30 Random Acts of Kindness for my 30th Birthday

I turned 30 this month. Despite some of the panic attacks about whether or not I was going to wake up with FOMO of my twenties, I am doing just fine. Honestly, I feel like I am apart of an exclusive club. As if we thirty year olds all wear "We Survived Our Stupidities" and we walk around with a little bit more authority, like "I've been around this block a couple times, get out of my way."
Turning 30 was also a heck of a lot easier than I thought thanks to an amazing surprise birthday party my husband and sister arranged. I had all of my favorite people in one room and it was amazing. And of course, Clueless quotes and people dressed as famous 90s couples was just the icing on the cake. 

For my birthday, I knew I wanted to do something special with my kids so I asked them what they would do if they got to randomly do acts of kindness around town. They actually got really excited about the idea and before I knew it, we had a list of 30 fun little ways to celebrate my 30th birthday. 

I loved the idea because it was an opportunity to teach my kids how much fun it is to give happiness to others. I made some tags and and on the morning of my birthday, off we went! 

They had some great ideas: 

We also drove to the city's dog pound to give any strays some treats but there were no puppies there, which R1 pointed out was a good thing! 

The kids loved seeing the smiles on peoples' faces when we delivered balloons to the nursing home and bags of popped popcorn to the the tellers at the local bank. The kids' favorite was paying for the person behind us in the drive thru at McDonald's. They loved being able to watch out the back of the window to see the lady smile when the McDonald's worker handed her the pink card. They waved at each other like crazy. She even leaned out her window to yelled "Happy Birthday!"

My favorite was probably people's reactions when we handed out scratch tickets to random people. Most were people we didn't know and their faces would go from a look of pure confusion to joy in a matter of seconds. It was crazy how someone who was pumping gas would be standing there looking just a tad bit grumpy and then 10 seconds later, as we drove off, I would look back and see them with a huge smile on their face. It made my heart so so happy. 

The random acts of kindness put everyone in a good mood and I loved the conversations that we had afterwards. What would that guy at the gas station do if he won $5,000 on his scratch ticket? Do you think the stamps we left at the post office will eventually make their way across the United States? If our neighbors don't see their chocolate bar on their front door step by tomorrow, can we go back and get it? Just thinking about all the questions the kids had makes me smile. 

The next day, R2 decided she wanted to keep the random acts going and made a sweet card for her friend and taped some of her Valentine candy to the card and asked me to drive her over to her friend's house to drop it off. The fact that she wanted to keep doing nice things for others made this whole crazy idea completely and utterly worth it. I hope they remember the excitement of making others smile forever. 

I spent my birthday helping my kids learn the importance of kindness and giving and then celebrating with them and all of my friends and family. It was perfection and a day that I will truly never forget.

Here's to what R2 called my "dirty thirties." I know they're going to be great! 

Book Round Up #117

I had to cut myself off after just 6 books because if I kept digging, I would have created a reading list miles long and would have gotten absolutely no sleep tonight. I just kept finding more and more books I wanted to talk about. That just means that there will be another Round Up coming again soon. There are a ton of great reads coming out in March that I am really excited about. (Check out the latest adds to my Goodreads shelf)

Here's what you need to be reading: 

The Past 

Three sisters, a brother, and their children assemble at their country house... they may be forced to sell their beloved house filled with memories. As they sort through the house and the memories, hidden passions, devastating secrets, and dangerous hostilities threaten to consume them. This seems like there may be some underlying themes in this story that I normally don't read about but I am kind of in the mood to go off the tracks of my normal reads... 

Beasts and Children 

I can't quite explain this but I got tears in my eyes when I read the description of this book. Maybe it was the sagging porch in Texas or the privileged but ignored children or the family who moves around constantly...but it's just something about people chasing the American Dream and failing and the sad hopefulness that follows them that just speaks to me. But I just know this book is going to be one of those stories.

The Expatriates 

You know I am a sucker for family drama, which is why The Expatriates caught my eye. Two women, one a young graduate struggling to cope with a tragic past, and the other, a mother in the middle of a loss, have more in common than they could ever imagine.

The Longest Night 

It's the 1950s and this story of a marriage is based on a true story, so it's already off to a great start in my book. Paul and Nat are a married couple who live in a small army town. Paul is in charge of overseeing a nuclear reactor and Nat is a wife and mother who just wants more from her husband. Entertainment Weekly gave it an A and said it would be a story you'll think about it long after the last page.

The Nest

Described as "warm and funny" this might just be the light-hearted romp I need to get through the dreary winter. A group of siblings confront their troubled brother after his reckless behavior has endangered their trust funds. Their individual stories and how their lives intertwine is going to give me the fix I need now that I have exhausted all family dramedy shows on Netflix. #parenthood #gilmoregirls (I guess that is until Fuller House comes out next week) 

The Queen of the Night

In the world of gritty, glitzy Paris in the mid-1880s, opera was the thing. I love Paris and I love historical fiction and this book's cover just kind of reached out and grabbed me. A perfect opera story has been written and Lilliet Berne has been waiting for this perfect part to finally earn a leading spot. The only problem: the plot of the opera tells a deep, dark secret of Lilliet's life that only a select few people know. So who wrote it? And why did they betray her by telling the story? Taking the part could solidify her role as a famous opera singer or destroy the new life she has built for herself. Which role will she choose?

