? Be that as it may, as of today, 50 Good Deeds is officially a centebloggian. Thanks to all of you for visiting, reading and commenting along the way to 100 posts.

While we’re on the topic of vocabulary, to celebrate this blog’s milestone I thought it would be fun to share a good-deeds glossary of sorts. (I hope you like it, too. As a wordie, I tend to overestimate the degree of entertainment in this kind of activity.)

Here are a few of the captivating words and phrases I’ve come across in my explorations about niceness.

Helpers’ high: Better than recreational drugs, that feeling of euphoria and well-being after doing something for another person.

Oxytocin: Better than prescription drugs, a hormone triggered by acts of compassion towards others. Oxytocin, also known as the bonding hormone, makes us feel loved and connected.

Elevation: The emotional lift you get from observing a good deed in action. Warning: Elevation has been known to raise your risk of performing additional kindnesses.

Karma dollar: That lost looney you randomly find on the sidewalk. To complete the cycle of karma, it should be given away charitably. Urban myth states that you will be rewarded later with extra-good luck.

Kargasm: The explosively fabulous feeling that results from the above-mentioned act of feeding your own karma with kind behaviours.

Soul cash: The result of taking good deeds straight to the bank for a deposit… into your inner character.

Compassion-altruism axis: The term coined for the regions of the brain that are activated when we feel empathy and compassion.

Thanks again for being part of my first 100 posts! Enjoy the celebration! I’d have brought cake, but I know it’ll go straight to my axis.

Bouquet of flowers

Them Sneaky Neighbours

A few weeks ago, I wrote about stealthy acts of kindness committed by neighbours. Around this neck of the woods, it actually happens fairly frequently.

Some acts are less covert than others. My neighbours know I collect plastic milk bags for my mom to make into waterproof sleeping mats. What’s mildly amusing is finding them hung creatively on my front door, or stuffed into the mailbox. Admittedly, it sort of reduces the stealth factor when one of the neighbours follows up a couple of days later: “Didja get the milk bags?” And this too I find comical, since it’s fairly unlikely the plastic bags would have been snatched up by a passing pilferer before I got a chance to retrieve them.

A short while ago a child’s scooter was mysteriously abandoned on the sidewalk outside our house. (We’ve actually found a few odd things stashed on our street: once, a good bike. More recently, cash register drawers emptied of everything except pennies. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest those were unconnected to any semblance of good deed.)

In the case of the scooter, it was more likely forgotten by a small-sized citizen while out playing. As it happens, my friend next door has three kids, so naturally I assumed it belonged to them and tried to return it. Nope, said my friend. The next day, a man strolling by made a valiant attempt at the same good deed. Overnight, yet another “helpful” neighbour diligently placed the scooter back on my friend’s front lawn. They say you can kill with kindness – in this case, maybe it’s killing the grass.

I’ll bet you see it in your corner, too. People in your neighbourhood who don’t hesitate to help out. Sure, when something big happens – a birth, a death, a long-term illness – everyone can be expected to troop in with casseroles and cakes and your dry cleaning. But on a day-to-day basis, in many close-knit neighbourhoods there’s almost a steady buzz of benevolence that reverberates through a community. (Hear that? Or am I just picking up on the cluster of wasps that have been trying to build a nest under my front window?)

Yes, some of it is sneaky. All of it is well meant. Even if it does kill the grass.

“Thanks, Son, It’s Just What I Wanted!”

What a Father’s Day story: A New Brunswick man gave his father one of his kidneys this weekend. Bet most of you didn’t top that.

The transplant from Dana to Arthur Cruikshank happened on Friday. Daddy Cruikshank had been on dialysis for years and was getting sicker. He was on the waiting list for a donor kidney, but none was forthcoming. That’s when Dana stepped up and told Dad to take his.

Both men were still recovering after surgery in Halifax when Father’s Day came around on Sunday. “The ties and shirts my brother and sister give Dad are going to fade in comparison,” the younger Cruikshank joked to reporters. So do all the presents from the rest of us: I got my dad a measly Home Depot gift card. He’s happy to spend it on indoor/outdoor paint, but it’s not quite the same as the gift of being able to produce urine reliably for the first time in years.

Speaking of organ donation – which is something I do often – I just signed away all the rights to my organs and tissues online. The website is a new initiative in the province of Ontario. Of course, this transfer of tissues doesn’t kick in until after I kick the bucket. But it’s a great way to make sure that my guts are put to good use when I’m gone.

