My First Visit

It’s been one week.

(side bar: I like you a lot if you just started singing One Week by Bare Naked Ladies)

It’s been one week since I sniffled my way through my teary-eyed goodbyes to my fellow Leadership Consultants and drove away from Executive Office to begin my travels (which is a big feat for me since I don’t drive, even if “hypothetically” Annie eventually took over).

First stop: Zeta Iota chapter at Georgia College and State University

The whole way to Milledgeville consisted of me talking to Annie, our mama bear/boss lady, about anything and everything that would get my mind off the butterflies in my stomach. I had just left the eight women I’d been constantly surrounded by for three weeks, unsure of when we’ll see each other next, and was about to walk into a house full of women who had absolutely no idea who I was. Not to mention, these same women would be about two parties into recruitment at the time of my arrival. (For you non-sorority folk: recruitment is the most stressful time of year with very little to no time for conversations with anyone other than a Potential New Member).

IMG_9602Now, I wouldn’t expect anyone to help me carry my thousand pound luggage up a hefty flight of stairs on a normal day, nevermind in between two parties (breaks are literally 10 minutes). But the women of Zeta Iota didn’t skip a beat. They welcomed me with big smiles and helping hands, hardly allowing me to lift a finger. I walked upstairs to see a comfy bed, complete with stuffed Alphie and a welcome basket awaiting my arrival.

It didn’t take long before I jumped into the action and spent lots of time laughing and learning with the beauties behind the scenes, Bradleigh and Erin, and their advisors, Kristin and Amy. I was able to spend time with many other officers and sisters throughout the week, too!

All of the women made me feel so instantly comfortable at the first of many “homes away from home” I will encounter this year. It was so refreshing to bond with a group of women who support each other so much and are there to help one another long before they are asked.

My visit would not have been the same without the heart, energy and gardening expertise of Zeta Iota president, Alexa. Nor would it have been the same without my coffee date to Blackbird with Ashley, or the fact that I was the first person to sign Falon’s cast. I even got to taste my very first petit four!

It’s the little things, my friends.

It makes my heart so warm knowing that I walked into a house of strangers and left just four days later with a chapter full of new friends. It really showed me the power of Alpha Delta Pi and how special it is to have that shared bond, because no matter how unique we may be as individuals, we are all cut from the same azure blue & white cloth.

Gardening with Alexa

Gardening with Alexa

Falon & I

Falon & I

About to try my first petit four!

About to try my first petit four!

Stay tuned for a glimpse inside my life with the women of Shorter Colony, coming at you soon!

My View From The Top Bunk

A week has passed since we first called dibs on our bunks in Executive Office. Just one week in my top bunk and I’ve already thrown my phone to the ground in my sleep, slid down my ladder from top to bottom and hit my head on the guardrail while attempting to make my bed… twice.

1386 Ponce de Leon Ave NE  Atlanta, GA 30306 (Feel free to send me mail!)

1386 Ponce de Leon Ave NE
Atlanta, GA 30306 (Feel free to send me mail!)

In other news, I never imagined I would so instantly click with eight girls who are all fighting for the same things; closet space, mirror time and a shower. I used the word fighting for lack of a better term but our interactions have been anything but. With (almost) all of us being self-described planners we have come up with alternate plans of action in order to avoid any conflict. We have learned that it is effective to play Tetris with suitcases to maximize closet space and that PhotoBooth is a decent substitute for a mirror, among other things.

Aside from our personal lives and blossoming friendships, we have actually accomplished a lot of work. We have been training long hours every day and have been lucky enough to work with and learn from many fabulous International Officers and Executive Office staff members. We have spent a lot of time learning about paperwork, Pi Portal, recruitment, and total membership education. Although I know it’s hard to believe based on our Instagram posts, we have been doing much more than cheering on the Braves at Turner Field, throwing birthday parties, driving bright red minivans and getting pedicures (#treatyoself). We’ve just learned how to maximize our free time!

My Consultant Sister Rachel and I at the Braves game, because diamonds are a girls best friend!

My Consultant Sister Rachel and I at the Braves game, because diamonds are a girls best friend!

One of my favorite parts of training has been finding ways to incorporate our “spirit breaks” into chapter programming. We have watched plenty of Kid President and other SoulPancake videos and I’m hoping we’ll recreate one all together pretty soon, so stay tuned!