I just finished listening to Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter and I just have to say, "meh." I think I just watch enough Frontline, Dateline and Forensic Files to get my thriller fix that I didn't really connect with reading about it as well. It just wasn't believable for me and was too typical. Instead of gripping my steering wheel as I listened and drove, I found myself rolling my eyes. 

I also read My Name is Lucy Barton and I LOVED it. (full review coming soon). It was just so a good story. 

Get to reading! 

Book Review: The Sound of Gravel

I've been in a book hangover this week and so now I must share with you the book that did me in: 

Memoirs like this just don't happen everyday. Can you imagine pointing pen to paper and sharing your most private worries, your most traumatic experiences and the scariest, saddest moments of your life? Or what about reliving moments where you were scared, lost and worried? All of these things happen to Ruth, all before she is a teenager. 

The daughter of a polygamist, Ruth is lost among a sea of her family's life- she is one of over 40 siblings, most of whom she doesn't know exists until she is older. She learns at a very young age that without her help, her mother would not be able to handle her siblings, 2 of who are developmentally disabled.  They live in a dirt house with no electricity and have to navigate life with a "father" who divides his time among his multiple wives...

Because they live the polygamist lifestyle, Ruth's mother lives in Mexico, but once a month they make the illegal trip back to the States to gather food stamps and social security checks.

And when Ruth suffers unspeakable abuse from her stepfather, her life becomes even more of a struggle. 

There are things that Ruth, her siblings and her mother have to experience that I can't imagine anyone having to endure. But amazingly, Ruth becomes this amazing mother figure to her little sisters and brothers and she is so observing to those around her, which makes her this smart, empathetic and perceptive person that I would just die to sit down and have a heart-to-heart with. 

Because of her ability to survive, to care for her loved ones and for gaurdian angels like her grandparents, she is able to change her life...which at one point faced an outcome that could have been much, much different if Ruth wasn't the brave, smart girl that she was born to be... 

Read it. 

Currently, I am trying to get out of my slump by listening to Pretty Girls on audible and reading The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend. I'm also slowly taking in Joyce Carol Oates' The Lost Landscape, which is unsurprisingly beautiful. Next up is When Breath Becomes Air and For The Love 

And P.S. I totally didn't mean for my most perfect Kate Spade travel coffee mug to make it into both of the pics in this blog. It was complete happenstance, but a completely cute coincidence that I'm not even sad about. 

The One Where We Go to The Critic's Choice Awards

There was this one time that my mom and I put our happy little behinds on a plane and escaped to California together. It was all of the magical things you think of when you dream of a getaway with your mom.

I've never been west of Salt Lake City, so just the trip alone was amazing enough. I have major wanderlust and am constantly of dreaming about the next opportunity I will have to travel. I love airplanes, I love people watching, I love going places I've never seen before.

California was a whole new ballgame. People were so so nice, but you can tell that life is just different out there. I was definitely not in Kansas City anymore.

Our first stop was Venice Beach, where we stayed right near the ocean and I stumbled upon the most adorable little book store. I don't know how that happens, but little bookstores always have a way of finding me when I am on vacation. It's a little twist of fate that always brings me to my happy place.

Snapshots of California will always give me a warm fuzzy feeling. I loved the beautiful orange trees the most. Burbank was beautiful. In another life, that would have been my place. We saw a taping of the Ellen- Dierks Bentley and Sean Hayes were there, totally fun!- and I loved walking around Burbank. We took a Lift over to Hollywood and stayed just love enough for me to see Marilyn's hand prints but then I was ready to get the heck outta Dodge. It was way too commercialized and touristy, almost like a mini version of Times Square. 

I enjoyed sitting in quiet restaurants or on the beach with my mom the most. This was the first and only trip we've ever taken with just the two of us, so it was a rare treat I wanted to make sure I made the most of. 

Okay, if I am being honest, we all know that the highlight of the trip was going to the Critics Choice Awards. I promised myself I would play it cool, and for the most part I did.  But when Petra walked by my table, I did squeal. My mom has not watched Jane the Virgin but I happily gave her the run down before we went because I knew they would all be there. Petra was a dream. But nothing prepared me for meeting Gina Rodriguez and Brett Dier. 

They were so incredibly friendly and you could tell they were so happy and honored to be at the Critic's Choice Awards. Gina and I chatted about how cute Mateo is and how he makes her want to have 10 of her own babies. I told her how much I love her inspiring and upbeat Instagram posts... I might have gotten a little mushy but you know what? I don't even care. They were gems, I tell you. Gems. 

Everyone we met was just so friendly and nice and HAPPY. Butterflies got the best of me and I didn't walk around too much, I just wanted to soak it all in. I happily watched from afar and saw Amy Schumer and Jennifer Aniston and Sylvester Stallone. Grae Drake from Rotten Tomatoes and CNN was a dream boat. She was so nice and my mom and her acted like long lost sisters. 

The whole night could not have been more perfect. There are so many random, funny things, like getting in the more important line at the awards show and accidentally walking in with Mayim Bailik until we finally found the right entrance... 

This will go down in my history as one of the most amazing, smile inducing, memorable trips of my entire life.