Saturday, January 5, 2013

Positive Message Box

The Idea

A friend at work told me she was making a box for a good friend of hers who needed a lift. She went on Facebook and asked people to send kind messages in, then she printed them and put them in the box. As she was telling me, I thought, Wow, that would be really cool to do for my mom.  Little did I know that the project would turn out as well as it did.  

I wanted to share because first, maybe one of you would like to do the project for someone you know, since I myself got the idea from a friend.  Second, because the things people wrote about my mother are truly beautiful and should be shared. And third, because this blog is about inspiring Hope and making lives better. I hope this inspires you to Pay it Forward this new year and do something kind for someone you care about! 

My message

Most of you don't know me, I'm the daughter of Rosie (Rosemary) Carney (maiden name Sonneborn). I'm writing to ask you a favor. I've found you through her email address book and writing them all, so I apologize if some of you are merely acquaintances of hers. Please disregard.  

My mom has led a life of service to others. In every job she's had, she's helped others improve their lives. From toddlers to preschoolers, 1st graders all the way to teens and adults. My mom has been a mother, wife, sister, grandmother, teacher, babysitter, scout leader, guardian, trainer, advocate and many others. Despite all she has done for others, she minimizes the affect she's had on individuals and her community, and may not even realize the scope of the difference she's made. Whether training girl scout leaders on how to inspire children, or advocating for the rights of the disabled and mentally ill, she has touched many. I told her that she is truly following in her mother's footsteps of putting others before herself and making peoples' lives better.
The past two years have been difficult for her. She was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease (she makes no secret of it, and posts often about it on her Facebook page) and the progression of the disease and its symptoms have made the past year increasingly more difficult for her.
My mom really likes positive affirmations. This year for Christmas I'd like to borrow an idea from a friend. If each of you could write something about my mother and send it to me, I'll print them all on cards and laminate them. We'll will put together a simple box to put the cards in, so that when she's having a difficult day, she can pick some of the messages from the box and read them, and get a bit of a lift.
Your message can be a few sentences, a paragraph, a poem, an entire letter. It can be funny or serious. It can be about your favorite memory together, your favorite thing about her, the difference she's made for others or for you, or anything else you can think of.
Thank you for taking the time to do this. Sorry for the late notice. Of course this is a surprise, so please don't say anything to her until after Monday!  If you get this message after Monday, you can still send your message and I'll give it to her to add to the box. 
Thanks and Merry Christmas

The Box

The messages  
(These are listed pretty much in the order I received them, except that I tried to put large and small responses next to each other to fit on the printed pages, to save paper. For this post I've colored every other response blue, simply for easier reading. Enjoy!)


This is meant to give you a lift when you are down, just as you have given me support when I have had tough issues to face.  As children, when we were left to our own devices, I remember you played games with me on the porch.  Such memories stay with one for some reason, and I can't help but feel it is because we rely on them when we are down.  You have always included my family in your family gatherings over the years, which have also been very supportive as a way to let off steam about the crisis du jour.  What I remember about your advice over the years is that it was always wise, thoughtful and caring.  Unlike some people we both knew in our youth, you did not try to "top the story" by comparing my problems to ones your own family had.  Your support has always been appreciated, and I hope when you need it you will come to me to help if there is anything I can do.



Rosie is:
a joy to talk to
very knowledgeable and fun to learn from
has great ideas for family
very generous
plays a huge role in helping the less fortunate of society
loves friends as family
is an AWESOME cook (lots of cookie memories)


I of course know Phil better than I know you, but Phil is such a wonderful person, and naturally it follows that his spouse must be a great person as well.  Or you're a great person for putting up with him. The two of you have raised three fine children as well.  And then there is of course your ability to put up with endless games of football at your dining table, and only a very small, elite group of people will understand THAT reference.


Dear Rosie,
You have made such a difference in my life. As my Girls Scout Leader, you truly helped guide me into the person I have come to be. I have so many fond memories of camping trips and activities you led. You also were a wonderful and caring friend to my Mom. She valued your friendship and similar world view very much. You are one of the good, selfless people in the world. The kind we need the very most.


I always remember how the Carney home was a warm and welcoming environment. God knows I spent countless hours there. One of my favorite memories was when Rosie helped us make homemade playdough. As many times I came and went through that door, the time we made playdough was a magical moment, as if we had done the impossible and created something others had to buy at the store. I will always remember and treasure the time spent at the Carney house on Picadilly Road!


