Saturday, May 31, 2008

Garage Sale Fun!

First things first!

Heather is the lucky winner of the wine charms, guessing dead on that thirteen is Wendy's favorite number. Heather, if it's ok... I will present them to you in person when I see you in Texas on Monday. Can't wait! Thanks to everyone else for participating. Stay tuned for the next Freebie Friday, coming your way sooner than later.

This week was dedicated to the idea that one man's trash is another man's treasure. It seems only fitting then, that today... Saturday... we would finish the week off by celebrating a great American tradition. Garage Sales!

To be honest, I have never been an avid garage-sale-goer. I spend a good majority of time trying to get rid of things in my house, so shopping garage sales in order to purchase something that will pass back over my threshold has minimal appeal.

I do, however, have one fond memory of a garage sale. When I was in college my mother visited a garage sale and bought an old pair of lace gloves. When she got the gloves home she reached her hand inside and pulled out $1,600! My mother was generous enough to divide the money up between me and my two sisters. How about you? Do you have a good garage sale story?

And, if you don't have a story... how about a favorite garage sale tip for buyers or sellers? Tis the season for garage sales, so the more information we have the better.

Today I will stop at a garage sale! I will stop on behalf of highlowaha and our next fun venture... beginning bright and early on Monday morning. I'm not quite sure what I'm looking for (isn't that a song?), but... oh, I'll know it when I see it! Tune in Monday to find out what I bought and why.

In the meantime, why not veer from your original plans for the day and spontaneously stop at a garage sale you see advertised along the road. Not in the market for anything? Then, how about magazines, bottle caps, and National Geographics for Wendy... or better yet, an old pair of purple cowboy boots for our favorite New Yawka, Maureen.

Signing off until Monday...

Friday, May 30, 2008

Free-bie Friday: A Fun New Feature

ATTENTION: Today is Taste of USA for Alaska, Tennesee, Michigan, New York, and Idaho. If you are a resident of anyone of those states and want to win the chance of a fun-filled afternoon of brainstorming and prize-winning, then click on Taste of USA and tell us what you love about your town.

I feel as though, when the planets align as they did yesterday, I am being affirmed that yes, hosting a blog where creativity and community meet up is an important and noble contribution. There's no question it is fun and rewarding, but I assert it is actually IMPORTANT. Read on...

Today is Friday. Typically Free For All Friday. But, for quite some time I have been mulling over a new idea. Freebie Friday. This, as it turns out, is the perfect week for its official launching.

I've thought it would be fun to periodically, on a Friday, give away free items. In the spirit of creativity, however, I thought it especially fun if the items I gave away would be sponsored by creative people - even artists. I mentioned this to Wendy, a woman I met through my sister in-law. As it turns out Wendy is an artist who uses textures and cool patterns to create collages and other items. She is a go-getter and immediately volunteered to make me a set of wine glass charms (the kind you use to distinguish whose glass is whose at a social gathering).

As I said, Wendy is a go-getter, so days later she called me up informing me they were ready for pick up. My idea was officially a reality. I've been hanging onto them for over a month now, just waiting for the perfect time to give them away, but not in any real rush. They are the first... and ONLY giveaway I have in my possession. Once I give the gift away... (1) you, the readers, will expect future freebies, and (2) I will be out of stock - requiring me to get busy recruiting more artists.

Wendy's wine glass charms are not only great, but they are made from bottle caps! That made THIS Friday the perfect week for giving them away. This is, after all, the week dedicated to turning trash into treasures. It goes without saying this is exactly what Wendy did, using bottle caps, beads, and cool paper.

I considered it a little anti-climatic to simply give the items away, so in my effort to make the experience a little more climatic - even creative - I decided I would not only feature the artist responsible for Friday's freebies, but also that I would conduct a little interview posing questions about creativity.

So, here goes my first attempt. Have grace as I jump in to this experience having no idea what I am doing, but eager to improve. I've already apologized to Wendy ahead of time for not doing justice to the truly remarkable woman she is. Read to the end, as there is a fun little twist I think you all will be interested in seeing, as well as instructions for winning Wendy's creation!
Wendy, where do you get your creative inspirations?
I pull my inspirations from all around me. It could be a patterned pillow; old Christmas cards; a magazine clipping; or a drawing by my son, Dillon. I work at night a lot when my husband is being a couch potato. Sometimes my idea will come from something I see on the t.v. when looking up to talk to him. Right now the project I'm working on is titled, Red Neck Americana. The idea behind it is, things not politically correct, but made interesting through art.

You alluded to the fact that you collect a lot of things. What kinds of things do you collect and where do you keep it all (for the neat freaks in us)?
It's all in my garage in card board boxes (laughing). I collect things like bottle caps, of course; scraps of cardboard; metal, wood; Kleenex boxes; National Geographic magazines; tons of stuff.

Have you always considered yourself creative?
My mother and father were both creative. My mom was also a stay at home mom, but she also sang for the Fort Worth Opera Company. My dad was kind of a Jack of All Trades. His job was as a pilot, but he could always be found doing woodworking, sketching, or playing his guitar. I guess you could say I grew up in a creative environment. They were also very affirming and encouraging of me. They told me repeatedly never to not do something you really wanted to do.

You mentioned that your son, Dillon, draws. Did he inherit your creativity?
I guess so. When he was a toddler and I would work on a project using exacto blades and glue, I would have to give him his own tools and supplies to play with so he would stay out of mine. I would give him things like paper and Playdo. I guess he just kind of grew up around creative things. I can remember going through notebooks of his and being so frustrated at pages and pages containing the same drawings. We recycle paper and cans, so it just seemed like such a waste. I realized later, though, that he was repeating himself in an effort to improve his drawing.

It sounds like you affirm his artistic abilities.
Yes, and even his grandfather (my dad) sends Dillon books of his sketches in exchange for Dillon sending sketches back. I think he does see himself as good at art.

What else do you like to do, when not raising your son or creating art?
I like to run. When I was little my dad was in the navy, so he would be gone for long periods of time. When he was in town we would run together and that kind of became our sacred time together. I've done one marathon and intend to run in another one in November. I've also run three half marathons.

Yeah, I've always thought I'd like to run a marathon before I die.
Actually, there's a cool website I love to visit called People go to the website to list the forty-three things they would like to do before they die. If anyone on the site has done one of things on your list, he or she can comment on it or make recommendations. It's pretty cool.

