Thursday, April 24, 2008

Operation Mother's Day: Rocks, Paper, Scissors

Some background...

I love paper. All kinds of paper... construction paper, scrap booking paper, BROWN paper (as you already know), butcher block paper, wrapping paper, tissue paper, card board (hard paper), and poster board. Basically there is no form of paper I don't like (and probably collect). And by extension, I do have a healthy collection of scissors. As for rocks... I got nothin'. I just thought the title was catchy. Though... I suppose I can think of a type of rock I wouldn't mind collecting...

A couple of years ago, I was interviewing students for a leadership position and decided I had finally come up with the PERFECT interview question. Nothing cuts to the chase - giving you insight into a person's creativity and imagination (two qualities I actively seek) faster than his or her best story about paper. That's right. You can ask about strengths and weaknesses; things they are most proud of; things they are least proud of; leadership and organizational styles; and the list goes on. But, if you really want to understand someone, you must ask them to tell you their best and proudest moment with paper.

I could make my first round of cuts just by eliminating those people who had absolutely NO idea what I was talking about. If the idea of using paper to create something of meaning completely escaped them, then I knew they would not enjoy hanging out with me and I would have a world of work ahead of me trying to "get them up to speed." The next set of people weren't sure if they knew what I meant, but they gave it a good old college try. They shared stories about a scrap book they started, a present they wrapped, or a journal they cherished. Assuming this second set of students possessed enough of the other qualities we were seeking, I gladly took them on, knowing I would have fun opening them up to whole new world of possibilities.

The third set of people - a very small percentage I might add - immediately understood the question I was asking, and almost seemed annoyed that it took me so long to get there. They immediately became one with their story, telling of homecoming floats made from chicken wire, glue, and tissue paper; palm trees built as props from nothing more than newspaper, flour, water, and bright colored paints; awards ceremonies where the coveted gifts of the evening were handmade awards from the finest, high-quality, thick paper and vellum that you could get your hands on; and whole themes, beginning with a handcrafted invitation, promoted with a creative and complimentary poster or promotional piece, and topped off with a sentimental keepsake made from paper. The acceptance letter for these students was usually signed before they ever made it down my hallway. It was with these students I was most eager to work... knowing that some great new tip or technique would come my way by year's end.

So imagine my excitement - when canvassing my community for favorite Mother's Day gifts - to discover that two of the gifts could be made with paper! We KNOW there are many more than that, as some ideas have already been shared earlier this week (pictures, my Apple-of-my-eye quotes, photos, heart shaped card board boxes with strips of paper revealing mom's best qualities etc...). Today's ideas not only allow us to honor the power of paper, but also two very deserving moms.

First, Andrea. Andrea needs to be my new best friend. She is the high energy aerobic instructor who teaches an early morning class at the gym that I need to frequent more than I do, but that I attend enough to know she is excellent at what she does (a run on sentence, I know. Now you are experiencing the same out-of-breath-feeling that I experience anytime I step foot in her class). Andrea is a self proclaimed new mom, without too many Mother's Days under her belt. Nonetheless, she knew exactly what the best gift was that she had received to date. Her son's preschool teacher had each student answer a questionnaire about their mothers. The questionnaire might have contained questions such as: The thing I love most about my mother is...; My mother is beautiful because...; I love it when my mom...; The thing my mom is best at is...; and so on and so on and so on. Kids Say the Darndest Things is an entire t.v. show based on the premise that children's uncensored answers to our questions are funny, sweet, and honest. I love the idea of this... and then imagine it mounted on nice paper or even matted and framed. Richard, if you're out there and reading this... make note!

Nadya is the second mom we are honoring today. Why do I love Nadya? Because she is the woman with the patience of a saint who takes care of Matthew and 19 other kids from Monday through Friday. Many mornings she - or her bright and cheerful counterpart, Barbara - meet Matthew at the door to greet him. They always use his name when wishing him a good morning and for that two-minute exchange make him feel like the most important child in the building. She fills his days with laughter, play, exploration, and what feels like a genuine affection for him. That, for me, makes her priceless... the most important "other woman" in town. As for Nadya's perfect paper present... a coupon book, co-created by her daughters and chock full of practical and extravagant treats. She recalled some of the coupons for me promising things such as: a clean bedroom; washing dinner dishes; a massage; and painting toe nails. Another great and attainable idea for dads and boy... could I think of a few things for which I would like a coupon?

In fact, let's use that as our segue... Today, instead of channeling our energy around a different gift category, let's brainstorm other fun things for which we would like a coupon OR fun questions that could be posed on a questionnaire completed by our children. And, alright... if you really want to... you can brainstorm other perfect paper presents.

As for me... I'm signing off until tomorrow and with 515 to go...

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