What I remember about Rosie was---- She was always so calm, and collective when her children were young. You never heard her out yelling down the sidewalk at them. ( like me ) lol !! The kids stayed close to home, and were pretty well behaved . (other than Bobby giving Chuck a run for his money.) Ha ha!  We would just crack up, as Chuck would drive away, Bob was giving him the finger. Of course Chuck laughed too. Sheila, Bill, and Chad played school everyday of the world, I think. No wonder Chad and Sheila are teachers. ; ) Rosie and Phil have been good neighbors many years.


Though I don't see your mom often other than waving when we're backing out of the driveways, I've always been very fond of her. My favorite memory of her was being in "Women's Story Circle" together, several years ago, at the UUCC in Danville. Though I don't think she attended too many times, she was a wonderful story teller and an excellent writer and it was my privilege to be able to hear the stories she wrote. I also really enjoy her Facebook posts. I can tell from reading them how devoted she is to her beautiful grandchildren.
Happy Holidays!

I think she is wonderful person. She had liked the counted cross stitch I just finished and I had wanted to let her know that it was thanks to her and our troop the I learned counted cross stitch. One year in scouts we sat at ur parents kitchen table making these small cross stitch ornaments, and ever since I been doing counted cross stitch.

"Have patience with all things, but, first of all with yourself." St. Francis de Sales

Thank you for never giving up on me even though all the teachers did. Thank you for letting me know about mental illness and that our family has it. Thank you for always supporting me and loving me. You and Dad created quite possibly the closest most awesome family ever. I love you mom.


I consider you more like a sister than a sister- in- law.  Being an only child wasn't particularly lonely for me, nor do I regret the fact that I was one.  However, as life moves along and I get older, I am so grateful for the Carney family.  They have so generously accepted all of us into their group.  I feel Rosie has been the main conductor of the family-get-togethers.

Andy and I have been through some troubled times.  I have again been grateful for not only your advice but your gracious assistance during those times.  You are a great friend in so many ways.    

As we get older, it is easy to reflect on what we did right and what we did wrong.  Again, I am glad we are in the same location and are able to see each other and speak to each other whenever we feel the need.


"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but, people will never forget how you made them feel."  Maya Angelou

"Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit.  Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset." St. Francis de Sales

Your mother is a wonderful person. I have been blessed since I met her.

Rosie, it is a pleasure to know and work with you. Since I met you a couple of years ago I have learned a great deal from you about mental health, substance abuse and the many illnesses that can occur when they interact. You always make others feel that we are a valued part of the team and are working together to help clients improve their lives.  I respect your firmness with clients, team members and providers when they can do more better.

When discussing guardians with my coworkers, your name ALWAYS is mentioned along with a wish that we could clone you or at least find many more like you. Thank you for all of your knowledge, compassion, love and passion in all that you do.


I think Rosie is an amazing woman and I am happy to be able to work side by side with her to better the lives of the individuals we serve! Thanks for all you do!


I have several favorite memories of my friendship with Rosie.

First, were the 2 years she was my son's pre-school teacher.  Rosie was always so patient with the kids and the parent volunteers.  She provided a safe, fun, and creative environment for the children's first experience with "school."  Thank you Rosie.

My second favorite memory with Rosie are the many "girls-night-out" dinners we've shared through the years.   We've eaten dinner at many restaurants, but we seem to gravitate to the Paragon.  No matter where we go, we spend a few hours solving the world's problems.  If only they'd listen to us Rosie, the world would be a perfect place!

My third favorite memory with Rosie is from December of 2011.  I had the pleasure of accompanying Rosie in delivering Christmas gifts to her clients.  It was so interesting for me to see where her clients live and she introduced me to several of them.  A very fun day.

They say that people come into our lives for a reason.  I don't know if this is true or not, but I am so very grateful that Rosie came into my life.  I am a better person for my friendship with her.


"When you encounter difficulties and contradictions, do not try to breach them, but bend them with gentleness and time."    St. Francis de Sales

"I am in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing." Louise Hay

"Happiness is not in things; happiness is in you." Robert Holden

Thank you for giving me an opportunity to let Rosie now how much I appreciate what she did for me AND for many, many other families coping with the challenges of mental illness. BTW: I did not know of her unfortunate dx.  That’s Rosie to be open and up front about it, showing grace, grit and humor.
And, she has raised a very kind and compassionate daughter too. Thank you!