If you didn’t already know, I am DYING to work for SoulPancake or an uplifting, smile-inducing company similar to it. Something about working with the sole purpose of making people happy really makes ME happy (I’m sure you’re not shocked). I met my spirit animal/future me, Megan Carter, Total Membership Education Director and Chair, and we were able to talk about our shared love for everything SoulPancake and come up with a few ideas to use on chapter visits. I can’t wait!

We got some doodle paper from Megan and the wonderful Cindy Voris to express our creativity!

We got some doodle paper from Megan and the wonderful Cindy Voris to express our creativity!

Let me know if there are any SoulPancake videos you would like to see the ADPi Leadership Consultants re-create, or if there are any you’d like to see happen with a chapter on a college campus near you!

In the meantime, you can find me on the top bunk or in the training room with the eight girls who have most recently crept into my heart. We’ll probably be eating fruit loops, swapping outfits, attempting to navigate our new Windows tablets or laughing to the point of tears, all with Starbucks or Diet Coke in hand. Healthy, I know, but don’t worry we joined hot yoga.

Don’t forget to follow @ADPiLCs on Instagram and Twitter! You don’t want to miss out on our adventures!

photo (1)

Love Letter to Charleston: My Goodbye Tour

I am a huge sap. I cry whenever I see cute puppies, Hallmark movies and elderly couples holding hands… so you can only imagine how I felt when I realized I was about to part with so many incredible people & places that have so positively impacted my life over the past four years. I knew if I used my words to express how much I would miss them I would be an absolute train wreck.

So instead, I decided to put my words on paper. That way my only struggle would be to successfully hold back tears rather than that in addition to forming coherent sentences. I decided to write a short but sweet love letter to Charleston and leave a copy in all of my favorite places around the peninsula. Attached to each letter I left something of mine that was specific to each place, complete with a little description.

unnamed-6unnamed-8For those of you who saw a glimpse of what I was doing and asked for a copy of the letter, I have included a picture below.

THIS

Thanks to all of the spots that made my list and the people in them for leaving such a lasting footprint on my heart. I’m glad I was able to leave a little piece of mine with you in return!

If you’re reading this and you either live in Charleston or get a chance to visit, read the list below of all of the places I left my love letters. Check them out- you won’t be disappointed.

unnamed-7

I left a good read at Colonial Lake, pom poms at Stern Student Center, $5 for a coffee at Kudu & my loyaly card (with lots of points) at Kickin’ Chicken!

Special thanks to Persimmon's fabulous Rob Cassi for the "going away" basil limeade & cookie! :)

Special thanks to Persimmon’s fabulous Rob Cassi for the “going away” basil limeade & cookie! :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My favorites: Marion SquareKuduCistern YardStern CenterKickin ChickenCourtyard Charleston Historic DistrictNew Student ProgramsBoone’sADPi HouseColonial LakePersimmon CafeKing Street CookiesWaterfront Park

Remember Big

If the next year of my life is anything like the last 22 (and I expect that it will be, only magnified), it is going to be overflowing with flight cancellations, invalid boarding passes, pilot protests and of course, lost luggage. It would not be a year in the life of Kara Cronin if it wasn’t made up of every travel casualty known to man.

Call me crazy, but that is music to my ears. Why? Because unexpected adventures make the best stories.

Now, if you know me at all then you know full well that I believe the only thing better than a good story is telling a good story. You probably also know that I can’t tell any good story without including every little detail (thanks Mom)… but hey, I think the little things are the most important. Audrey Snead sums up my storytelling habits perfectly in her quote, “Some folks never exaggerate, they just remember big.”

I am proud to admit I am a big rememberer.

In the past, I have used social media in the form of “Kara Cronin travel day live tweets” to help me remember my little details. Unfortunately, my Twitter feed won’t go back far enough to show my rants about the time my luggage was lost and flown out to sea three days into the trip or that time the toddler sitting next to me PEED the airplane seat OR the time I got the chicken pox as soon as I arrived in Mexico. I kid you not, you can’t make this stuff up. But here are a few gems I was able to find, just to get you excited for the year to come.

photo 5photo 3

photo 4

As you can see, I have been blessed with thick-skin, patience and the ability to laugh in the face of adversity. Laugh and then tweet about it of course… and then tell my elaborate stories in much more detail as soon as I encounter people to communicate with using more than 160 characters. I mean, what fun would life be without people to share it with?