So, what else is on your list of 43?
Well I don't have forty-three things yet, but some of the others are sky dive, take Dillon to where I used to live in Greece, travel around the world on a ship, and travel the perimeter of Ireland visiting every pub along the way.

So, one more question before I let you go. Yesterday highlowaha readers brainstormed things you could do with an Altoid Container. The suggestion was made to turn it into a table where people could take a treasure and then replace it with something new. As an artist, what do you think of that?
I can't recant the forty-minutes worth of energized brainstorming that ensued afterward, so suffice it to say... the very talented Wendy is going to help us create our table! Tera, Cheryl, and Patrick... THANK YOU for feeding off of one another and generating this FANTASTIC idea. We will continue to consult with you as it is being developed. In the meantime, know that it is IN THE WORKS!

Moral of Story... Life... and, yes, even highlowaha is about capturing people's creative energy in order to do something... to create something bigger and better than you could create by yourself. We are on this earth for a short while. We should seize every opportunity to commune with others with the intent of improving something! This brilliant Altoid Mystery table will most certainly brighten the corner of one little coffee shop tucked away here in Grapevine, Texas. Or, maybe not. Maybe the outcome will be bigger and better than anything you or I could imagine. We don't know. What I do know... yesterday creativity met community and because of it something good is happening.
To win the wine glass charms...

To win the set of twelve wine glass charms from the talented Wendy, simply send a post with your guess of her favorite number. Clue. It is between 1 and 50. The first person to guess (or come closest by 10:00 tonight) will win.

Don't win, but wanna get a set (great teacher gift by the way)?

She typically makes them in sets of four and sells each set for $15.00. She also makes bottle cap magnets for $5.00 each. Wendy's email address is

Signing off until tomorrow...

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Contain Yourself!

Today we will share other people's transformation of trash and talk about my minor obsession with things that hold things... CONTAINERS! I suppose it is related to my mom's love of Altoid Containers (great job on Whacking that yesterday, by the way), but my obsession is not specific to any single product. Basically, if you sell something and it comes with cool packaging, the value of it increases exponentially and in some cases, can be responsible for my brand loyalty.

I'll explain further, but first a brief note...
The mailman just came and went yesterday and either she FORGOT my mail bag filled with postcards or nobody... not one of you... took five minutes to jot your mailing address on a postcard and send it to me. I knew you were going to think I was talking to someone else. I knew it.

So, I'll try again. For all new comers, old-timers, and lurkers of Eager Beaver looking to do acts of kindness. Send postcard with your mailing address to 4012 Harvestwood Court, Grapevine, Texas 76051 and see if you're the lucky recipient of a random act of kindness. Remember... if you don't want to, you don't have to include your name.

Now onto containers.

There are 
all kinds of containers and packaging I love to collect. Red boxes from Talbot's are the perfect way to create fancy packaging for homemade coupons, redeemable for either a dinner of your choice; an outing of your choosing; or any of the other hundred ideas you can come up with. Shoe boxes from Stride Rite can be covered with contact paper, fancy wall paper, or decoupaged and used when packaging up a box of cookies. I used four Stride Rite boxes one Valentine's Day and covered them to look like white envelopes. When you lifted the lid there were lip shaped cookies on the inside. S.W.A.K! Brooks Brother's shirt and suit boxes make great Attitude Boxes (a whole idea we'll cover another day). The boxes pictured here came when I purchased stationary. I've been keeping them for something I want to make at Christmas. If you could see them up front you would agree, they are way too nice to simply throw away.

Boxes aren't the only containers I collect. My husband ordered a bunch of these white containers in order to do a temperature study at his warehouse. All I know is there were a few left over and I was the lucky recipient. I am trying to be judicious with them, so I've only used a few. Here's one I use to hold all my spare buttons.

I love Mott's Applesauce containers. I stalk my kids as they are eating a serving, in order to make sure they don't throw away the containers. I use them to hold paint when we're painting, beads, rhinestones, google eyes... any and all craft items. They're easy to wash out and to stack and store when I am finished.

O.k. enough about me and my the trash. Cassie sent me some fun pictures of two things she likes to keep... wire hangers and old socks. Check it out.
The socks become puppets and the hanger becomes a awire trellis for her potted plants! Ingenious, right?

  • Taste of USA: Yesterday was New York. Today is Tennessee and Michigan. Friday is the day that residents of the state should post the "taste of their state." If you have questions, click on the Taste of USA icon in the top right hand corner. Cheryl and Katie have done a nice job of presenting all the important information!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Whack on the Side of the Head Wednesday: Dumpster Dive

Sometimes when working with students in higher education you must engage in team building activities. We use them to get to know students better and to help students get to know one another. Every once in a while I participate in an icebreaker called, "I never." The purpose of the activity is to have each person contribute one, "I never" statement (I never... went scuba diving. I never... ate a peanut. Both are true, by the way). Someone then reads each statement aloud, while the rest of the group tries to determine to whom it belongs.

Thanks to my mom, I've always been able to offer up the one, "I never" statement that left everyone talking for hours afterward. Here it is... I never... have seen my mother in a pair of pants or shorts! It's true. I have NEVER - as in... not one second, of one minute, of one hour, of one day, of one month, of one year, in forty-two - have seen my mother in anything but a skirt or dress.

Yesterday my mom added another to the list. My mother has never... disposed of an Altoid Container. Now, I'm not exactly sure how many she has, but... she has NEVER thrown one away. I did not know this about her. Yesterday afternoon we were talking on the phone about my theme for this week's blog. When I told her it was about creative uses for what others might consider trash, she chimed in, "Oh, I have a great one for you." It was then she revealed her obsession with the perfectly-sized, sturdy, and practical tin in which Altoids are packaged.

At that moment the subject of today's whack was born. Empty Altoid Containers. What possible uses could there be for an empty Altoid container? My mother said the only thing she could think to do is... stack them on top of one another, drill a hole through them, wire it, add a funky shade, and turn it into a fun lamp. It is safe to say... that would NEVER have occurred to me... which begs the question... why am I the one hosting this blog and not my mom?

But she's not and I am, so instead... I'll resort to some back up from my friend von Oech and his Whack Pack. Now for the "whack."

See the Obvious. "Only the most foolish of mice would hide in a cat's ear," says designer Scott Love, "but only the wisest of cats would think to look there." Don't miss the obvious. What are you overlooking?" What's the most obvious thing you can do? What resources and solutions are right in front of you?

