Tag: pizza

Giving back even when busy!

Giving back even when busy!

Life can get busy, but you can always find a way to give back.  I recall a week in my life where I had something every single night.  However, those busy days and nights didn’t stop me from finding ways to support my community.  I had something 12 days in a row, all while renovating my house and teaching high school.

The Chaos

April was busy.  It started with the National Business Education Association conference in Chicago where I was gone from Tuesday through Saturday.  While conferences are great networking opportunities and can be fun, being away for a teacher is a lot of work – just preparing sub plans is exhausting!  Once I returned, the next day was Easter and then the true chaos began!

First, I had to prepare and set up for a large event that was the culmination of a yearlong high school program.  I needed to help students with set-up for their tables and products.  The following day was round two of set-up for students.  That evening was the actual event.  It was similar to an open house and nearly one hundred community members came through to see the products that students were selling.

On Wednesday of my crazy busy week, I coordinated our Backpacks for Success “Backpack Stuffing Pizza Party” at my high school.  Backpacks for Success is one of my non-profit projects that collects backpacks for students in need.  Some backpacks are donated from the community and others are purchased with grant funding that I applied for.  At the backpack stuffing party students decorate educational quotes and stuff bags with school supplies.  Not only was it a lot to coordinate, but I had to order pizzas which always has to be approved by the district before purchase.  Then, the local news arrived for an interview which added to the chaos!

The next day I was a chaperone for French Club where we enjoyed a french themed dinner.  This was an end-of-the-year celebration for French Club students.  It was a nice evening and students really did enjoy being able to celebrate the many different things they did throughout the year.

As I headed into the weekend, I volunteered at our local “For Kids’ Sake Art Auction” to give back to the community.  I was in charge of helping with th buffet.  We had a steady stream of people coming for food while music, games, and auction items took place.  This was a lovely event and a special evening of giving back at the end of a long week.

The fun didn’t stop on Friday though!  My fun continued into Saturday where I was a participant in the Cardboard Boat Regatta (for the first time!).  I was in a canoe-like boat with two high school students.  It was a lot of fun, but next up was chaperoning prom.  It was the icing on top of the large 12 tier cake!

The Moral of the Story

While it may seem like just another 12 days in the life of some stranger, it is also a great reminder of how much you really can have on your plate.  So often we let fear or our own lives get in the way of giving back.  You may not feel comfortable volunteering with a bunch of people you don’t know, but giving back adds purpose to your life.

It doesn’t mean you have to give back every single day or even every single week.  It just means that it is always possible to add more to your busy schedule.  You can read to youth, volunteer at an event, or bake cookies for your local police department.  I challenge you to channel the energy within you to give back in a larger capacity even during those really busy weeks.  Those weeks may seem like structured chaos at the time, but the lives you’re changing will make it worth it.  Plus, the feeling of purpose you will find deep down in your soul will make the busy schedule worth it.

-jj

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A day, month, and year of random acts of kindness!

A day, month, and year of random acts of kindness!

I feel very lucky because I have way more than I even want or need.  I have more than I feel like I deserve, I feel completely overindulged, and find myself living a life more blessed than most people in the world.  Yesterday was Easter and I was showered with numerous “goodies” from candy to quote books/journals and little things.  I got to eat my favorite food (pizza!) for lunch at one of my local favorites with family I love and finished the night with a lovely dinner with more family I love.  It felt like a pretty perfect day. However, today it reminded me of how overindulged many of our lives really are.  My Facebook and social media pages were filled with overflowing Easter baskets for children, egg hunt after egg hunt, and church gatherings with lots of people in new pretty dresses and clothes.  It was quite lovely to see the happiness that filled the world, but it was also a reminder of those that can’t afford to celebrate holidays, can’t afford new Easter dresses or Easter baskets for their children, and people that can’t even afford clean water, clothes, or even a house over their head.  It is a reminder to be mindful of those around us.  Those that may be suffering and need our help.  Those that could use something as small as a compliment, surprise, or someone to listen to them to brighten their day.