That’s why I’m writing this. I want to introduce all of my newly accumulated friends to my riveting world of adventure and to invite those of you who have been following along for years to continue on the ride. For your own sake I would advise that you all follow my journey from afar (on this blog), rather than with me on a plane or something…

I look forward to sharing this year of excitement with all of you and I hope to bring you much entertainment as I make new friends, grow as an individual and become a master traveler extraordinaire. I can’t wait to visit and learn from ADPi chapters all across the USA and Canada and share with them my good stories while making memories that are sure to last a lifetime. I don’t want to forget a thing, so follow along and help me “remember big” my journey as an Alpha Delta Pi Leadership Consultant.

Coming to (and probably getting stuck in) an airport near you,

Kara

Sleeping at the airport in a wheelchair, sunburnt, with McDonalds during an overnight delay.

Sleeping at the airport in a wheelchair, sunburnt, with McDonalds during an overnight delay in 2009.

 

 

Happy Birthday Kaleigh: an open letter to my best friend

Because no photo collage or Facebook status could ever sum up how much I love you and treasure your friendship today and every day. Happy happy birthday to you! 

Kaleigh,

Many things have occurred over the past few months that had me realizing how lucky and fortunate I am to have a sister, but I must be extra special to have a sister as fabulous as you. I almost feel guilty that no one else gets to experience the relationship that we have. It’s pretty amazing that I can count the number of fights we have ever had on just one hand and can actually look back on each of them with laughter (especially the debacle that ended in a broken reed and severed bow strings!).

Image

I couldn’t dream up a cooler human being to share my laughs, tears, frustrations, smiles and ridiculous stories with. I would definitely not be sane without you and I’ve probably escaped trouble on a few occasions all thanks to you. You always have my best interest and well-being in mind, but you’ve never kept me from making my own decisions and mistakes. For that I am forever grateful. You will always entertain my ideas of idiocy, yet you know exactly what to say in every situation. You make me want to be better in all that I do, but you’ve never pressured me to do so.

I love knowing that I have someone I can always call, depend on and trust. I am so proud to know you and to be your other half. One of my favorite things to do is brag about how funny, smart, beautiful and, of course, talented you are. You are seriously like every perfect person rolled into one, yet you’re probably rolling your eyes reading this because of how humble you are.

Image

Everyone who has ever met you either wants to be you or falls in love with you (probably a little of both). Every single person who has ever been graced with your presence is so impressed by your strength and maturity and taken by your wit and charm. Seriously, some rando even painted a MURAL of you in his pizza shop. Who ARE you?!

Sometimes I feel as though you are talented to a fault, like people are so overwhelmed by your immense talent that they don’t focus enough on what lies beneath the surface. Lucky for me, I know all about that stuff. You have always been an inspiration to me. I remember the first time someone asked me who my role model was, and all my friends answered the question with the names of famous athletes and pop stars, and I said “my big sister.” Not one day has passed when I’ve ever traded you out of that spot. You are the one person in my life who has always believed in me, supported me, challenged me and empowered me. You are a constant reminder that it is possible to be kind, sassy, genuine, talented, confident, humble and downright hilarious all at the same time. I swear you aren’t human.

Image

At this time in my life, when I’m nearing the end of college and life as I know it, I’ve been spending a lot of my time reminiscing. As I look back on my life you are the person beside me in all of my most treasured memories. You were the one rubbing my back when I couldn’t fall asleep, the one telling me stories when I couldn’t dream, the one building walls out of pillows so I wouldn’t see the lightning. You have always been there, always. You are an incredible talent and an even better person, sister and friend. In my eyes you are a superstar, yet you’ve never been anything but grounded.

You are a force to be reckoned with, Kaleigh Cronin. I couldn’t be prouder to call you my sister and my very best friend. Thank you for putting a smile on my face 22 years ago and never letting it fade. I love you the most and I sincerely could not live without you.