The obvious? The most obvious thing I can think of is continuing its use as a container. It held mints and mints make me think of money. Hmmm... the more I look, the more convinced I am it is the perfect size to hold a gift card (I just checked and bingo, I was right). Ok. I could use the Altoid container as a gift card holder, wrapping it with ribbon, and attaching a note stating, "You're worth a mint." or "Enjoy the mint."

Along the same lines... I could use it to hold change. Hmmm.... maybe I could begin filling them with quarters, so that by the time Ricky heads off to college (4 years), he has a "small mint."

It's made of tin and is the front is nicely framed in red with gold trim. A little less obvious... but I wonder if I (code for my husband) could remove (code for use one of his million tools) the white portion of the cover - the part that bears the logo. I would be left with a tin box, with a hole in the top, but framed with a pretty red and gold trim. Once that part was done, I could add a photograph to the top and a magnet to the bottom. It could still be used to hold things, but instead I could attach the box- made photo frame - to my refrigerator.

That's my whack at it. Now your turn. Hey, if someone comes up with something compelling, my mom has offered to send you the whole lot of them for experimenting.

Wait... one more. I just read today's entry to Richard and he wants to add one to the list. How about a candle? A peppermint smelling candle. His favorite part... close the top to snuff it out.

I never... will get my kids off to school if I don't sign off...NOW!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Stockings and So Much More!

Welcome back! I hope everyone had a great holiday weekend. I did and am now ready to jump into another fun-filled week of getting and giving creative ideas. Hopefully you are too.

I know I need to jump right into today's blog and save announcements until the end, but today I'm going to indulge myself and make one announcement up front. The rest will be at the end. If you did not read Saturday's blog (Zip-a-dee-do-dah, Zip-a-dee-ay), please go back. There's a proposition in there that I hope everyone will consider.

Ok... If you read yesterday's blog, you know the theme for the week is, "One man's trash is another man's treasure." This week we will look at a few things I have a really hard time getting rid of... and why. Maybe as the week goes on you will also share some of the items you consider treasures that others might consider trash.

At the expense of repeating myself... I like paper. I am not especially crafty or artistic, so stiffy bow baskets, needle point, crochet, pottery... none of these things are in my future. I do, however, get a charge out of making use of paper products that I collect along the way. Below are some examples...

The best part of wearing stockings (from my perspective, not my husband's) is the white piece of cardboard that comes in the center. That is, of course... unless you buy your pantyhose in an egg. I love those pieces of cardboard. They are the perfect size (6" x 9"). Crisp and white. Sturdy, but not so thick it feels like a clumsy piece of brown corrugated cardboard. I've designated an old magazine holder to collect these and other pieces of cardboard just like it (bedding usually has great cardboard inserts too).

Today in less than five minutes I combined: (1) Talbots Mircorfiber Opaque (control top... of course) Stocking cardboard insert; (1) quickly taken photo for the purposes of this project; and (1) advertisement from a magazine featuring a picture of an ornate gold leaf frame. Put them together and in less than five minutes, I voila... I have this fun little pic to send my mother. I added the yellow ribbon later.

Nothing stupendous, but it will be a nice little pick-me-up when it arrives in her mailbox in New York.
Here's another one... Nothing is cuter than a baby in a crisp and clean onesie....chubby legs showing for the world to see. Imagine my excitement the first time I bought a package and found narrow white pieces of cardboard rolled into each shirt. The pieces of cardboard are

1.5" x 5.5." The first time I laid eyes on one... "bookmark" immediately came to mind. I love them and think they make great homemade accents to accompany a top-selling birthday book. Today, I set five of them in front of Matthew with a big box of markers. It was just the right amount of coloring for him... and in the end, he made something functional.

So you see... I have a hard time throwing away cardboard, card stock, or any other piece of paper (magazine ads, decorative catalog pages, etc...) that I think can be used to make something fun. Granted, I could easily go buy a big piece of poster board and cut it down to size, but what fun would that be? This is all about finding the perfect use for the perfect piece of cardboard.

How about you? How do you reinvent your "garbage?"

  • Today begins week #2 of Taste of USA. Last week was fun, thanks to the hard work of Cheryl and Katie and still... I know we can do better with regards to our participation. Let there be no confusion... Here's all you need to know: (1) Today, tomorrow, and Thursday residents of the featured states AND non-residents should feel free to comment. (2) On Friday, only residents of states featured this week should post their favorite thing about their state. The winning state, receives a fun-filled afternoon of brainstorming, prize-winning, and community building!

  • This week's states are: Idaho, Alaska, New York, Tennessee, and Michigan.

  • On deck for next week: Illinois, South Dakota, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Arizona.

  • Matthew's first puppet show was a hit last night (for background, see Monday's blog, Scene Three, Take Two).

Monday, May 26, 2008

Take Two, Scene Three!

Maybe it's that I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed... or maybe it's the echo created by repetition that speaks volumes to me.  Whatever the reason... it took three separate incidents before I saw the common threads between each and, in turn, today's message about creativity.   

Join me in this little script.  Three scenes, each with two takes.  Take #1 comes from "Mom" with a capital "M."  That's the mom filled with self importance.  The mom whose to-do automatically trumps the seemingly less important needs of her children.  The second response comes from "mom" with a lower case "m."  This is the calmer more relaxed mom.  The mom I aspire to be.  This is the mom who not only stops what she's doing to give her undivided attention, but more importantly... this is the mom whom makes time to ask follow-up questions!   

Questions (and MKB) are the star of today's performances. 

Follow me through these three scenes and see how the most minor of changes can make all the difference.

Matthew (MKB) dragging a big brown box (which I already had in the garage for garbage pick-up) in my bedroom and coloring it, while I take a shower.  

Take #1:
MKB: Mom, come look at my space ship.
Mom: In a while, Matthew.  I'm drying my hair.
MKB: Ok. it's really cool.
Mom: (Looking inside the space ship).  Wow, that's really cool Matthew.  You worked really hard on your space ship.  You're going to have fun playing with that.

Take #2:
MKB: Mom, come look at my space ship
mom: In a while Matthew. I'm drying my hair.
MKB:   O.k.  It's really cool.
mom: (Getting inside the spaceship).  Wow, that's really cool, Matthew.  You worked really hard on your space ship.  Tell me, what do all these buttons and dials do?
MKB: (Pointing from one to the next)  This one gives you cherry bubblegum.  This one makes everything fluffy.  This one puts everything back the way it was.  This one catches bad guys by turning the space ship into a police car.  This one reads a book. This one dresses and undresses you...

And on and on Matthew went, listing the functions of about 15 different buttons and dials.

