My New Projects: Consulting and Accessibility

I’ve been working hard on a few projects lately.

I left my job in 2017 and went back to school to get my certificate in nonprofit management. I felt pretty confident I would find a new job easily, considering my robust skill set in fund development, communications and program delivery. I found that the job search was taking longer than expected. Since I am so goal oriented, I knew I needed to focus on some kind of project to keep me energized, busy, and feeling like I was making a difference while job hunting. First I signed up to be a coach for Social Venture Partner’s Fast Pitch program. I got to listen to other inspiring organizations make a pitch for why people should invest in their program. Another coach and I also met weekly with Seattle Against Slavery, and helped its Executive Director refine his amazing story so that it was 5 minutes or less. He ended up winning first prize AND audience choice award, which was quite exciting. Check out his amazing story in the video below.

Then I volunteered for 501 Commons where I got to help another great organization, Pike Market Food Bank, develop protocols and systems for their volunteer program.

Job search still was taking a while. I exercised like crazy, met with a job support group, and dreamed about my next project. I ended up starting the Seattle-King County Cultural Accessibility Consortium which focuses on helping cultural arts institutions make their spaces, programs and events accessible to people with disabilities.  I got funding for three workshops from 4Culture and the City of Seattle Office of Arts and Culture, put together a steering committee of passionate individuals, and developed relationships with cultural arts staff who wanted to make accessibility a reality in their organizations.

In spite of all these projects and doing a ton of networking in the community, nothing was panning out with jobs (a much longer story for some day).

So I decided to start consulting full-time and last month (September), I launched my consulting practice. My objective is to help organizations engage constituents, such as volunteers, donors, participants, and community partners, in the mission of the organization. My work focuses on Fund Development, Program Delivery, Communications and Community & Board Engagement. I also specialize in Accessibility- working with organizations to make their spaces, programs and events accessible to all. I help them integrate accessibility into strategic plans, websites, staff trainings, and marketing/outreach strategies. Check out my LinkedIn article on accessibility here.

So that’s what I have been doing this past year and am excited to see what emerges from the work. Please contact me if you are interested in learning more about my work in accessibility or my consulting services.



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What is a Deaf Fail?

So it’s been a while, hasn’t it? I have been preoccupied with lots of things lately, including my parents’ deaths, figuring out career stuff (I am currently in between jobs), volunteering on a few projects, helping my kids with school, life, etc.

One of my volunteer projects has been co-planning a retreat in 2019 for deaf folks like myself who rely on lipreading to understand what is being said. We grew up learning to listen and talk, rather than using sign. Some of us later learned sign language (I didn’t, although I did take one class in ASL long ago and soon realized there was no one to practice with, so my minimal signing skills all but disappeared).

My friend Robert, the other co-planner, and I decided to have a bit of fun making some videos for the retreat attendees. One video was about how we have known each other for 20 years and might end up killing each other trying to plan this retreat. Another video announced the date of the retreat, with some silly participation from our friends. Lots of expressive acting there. Robert and I plan on making a few more, just because it is So. Much. Fun.

When my family went on vacation this summer to the beach just south of Los Angeles,  my friend David came down to visit. David and I also go way back- we were pen pals in college. Like Robert, we have a few things in common: both of us are deaf and we have a wicked sense of humor.

David and I are always talking about all the embarrassing situations we find ourselves in because of our deafness. That’s the thing about hanging out with my deaf friends- they really get what it is like to be in my shoes. I knew David and I would have a blast making a video because we love to make fun of ourselves. We decided to film a few scenes where we sometimes encounter, ahem, misunderstandings, a.k.a. “deaf fails”. We enlisted the help of my kids to film, edit and caption the video. I honestly think I was an actress in a past life because I love doing this kind of thing! Hollywood, take notice!

Disclaimer: we made this video in less than an hour after much laughing and not enough rehearsing, so the quality is not the best. Enjoy!

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Cultivating a Gratitude Practice

In February I did Sharon Salzberg’s Real Happiness Meditation Challenge. Each day I would get an email introducing the day’s topic which also included a brief guided audio meditation. It was really great- just 10-15 minutes or less each day focusing on mindfulness. And the best thing about it: I asked Sharon via Twitter if she could provide a transcript- my hearing loss prevents me from being able to understand any audio guides. And she did! Thanks again Sharon!