As my family and I talked at both lunch and dinner yesterday Starbucks coffee came up because they are changing their rewards program.  It reminded me how lucky I am to be able to buy a cup of $3 – $5 coffee (which I must admit makes me feel guilty typing because I know it is probably ridiculous and not to mention out of reach for many).  I still am guilty of consuming it on a semi-regular basis.

The point of this post isn’t to make anyone feel shameful or guilty of their choices, luxuries, or things.  It is rather a reminder for myself (and hopefully others appreciate it as well) that I am more blessed and overindulged in the most simple ways that are so easily taken for granted on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis.   It is a reminder for me to give back more and more each day as I go through life.  There are endless random acts of kindness that can be done for nothing or a little something, but that can light up someone’s face and change the entire outcome of their day or maybe even their life.  For that, I think kindness is definitely something worth spreading.

My mom had a little boy over when I was younger who couldn’t keep his pants up.  It seems funny and it was, but she went and found a belt for little Joey.  She later received a thank you card from that six year old little boy thanking her for the belt.  It was a simple gesture, but that little boy is now in his late twenties and sent her a message yesterday again reminding her of how much it meant that she gave him a belt that day.  Something as small as that is something that can impact someone’s life. I recently had a mother of a student at school bring hot chocolate for myself and two other teachers as a thank you for being such happy “parent pick-up” coordinators at our school during all weather – rain, snow, hot, and cold.  Today will be a day to put my foot forward and be the person to do a random act of kindness.  I am going to show up at SIU and give treats to some of my fiancé’s co-workers and the staff that work across the hall from them.  People I don’t really know, but may appreciate a small treat on a Monday!  These are just a few random acts of kindness, but there are endless people and places to spread it. From police officers to firefighters and the random person in line at McDonald’s to sliding a few dollars in a Redbox DVD to pay it forward.

I hope today is a day you remember how lucky you are and how thankful you should be if you have clean water, clean clothes, family, and a roof over your head.  I know I don’t always remember how blessed I am, but I continue to remind myself that the things I take for granted are another person’s dreams.

Celebrate spreading kindness and remember you can brighten someone’s day! 🙂

~jj

#ProjectKindnessBook

#AlwaysChooseKindness

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A {healthy} routine…what foods do YOU feed your family?

A {healthy} routine…what foods do YOU feed your family?

Whether your family consists of kids, you’re a newly married couple, or you are a baby boomer near or in retirement, a great way to keep up with your health is by using those around you to keep you in check.  It doesn’t mean that they hold you accountable for what you put in your mouth, but it might mean that the reason you serve healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables with meals is to be a mentor to inspire and provide an example to the people in your life (kids, sisters/brothers, cousins, spouse, etc).  It means YOU care enough to help show those around you that through healthy eating and regular exercise you decrease your chances for diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

Consider making health a daily family event or routine.  For example, make dinner an occasion where you make a protein, carb, and vegetable side.  You can help your kids learn about their food choices by placing foods in categories that are easy to understand such as “Go”, “Slow”, and “Whoa” which is used in school heath curriculum.  For example, fruits and vegetables in their raw form are usually “Go” foods (eat most often, almost always) while canned fruits in light syrup or frozen vegetables would fall under “Slow” foods (eat less often, sometimes) because a lot of the nutritional value in these foods lessens once they are altered.  Examples of “Whoa” foods (eat least often, once in awhile) might include donuts, cake, cookies, chips, and other foods that are high in sugar and sodium.  Help teach those around you how to categorize their foods.  Make this a fun activity for kids (or adults) by cutting out foods they love and asking them to place each picture under the correct category.  This helps them learn while providing a great chart to hang on the refrigerator as a reminder.  We all need a reminder every now and then and what better place than on the front of the refrigerator so you are constantly reminded every time you open it?! 😉 Once you understand the idea of categorizing individual foods such as breads, cheese, meats, pasta, etc. into “Go”, “Slow”, and “Whoa” you can take it a step further by combining food groups (as we often see when we make meals).  For example, a bagel pizza or English muffin pizza made with low fat cheese or vegetable lasagna/pasta made with a red sauce would be considered “Go” meals while macaroni and cheese or pizza would fall into the “Slow” meals group and deep dish sausage pizza or fried chicken with gravy would fall into the “Slow” meals group.