Love always,

           Kara, President of the Kaleigh Cronin Fan Club

The Glass Half-Full People

You know how it is often said that momma knows best? Well it’s true. For the last project I was a part of, we went around asking people to answer the question “What do you think the world needs more of?” We received many answers, some cliche and some outlandish. However, out of the many people who answered the question, it was my mother’s response which resonated with me most. I told her about the project and she responded, “I think the world needs more people who see the glass half-full.” Not only do I agree with her, but her saying that reminded me to try my best to be a glass half-full kind of girl myself. While I’m typically an optimistic person, it crossed my mind that I might need a little something extra to keep me on track with my positivity.

Enter Maddie Mello, a friend of mine since the very beginning of my freshman year. She (ironically) sent me a text message the very next day that contained a link and told me to check it out because she thought I’d enjoy it. That is how I discovered #100happydays.

#100happydays is a self-enlisted challenge you can sign up for online and all you have to do is submit one picture of something that makes you happy each day for 100 days in a row. Sounds simple enough, right? Well 71% of the people who have tried to complete the challenge have failed, citing lack of time as the main reason. Isn’t that sad? Not having enough time to be happy?

Image

Well I’m on a mission to defy the odds and complete the challenge. It has only been a week since I began, but I already find myself feeling more fulfilled than I have in a long time. It has given me a reason to find something good in every day. Yes, some days are more challenging than others, but those are the days we must spend finding joy in the little things, or even the things we might normally allow to drag us down. Don’t let them.

I challenge you to sign up for #100happydays not only to enrich your own life, but so we can work together to change the statistic that 71% of participants couldn’t find the time to be happy. 

I’ll be the first to admit that it won’t always be easy and we’ll all have our crazy days where the challenge may momentarily slip our minds before the clock strikes midnight, but it would be a shame if we didn’t all at least try. It’s amazing what a little encouragement from friends and family can do to help you stay on track. So what do you say? Let’s do this together. Let’s give the world what my mom thinks it needs more of and find at least one reason every day that proves we are the glass half-full people. I promise, you’ll be glad you’re one of us.

You can see some of my favorite “happies” from the past week below:

Image

If you want to see more pictures (and descriptions) from my happiness journey, follow me on Instagram: @karacronin

To Beautiful Mistakes and Big Pay-Offs

Happy New Year! I feel as though every blogger is obligated to write a post about why they’re grateful for the year that has passed and hopeful for the new one, so here goes. For cheesy yet appropriate background music, press play on the video below and listen while you read :)

The past year has been one of the most eye-opening, opportunistic and memorable years of my life. I have met so many fantastic people and done so many exciting things. I’ve seen what the power of good people coming together can do. I’ve learned to focus on the little things and to step out of my comfort zone. I’ve realized that the first half of 2014 will be my last as a “kid” and the second half will be the beginning of my life as a REAL person. 

That being said, I’ve deemed this new year the year of making mistakes and taking chances, because what time better than the present? I am a firm believer that learning from experiences will get you much farther than learning from a text book. How are you supposed to survive in this big, bad world when you don’t know how to live? And I mean really live. It’s important to screw up every now and then because mistakes are synonymous with lessons, and personally I’d like to learn as many lessons as possible before I’m thrown out into reality. 

If you know me just a little bit, you’ll probably laugh when I tell you I have a very shy, timid side. If you know me well, you completely understand. I tend to play it safe. So this year I’m telling myself to say yes in [most] cases when I’d normally say no. There’s no way of telling if something will totally pay off or completely blow up in your face, so live life on the wild side. Don’t over think things, just do them. Don’t wait until tomorrow, seize the day.  I’m not only going to take opportunities as they come, but I’m going to create them. If I succeed, I succeed. If I fail, I’ll start over and try things a little differently. You’ll never know what could be if you’re too scared to put yourself out there. So if I can fall asleep every night with the knowledge that at least I tried, I’ll be happy.

As my girl Oprah Winfrey once said, “Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us. Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.”

As cliche as it sounds, I’m looking forward to a year of no regrets. When I look back on 2014 I want to feel as though I lived and dreamed big. I would love for you to join me.

 Cheers to a happy, healthy year full of beautiful mistakes and big pay-offs! 

xoxo

Basketball Boys Help Make-A-Wish NH Make Holiday Magic

Have you ever witnessed magic?

The first time I did was seven years ago at the first annual Make-A-Wish New Hampshire holiday party. I was sitting in a tiny room off to the side in the ballroom, door closed, listening from afar as happy reunions and Christmas crafts were taking place. I could imagine the joy in the guests faces and the little cuties running around in their velvety red dresses and candy cane jammies.