You offered wise guidance and support to one very bewildered new state employee at DMHA.  So many times, you were the only one I could count on for honest advice and guidance. And, you encouraged me to always keep in the forefront the capacities of folks with challenges to achieve health.  You had insight beyond anyone else in that place….I could not have achieved even the modest things I did without your honest reminder keep it real, and forget the rhetoric.
One vivid memory of Rosie:  returning from speaking to a group of CMHC folks about DMHA plans.  I was very unsure, and sensed their hostility.  You reminded me of the real message and what the mission should be, rather than my insecurities.

God bless Rosie, sending you strength for your journey.

One of your favorite movies is “It’s a Wonderful Life.” In the spirit of that movie, I’m going to list experiences I never would have had if it hadn’t been for you.

Girl Scouts: Through scouts, with you as a leader, I learned how to make new friends, camp, sail, sing; I learned that kids with special needs aren’t scary, that we all have talents, and what it means to be a team player. Girl Scouts taught me critical thinking, and perseverance, and leadership.

Music:  You sang to us when we were small.  You helped me sign up for piano and oboe lessons, and drove me to said lessons every week, and to all my band events until I could drive myself. Because of you and dad, music is a part of who I am.

Creativity: You stayed home with us and created playhouses, activity books, and playdough. Because of you, I can keep busy when I have downtime. I enjoy making things for others. And I can use the resources I have to do what needs to be done.

Reading: You took us to the library and taught us that reading was important. I learned to love libraries because of you.

Charity: You taught us that we couldn’t receive a gift from Santa without first giving one ourselves. You reminded us, by delivering meals at Christmas and volunteering at the group home, to be grateful for our blessings, and to share them with those less fortunate.

You taught me about sacrifice. I have several memories of you, during my youth, giving up your share so that your children could have what they needed. It was during those moments that I learned what love was, and courage, and what it meant to be a Mom.

Because you taught me what’s important, I have been able to be a good mother to my children. Thank you for teaching me and loving me, and for being a wonderful Mom.

Love,  Sheila

Rosie is a lovely name for a woman who is beautiful, both inside and out. Rosie has many talents but she is especially creative with her hands.  Her homemade gifts mean so much more than a store bought gift because they come from the heart: I remember the sailor dress she made me that I wanted to wear everyday; the chimney sweep needlepoint in Germany; the red corduroy dress for Theresa’s third Christmas; the portrait from my college photo; and the perpetual calendar that she finished after Mom died and still hangs in our dining room.

She was my maid of honor and I was hers.  She understood, the way no-one else could, when Daddy died.  She wrote a beautiful poem, and gave me Dad’s gold wedding band on a gold chain to wear around my neck.  She was there with her family at my first Granddaughter’s funeral, and she and Sheila were also there for my second Granddaughter’s baby shower.

Thanks Rosie for being my sister and my friend.  
Mary Ann


You have always supported us and loved us unconditionally.  You put up with all of our crazy shenanigans like bringing home every creature we could find from the creek.  You've taught us tolerance to others and to try not to judge too harshly.  You have also been such a positive influence in your work and stood up for people that needed it and that has made us all proud.  In addition to being a great Mom, you are a wonderful grandma and the grandkids adore you. I love you Mom.


Rosie-I admired you for all the work you did with the Girl Scouts.  I thought it was wonderful that you and Sheila could share those experiences together, like camping out.  You must have helped a lot of girls.

Lulu May

I worked with your mom briefly and she was so dedicated to her client and always interested in her well being! It was great to see someone who was genuinely caring and so well informed!



Your boss once said that if he ever needed a guardian, he hoped it would be someone like you.  Many of our kids' friends wished they could have a Mom like you.  Many of my friends wish they could have a wife as understanding and supportive as you.  

Our family is sure glad we don't need to wish -- we have the real McCoy.  

All My Love,

My Aunt Rosie has been one of my heroes throughout my whole life. She took me in and helped me to learn responsibility as well as respect. She helped raise me while my parents had the hardest time with me. She took me in during some of the roughest parts of my life. I will always love my aunt for the strength she always has and the courage she has to face her own obstacles. She will always be one of my heroes and I believe everyone should have the chance to say thank you, for being the woman of wisdom and character she is.


You know, of the few people from Brownsburg I miss, your whole family is near the top of the list.


I truly miss you, Phil, Bill, Bob, and Sheila. You all always had plenty of time and space for everybody, and always treated each visitor to your home like family.  You truly exude love and pleasantness, and I still smile every time I think of the experiences in your house. I wish more parents showed as much love, kindness, intelligence, and humor as you two did, and from how it looks, still do towards your grandchildren.