I decided to participate in this challenge to help me through this funk I have been in lately. This past winter my parents died within two months of each other. I think most of us know our parents/older family members will die some day but no matter how cognizant we are of that fact, it seems as though one is never really ready when it actually happens. And the whole thing happened so quickly that I am still in disbelief.

And of course, Trump somehow got elected and turned my world upside down.

And THEN I injured my foot just this past Friday when I missed a step in an art museum. (what a metaphor- my foundation has disappeared!)

Digression: I was having the most lovely time with my son who had had the day off from school. We had just come from his student conference which he led from start to finish. Proud mama, I must say. It’s his last year at this school- he goes to middle school in the fall. Seems like this whole year is full of transitions…my daughter is also going to a new high school.

I spent the whole weekend icing and elevating my foot and it really made me slow down. I am usually racing from one thing to another- mostly in my mind- until I get overwhelmed by the sheer number of to-do’s I create for myself.

Garfield stressed

So there I am lying on the couch, surfing Facebook (ok, it’s not what I did ALL weekend- I actually finished a book!) – oh, some backstory here: I had noticed some time ago that a Facebook friend (a classmate from middle school) had started posting daily gratitudes. I would glance quickly at them–“oh, that’s cool. Let’s see what so and so is up to now”– but while I was stuck on the couch this weekend, I noticed she had posted her 60th-something gratitude!

A light bulb sort of went off for me at that point. I had a flashback to my Peace Corps days when my morale was low and the rainy season prevented the mail from being delivered (my roommate and I really depended on that connection with our family and friends). I would draw upon my reserves of positivity and remind myself the rain was only temporary, we were having an amazing experience, I was making a difference, I had a cool boyfriend, etc. And I would feel grateful having had this unique opportunity to serve in the Peace Corps. That positive attitude has served me well up to this day but has definitely taken some hits in the past year.

Then really soon after that I was talking with a childhood friend who had lost her parents some years ago, about a) how time takes away the pain of grieving and b) remembering that they were such a positive part of her life.

And then I realized when you verbalize a gratitude, some of the positivity starts to seep back in. I notice it every week when my family does Friday night gratitudes at dinner time. We share what we are thankful for and what we are looking forward to. It really brings a certain lovely energy into the space.

So I am going to try and make time to write down my gratitudes every day for as long as I can. Here we go as a start:

I am grateful to have had parents who loved and supported me unconditionally throughout my life. (ok, this is making me a little teary, so I am not sure it is making me feel positive right now, but I know deep down it will in the end)

I really am fortunate because I work for an amazing organization that helps people become resilient by nourishing them and providing resources and connections with others via our food bank and resource center. Many of these people have experienced adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Research as shown that the greater the number of ACEs, the increased likelihood there will be negative outcomes in one’s life.

My parents were good people and were staunch advocates for me. Just knowing this on a cellular level only reinforces how I want to be with my own children and grandchildren: supportive, loving, nonjudgmental, generous, and welcoming.




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Things you can do to be an activist

I can be silent no longer! I have really missed blogging. And with all the madness that this election has generated, I realized maybe I could help people sift through the ways to be an activist. As a white woman I recognize I am privileged. And as a woman with a disability, I understand what it is like to be marginalized. But I want to help our city and our country find ways to come together in solidarity.

I am going to try and post ways you can get involved- just a few ideas each time, so it’s not too overwhelming. So far, I have shown up at marches and a city council meeting. I have even brushed aside my dislike of calling strangers on the phone and called a few Senators. It feels good. It feels like things are moving in a positive direction in spite of the ridiculous actions by our President.

  • From Business Insider: “It’s hard to separate Donald Trump’s businesses from his politics. As a result, some are calling for a boycott of the president-elect’s business empire and other companies that sell Trump products.”

Read more here.

  • If you want something to do every day, go to Daily Action Alert to find out what you can do.
  • If you want to write to Paul Ryan– apparently he doesn’t get mail delivered to his home.–PO Box 771 Janesville, Wisconsin 53547. His address, just in case, is 700 St. Lawrence Avenue Janesville, WI 53546. Write to him expressing opposition to repealing the Affordable Care Act.
  • Ten Actions for the First 100 Days! Find out what they are here.
  • Trump Cabinet Confirmations Blockade created and managed by Indivisible Washington State (formerly Pantsuit Washington State Chapter): Check out this spreadsheet of who is up for confirmation and the issues and contact info for each.