When I opened the door of my hiding place about thirty minutes later, donning a plush Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer costume, I saw so much more than that. I saw the faces of children light up as they ran toward me, a fifteen year old girl who was realizing for the first time how truly lucky she was.

It was humbling, it was beautiful, but more than anything it was magical.

These children, most of whom had gone through terrible diagnoses, surgeries and treatments, were purely happy because they were embracing the Christmas spirit. The positivity and strength I saw in them through the mesh covering of Rudolph’s nostrils was unlike anything I had ever seen.

For me, the annual Make-A-Wish holiday party instantly became the most anticipated event of the year. Whether I was dressed as Rudolph, Frosty, Minnie or Mickey, you could always find me, glowing, inside the costume. Unfortunately, the party hasn’t matched up very well with my holiday break schedule for the past three years, so I’ve been stuck in South Carolina. Thanks to a late Thanksgiving break this year, I was able to make it back to New Hampshire for my favorite bash. However, this time I witnessed magic in a different way.

We arrived in Concord on Saturday afternoon to drop off the party supplies. Due to the forecast for heavy snow, we decided to stay the night to avoid driving in the morning. While we were enjoying our cocktails and card games in the hotel lobby, we had the pleasure of meeting some 19-20 year old basketball players from IMG Academy in Florida. They had travelled to the Granite State for a tournament, and some of the players got the extra bonus of seeing snow for the first time. We told the boys about the party, they told us about their travels and we called it a night.

Early the next morning there were about fifteen of us trying to blow up 300+ balloons, finish centerpieces and decorate before the guests arrived. I’m sitting at the back table, filling balloons with helium, when out of the corner of my eye I see a long line of very tall boys dressed from head to toe in blue uniforms. Led by their coach, the boys told us their games had been cancelled and immediately asked us how they could help make the event a success. These guys could have been sleeping in, swimming in the indoor pool, exploring NH, etc. But instead, they chose to help us decorate the room to perfection before the guests arrived. These guys assisted us in getting the job done so much more efficiently and helped put a smile on the faces (and tears in the eyes) of the rest of us volunteers.

Image

IMG Academy basketball players at the Make-A-Wish NH holiday party

Thanks to the help of the basketball team, we got everything done and I was able to have a half hour to get ready for the party before it started. When I returned back there was one basketball player who had returned as well. Thomas Rowland was walking around the room rearranging the balloon bundles to make sure they were most aesthetically pleasing; details few would notice but were clearly important to him. As the guests started pouring in, he made his way over to help the little ones make some crafts and assemble sand art. Once his help there was no longer needed, he asked if I could introduce him to some Wish kids.

Image

Thomas with one of our new friends who wished to meet the cast of her favorite TV show, The Middle

Thomas and I had the pleasure of talking with various children who had experienced the power of a wish, all happy to share their stories with us. One boy told us about his wish to take a cooking class in Rome. In the blink of an eye, Thomas was upstairs finding his teammate from Italy and back downstairs introducing him to our new friend. When I asked Thomas why he was so passionate about volunteering with us that day, he simply told me, “I just really, really, really love helping people.” That couldn’t have been more apparent. Thomas and his team certainly made a lasting impact on many people and warmed plenty of hearts on that cold, snowy day.

#ThrowbackThursday: Kara Inspired by Kara

Too often we get caught up in the idea that inspiration must come from other people, that we forget to look inside ourselves. Well I’ve vowed to myself to spend some time focusing on self-empowerment and confidence, and what better way to do that than to look back at some of the things I’ve done many years ago and use them to inspire me today? Exactly, there isn’t one.

Since I am home for a month, with access to old writing samples, projects and home videos, I basically have an all-access pass to my past. Instead of sleeping in, re-watching Gossip Girl on Netflix and stalking Facebook, I’m going to use my time wisely by focusing my energy on my newest project: Kara inspired by Kara.

Below, you can read one of the first columns I ever wrote for my high school newspaper, The Little Green, about teachable moments. After re-reading it, I am reminded to pay closer attention to the positive things people are doing around me and instead of acknowledging them quietly in my head, I’m going to make the extra effort to applaud them for being a good example. I hope you will too!

