Keeping Kindness


“Kindness is a virtue,” is something I’ve grown up hearing all my life. It was mostly a reminder said in a chiding tone of voice followed by the quick ticking of my mother’s tongue after I’d inevitably said or done something unkind. Still, her coaching has stuck with me, and her voice is the one that guides me towards kindness whether she’s with me or not. Let me share this voice, this virtue, with you so that you can share it with others.

Kindness is defined as a quality of friendliness, generosity, and consideration. Take some time to reflect on yourself for a moment. Would you describe yourself as a friendly person? Do you reach out to new people? Do you welcome others into your life? Sit by someone new. Start a conversation with a stranger. Listen to what your server has to say before you dismiss them mid-sentence with: “Water with lemon.” Opportunities are everywhere and remember: You don’t have to have a lot of friends to be friendly.

Are you a giving person? When was the last time you volunteered…and not because you had to, but because you wanted to? Donating your time, energy, and resources towards something you believe in will restore your happiness and revive your kindness. Attitude is everything. If you’re ever feeling down, get up, get busy, and go give. Listen to my mother’s voice:¬†You don’t have to have a lot to give a lot.¬†

Would you consider yourself considerate? Do you think of others before yourself? Do you try to make others lives easier, better, or more comfortable? When was the last time you went out of your way for someone else? …for someone you didn’t even know? Don’t be intimidated. You don’t have to think of everything; just remember to think thoughtfully.

It seems that the world has conditioned us to believe that kindness is weakness. Kindness is associated with naivety…as if we would act harsher if we knew better. I think that’s so incredibly sad and cowardly. Life isn’t always easy; in fact, I’d say it’s hard a great percentage of the time. How we confront these trials is what defines us. Challenges either build character or tear it down. So be brave! Don’t let hurt hold you back from reaching out. Pain, fear, and anger are things we all feel, but they aren’t things we need to hold onto. When we help each other by showing kindness, we draw the world grow closer together by coming outside of ourselves. Make connections. Form friendships. Share. Love. Listen to my mom. Grow. Keep trying. The more life we live, the more choices we have to make. Choose kindness every time. I promise it will make you stronger.

Having Your Cake and Being It Too

cake for blog 2

It was a lazy kind of Sunday afternoon when I decided that what I was missing was something sweet. Perhaps it was the way the sky had remained overcast or maybe it was the dread of Monday creeping closer by the hour, but I was restless and hungry in absent-minded, persistent kind of way.

I debated getting up from the couch for awhile, trying to talk myself out of what I was preparing to do. “Cooking means dishes,” I reasoned with myself out loud. Still, as stacks of pots and pans cluttered my daydreaming, I thought of how nice it would be to bite into a rich piece of cake.

I hadn’t had a piece of cake in a long while. I tried to think back to the last slice I could remember. My stepsister’s birthday party came to mind. Maddie had actually turned ten, or twelve, or however old she was, earlier on in the week. Unfortunately for her, she had one of those birthdays that fell on a Monday, or Tuesday, or whatever day it was that wasn’t the weekend. So, this was one of those afterthought cakes that came on an afterthought day deemed convenient for the observance of such a holiday.

I suppose I’ve always been a bit resentful of Maddie. She was the daughter that got to keep my father, after all. I was eight years old when my parents divorced- old enough to understand what I was losing, but too young to really know how to make sense of it. My father moved in with the woman he’d come to have two children with, leaving two behind in his place: my brother and myself.

It wasn’t really fair to say my father abandoned us. He left, but I knew he was out there somewhere. He’d visit on the weekends and call every once in awhile. He left daddyblog1me notes and tried to make things as right as they could be in a wrong situation. Still, like probably every child of divorce, I wanted my parents to be back together so my life could be back together too. That’s not what happened though.

These thoughts left me feeling bitter, and I thought again about the late birthday cake. It was large with blue and white frosting coated in sprinkles. I didn’t really want a piece, but the cake was already being divided and distributed throughout the small crowd. My father handed me a slice on a pink plate and motioned for me to sit down next to him at a table that had been set up with haphazard streamers. I tried to remember the last time I’d eaten anything with my father, and I really couldn’t remember. I don’t spend much time with him now.