Finally, I want to include this great letter by someone in NH to the Conway Sun newspaper:

To the editor:

A letter to our youth: You asked me why women were holding marches. “What’s the point?” you asked. “You can’t change anything. You can’t stop him from becoming president.”

Nope, we can’t, or at least, we didn’t. But women don’t like it when we’re told we can’t do something. We didn’t like being told we couldn’t vote. We didn’t like being denied the same access to education and athletics afforded to men. We didn’t like being told we couldn’t earn equal pay for equal work, and still don’t. We didn’t like being limited to non-combat roles when we chose to serve our country in the military. We also don’t like being told we aren’t qualified for a job because we are pregnant or because we are mothers. We don’t like being told it’s wrong to fall in love with another woman. We have never liked being told what we can and cannot do with our own bodies.

When we don’t like something, we do something. In 1920, we passed the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, giving women the right to vote. In 1960, we got the FDA to approve birth control pills. In 1963, we convinced Congress to pass the Equal Pay Act, which requires employers to compensate women with equal pay for equal work, though women still make 78 cents for every dollar earned by men, and black and Latino women make even less. A year later, the Civil Rights Act made it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of gender or race. In 1972, Title IX of the education amendments banned sexual discrimination in schools, guaranteeing women equal access to education and athletics. A year after that, the Supreme Court passed Roe v. Wade, guaranteeing women the right to choose to have a legal and safe abortion. Let’s not forget the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act; the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act; the 1994 Violence Against Women Act; the 2009 Fair Pay Restoration Act; the 2013 lifting of the ban on women serving combat roles in the military; and the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that the Constitution guarantees the right to same-sex marriage.

(IP: And here is what I really liked:)

How did all this change come about? We held conventions, wrote letters, formed associations and leagues, engaged in debates, filed lawsuits, got arrested, and yes, we marched. Our new president took his oath of office only a few days ago. We march because we want to make sure he knows we are here, we are paying attention to what he does, and if we don’t like what we see, we can and we will do something about it.

Ishi Hayes

Jackson, NH

You ARE making a difference!!!



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Inspiration: Being Outside in Nature

Wow, it has been a while since I have written. This year I took a contract as an Interim Executive Director of a local nonprofit, which took much of my time and energy, plus I was still working for FamilyWorks.

Now as fall begins, it’s a time for reflection as I ponder next steps in my career (I completed my contract at the end of June). Inspiration often bubbles up when I start writing again.

I’m feeling inspired by Wilderness Awareness School these days.

My son (10 y.o.) has participated in their summer camps for the past two years. My daughter (teen), did a camp last year.

The organization’s mission says it all: We are committed to providing transformational and educational experiences that deepen students’ connections with nature and the people with whom they interact, and allow them to more fully reach their potential in life. Our community of students includes people of all ages who understand and thrive on their connection to the natural world around us.”

I really resonate with this mission. My family gets a kick out of being outdoors at every opportunity (well, ok, it’s mostly the adults, but the kids soon follow suit), so their summer camps have been a great fit. When I was a child, spending time in the great outdoors was not a priority for my family. We rarely camped, hiked, or spent time at the beach. It wasn’t until I became an adult and started traveling, joined the Peace Corps, then meeting my husband (who practically lived in the outdoors), that I became a die-hard fan of nature.

This summer, my son took a week-long day camp with Wilderness Awareness School at Seward Park, one of Seattle’s most wonderful parks. He explored the park all day, every day with fellow campers. He would come home each day exhausted and sweaty, but thrilled about seeing an owl in a tree, hearing bird calls, naming the Stellars Jays, and playing fun games in the forest.


This was my view of Mt. Rainier from Seward Park, when I came to pick up my son each day at camp!


On the last day of camp, his counselor wrote a note to my son. Here’s an excerpt:

I’m so happy you were a part of the Stowe-Jay Flap Flaps this week! Your focused, friendly, scouty energy was a gift to the group this week. You have the makings of a true scout— I loved watching you play fire-keeper with such focus and you were a great role model when we stalked up on those turtles. I also appreciated your knack for remembering the naturalist information we learned; it seemed like you always remembered that trees and bird calls!”