Teachable Moments from My Favorite Teacher: Mom

 An apologetic glance, roll of the eyes, nervous laughter, a dash out of sight, and/or a bashful lowering of the head, often resting on cupped hands. These are the definitive signs of a child, mortified by the embarrassment a parent has wrought upon them. Trust me. I know this routine fully well.

My mother is far from normal. No quiet reserved homebody is she. She actually has taken up embarrassing her kids as a sport in which she excels. It is a wonder my sister and I have turned out the way we have. As little kids we would cringe each time we passed an acquaintance and Mom would engage them in a full blown conversation as if we’d been best of friends since kindergarten. We would run and hide each time she was informed of a birthday. No matter how distant the star of the day was to us, she insisted we could help make that person’s day by belting our hearts out, no matter who was within earshot or what the surroundings were. It was no surprise when she recently showed up dressed head to toe in a Minnie Mouse costume at five in the morning to bid farewell to busloads of high school students, most of whom she didn’t know, heading to a leadership conference in Disneyland. Whenever we traveled alongside her, it was inevitable that we would find ourselves saying, “Oh no, here she goes again!” Truth be told we didn’t know it then, but we could not be more grateful now for all those moments and the life lessons they’ve taught us.

Like the time she suggested that we invite all the neighborhood kids to take a trip to McDonald’s in our new minivan. Keep in mind this excursion took place during the peak of the beanie baby craze. Picture seven children ranging from age six to eight all screaming out their order of Chicken McNuggets, Big Macs, French fries and vanilla shakes, simultaneously fighting over who would get which cuddly TY friend in their happy meal. Amidst all this insanity, mom (likely second-guessing her decision to have invited all this madness) accidentally misheard the girl on the headset, pulling forward to the second window rather than the first, where she fully intended to pay for the sizable order. As our crazy Caravan of commotion approached window number two, the frantic ‘headset Hannah’ sprinted from the first window to the second, accusing my mother of attempting to chew and screw at McDonalds. Appalled at the accusation, Mom pressed the automatic door opener, convinced that the site of all the little angels was enough to dispel any assumption of wrong doing. Clearly unmoved by this gesture and without regard for the explanation offered, this ‘cash register crazy’ continued to yell and curse as if we were actually robbing Ronald McDonald himself. It was at that moment, in front of all these neighborhood kids, that I felt that rush of pink come over my cheeks…my head began to bow, and I could surely guess what was next to come. I didn’t know it then but it would be forever etched in my memory as a teachable moment in my life. Without raising her voice to meet the tone with which she had been greeted, my embarrassing mother kept the door ajar and asked us each to listen while she gave Hannah the tip that she rightly deserved. It went something like this “I know you are probably 16 yrs old and this is your first job….to be sure it is not your last you should remember that no matter what you may have thought, you should never, never treat a customer, or anyone at all the way you treated us today. These kids need good examples, and you need to work harder at being one.” Having spoken her peace, she then closed the automatic door, paid for the collection of happy meals, and quietly drove away, leaving Hannah to digest what was said. No more words were necessary, but I can assure you not a one of us will ever repeat her mistake.

As if this excitement wasn’t enough for one day, it triggered our caravan pilot to make a pit-stop on the way home. With the MacDonald’s story fresh in mind, Mom led the way to the nearby Brooks Drug Pharmacy counter, with all seven children trailing behind her through the store. Without revealing to us what we were doing there, she requested to speak to the young girl behind the desk who just happened to be about the same age as our earlier subject. This Brooks employee reluctantly walked over to greet us with her supervisor standing at a close distance, questioning our motives. While we cringed in embarrassment, Momma Cronin proceeded to share what had just happened, citing the tip she had given our friend Hannah. Trust me, we weren’t the only ones wondering where she was going with this and if she had lost her marbles! In the next instant the reason was unveiled. Apparently earlier that same morning, while waiting in line to fill a prescription, Mom witnessed a pharmacy customer irately arguing with the young technician whose job required her to ask a simple question regarding allergic reactions. When she kept her cool, despite the lengthy verbal attack upon her for the inquiry, it impressed my mom so much that she made a mental note to later compliment her to her supervisor. On the short ride from McDonald’s the contrast in these two stories became crystal clear to her and she knew this example would provide an equally meaningful lesson. Sharing both stories aloud, surrounded by the kids she intended to impact and the staff that was growing in curiosity, my mother announced to us all that her behavior was applause-worthy and encouraged us to join her in the standing ovation that this young girl deserved. Needless to say, she was beaming from ear to ear, appreciative that the positive way she handled a difficult customer hadn’t gone unnoticed. Lets just say she wasn’t the only one who stood tall as a result of that moment.