Matthew runs into my bedroom from the garage holding four strands of shimmery plastic necklaces. 
Take #1:
MKB: Mom, Why did you throw away my necklaces?
Mom: (Thinking, ooohhh... BUSTED!).  Oh, I'm sorry Matthew.  I didn't mean to.
MKB: (Putting the necklaces over his head).  Do you want one?  You can wear it on the weekends when you have to get dressed up.
Mom Ok. I'll take the purple one.
MKB You know they have magic powers, right?
Mom: No. Really?  That makes them extra special.  You're lucky to have necklaces with magic powers.  And, thanks for sharing one with me.  You're so generous.

Take #2
MKB: Mom, Why did you throw away my necklaces?
mom (Thinking, oooohhh...BUSTED!).  Oh, I'm sorry Matthew.  I didn't mean to.
MKB: (Putting the necklaces over his head).  Do you want one?  You can wear it on the weekends when you have to get dressed up.
mom O.k.  I'll take the purple one.
MKB: You know they have magic powers, right?
mom No, really?  Does each necklace have it's own magic power?
MKB (Face lighting up).  Yes!
mom: Tell me.  What does each of them do?
MKB: The red one turns the t.v. on.  The blue one makes you fall asleep.  The purple one turns on the dryer.  And, the pink one cools me down.

(At this point I'm thinking I'd like to turn my purple necklace in for the blue one).

Now I've got the hang of this question-asking thing.  Matthew just finished spreading eleven puppets out all over the living room floor.  We are hosting a puppet show for some people tomorrow night and we have to come up with a plot.  

Take #1
mom: Ok, Matthew.  Looking at all the puppets what do you think we can make our puppet show about?
MKB: I think it should be a party.
mom What kind of party and for who?
MKB (Pointing to what Matthew thinks is a police man).  It can be a birthday party for the policeman.
CKB: Ok.  How old is he turning?
MKB: Four. 
mom: (unintentionally squelching his creativity). Really?  Doesn't he look a little old for four years old?  
MKB O.k. how about if he's ninety-twenty-seventy two years old.
mom Wow 90-20-72 years old.  Ok.  Now... what happens at the birthday party? 
MKB The bad policeman (pointing to another puppet) tries to ruin the party.
mom: How does he try to ruin the party?
MKB: He's says, "No parties allowed and quiet down, it's too loud."
mom: Then what?  
MKB: The wizard (pointing to a puppet that really is a wizard) puts a spell on the bad policeman....

... And so the scene goes for another twenty or so minutes with mommy (small "m") asking questions and Matthew developing his own three act puppet show... to be performed tonight.  In an effort not to keep you hanging... The bad policeman is ultimately turned into a string bean and captured in a metal can. 

Yes, yesterday I relearned a couple of important things....  First.  Questions serve as the springboard for our creativity.  Second.  The cardboard box and necklaces were  - to me - garbage.  They were, in fact, in the garbage waiting to be picked up and hoping to go unnoticed by any of the three boys.  But to Matthew, the box was a space ship and the necklaces had magical powers.  Proof that...

One man's garbage is another man's treasure... the theme for the rest of our week.

Have a great Memorial Day.  Signing off until tomorrow...

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Zip-a-dee-do-dah, Zip-a-dee-ay...

My oh my, what a wonderful day.
Plenty of sunshine headin' my way
Zip -a-dee-do-dah, zip-a-dee-ay!

It's true.  Saturday is here and I am feeling much better about things.  It is in part due to a GREAT conversation with a good friend; taking time out to read the book, Wacky Wednesday to Matthew's preschool class on Wednesday (and making all the kids turn their shirt backwards and inside out!), and enjoying a family picnic on Tuesday evening.  None of those activities are completely out of the norm for me, so I attribute the real turnaround to randomly leaving books for customers at Starbucks (or trying to), mailing four random letters (one to a complete stranger), and today... leaving treats on the doorstep of three of my favorite Texas locals. Cassie, Toni, and Cheryl... go look on your front door step. 

Here's the one thing I haven't been able to figure out... until now.  How, with such a terrific readership can I randomly perform acts of kindness for YOU - readers who I haven't yet met, or who live out of town, or whose mailing address I do not know?  Sure, every once in a while I make a post asking someone to do something and then maybe I follow up with note asking for your address, so I can send a note saying, "thank you."  But that's not really random, because the moment I ask for your address, you know chances are something is coming your way.  So, here's what I want to do.  Read on...

(first time visitors, lurkers, frequent posters, close friends, and relatives who are out there reading).  I'm talking anyone and EVERYONE.... 
Send me a postcard with your name and mailing address.  And, if you don't want me to have your name then just send your mailing address and, should I choose to mail you something, I'll I'll come up with my own name or send it to "Anonymous."

I will gather the postcards in a box (sure to be creatively decorated) and periodically I will pull out one, so I may surprise you with a random act of kindness.  Now, to be included you MUST (even if you think I know you address) send me a postcard.  The postcard is what I will put in the box to draw from when I'm feeling like I want a pick-me-up.  No postcard, no chance you can be the random recipient.  In other words, you gotta be in it to win it!

Please, please, please don't think I'm talking to someone else.  I'm talking to YOU.  Yes, you.  I really want you to take five minutes, sometime today, to simply jot your address on a postcard and mail it to me at:

Claudia Beeny
4012 Harvestwood Court
Grapevine, Texas 76051

Don't add it to a long to-do list.  It will continue to sit at the bottom of the list and by Tuesday it will seem less important.  Then by Wednesday you'll convince yourself it's too late, and by Friday you'll think I don't want it anymore.  Don't do that to yourself or to me.  Just take a second before day's end and make it happen.  A postcard stamp is 27 cents.  If you don't have one and the post office is closed, try buying one from a machine at a post office, a grocery store, a drug store, the stationary store where you buy the postcard, or even at

Added bonus... by doing this you will also actually be conducting a random act of kindness...for me. I can't think of anything that would make me smile more than a heavy influx of MAIL over the next week!
So, here's to capping your week off with one final act of kindness.  As for me... I keeping my fingers crossed for a trip to P.F. Chang's.

Signing off until Monday...

Friday, May 23, 2008

Free For All Friday: Tents, Tiaras, Timely and Thoughtful Tips, and Taste...of USA

As you can tell by the title - which is nothing less than a novel - there is A LOT of Free-For-All-ing to do today.  I don't want to waste any time before letting the devoted and creative readership of highlowaha get busy doing what you do best... sharing your collective creativity.