 One of my son’s summer assignments for school was to write about connecting with a person he did not know very well. He chose his camp counselor from Wilderness Awareness School. The counselors really know how to make the kids feel welcome and connected to the group.

One day, just before school started, our family was trying to figure out what to do on a somewhat overcast day (the temperature had dropped from the 90’s the day before to the 60’s!). Even though it was a little cooler, it was still pleasant, and we wanted to take advantage of the last days of summer.

My son’s face lit up as an idea came bursting forth. He suggested going to Seward Park and leading us on some of the trails he had explored. I thought to myself, wow, he really found such joy and confidence from being in Seward Park with Wilderness Awareness School.

So off we went to the park to explore. It was actually the first time I had explored the park at length (and I have been in Seattle 20 years!). He remembered certain trails he had been on and would stop and point something out…here’s where we saw the owl…here’s where we played “fire”… It was really neat to see him brimming with self-confidence at finding his way around and clearly enjoying being in the park.

It was so much fun! And I am hoping to continue the fun- we have signed both kids up for the monthly Nature Skills camp starting in October!

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Headbands: An Opportunity for Compassion

Ever since the World Cup games several years ago, my son has become very interested in sports. He has tried out (in this order) ultimate frisbee, soccer, and most recently, basketball.

My son uses two cochlear implants to hear, and because basketball is pretty physical with lots of body parts moving around, the implants are in danger of getting knocked off. They are held in place pretty securely by an ear mold, but anything can happen. I had encouraged him to wear a headband to prevent them from falling off, but he refused, understandably, because he didn’t want to stick out as the odd player wearing something on his head. There was another player on his team who consistently wore a bright red headband, but still that didn’t sway my son.

Then the inevitable happened.

Garfield stressed

It was the second game of the season. My son was playing during the first period and not even three minutes into the period (there are eight minutes in each period), his implant went flying off. Maybe he bumped into another player whose arms brushed against them– who knows.

Apparently the implant was dislodged off of the tube that goes inside the ear mold which holds it in place. My son was momentarily confused as he rushed to pick it up and didn’t find the ear mold on it. All I know is, I am sitting on the bleachers experiencing that panicky feeling I didn’t want to experience as I watch the events unfold, and having it get stronger and stronger. I see him frantically searching for his implant, see him thinking he also lost his ear mold, see the game stop, see the coach come out to the court to help him look for the ear mold, feel the dead silence in the gym, and I am immediately flying (leaping? jumping?) out of my seat to reach my son who has run off the court crying from the humiliation and self-consciousness he feels.

I immediately look in his ear and see the ear mold resting in there, intact, called to the coach that we found it and the game resumed, thankfully.

My son was beside himself. After I comforted him and put his implant back together and back on his head, I told him it was time to go back in. He was reluctant and I thought for a teeny tiny second how easy it would be to just avoid all this and take him home. But instead I told him he couldn’t let this stop him from doing what he loved and perhaps we could talk about using a headband for future games. I told him his team needed him.

He went back in and lo and behold, a few minutes later, they came flying off again. Same scenario, him running off the court in tears, me rushing to him, comforting him, giving him a pep talk and encouraging him to go back.

After that incident, I immediately ordered a headband (in the most inconspicuous color possible- black) and when it came time to wear it for the next game, my son refused. Aside: my son is a very strong-willed young person and it is very common for him to say no to anything new. I told him he did not have an option. He went anyway, red-eyed and morose. However, that game went by without incident.

Before the next game, he asked me to put it on him (yes!).  As I watched the boys practicing, I noticed something was very different. It took me a minute to figure it out. Every single boy on my son’s team was wearing a bright red headband!!

Here’s what happened. The coach had seen that my son was struggling with this whole issue of his implants getting knocked off and seeing him feeling so self-conscious that he decided to order headbands for the whole team as a way of supporting him and making him feel like he didn’t stand out.

Gestures like that go a long way. It made me realize that even though people are watching what’s going on, they do care and are compassionate. Sometimes they simply don’t know what to do, but this coach, he just somehow knew he had to do SOMETHING. And for my son, I think he noticed that gesture and feels more a part of the team than ever before. Thank you, Coach, for that wonderful act of kindness. You make the world a better place.