Life is filled with examples like those of that one day, just waiting to be seized and turned to gold. I just happen to be fortunate to live them every day. Though red faced on more than an occasion or two, they have often led to my life’s most teachable moments.

Mom and me

Mom and me

Thank YOU for being a part of #HAPPYbdayKara

I was sitting on my couch last night trying to decide who I wanted to appreciate for “Monday Matters” today. Ever since last Wednesday, I can’t stop thinking about how appreciative I am for every single person who participated in my #HAPPYbirthdaykara kindness challenge.

Last Wednesday was my 22nd birthday. In fear of a boring day, I decided to put a positive spin on it. I told my friends I was celebrating my birthday by completing 22 Random Acts of Kindness, and I asked them to join me in my efforts by doing a random act of kindness of their own. I sent out a Facebook invitation for this “social media celebration” with the expectation of maybe twenty people participating.

All of a sudden Wednesday rolls around and I’m woken up by a “tagged photo” notification.

First #HAPPYbdaykara post

First #HAPPYbdaykara post

Next thing I know, I have ten more notifications… then twenty, thirty, and finally a dead phone battery. I recharged my phone (the first of seven times that day) to find plenty more photos and text messages of the sweetest stories.

The participants ranged from my best friends to their parents to complete strangers. The kindness was infectious. I first noticed it spreading like an epidemic in Charleston, then found out it was having a similar impact in my hometown in New Hampshire.

There were people posting with “#HAPPYbdaykara” from all over; North Carolina, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Indiana, Connecticut, Georgia, New York, etc. The smiles were traveling all over the country. It was WILD!

Me on my balloon scavenger hunt

Me on my balloon scavenger hunt

If you happened to see me running around campus on my own balloon scavenger hunt led by my best friends, you would have seen me in a constant state of absurdity. I was reading clues, compliments, text messages and Facebook posts all at the same time. I had the BIGGEST smile on my face beneath continuously flowing tears and smudged mascara. I couldn’t mask my emotion because I had never been so ridiculously overwhelmed by happiness in my entire life.

I was ecstatic because not only was my day made, but because I could see the joy in the faces and feel it through the words of every person on the giving and receiving end of kindness that day.

I swear, the barista at Starbucks must have been having the second best day (behind me, of course) due to the amount of people who paid for the person behind them. But coffees weren’t the only thing bought. There was money donated to charities, lunch delivered to the homeless and sweet letters written to strangers and friends. I think the only people in Charleston who didn’t have a good day were the parking enforcement officers who likely gave out zero tickets because all the expired meters had been filled by my friends. So as the day came to a close, I headed home to reflect on the magic that was my 22nd birthday.

Earlier that day a friend and sorority sister of mine, Amy, had called to ask if she could interview me for a project, to which I agreed. So when I arrived home Amy was there waiting. She confessed that she lied to me about the interview because she needed a good excuse to come over and execute her random act of kindness- FOR ME.

This was not what I was expecting, but I happily accepted the delicious cake and bottle of wine. To my surprise, that wasn’t all Amy had to give me. She also handed me a DVD.

I immediately popped it in, pressed play and “#HAPPYbdaykara” blew up on the screen. She had compiled pictures of everybody’s random act of kindness in honor of me and made a video that I could savor forever to remember that special day. Just as I thought the video was over, there was commentary from friends around campus talking about how my birthday project impacted them. She even included videos from my mom and sister! I was a basket case.

ANYWAY, I want to say thank you to every single one of you who helped make November 20, 2013 the best day of my life thus far. I am so proud of the kindness you all spread like wildfire and I am so inspired by the difference you all made. It reminded me that a multitude of little things can have a huge impact. Thank you for restoring my faith in the goodness of the world and thank you for being a part of my life. I appreciate you.

You can view Amy’s #HAPPYbdaykara video here. Check out #HAPPYbdaykara on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to see more random acts of kindness.

Stay tuned for more on my 22 Acts of Kindness and a video from my perspective… coming soon!