Advent is traditionally a time where we wait patiently and count down to the birth of the baby Jesus. These days, many children and families know Advent best for counting the days until Christmas and that big pile of presents under the tree. Usually there are chocolate Advent calendars, in some homes they still light Advent candles and mark the days and weeks of Advent in a more religious way.
Whether you’re religious or not, Advent is a period which many people mark time with in their own way. I’m trying to live a kinder life (not that it’s been full of mean things so far, but there’s always room for more kindness) so I’ve come up with 24 acts of kindness you could consider doing in the run up to Christmas.
24 Acts of Kindness for Advent
Send charity Christmas cards
Leave a nice online review for a small local business
Write some notes telling people what you appreciate about them
Make a donation to a small charity
Put some loose change in a tip jar
Bake treats for your neighbours or co-workers
Have a clear out and donate your unwanted clothes to charity
Make someone you live with breakfast in bed
Phone a friend or family member each day
Do a beach clean, or street clean, or a litter pick in a park
I was quite badly bullied at school and that kind of thing stays with you. Attitudes towards bullying seem to have changed in recent years, I think most schools have anti bullying policies and can take things a little more seriously than they did in my day. At my son’s school they’ve been doing a lot of activities around anti bullying week; so we’ve picked out six books about bullying to read this week (and every week, because this stuff is important)!
Six Books about Bullying
FAB (Friends Against Bullying) Club (FAB Club Book 1) by Alex Hallatt. This is an action-packed chapter book for 8-12 year kids who want to stand up to bullying. This is an inspiring children’s book about standing up to bullies and forming new friendships. FAB is full of humour, and has a gripping plot which teaches kids how to solve problems together.
Arlo Needs Glasses by Barney Saltzberg. One out of every five school children need glasses. This a really fun picture book for children, you can read an eye chart, look through a fold-out phoropter (that big machine optometrists use), and try on different pairs of glasses – movie star glasses, superhero glasses, mad scientist glasses and find the right pair of glasses for you. Once Arlo find some glasses which suit him, he’s back to enjoying all his favourite things again. This is a really positive book and ideal for children who are learning to love their own spectacles!
Giraffe Is Left Out – A book about feeling bullied by Sue Graves and Trevor Dunton. When Leopard arrives at Jungle School, Giraffe doesn’t want to include him and tries to exclude him from joining in. So when Leopard has a birthday party he doesn’t invite Giraffe, even though he has invited all his friends. Slowly Giraffe begins to understand how Leopard must have felt when he started school. Can the two of them learn to become friends after all?
Dandylion by Lizzie Finlay. Dandylion is one of my favourite children’s books ever! It’s all about being different and learning to accept difference in other people. When the ‘delightfully different, bright yellow and rather scruffy’ Dandylion joins Miss Gardener’s neat and tidy class, chaos and fun follow. But after one messy incident too many he’s told to go home – he just doesn’t fit in. It doesn’t take long, however, for everyone to realise that too much neatness and order isn’t always a good thing and everyone’s desperate for Dandylion to return!
A Smart Girl’s Guide: Friendship Troubles: Dealing with Fights, Being Left Out, and the Whole Popularity Thing (Smart Girl’s Guide To…) by Patti Kelley Criswell. This guide will help girls deal with the pitfalls of interpersonal relationships, from backstabbing and triangles, to other tough friendship problems. It features fun quizzes, practical tips, and stories from real girls who’ve been there – and are still friends. It’s just a shame there’s not a version for boys too!
Monty the Manatee by Natalie Pritchard. Monty the manatee is nervous about his first day at Sea School. He tries to make new friends but the other sea creatures think he’s a bit slow and strange. They’re really mean to him and call him names, but when his class is invaded by a dangerous predator can Monty save the day? Monty the Manatee is a simple book about kindness and friendships, suitable for pre-schoolers and children in KS1.
When my Dad died (a year ago today) everyone said I needed to be kind to myself. I don’t really know what being kind to yourself looks like. I guess self kindness is a form of self care. Doing things you like doing and which make you feel good, cutting yourself some slack and giving yourself time to come to terms with things and to heal.