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Adopting an Abundance Mindset

I found a neat website about fundraising for nonprofits and decided to submit a post for the November Nonprofit Blog Carnival, which is “a collection of the best advice and resources that consultants, support organizations, and nonprofits themselves are offering to the nonprofit community through their blogs.”

I’m trying to get back into the swing of things, having completed a great contract as an Interim Operations Manager for a nonprofit and being very busy planning my daughter’s amazing Bat Mitzvah. Now I have some time to devote to writing, as I figure out next steps. This seemed like a great opportunity to reflect on this past year and so I plunged right in.

The theme is “What are you doing to adopt an abundance mindset?” So, here it goes:

I was recently asked to step in and help an organization through a transition period. A staff member had been let go which meant the amount of work had increased exponentially for the rest of the staff, the majority of whom were part-time. Transitions and change are unsettling and can lead to a “deficit” perspective: “We don’t have enough money to do X” or “I don’t have enough time to do Y”.

People were demoralized and communication internally and externally was failing. Some good teambuilding was needed to create cohesiveness and the feeling that we are all in this together, working to fulfill the organization’s mission.

These four steps work well in improving workplace health and creating a culture of good will and camaraderie.

  1. Regular staff gatherings. Even if staff are incredibly busy, and this is so common at most nonprofits, make the time to get together regularly for staff meetings, either weekly or bi-weekly. In this way, staff will get more and more aligned with each other on moving the organization’s agenda forward. Make time for check-ins to allow people to share tidbits about their personal lives and what they are working on. A must: include food at these meetings!   Plan gatherings as a team outside of work- it is a wonderful way to get the full picture of who your coworkers are as people. Camaraderie increases and there emerges a spirit of good will that leaves you feeling like you want to jump for joy. Colleagues need to trust one another and feel like each has the other’s back.
  1. Create priority lists. If you are part-time, your to-do list is likely going to be overwhelmingly long. Create a list that is manageable, even if it means doing two things one day instead of three. This will leave you feeling empowered and full of hope when you cross off your accomplishments. This also helps with accountability—if others complain a task was not completed, you can whip out the priority list that has been set by you and your supervisor.
  1. When conflicts arise, remind staff there is a story to be told on both sides. There was a combination of staff who were “old-timers” and newcomers. The old-timers clearly had a lot of experience with the organization and the newcomers were bursting with energy and fresh ideas, many of which were dismissed. Reminders not to take it personally and to frame ideas in ways that help the old-timers feel validated go a long way. We all make up stories in our heads and chances are, they are not true.  Be curious. Ask the other person what their story is, so you have a better understanding about where they are coming from. “When you said this was a terrible image to use, what does it remind you of?” or “Instead of using this image, what are your thoughts about what message we need to be communicating?”
  1. Share stories about challenges and successes in your job. Sometimes we get so focused on our jobs that this creates a silo effect. It is important to share information so that everyone remains focused on achieving the mission. Sharing little tidbits about interactions with your target population can go a long way. “Sally’s mother shared with me that Sally feels like she belongs in the program.” or “When I asked for feedback about why we didn’t get the grant, they told me we were at the top of the list, however we need to focus more on outcomes.”
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A Note from Malawi

Remember my post about those two Malawians who received cochlear implants?

Well, Helen Brough, a clinical scientist in Audiology from Cambridge, England, who is currently volunteering in Malawi, found my blog post and wrote me a wonderful note in response to it. It’s a perfect validation that my husband and I made the right choice to go with Med el for our family. Here is her message:

“I just read your post about the 2 children who received cochlear implants last year in Malawi.  I am currently volunteering at the African Bible College Hearing Clinic and Training Centre (ABC HCTC) in Lilongwe, where the CI switch-ons were carried out, and follow up is being done.

I was here for 3 months last year, and was present at the appointment where Richard’s implant was switched on.  Now I’m back for a further 3 months.

Firstly, thank you for raising awareness of the exciting development that 2 children now have cochlear implants in Malawi, and also thank you for raising some very valid concerns.

