Friday, February 27, 2015

The Cow Crusader of Kindness

For two weeks in a row, the Cow Crusader of Kindness has made an appearance in Pocatello, it’s probably time she get a blog entry. (And after this, I HAVE to finish the one I’ve been working on about the “Cow behind my Capes” because the Cow Crusader of Kindness wouldn’t exist without her shiny purple cape and the woman who's made it.)
It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact beginning of the purple caped cow, but she came from CAKE.  The Pocatello/Chubbuck School District 25 launched a new award this year to celebrate and recognize kindness. It’s called the CAKE Award for Character, Attitude, Kindness and Encouragement. The School District’s spokeswoman approached me and asked if I’d be willing to make a monthly delivery of cupcakes to the student recipients, give a quick presentation of remarks included in their nomination form and tout the benefits of all that CAKE entails to a class of their peers. I didn’t have to think for very long in saying “YES!” And, it’s been a blast!
I’ve made four presentations in my cow suit so far. I’ve wanted to blog about each of them, but…well, they’re kids and this is the Internet. We’ve submitted a press release each month and a photo with the kids and the cow, so they’ll have a nice moo-mento, and that’s perfect. I don’t want to detract from their award by hounding the kids, parents, teachers and all involved for permission to put them in my blog. The CAKE award is about THEM, but hey—THIS blog is about ME and what being a part of the CAKE award has meant to me.

During my first presentation to a 5th grader at Jefferson Elementary, something felt like it was missing with just my cow suit alone. I asked my friend who made my red Cowculator cape if she’d make a purple one to go with my purple converse sneakers. She agreed immediately and I had a cape for the next presentation to the another fifth grader at Edahow Elementary.

The cape turned out to be too big and I almost tripped in the halls, so I had to ask my friend to hem it. When she hemmed it, she made a matching cape for my dog Bob out of the scraps. She’s also the one who made Bob’s cow suit. Bob died before he ever got a chance to join me in a CAKE presentation in our matching capes and cow suits. (He broke his neck while playing with his black lab friend Alli, and if you haven’t heard his story, you can read it and cry here.) 
Can't you just imagine us in matching purple capes?
My next presentation was to a second grader at Ellis Elementary. This presentation came at the time when some cows had escaped a meat packing plant in town and the city of Chubbuck was advised to be on the lookout for the rebel heifers. There was also road construction going on around Ellis and I couldn’t figure out how to get to the school. At one point, I was trapped in a subdivision driving around in my cow suit and new cape and I could SEE the school, but I couldn’t get to it. I was running late and had visions of running through people’s yards with my udders swaying and my cape flowing with 3 dozen cupcakes under my arm, because NO WAY could I be late!  Thankfully, I found my way.
It was this delivery when I introduced the Cow Crusader of Kindness to the kids. They loved it!
My fourth delivery is a main cattle-ist to today’s blog. I was slated to acknowledge a senior at Pocatello High School whose name is Robert. Bob had died less than a week before. School district officials offered to make the presentation for me, but I said absolutely not. I needed to put on the happy heifer, and surround myself with the energy involved with recognizing a CAKE recipient.  Besides, I used to call Bob “Robert” and I thought this was a definite sign that I should present.

I got to Poky about 20 minutes early to suit up. The presentation was going to be during Robert’s art class, which is in the building where the gym is—not the main building. I slipped into the restroom that is probably the one I used the most when I went to this high school 25 years ago. It’s right outside the gym where I played and practiced volleyball and basketball for hours. My initials and a turtle are carved in those bleachers along with those of thousands of others.
Donning the cow suit in public can be weird sometimes, and in a high school restroom, it seemed even a little weirder so I made sure to go into a stall for privacy even though class was in session and I was alone. I took my big purple Rubbermaid bin into the stall. It holds all of my cow suits (8 of them), Bob’s cow suit, my capes, his cape and the various sneakers I wear when I suit up. I’d forgotten about Bob’s cape and as soon as I opened the bin, his suit and cape were right on the top. I lost it right there in the Pocatello High School bathroom.

I didn’t even try to stop the tears while I put on my suit. I was overwhelmed with the emotion of Bob and also all of the reasons I was there in that bathroom at that moment.  My friend was kind enough to make my cape. OUR capes. Bob never wore his cape. My friends were unimaginably kind during the days following Bob’s death. When I used to use that bathroom, I was a rockstar athlete and student body president and had the world by their Rocky Mountain Oysters. I was going to somewhere grand and be someone grand, but there I was. Putting on a cow suit and bawling in my old high school bathroom. (I had to turn this mooood around and fast!)

It wasn’t just a cow suit. I had a cape now, too. And I *was* going somewhere grand. I was going upstairs to recognize a high school senior who’s had the guts to be kind and to march to his own drum and to be who he wants to be in spite of peer pressure we all have faced. (He is a former Mathlete and involved in their robotics team.) I was getting ready to give a pep talk to high schoolers about the power of kindness and the ability to become someone’s hero by simply encouraging them.
I found myself overcome with gratitude in that bathroom stall for being given the opportunity to create the Cow Crusader of Kindness and be the conduit of cupcakes that day. I decided right then to find out exactly WHO was behind the sponsorship of this CAKE award.

In addition to the cupcakes each week, the student and nominating teacher get a McDonald’s gift card and the school’s media center receives a $50 stipend to purchase books in honor of the student’s award. I had an idea who the gal was with our local McDonald’s franchise, but I had to confirm.
And by golly, I was right. Her name is Mary Johnson. (Hey—that was my mom’s name!) And I met her years ago when we were both getting our hair cut at the same salon at the same time. I asked my friend who does her hair when her next appointment was because I wanted the Cow Crusader of Kindness to show up and surprise her with a “thank you” for HER kindness in sponsoring this award.
(I wouldn’t say I stalked her, but rather I live-stocked her.)
Not only do I think it’s great to recognize and promote kindness in our schools (and, gosh, how about EVERYWHERE!?!) but I’ve also gained so much personally in the opportunity to meet these students and nominating teachers.

So, here she is. This is Mary Johnson with the local McDonald’s franchises and The Cow Crusader of Kindness saying “thanks” with a secret and independent CAKE presentation for the month of February. And those are to-die-for cupcakes from Cake Creations There can never be too much CAKE. Never.  Truly--thank you Mary for helping me share and celebrate a little CAKE with kids.
I surprised her mid-appointment & ran to McDonald's,
so we could take our picture AFTER the cut and style. 

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