For the last year I’ve been in a bit of a fug. I feel a bit like I’m in a plastic box and I can see and hear the real world going on around me; but it’s all muffled and I feel slightly apart from everything. It would be easy for me to just let the loss of my Dad overwhelm me, but I have my son and I don’t have the time or the space to indulge in intense grief. I just take it in small bite sized chucks. I nibble at it every day; like a giant cake of grief, just eating a few crumbs at a time. This grief cake will take a lifetime to consume.
Last night as I lay sleepless in my bed, I was thinking, when I’ve lost other family members I was broken hearted. I grieved for them and I still miss them and probably always will, but losing my Dad has really felt like losing a limb. He was such a big, important part of my life, not in an unhealthy way, we just really got each other and he was one of my best friends.
“Be kind to yourself Jane”
What does being kind to me look like? I’ve worked a little bit less. I’ve turned some things down I knew would stress me out or I wouldn’t enjoy. I have made more of an effort; not just to spend time with my son, but to spend quality time with him. I’ve just booked a holiday for the two of us in August. We are going on a family holiday with my husband too, but he can’t get the extra time off work and I just want to spend time with and have fun with my boy.
We got a dog to distract us from the grief. She’s here to keep me company at home when I’m working and to give me an excuse to stop working and go out for a walk with her. She’s also a pretty good listener and gives great cuddles.
Going away seems to feature quite strongly in my being kind to myself plan. Before Christmas I went on a spa weekend with some friends and we enjoyed it so much we are going again this weekend. I’ve a few other breaks booked in for the rest of the year. Having something to look forward to seems to help me get through the difficult days.
Despite my frequent weekends away and other holidays I’ve got booked, I feel like I hardly go out. My social life has almost ground to a halt and I hardly see friends or go out and have fun. This is partly because a lot of my friends don’t live locally, and those that do are busy people with busy lives. I’m also finding it hard to climb out of my shell. I’m slightly worried about how infrequently I see and speak to people in the real world.
I don’t know how I feel about my lack of a social life; it’s probably one of the reasons why I feel less like me than I have done in a while. Life is fairly humdrum. I’m busy being a wife and a mother. I hardly ever leave the house. I hardly see my friends. If I think about it a bit too hard I realise that I’m losing some of the colour and vitality from my everyday life.
I’m not sure where that all fits with the being kind to myself thing. I know at some point I need to start going out again and having a good time. Maybe I’ve only just got enough emotional energy to get me through the day and not enough to power me through the evenings too. Is hibernating being kind or cruel to myself? I’m not sure.
A year on I’m more determined than ever to be kind to myself. I need to find whatever makes me happy and to do more of that. I think we all need to learn how to be kinder and more considerate of ourselves.
How can you be kind to yourself?
How can you be kind to yourself? What does being kind to yourself look like today and what will that kindness look like tomorrow? Why does it take a death or something seriously life changing for us to stop and be kind to ourselves? Do me a favour, do something nice for yourself today. Treat yourself to whatever feeds your soul and makes your heart glad. You deserve it.
Tuesday was a funny old day really. I got trolled on Twitter by some men with nothing better to do than pick on someone for being not very feminine. They suggested a number of things about my lifestyle and life choices, but were unnecessarily nasty about it and then patronising when I failed to respond. This is online bullying. I’ve encountered these types before, they were doing it to provoke a reaction, so I gave them none, but it just made me feel very sad and cast a gloomy cloud over my day.
I’m not perfect, but I try where I can to be nice to almost everyone. Online I’m friendly and supportive, occasionally forthright in my opinions, but more often than not I am very happy to see both sides and as a result I rarely get any stick. I’m not used to it, I’m not a fence sitter, but I’m not naturally argumentative. I hate conflict, so when it happens, when people turn on me for no other reason than for their own entertainment, it shocks me and gives me an unwanted shake up.
Of course the right thing to do was to block them and try to give no further thought to it. It’s something or nothing in the grand scheme of things and I doubt they’ll go to bed with anxiety about it twisting in the pit of their stomach.
I’m not even going to attempt to figure out why randomers are mean to people on the Internet. If I was putting myself out there with maybe a slightly outlandish political opinion, or I was inviting heated debate into my Twitter timeline, then I would almost expect some stick or some online bullying, but I’m not. I’m a normal girl who writes occasionally amusing tweets, chats online to friends and Tweets pictures of her breakfast (a lot, sorry about that).