Internet access isn’t great here, and I can’t access the Med-El article properly, however I think I’ve seen the picture you are referring to.  You are absolutely right that the children were swathed in bandages initially, and thanks to visa problems for the tech support staff coming in from South Africa, the duration between operation and switch-on dates was closer to 3 months (I’m sure this won’t surprise you as you know Malawi!).  I think the comment about the “all smiles” must have been journalistic licence.  Peter also told me that the children were very excited because they knew that there was the chance that they would be able to hear again.

I too was concerned about follow up support, and also realistic expectations.  The staff at ABC HCTC are doing a fantastic job at providing regular follow up, wonderfully supported by the Med-El team.  Richard is from Lilongwe, and Joyce is from Mangochi.  Like you, I was concerned that there was no speech and language therapist available to offer follow up, however I am amazed and incredibly happy to see the progress they are making.  Both children were selected by the audiologists here as having a good prospect of success – they sought candidates who had not been deaf for very long, had good speech prior to the illness that caused their deafness (malaria), and have supportive and motivated families.  Both Joyce and Richard are now in school and doing very well.

There have been problems – dust and humidity being of significant concern.  Med-El rather optimistically sent electric dehumidifying kits for the devices, although neither of them have electricity.  We found a jar of rice works, more or less.  Any tiny crevice gets clogged with dust very quickly, so they switched to Rondo devices, which have fewer pieces to go wrong.  Batteries are provided free of charge on a regular basis.

The clinic has to pay for and organize transport to get the children to clinic appointments.  For Joyce and her mum, they also have to provide accommodation and food.  The staff at the clinic go far beyond anything you would ever expect of a clinic in the UK, and I have the highest respect for them.

The outcome has been so successful that the implant team are set to carry out 2 further operations in February next year.  Again there are no guarantees about successful outcomes, but the audiologists are experienced and have sought hard to find children who are likely to do well.

A quick overview of a challenging situation:

  • There are currently only 3 permanent audiologists in Malawi, all from overseas
  • Rebecca and Peter Bartlett, Audiologists from Australia, designed and built the ABC HCTC and have worked here for over 5 years, providing the first (and currently only) purpose-built audiology facility in the country.
  • The Bartletts trained 6 Malawian Assistant Audiologists, 3 of whom are now in the UK taking their MSc Audiology.  Two will return to ABC, the other will go to Blantyre.
  • Another 6 ABC students are currently in training, and it is hoped they will graduate with a BSc Audiology
  • ABC HCTC staff, and also Courtney Caron (the 3rd audiologist) from Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Blantyre, carry out regular village outreaches providing primary ear care and audiology support for the entire country.

I’m very impressed with the ethics of Med-El from what I’ve seen.  The whole situation is a massive international collaboration, with the surgeon coming in from the UK, an equipment specialist from Germany, the implants and technical support being supplied from Med-El and of course the ongoing work of the HCTC here, all provided free of charge.”

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My Daughter’s Post about the Hiroshima Bomb

Singer Nana Kono welcoming Amy to the stage (Photo by Shiori Usui)

Singer Nana Kono welcoming Amy to the stage (Photo by Shiori Usui)

My 12 year old daughter never ceases to amaze me. She wrote an article about the bombing of Hiroshima– today is the 70th anniversary. We just came back from visiting that marvelous country and she participated in a goodwill piano concert.

Check it out here!

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My Good Deed for the Day

Today our family walked down to a neighborhood parade and on our way back home, ran into an elderly couple who could not remember where they parked their car. We stood with them on the sidewalk, trying to help them picture where they had left it. They didn’t seem to be terribly worried (the woman had this amazing grin on her face the whole time) and the man made a  few jokes here and there. They had thick accents and I wondered if they were Norwegians participating in the parade, which happened to be Syttende Mai, the 17th of May celebration of the Norway Constitution Day.

So we walked with them not even a block, when the man pointed excitedly to a parking lot and said, “That’s it!” And we ambled on over there and sure enough, their car was right there. We gave them directions to the freeway (clearly they do not have GPS on them) and we parted ways with big hugs and smiles from the woman and hearty handshakes from the man.

This event gave us warm fuzzies as we walked back to our house. We were glad to have been able to touch these people’s lives with kindness. It was a little bittersweet for me, because it reminded me of my own parents and where they are in their lives, attempting to maintain their independence and not having the easiest time getting around. I wish and hope they will be kind to the strangers they meet (my mother’s anxiety often gets in the way) if they ever need help as they navigate their new-ish environment.

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