If you're new to highlowaha or just new to our Friday ritual, today is the day we brainstorm solutions to topics raised by you the readers.  Put on your creative caps and get ready to contribute.  Or let us know a topic for which you would like highlowaha's input and I will make a note to cover it next week. 
Here we go.  Let me set the stage...

TENTS:  Andrea is hosting her son's sixth birthday party in two weeks.  The party will have a CARNIVAL theme.  She strikes me as organized, so I wasn't surprised to learn that Andrea already has a number of games selected for the children to play.  What we are brainstorming today are things such as: decorations, food options, treat bags, prizes, and novelty items she might have on hand... basically anything that helps create the ultimate carnival ambiance.

TIARAS: Maureen, our loyal reader from New Yawk is already in the midst of making plans for her daughter's Sweet Sixteen extravaganza... in FEBRUARY!  I might live in Texas where everything is supposed to be bigger, but I feel comfortable in saying...we miss the boat on birthday parties.  Apparently in portions of the country Sweet Sixteens are quite a formal ordeal with male and female friends serving on the "court" and participating in some ceremonial activity.  This is Maureen's first time going through the whole Sweet Sixteen Court Ceremony, so if there is anyone out there with a clue about what this is supposed to entail, do share.  I'm guessing many of us will get a kick out of reading it (mostly because it sounds a little like wedding planning) and Maureen can certainly use your help.

TIMELY AND THOUGHTFUL TIPS: We've had whisperings throughout the week of people sharing a favorite acts of kindness they have performed (paying for the person behind you, etc...), but how about formally opening today's lines to share all the examples we can think of.  There are still two full days left to the week.  With some of your random act ideas, we can still do a lot of "damage" before week's end.  Here's another one of my favorite things to do...  I love to spend ten dollars on $1.00 lottery tickets at the gas station and randomly distribute them to people, while wishing them good fortune.

TASTE OF USA:  We made it through the first week of Taste of USA, thanks to the able work of Cheryl our Cruise Director and Katie our Bean Counter.  So, here's what happens today... the first REAL day of competition.  Residents of Alabama, New Mexico, Texas, D.C., Massachusetts, and Hawaii should:
  • Click on the Taste of USA icon in the top right hand corner of my blog.
  • Go the Comments section immediately under Cheryl's post for today (6/23)
  • Tell us what your state is made of.  Do this by telling us a place you'd love to take me should your state win and I end up traveling to your city. 
  • ONLY residents of the state should be making posts today!  Be sure to let us know from which state you are hailing.
  • Starbucks Update:  I went to Starbucks this morning at 8:30 a.m. and the books WERE STILL THERE and... placed back in a perfect stack!
  • This morning there was an article in the Dallas Morning News telling of Herb Kelleher's retirement after 31 years as Chairmen of Southwest Airlines.  Here's a quote from one of the many pilots employed by the company.  "I still have personal notes written by Herb," he said.  I can't imagine any other executive having time to do that or taking the time to do that."  Yet again, affirmation that a simple note packs a powerful punch.
The lines for brainstorming are officially open...

Signing off until tomorrow...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Power of a Note

Years ago my mother sent me an article cut from the New York Times. The article was about the president of Harvard University, Rudenstine, who served from 1991-2001. If my memory serves me, the article told of the president's return to work after being required to take an unexpected leave of absence for health related reasons. He explained upon returning to work, that he expected to modify his style in a number of ways... fewer people reporting to him, delegate more, and relinquish oversight of the central administration budget.

Interestingly enough... one thing the president refused to change was making time to write the handwritten notes that made him famous around campus. I always thought to myself... if someone as busy as the president of Harvard can make time to write handwritten notes - while simultaneously being responsible for a $2.1 billion (yes, billion) capital campaign, then by golly, I should surely be able to scrounge up a few extra minutes. Because, it's true... no amount of email, phone-calling, faxing, texting, or instant messaging can replace the unadulterated joy that comes from finding a handwritten note in your mailbox. It's so rare, that yes... this simple act has the ability to evoke a level of joy that goes virtually unmatched by other gestures of kindness.

So today - this fourth day of our random acts of kindness celebration - we will focus on the power of a note. This seems especially appropriate since it was only a few weeks ago that I was the recipient of such a gesture. A friend and colleague sent a postcard... a simple postcard. At the top is are the computer printed words, "Random acts of kindness." Below it is a simple note saying, "You inspire me. I wish we lived closer." Wow! What an unexpected treat to receive in my mail box. So simple, yet I can't bring myself to toss it... I think because it is handwritten and because it is from someone for whom I have a great amount of respect. So, yes... today I will think of a few people I know who deserve a note from me and before the day is over, random notes of kindness will be mailed. That's one approach to sharing the power of a note... making time to recognize deserved people we know.

Here's another. Share the power of a note with someone you do not know - a total stranger! When I lived in Oxford, Ohio I had a United Way appointed Little Sister. We had two dates a week. One on the weekend and one every Wednesday afternoon. Amanda's house was about thirty five minutes from my on-campus apartment at Miami University. Each time I drove to and from her house, I passed what to me - a New York City girl - seemed like the most perfect farm house and barn. The house was a deep, brick red with white shutters, and pristine green grass for as far as the eye could see. The barn was painted black and when set behind the red house and under the blue skies, seemed to be - in my eyes - perfect! I found myself looking forward to passing the house four times a week and making up all kinds of stories about what it was like on the inside and who lived there.

Before I moved from Ohio in 1995, after passing the house four times a week for three straight years, I decided it was time to tell the owners how appreciative I was of their home. One Wednesday afternoon, I slowed my car down while passing the red farm house and quickly jotted down their address. That same night, I sent them a note telling them of my trips to Hamilton, Ohio and thanking the owners for keeping such a well manicured home - one that I looked forward to visiting each week as I passed by. I still don't know who lives in that home. I never met them. I feel great, though, about sharing with those owners how much joy they brought me... without intending.