The cake was too sweet; it stuck to my mouth in lumps I didn’t want to swallow. There was too much frosting, and even the smallest bite made me want to gag. There were too many sprinkles, and the colors made me dizzy. Each crumb tasted stale and fake, and I watched the party commence with eyes that weren’t really there as my father offered me another piece of something too sweet to be real.

I mentally shook my head and asked myself if I was still in the mood for cake. Another memory came to mind, a better one, and I smiled in spite of myself. I was remembering my name. For awhile, I thought it was cake. “Kate” and “cake” can sound a lot alike to anyone, but they especially did to me. For a long time, my parents let me believe this was my name. It was cute, I suppose.

I thought about sunshine and fields of green. I was remembering the golden parts blog2meof my childhood- of Cake’s childhood. I grew up on a farm where there were summers of corn and bare feet. Early mornings were spent watching the sunrise and gathering eggs. Life was raw and untouched when I climbed up on the roof of a small shed where I wasn’t supposed to be with a stepladder and a stack of books I couldn’t read yet. The words were too big, but my world was just the right size.

¬†Turning my attention back to the world I was in now, I made my way into the kitchen. Opening a cupboard door, I found a wide array of cake boxes. I decided on a yellow cake mix and started thinking ahead to frosting. In my opinion, frosting is what makes a cake worth eating. There is a delicate balance between good and overpowering. Too much of something can amount to a whole lot of nothing if what’s being made isn’t worth having.

I checked the back of the box for instructions; it was just one of those easy cake mixes. I added the water, the oil, the eggs, and wondered vaguely about the possibility of powdered milk and butter already mysteriously included within the contents of the package I had just emptied into a large bowl. The oven beeped when it was preheated, and I slipped the cake inside the wave of heat that warmed my face even after I closed the door.

I was cleaning off the counter, wiping up water that missed the bowl, and tossing egg shells in the trash. I hesitated before putting the bowl and spoon in the sink. I had almost forgotten the best part of making a cake: licking the spoon. The batter was sweet, and my heart felt a little lighter.

I had set the timer for twenty-five minutes, but I kept opening the oven door to make sure it was still there and all in one (not black) piece. My mother always says, “When you can smell what you’re cooking, it’s ready.”

I was ready to eat some cake.

Finally, the oven timer signaled and, like clockwork, the smell of freshly baked cake filled the room. I opened the door of the oven, sliding the rack out slightly, and slipped a toothpick into the center pulling it out slowly. Clean. I thought of my mother again with her endless knowledge of all things culinary and silently thanked her in my mind for imparting these little bits of wisdom to me.

As I sat the cake down to cool, I worried about frosting again. I could make some or I could buy some, since we didn’t have any in the pantry that I could see. I called my little brother down from upstairs anyway. Maybe ice cream could count as frosting, I thought, as I pulled out a carton of vanilla. Matt raced down the stairs at the mention of cake, and he didn’t seem to mind when I scooped a large portion of ice cream onto a warm slice of otherwise naked cake I’d cut out with a fork.

It was messy but good. The cake crumbled in all the right places, and I tried a piece without ice cream. This, however, was slightly disappointing. I realized, then, that cake was meant to go with something sweeter than itself. Without its complimenting flavor, it was only half of what it was meant to be and could only be enjoyed as far as its missing link.

I slept on that thought. The next day, I went to the store and bought some frosting. I had decided on lemon, a flavor close to my heart.cake for blog Lemon was a favorite of my grandmother’s too, and it felt right when I picked up the container and peeled off the lid. I grabbed a spatula and started scooping and smearing the light frosting over what was left of a cake that had been hit pretty hard the day before.

The cake seemed to be thanking me for this blanket that hid all its scars from its hungry past. It wasn’t whole, but somehow it seemed more complete than it ever was on its own. I smiled when I found berries in the fridge, and the letters started forming before my hands fully registered what they were doing. I saw myself in this broken, but beautiful, cake. Its crumbs stood as testimony of its existence like tears that hadn’t quite been wiped away yet. In that moment, this cake and I found the sweetness we’d both been needing. And, in doing so, I like to think we were both “happy.”