I hope I can get down to the Indy area soon and come say hello!

One of your many extra sons,


Merry Christmas!

When I was 18 years old I took a job at the local Brownsburg Pizza Hut. Since it was not my first Pizza job, it didn’t take me long to “master” the duties of pizza maker.  What I wasn’t ready for was one of my fellow employees who was a bit different.  Though it was long ago I believe she was part of a state funded vocational program that employed differently abled individuals into positions in line with their ability levels. This particular individual helped us to bus tables, take out the trash and clean the dining room tables and floors, simple tasks that every restaurant employee has done hundreds of times.
Occasionally a case worker would check up on these individuals and this person’s case worker was someone I recognized. Rosemary Carney, or Mrs. Carney, as I only knew her then as Bill and Bob’s mom. I distinctly remember thinking “Crap, no more slacking off at work, my friends mom is here.” I guess I was still under the impression that all parents talked and now I was being watched.
What I noticed first was that Rosemary didn’t seem to recognized me, or didn’t care what I was doing. She had her hands full helping her client. What I really took note of was her supreme patience with her client. Sometimes explaining the same thing over and over again, or walking her through the same tasks multiple times until she latched onto the pattern.  It seemed a tireless and thankless task.
That could have been where my life lesson ended, but alas, it was only the beginning. The cooks has been taking the job of dishwasher on a rotating basis as we had been without a dishwasher for weeks. Then one day our assistant manager announced that our salvation was at hand, we had a new dishwasher.  He was part of the same vocational program, or so I assumed. His name was Bubba and was going to be washing dishes for us on Friday and Saturday nights, our busiest shifts.
Then my manager dropped the Bomb. “Tim, take Bubba back to the dish pit and show him around. You’ll be training him back there tonight.” I am not proud of my instinctual response, but regardless of my objections, my job was in the dish pit that night, training Bubba.  As Bubba’s skill level became apparent my mental plea was “Where is Mrs. Carney?” but alas I was alone and Bubba was looking to me for answers. My mind flashed back. Patience and Repetition.  The two things I could remember Mrs. Carney doing. It’s all I had to go on.
Needless to say we all ended up in the dish pit on Friday and Saturday Nights helping Bubba finish up the dishes.  Bubba might not have gained much from his short time with us in the summer of ‘98’ but I know I did. Bubba might have been the first but certainly wasn’t the last kitchen employee I was given to train and over the years it became a specialty of mine. “Give the new guy to Tim” I’d heard so many managers and Chefs say.  I suppose I owe a piece of that skill to Mrs. Carney, thanks to two principles I still use today to train others. Patience and Repetition.

Thanks Rosemary,

Your mom has been a fabulous advocate to the people she serves and an inspiration to those who work with her!


When I would come home with you to your house when we were in college, your mom always made me feel like I was welcome and part of the family. She is a very giving lady! She has raised great children!


Rosie works with people that society either does not know of or care about--people with severe physical and intellectual disabilities and mental illness.  Most have been financially exploited or neglected, and many have been physically and psychologically abused.  All have been judged and essentially abandoned by society.  Rosie is able to see beyond bizarre or aggressive behavior, foul odors, or coarse words to the humanity within each of the people she works with.  She has a deep empathy and an unfailing moral compass that often leads her to be the voice of dissent.  She has the courage and intelligence to stand her ground in those circumstances and do what is in the best interest of those she protects.  She has the heart of a true advocate.

It is impossible to know how many lives she has changed for the better; suffice it to say there are many, including me.  When the world seems impossibly cruel and stupid, I know I have a friend who cares for everyone, even the most vulnerable and rejected among us.

This quote reminds me of her:

“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world...would do this, it would change the earth.”
― William Faulkner



TeacherJ said...

This was so beautiful. What a wonderful gift! We did something sort of similar for Andy's dad on his 70th birthday. I asked everyone in the family to write something and then I recopied it into a nice leather journal. He loved it and has used the journal since to add his thoughts when the family does things together like a family vacation, etc. Just thought I would add that for anyone thinking about doing this. If you're intended recipient is someone who journals, that is a good way to present it, too.

Sheila Damron said...

Neat idea Jesica! I kept going back and forth in my head whether I would make a box or a little book. The box won out since I waited until the last minute. :) I like the idea of a journal because you could keep adding to it later.