Remember that your attitude toward food, nutrition, exercise, and fitness impacts your children, your spouse, and those around you so make sure you are the positive influence that helps them stay healthy!  For example, take a 30 minute walk in the evenings with your spouse or take a family bike ride.  Think of fun activities that allow you to make memories and are fun so that your children, spouse, and family have a positive experience as it relates to exercise.  Making a positive association with exercise and healthy foods is very important, if not vital.  This helps you, your children, your spouse, and family recognize the benefits of healthy eating and regular exercise while also making them feel like it is easy, fun, and stress-free.  After all, remember that health starts with family and friends because children, friends, and family often echo the behavior of people they are surrounded by.  Be the difference in your family and group of friends to show those around you how to make health a priority through regular exercise and healthy eating.

~jj

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Go meatless (sometimes)…and love it!

Go meatless (sometimes)…and love it!

As I was working out tonight I was thinking about the blog and what might be a good entry this week.  I recently started eating more meatless meals, not to lose weight, not because I think it is healthier, but because sometimes I just don’t crave meat or the thought of meat kind of grosses me out (at times) when I go to fix dinner.  No, I am not a vegetarian and while I know that some people would say it is better for you, I truly believe in “everything in moderation.”  I do what I feel is right for MY body and I suggest you do what you feel is right for yours, too!  In all of my posts, I want to continually emphasize that you should always do what YOU think is best for you and take my advice or leave it, use some of it, and realize that I do not have the answers to each individual’s unique lifestyle and routine.

Since I have been going meatless more frequently than I usually do, I decided I actually kind of enjoy my meatless meals, maybe some more than the ones where I do eat meat.  I typically enjoy “Meatless Mondays” each week, but I have now taken it even farther and decided to also eat at least one meatless meal per day.  So, whether you already occasionally eat meatless or whether you never eat meatless I challenge you to “Meatless Mondays.”  This is a great way to start and ease into what meatless meals can offer!  I promise meatless meals can be just as delicious, fun to cook, and can make your creative juices flow! 🙂   This means you will eliminate meat on Mondays, so no meat at breakfast, lunch, or dinner!  No cheating either!  Sounds challenging maybe, but it really isn’t.  Consider peanut butter toast and sliced apples for breakfast, grilled cheese and veggie soup for lunch, and pizza or pasta minus any meat for dinner.

Once you have “Meatless Mondays” down I encourage you to take it one step farther as I have by eating one meatless meal per day.  That should not be hard and should be a routine that you already have in place.  One meatless meal per day is actually very healthy as the consumption of meat at every meal is not necessary (or healthy)!  It does not have to be the same meal each day.  It can be breakfast one day, then dinner the next, followed by breakfast again, and then lunch the following day.  For example, you might have a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit for breakfast, a spinach and feta quesadilla for lunch, and then chicken parmesan with broccoli for dinner.  You went meatless at lunch so you met your goal for one meatless meal that day.

You say that you can’t get full on meatless meals?  I DON’T buy it!  That’s crazy!  Eat more veggies, which are one of the best things you can fill your body with!  Consider some of the following if you don’t believe me: 1) veggie stir fry with brown rice 2) pasta with a meatless marinara sauce and garlic bread 3) sliced potatoes layered with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, olives, and ranch dressing (potato nachos) 4) breakfast foods including eggs, hashbrowns, waffles, pancakes, french toast, biscuits 5) veggie pizza.  You can’t tell me that none of these foods speak to you because it includes nearly every food group (and all are meatless)!

So, next time you sit down for a meal think MEATLESS!  I know I do and my body still loves me and I feel great!

~jj

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