How about you? Do you have a favorite house you pass? What about a store you love visiting because of their unique items... or a restaurant that over-delivers with great service or impeccably clean restrooms? Consider using today to make someone you don't know the recipient of a random act of kindness?
  • Today we celebrate Washington D.C., Massachusetts, and Hawaii. So, regardless of where you call home, if you have a fun memory, favorite place, or a friend in any one of these places, let us know. Click on the Taste of USA icon, check out our fun facts (provided exclusively by Cheryl) and then leave a post. It's simple and fun.
  • NOTE: If you live in anyone of the states celebrated this week (Alabama, New Mexico, Texas, Washington D.C., Massachusetts, or Hawaii) you will want to gather forces for TOMORROW. Friday is the day residents of their respective states must post "what your state is made of" (favorite locations, cools sights, novel places to see). The winning state - once we've completed our national tour - will win a creative brainstorming session with me to help create the future of (not to mention win cool prizes and so much more!).
  • Next week we celebrate... Idaho, Alaska, New York, Tennessee, and Michigan.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Whacking Random Acts

It's the time of the week when thinking can get sluggish and we can all benefit from a... whack on the side of the head! Today we defer to the work of Roger Von Oech, whose Creative Whack Pack jars traditional thinking so that we might generate creative solutions to typical dilemmas.

First a quick observation and then note... I set out my Random Acts Books at 8:47 a.m. on a coffee table at a Starbucks, just up the block from where my boys go to school. I then got a coffee and headed outside to the sunshine where I enjoyed my coffee and scoured the paper for creative ideas until 9:34. Periodically I looked up to see if anyone acknowledged the prominently placed books, but the glare from the sun made it impossible to see inside. Instead I resigned myself to waiting until I was finished and then just being surprised. Forty-seven minutes later... the books were still there and while the stacks were moved slightly to one side, they were still completely in tact! Yes, I was surprised!!! Update: At 4:52 just before picking my sons up from school, I swung back by the Starbucks to see if any of the books were gone They were all still there... still on the same table, but no longer in a neat stack.

You know what this means? The books were New York Times best sellers, so I think it means, people are just NOT used to have random acts of kindness come their way. They were skeptical...unsure if there was a motive... or, what kind of commitment they might get themselves in if they actually delved into the stack and... heaven forbid... took one! I'm not discouraged. Instead, it fuels my fire. I envision a world where people jump in with two feet when accepting a random act of kindness. A world where no strings are attached and a free book is just a free book. Today I resolve to do more acts of kindness, starting in my own little corner of the world, and maybe just maybe, you'll join me. We'll start our own little random acts revolution and we won't wait until National (or World) Random Acts of Kindness Week in November and February.

Perfect segway into today's post...

I entered today with no real dilemma, other than my less than good mood... and my new observation that people are hesitant to accept a random act of kindness. Self-Help 101 says nobody can change the behavior of someone else, so I didn't think it smart to set my challenge around making people more receptive to random acts. I suppose the dilemma could have been, "how do I snap myself out of a funk?" That didn't seem appropriate for a week where my instruction to self was, "Forget about yourself, focus on others." Besides, with two random acts under my belt, I'm starting to feel better and "snapping out of it" seems less urgent.

At a loss for where to go, I decided to start backwards this week. In other words... first pick the card and then establish a dilemma. Interestingly enough, the card I chose read, Try a Random Idea." I took this as a good sign, since this week is Random Acts of Kindness Week. So, here we go...

Try a random idea. There was once an Indian medicine man who made hunting maps for his tribe. When game got sparse, he'd fold and twist it, and then smooth it out. The rawhide was now etched with lines. He marked some reference points, and a new map was created. When the hunters followed the map's newly defined trails, they usually discovered abundant game. Moral: by letting the rawhide's random folds represent trails, he pointed the hunters to places they hadn't looked. Stimulate your thinking in a similar way. Open any book at random and put your finger down on a word: "magnet." How does it relate to what you're doing? What associations can you make? What random ideas can you try?

I did, in fact, have a book with me... Never Eat Alone: And other secrets to success, one relationship at a time, by Keith Ferrazzi. It is a book I am finishing with the hopes of sharing a point or two with you over the next couple of weeks. I opened up to a random page (pg. 165) , closed my eyes, and pointed to the word, "other." So, with that I decide to ask how the word, "other" might be connected to doing random acts of kindness. Still stuck, I decided to take a peek at the context in which I found the word. In other words, what was Ferrazzi talking about when he used the word, "other." So listen to this and tell me the coincidence is not more than can be left to chance....

"There are a lot of things we can do for other people: give good advice, help them wash their car, or help them move. But health, wealth, and children affect us in ways other acts of kindness do not."

I'm sure you're sitting wherever you are... work, home, etc... thinking I rigged this. I did not. I randomly assigned this week to Random Acts of Kindness. I randomly selected the "random idea" card from sixty-four cards in von Oech's whack pack. It just so happens I am reading the book mentioned above AND that I picked the word "other" from thirty-three lines of text, embedded in a paragraph about doing acts of kindness!!! If you just so happen to be reading this then you, like I, should be convinced there is a reason. There are way too many planets falling into alignment for there not to be something preordained about the whole darn thing.

Read on...

Ferrazzi goes on to define, "health," "wealth," and "children" and explains helping people in any one of these three ways impacts people more profoundly than other acts of generosity. Health can be things as sharing a diet or an exercise regiment for someone working hard to become more healthy. Wealth can be as blatant as helping someone make money to less direct efforts such as passing along a referral, helping someone make money, or sending business someones way. Finally, "children" refers to assisting the children of a friend with a goal he/she might have. Examples might include helping someones child land an internship or job, introducing him/her to someone employed in his/her area of interest, or showing a keen interest in some other aspect of the child's life.

My synopsis... there is someone in your world who is in need of your generosity with regard to either health, wealth, or their children. That is why the chips fell as they did and why you are sitting here reading this right this very minute. So, take a minute and figure out who that person might be and how you can help. Then, do it. Make the phone call, send the email. Do whatever necessary.

As for me... I'm still reeling from the coincidence of it all. Once recovered, I'll get busy too.

  • Today "Taste of USA" features Texas.  Regardless of whether or not you are a resident of the state, let us know if you have a fond memory, funny story, joke, favorite song... something you associate with Texas.  Then, on Friday residents of Texas, along with Alabama, New Mexico, D.C., Massachusetts, and Hawaii will compete to post the largest number of favorite (and most creative) things about their state.
  • Helena, if you're out there... let me know if there is something I can do to help get Stanley on his way to Julie in New York.
Signing off until tomorrow...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Go Ahead, Judge This Book By Its Cover!

Yesterday kicked off Taste of USA and thanks to Corrie, Artnme, Cheryl, and a handful of others we had a fun little tour of Alabama. Today we pick up with New Mexico. So, if you have a fun New Mexico story, know someone who lives in the state, or know of a "must see," then click on the Taste of USA icon and leave a note. If you have no idea what I am talking about... visit me in the Announcements at the end of the blog.