A few factoids: you can save up to eight lives and improve the quality of up to 75 more by donating your organs and tissues. And there’s no age limit to be a donor. But there’s a severe shortage of available organs, and people are dying – frequently – because they didn’t get the transplant they needed.

Ultimately, it’s up to the next of kin whether or not organs are donated after death. But according to the Trillium Gift of Life Network, the provincial agency that deals with organ donation, most families agree to it once they realize it’s what their dear departed would have wanted. So it’s worth signing up.

Think of it as one last Father’s Day gift. Except to someone else’s father. Who might actually be a mother, or a brother or a daughter. I bet they’ll all think it’s cooler than a Home Depot gift card.

Sing and the Whole World Sings with You

Today’s a good day for turning up the tunes. Know how I know? ’Cause every day is music day. Don’t you just love the smell of sixteenth notes in the morning?

Back in January, I posted about inspirational quotes from well-known names like Martin Luther King, Jr., Mohandas Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.

More lately I’ve been thinking about songs that inspire kindness, compassion and a general wellwishing for other living creatures.

Well, it’s hard to compare the likes of the Dalai Lama to Three Dog Night – it’s like comparing apples to orangutans – but do I think some song lyrics can be just as uplifting as those wise old sayings.

Today I’m posting just a few of my musical picks. But in the spirit of Fun Friday, I’m not divulging the titles – you have to click the links to find them out!

1. Put what in my where? [click here]

2. For those who don’t like peas… [click here]

3. You just can’t go wrong with an American Hasidic Jewish reggae artist. [click here]

4. The best kind of math… [click here]

5. When you’re feeling askew… [click here]

6. And finally, leaving out Satchmo would be just plain wrong… [click here]

I’d love to know what songs make you feel like hugging your friends, helping your neighbours, spreading the joy, picking up litter. Feel free to share!

Bringing Up Baby (To Be a Do-Gooder)

Most moms and dads I know are constantly second-guessing their parenting practices. I’m no exception. Sometimes I look at my kid and wonder just exactly how she became who she is: strong-willed, yes, argumentative for sure, occasionally over-the-top dramatic, I’ll admit… but also sensitive, fair-minded and incredibly compassionate.

If you listen to Dr. Darcia Narvaez, Professor of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, the qualities my kid has now may have something to do with the way I dealt with her as an infant.

Dr. Narvaez’s research suggests that children who are cuddled, carried and held a whole lot during their early years of life – basically, the way our ancient ancestors used to do it while they hunted and gathered – grow up to become more compassionate and morally healthy. Breastfeeding on demand also does it, and responding right away when baby fusses.

So when granny says you’re spoiling your baby by picking her up every time she cries, she’s right. You’re spoiling her capacity for cruelty. (How’s that for a clever turnaround… did you see that coming?)

How about you? Did you hold your infant a heck of a lot, and respond to her every whimper? How do you think that’s shaped your child’s development?

Sweetness and Light

Fun Friday news: 50 Good Deeds has won an Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award. As far as I can figure, this is some kind of chain mail of blog recognition. Sweet blogs are acknowledged, rules are followed, the award is passed on to other worthy bloggers.

In this case the award came from writer Kristen den Hartog, who blogs delightfully about the children’s books she and her creative young daughter explore together. Since the first Irresistibly Sweet rule is to thank the person who gave me the award, here it is: “Thank you, marvelous Kristen!”

The second rule is to write 7 things about myself. I think at this point I’ve probably already written 477 things about myself on this blog, so I’ll try to keep it brief, with my apologies:
1. I adore my family, my friends, my perennial garden plants… usually, but not necessarily, in that order. If one of them bugs me, they’re sent to the back of the line.
2. I have a printout of “The Optimist’s Creed” taped beside my desk.
3. I have a rather dark sense of humour. That’s all I’ll say about that.
4. I love, love, love Japanese food. Then again, I love food, period.
5. I intensely dislike putting away groceries. I would gladly clean five toilets to avoid this kitchen chore.
6. I’m better than average at reading people. I don’t always let this on. Why should I? So if you’re lying, insincere or hiding a dark secret, be warned. I’ve totally got your number.
7. I make my living writing non-fiction, but I’m a closet novelist, closet playwright, closet poet and closet children’s writer. I hope one day to come out of the closet.