Fresh Rain

Photo Credit: Kate Kelley

A storm blew in early this morning, cold and strong. I woke up startled with the boom of thunder, wondering vaguely if I was still asleep. It was black outside, but a strike of lightning managed to light up my room as if it were day. I fumbled around for my phone on my bedside table, feeling the cool hardness of the wood beneath my fingertips until I made out the thin, rectangular object. I shivered. I tapped a button, and my phone came to life reminding me that it was 4:31 a.m. I should probably try to go back to sleep.

I tossed and turned for awhile; it could have been minutes, it could have been hours. Sleep can be elusive. Like a dark and quiet serpent that weaves its way through the night, creeping slowly, but deliberately, through the night hours until day finally breaks through the foliage of a wild, jungle mind- I waited for sunshine. Thoughts clouded my vision as I stared up at the ceiling that flashed with each new shock of lightning. The wind was blowing hard, and I heard branches snapping against their will. I wondered about my place in the world.

A light came on from down the hall, and I was aware without really noticing that my mother had gotten up. Moments later, I heard footsteps going down the stairs. A quick silence followed by the mumbled voices of the television made me feel more awake. I strained my ears listening for warnings of impending doom as another roar of thunder echoed through my walls. Minutes slipped by, and I felt a sense of calm as the voices were switched off and my mother made her way back up the stairs and to her bed. She switched off her light, and I was back in darkness. Relative security.

The storm raged on, and I wondered if day would ever come. I wondered why rain was rejoiced in some places and cursed in others. I thought about tears and rain and wondered if they were somehow related. I’ve heard that people tend to be more sad when it’s raining; I wonder if that’s because they think the sky is crying, so they think they should too.

Somehow I started thinking about the neighbor’s chickens down the road. How must they feel about all this rain? They roamed free, and from what I had seen they didn’t have a shelter. Where were they now? I thought about how happy they looked when they were scratching around, wandering wherever their feet took them. So carefree and wild, they never paused for a moment as they reveled in the sunshine of poultry youth. I pictured them now, cowering in the trees and clutching branches that broke, flying without a place to rest in the dark. Freedom, I guess, could be a scary thing.

That was the last thought I could remember before I fell into a fitful sleep. Bedraggled hens haunted my dreams, and I could see tears running from their eyes. Maybe it was just rain. It’s hard to tell the difference sometimes. Lightning and thunder played with each other through the night, animating my dreams with rumbles and flashes. I’m not sure when they stopped.

The blackness of night had lightened to the grayness of day. The thunder and lightning had subsidedCalm After the Storm, but the rain was still falling. I noticed that it was gentler, though. The wind had settled from a gust to a breeze, and the coolness of the morning startled me into pulling on a sweater. The sleeves were long, and I pulled them down over my hands like gloves, sliding them down the rail of the stairs.

I took each step slowly, not wanting to break the magic of a still house. Reaching soundlessly for the door, I opened it carefully and stepped out onto the cold concrete of the porch. Socks were an afterthought at this point, and I realized I wasn’t really missing them. The solidness of the floor felt reassuring beneath my naked feet, and I walked out to survey the wet world around me.

Green. Everything looked so green under this sky of gray and rain. Leaves glistened and sparkled with drops of water covering them like beads of a strewn necklace. I spotted a few limbs down in the yard, their pieces jutting out like claws from the earth, bitter about their brokenness. The potted flowers we had on the porch steps danced in the vibrancy of their color as rain glazed over their pink blossoms. The world around me seemed more raw and real, and with a deep breath I took in the smell of fresh rain and the freedom of a new day.

Hello world!

Really, this is a long time overdue. I’ve been meaning to put together a personal blog for awhile now, but I can’t seem to get over the sentimental value of paper. However, I realize I have the potential to reach a much wider audience this way, and I hope to gain feedback on my perceptions and ideas. I still use good ole’ paper and a pen to record some of my favorite things, but I hope to share some insight on the world I live in with the world that lives around me.