Today is Day #2 of Operation: Snap Out of It! As you might have read yesterday, I'm in a little bit of a funk and I've determined the best way to work myself out of the funk is to follow the wise words of an anonymous author who said, "Forget about yourself, focus on others." So, today is day-two of a six-day random acts of kindness run. By Saturday, I expect to be whistling Dixie, with blue birds on my shoulder, and rays of sunshine escorting me wherever I go.

The idea for today's random act of kindness is compliments of my mother. She told me of a recent trip she took into Manhattan on the Long Island Railroad. She bought a book at the train station, hoping to make the thirty-minute ride in and out of the city pass more quickly. It wasn't until my mother, the avid reader, was on the train and twelve pages into the mystery that she realized she'd already read the book. She immediately turned to the man sitting next to her and asked if he would like to have it. He gladly accepted her offer, explaining that his wife loved mysteries too.

My mother explained she'd often thought about creating a book mark or cover (brown paper bags, look out) that she could place on a book, once it was read, permitting the lucky finder to enjoy the story before passing it along again. I don't know if my mother ever did it, but today I will. We have a small stack of books my husband has read on recent business trips. They are good books, but not books worth keeping. I have just finished putting covers on them.

The front says...

I'm done, now it's your turn...
Enjoy the Book
Catch the spirit, do a random act of kindness

And the back says...

Pass it along when you're finished...
Do a Random Act of Kindness

I will bring them to Starbucks when I go for my morning cup of joe and place them on coffee tables around the store. That and a cup of coffee is sure to start my day off on the right foot.
Now, if you commute on a train, bus, subway, or plane; frequent a local coffee shop; exercise at a gym; share common office space; visit a local park regularly; or even shop at a supermarket, consider doing the same. Use brown paper, a mailing label, or something as easy as a sticky note and invite complete strangers to be the recipient of your random act of kindness.

Let us know how it goes and I'll do the same.

  • Taste of USA: Today we celebrate New Mexico, Wednesday is Texas, Thursday is Washington D.C., Massachusetts, and Hawaii. Friday these states must muster up as many people as possible to... "tell us what your state's made of." On deck... Idaho, Alaska, New York, Tennessee, and Michigan.
  • Free For All Friday: We have some takers for this week's Free For All Friday Challenge. First, Andrea (killer aerobic instructor) is hosting a Carnival-themed party for her six-year old son. She has some games brainstormed, but is looking for the extra fixins (party favors, prizes, decorations, music selections, fun outfits she and others can wear the day of the party, food choices, etc....) Important Note: Andrea will not read the blog until FRIDAY, so mill over it for the next few days, but don't post your genius ideas until this Friday.
  • Also, Maureen's daughter is turning 16 in February. In New York this is serious business, so a reception hall has already been booked and party planning is in full swing. She is looking for our readerships' collective knowledge and creativity surrounding Sweet Sixteen Court Ceremonies (did you know this existed?), as well as best places to purchase once-in-a-lifetime-princess-tiaras (she said if Texans, host to pageants galore don't know where to get a tiaras then who will?).
  • Congratulations to Heather. She was just offered a new position AND PROMOTION at the University of Texas at Arlington. This, of course, means she will be moving my way in the next couple of months. Can you see my smile coming through your computer screen?

Signing off until tomorrow...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Confuscious Says...

Fun announcements at the end...

Life ebbs and flows.  Sometimes we're up, sometimes we're not.  The past four or five days have been the latter for me.  No real reason.  The weather has been great.  I've been the recipient of good news.  I'm fine.  My family is fine (knock on wood).  I'm generally just feeling blah... Maybe it's a Libra thing, a year-of-the-snake-thing, the curse of my Colorstrology, or the pull of tides.  I have no real idea and I'm sure tomorrow by this time, it'll be a done deal.

In the meantime, a good friend of mine forwarded a mass email (something I would typically delete immediately).  For whatever reason I kept it and stumbled upon it this weekend while getting ready to transition into next year's calendar.  It is titled, Food for Thought In Tough Times.  The whole, "tough times' thing might be overstating the case, but still the message was good and it immediately let me know in which direction would go this week.

The article shares ten recommendations for things to do when feeling less than perky.  I'll tell you all ten (just so you're not left wondering), but we'll immediately hone in on one in particular.  I should tell you there is a descriptive paragraph to go with each recommendation, but for brevity's sake, I'll just share the key points.  They are: forget about yourself, focus on others; forget about your commodity, focus on your relationships; forget about the sale, focus on creating value; forget about your losses, focus on your opportunities, forget about your difficulties, focus on your progress; forget about the '"future," focus on today; Forget about who you were, focus on who you can be; forget about events, focus on your responses; forget about what's missing, focus on what's available; forget about your complaints, focus on your gratitude.

The focus of our thought and creativity today... and,  in fact, this week... "Forget about yourself, focus on others."  Yes, this week we are going to focus our creative energies towards thinking about, talking about, and maybe even doing RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS. And if you're really up for it... SENSELESS ACTS OF BEAUTY!

For those of you who have been with me for quite some time, today's blog will not be a discussion of my Annual Random Acts of Kindness Party - held every October.  No, this will be a much more informal attempt to explore all the clever ways we can brighten the days of people around us (...and in turn, lift our own spirits). 

My Random Acts Compatriots might be wondering why I am choosing to focus on random acts of kindness when the observance of the next nationally recognized Random Acts of Kindness Week is not until February 9-15, 2009 and World Kindness Week is not until November 10-16, 2008.  In short... to wait until then would (1) NOT be random, and (2) be of no help to the funk I am in... NOW!

The first example for this week came to me immediately.  I went to dinner with an old friend of mine last Thursday and on the way back to her car from the restaurant, I shared a short story about a ritual - an actual random act of kindness - that Richard and I do each time we visit that restaurant.  Lisa and I went to P.F. Chang's for dinner, so we could catch up (and so I could inhale as many lettuce wraps as possible before my Szechuan Beef arrived).  

When Richard and I eat there on Saturday nights (which is somewhat frequently, since I am a creature of habit), there is typically a 2-hour wait.  We immediately take our pager and move toward the bar where there are numerous tables seated on a first-come-first-serve-basis. Richard orders his regular... Makers Mark (he's an Ambassador) and diet coke, while I stalk the people eating in the bar area.  It never fails that within 15-20 minutes of lurking... bam... we have our seat.  We enjoy our meal, laugh over fortune cookies, pay our tab and are out of there in 60-90 minutes.  If you're doing the math on this, then you know by the time we leave we usually only have 10-15 more minutes before our pager is scheduled to go off.  So here it is...