The third and final rule is to pass the Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award on to other bloggers. This part is easy; I know lots of sweet people, sweet writers and sweet blogs. But for the sake of these selections, can we assume “sweet” means excellent, as in “You bought me a car? Sweet!” and not sweet as in “Aw, who’s a sweet widdle puddy tat?” Because otherwise, this could get condescending and weird.

So now, in no particular order, here are my picks for the Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award:

1. Great Things about Being Blind: The title is self-explanatory and the blog is often very funny. Storyteller Kim puts up a new post every day.

2. One in 36 Million: My friend Melanie, a single mom, writes poignantly about life and other adventures with her son.

3. Inclusive Humanity: My colleague Krista writes from the heart – as well as from a slew of professional experiences – about the value of including people of all abilities in our community.

4. Letters from Rona: I do enjoy author Rona Maynard’s writing and I’m sucked into her stories without fail, even when I have more pressing things to do.

5. Literary Type: Professor Sarah is honest, introspective and pretty darn interesting if you’re the bookish sort (which I am, of course).

Enjoy the blogs; enjoy your weekend.

Perennials for World Peace

“Your garden is beautiful!” I never really get bored hearing that. When a total stranger stops to comment on our blossoms and greenery, it’s a pleasure. In fact, when I did 50 good deeds in 50 days, one of my good deeds was just that simple: complimenting someone’s garden. (As an aside, quite a lot of those 50 good deeds were simple – that was the beauty of the exercise.)

I was weeding and planting in the front garden on Saturday. A woman, about 60, tossed me these kind words as she walked by. In fact, throughout our brief conversation she never actually stopped her steady march along the sidewalk. Maybe because I was rather muddy and sweaty and she thought it safest to keep on truckin’.

But I liked her cheerful air. She told me she enjoys many of the gardens in the neighbourhood. “People work so hard in them,” she said. Man, it’s nice to be appreciated, isn’t it?

“There are some wild ones, there are some prim and proper ones,” she added. “You can almost tell the people in the houses by their gardens!” I wonder, is that related to the way owners and dogs resemble each other?

A garden is both personal and public. When you build a garden, it’s like interior-decorating the exterior. The whole world gets a peek at your individual tastes, your penchant for colour, your style savvy or lack thereof. Maybe when weeds overtake your garden it’s the equivalent of letting the dust bunnies pile up. Maybe an out-of-control virginia creeper vine is like a retro shag rug you just can’t let go. If my garden reflects back on me, I guess I’d have to say I’m well organized yet a bit scattered, I’m colourful and I enjoy cocktails. (And yes, I know that last part makes no sense. That doesn’t make it any less true.)

The other thing about a garden is that, with any luck, it brings joy to you and it spreads joy in your community. Perhaps, in a self-serving kind of way, a garden is a sort of good deed, too. Then again, aren’t most good deeds rewarding to the deed doer?

I’ve just confused myself. All that really matters is that my flowers made at least two of us smile on Saturday.

Pic of my garden; there’s plenty more where that came from.

From the Files of the Fancy Fascinator

We all laughed our heads off at Princess Bea’s wedding hat. This mass hysteria could have been blamed on a combination of zero coffee and the early hour of the royal wedding. But during the hours and days that followed, the Beatrice buzz only grew.

It wasn’t the first time this royal wedding guest has worn weirdness on her noggin – at other events she’s been seen sporting a set of butterflies and a wacky white dish as head-toppers. This one, however, certainly garnered the most attention.

The sculpture-like sombrero is properly called a fascinator. Wedding watchers have variously referred to it as a corkscrew, a pretzel, a toilet seat and a uterus. And what do you call that colour? Pale puce doesn’t even come close. Several of the more creative types wasted no time Photoshopping Beatrice’s hat into odd pictures – here’s one of the more disturbing examples.

Now who’s having the last laugh? Princess Bea has managed to sell her infamous headpiece on eBay for over 80,000 pounds (almost $130,000). All the money is going to agencies that help third-world children.

I’ve raised my respect level for this young royal. She’s taken the talk of the town and turned it into an astounding act of charity. Yay for you, Miss Bea.

P.S. I’m far from a Photoshop artist, but I couldn’t resist trying on this latest fashion statement. What do you think – does it make me look fat?

Lisa wears a fascinator

All dressed up and, thankfully, no place to go!