There are plenty of women, ballsy women, who take this unwanted attention in their stride. I am not one of them. I had thought of a rather good retort, but I felt a response would give them some satisfaction that they had got to me in some way, which of course they had.
My anxiety is always there, sometimes it is a big voice, a grinding in my stomach, a pounding in my heart and I can hardly catch my breath. Sometimes it just whispers that I should be fearful, but when it whispers I can usually ignore it. Today it’s been the big voice anxiety. I’ve seen Twitter pile-ups happen and I have a dread that my notifications would be swarming with hate. Thankfully (touch wood) just a couple of nasties said their piece, got bored when I wouldn’t bite and then I quietly blocked them.
Quite simply. Why do some people need to be so mean?
I’ve been watching The Island with Bear Grylls (which has been brilliant). He has a saying which I’m quite taken with, “with courage and kindness you can conquer the world”. And do you know, I think he’s right. I need a bit more courage and mean people need a bit more kindness. Wouldn’t the world be a better place for us all if kindness, compassion and courage were at the heart of everything we did? Nannight xx
“With courage and kindness you can conquer the world.”
I saw this quote last week after we spoke and I wanted you to see it. I wanted you to know that your life has meaning and is full of achievements. Achievements are more than just things on your CV and trophies in a cabinet. Achievements are not what make you a good friend. Your small, unremembered acts of kindness. You are kind, considerate, loving and giving. You are a good friend.
Mistakes can always be forgiven and if not they can be reconciled. They might force painful change. Change can and often is painful and life altering. But life has taught me, hell, even you’ve taught me that sometimes painful change is needed in order to find a new, different kind of happiness.
Whatever storm you are riding it will pass. Whatever storm you are riding I am and always will be here for you as your friend. Life is full of storms and upsets, but I know more than most that a good storm can be worth the wreckage. I know who my friends are and who I can turn to when I need them. You may not think you need anyone, but you do. You really do.
I don’t want you to ever think that your life is nothing, because to some people your life is everything. Please don’t look back and wonder what the point was, what you’ve contributed. You’ve lived a life and done many things, met and been loved by many people. You’ve done good and bad things. We all have. Your bad things are no worse than a lot of peoples bad things. You’re not unique in that.
Your greatest achievements, your biggest contributions are your beautiful children. They are your lasting gift to the world. Never forget that.
So carry on with your small, unremembered acts of kindness. It all gets paid forward in the end.
So we’ve figured out I’m a moody unfeminine weirdo with a penchant for angry, shouty rock music and I’ve been going through a dark patch. Well I thought it was time for a quick pre-holiday, enforced time away from blog update. I promise when I get back from hols the recipes and kiddie stuff will recommence.
I’m a very lovely person, I’m helpful and kind and friendly. My friends say I’m funny and sweet and I’ve got the dirtiest laugh in Manchester (fact), but my kindness makes me vulnerable which is a terrible thing.
Being nice has gotten me into heaps of trouble and scrapes in the past. Despite not being much of a looker I have managed to acquire a couple of stalkers. One of which terrifyingly used to follow me home and stand, staring outside my window for hours. In the end a couple of burly mates warned him off but he’d still loiter outside my office at work trying to see me. Creepy.
The scariest incident was dealing with an incredibly vulnerable man at work. I was calm, professional and lovely towards him. Never crossing boundaries just being helpful and sympathetic. He locked me in a room and sexually assaulted me. My screams alerted security and they kicked the door down before things got out of hand, but still the damage was done and eventually two years later I was diagnosed with PTSD.
In reality nobody died, things could’ve been a lot worse but still, my kindness is a weakness which gets taken advantage of. It’s hard because I like being kind. I like being the person people come to with their troubles and we bandy them about over a brew. I don’t want to harden my heart but I’m not sure how much my own vulnerable little heart can take.
It’s been stepped on recently and as much as I wish my friend (who did the stepping) all the love and luck in the world fixing their vulnerable, broken little heart, I kind of wish they’d thought of mine too. But mental illness makes lovely people selfish and hurtful. I just hope they find peace and when they do return to help me find my peace.