As we leave the restaurant, we identify the people in the parking lot upon whom we would like to bestow our random act of kindness.  We greet them with big smiles an then inform them that their 2-hour wait has just become 10 minutes! I love it!  It makes me feel so good every time we do it.  I feel better right now... just talking about it. Next time you go out to eat, try it. You'll feel better too.

Oohhh... and if you're wondering... "Luck happens when hard work meets opportunity."  That was this week's fortune.

  • Taste of USA: What's Your State Made Of? is fully up and running.  Click on the icon in the top right hand corner of my blog to discover the rules of play and to check the fun out along the way.  It is going to be a fun couple of months and you won't want your state to miss out.  Speaking of states... Alabama, New Mexico, Texas, Washington D.C., Massachusetts, and Hawaii you are all up first.  On deck (May 26-31) are Idaho, Alaska, New York, Tennessee, and Michigan.  It will be much more fun if people from each of these states participate, so if you know someone... encourage them to tune in.  As for you... get ready to share your stories of people you know, vacations you've taken, fun facts you've learned, etc....  I'll go first... I don't have much association with the state of Alabama, but I do have a friend and valued colleague who lives there.  Corrie... if you're out there and reading this...HI!  I'd love a quick update on the other Corey.
  • Helena and Julie... hopefully you are working out the Flat Stanley pass off.  Let me know if I can help.
  • A big thanks to Cheryl and CSPgradstudent for making Taste of USA happen.  Cheryl is a creative (and technological) genius who helped make the click-on page (my technical term) work and CSPgradstudent is the conscientious, detail-oriented - and also technologically savvy - person who will be reporting updates on where each states stands.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Speaking of Presents...

Before the week is out, I thought I would share with you some special gifts I received this week. Both are creative yet different.

The first gift was my Mother's Day gift and I must warn you... no one I've shown it to has "gotten" it. I LOVE IT!!! It's not a sweater, a new dress, a family photo, new perfume, or spa date. Nope. It is a completely impractical and quirky piece of art. My family and I recently roamed an art festival where the artist responsible for my gift was featured. I was immediately drawn to his booth because of the whimsical items he created out of nothing more than wood, appliances and other random items. Richard and I pined and poured over the selection, debating whether or not we should splurge on one of his pieces for our study. There was one in particular piece incorporating a globe, but made to look like a hot air balloon. That was the one I wanted! Perfect for the study. As Murphy's Law would have it... after an hour of roaming the show and debating back and forth, Richard and I headed back to his booth, prepared to take the plunge, only to find out he just sold the very one on which I had my mind set. You can imagine my excitement when my thoughtful and loving husband presented me with a second rendition created by the artist just for me. If you like it, great. I'll share the artist's name. If you don't, join the ranks.

The second thoughtful gift I received this week was presented to me by Heather (who was a colleague of mine when I lived in Kentucky). Heather knew that each fall I would have my class of first year students submit a weekly index card to me. On the card, the students were to record three things... you got it... their HIGH, LOW, and AHA for the week (see April 28). Many students continued submitting their highs, lows, and ahas through the spring semester and one student in particular CONTINUES (four years later) sharing her weekly highs, lows, and ahas. So, imagine my surprise and pleasure when Heather presented me with a series of index cards, completed by seniors on graduation day! That's right. Heather had the students... in their caps and gowns... complete ONE more index card for old time sake. The cards tell of the students high, low, and aha after four years of college. It brought my experience at Bellarmine University full circle and maybe it even did the same for the students.


This week starts Taste of USA: What's Your State Made Of. For those of you new to the site or too busy to keep track of all we have going on... Taste of USA is a competition between states. The purpose... tout the fun, unique, and noteworthy things about your state with the hopes of luring me there for a fun-filled day of brainstorming and creativity. That's right. I will fly to the winning state sometime in either late August or early September to meet with readers and to develop the direction and fresh content for the second half of our year. The day is sure to be chock full of surprises and fun. Cheryl will be our "tour guide" for this whirlwind tour and CSPgradstudent will be our "Bean Counter," reporting on state standings. Rules will be posted later today, in the section on the front page labeled, "Taste of USA." Check it out, since we have no time to waste. The first five states begin participating this week. They are: Alabama, New Mexico, Texas, District of Columbia, Massachusetts, and Hawaii (go Hawaii. I'm rooting for you :)).

Friday, May 16, 2008

Free For All Friday: Packaging is Everything

T.G.I.F. A busy week of mailboxes, journaling, whacking, and then even more whacking on the side of the head.

Today is all about teachers and what they consider - after a LONG, hard, year of work - to be ideal gifts/gestures of appreciation. Before I simply open the floor up to our loyal readers and visitors, let me add another dimension to our Free For All...

Before I got married, I always strived to be the most "creative" gift giver. That meant that I thought I was too creative to defer to the couple's registry. The registry, in my mind, was for lazy people who lacked any imagination. Then I got married. I came to appreciate - with every ounce of my being - the "experienced" people who in their infinite wisdom knew that a place setting of china would ultimately be more appreciated than his and her watches bearing each other's names. The truth is, neither of us has much occasion to wear our watches, but each time we set our dining room table we have cause to think about the thoughtful people who chipped in and helped purchase the place settings included in so many of our family celebrations.

My point... sometimes practical has its place. The handful of teachers and educators with whom I have spoken in the past three or four days have all suggested they appreciate receiving gift cards. Teachers, as we know, do not make a lot of money so the ability to shop for something they've eyed but couldn't afford, is actually a thoughtful gesture. So, gift cards should not be considered an impersonal, thoughtless, cop-out.

What is sure to transform a gift card from simply generous to... generous, thoughtful, and even sentimental is... PACKAGING. So, today our loyal readers and visiting teachers should feel free to comment on EITHER: (1) the gift you've most appreciated receiving, or (2) the best packaging of a gift card.

For those of you who love packaging... have no fear. This will not... I repeat will NOT, be the last time we visit this topic. It is one of my favorites and therefore will be revisited again (and again). To get us going, I am including a photograph our loyal reader Heather sent yesterday. It is a photograph of appreciation gifts she just presented to her daughter's teachers. I am happy to report it is a spin-off (much enhanced) of an idea shared via The stick of dynamite contains Hershey's Hugs and Kisses, along with Target gift cards for each teacher. The note on top reads, "Hugs and Kisses to a DYNAMITE group of teachers." Proof that creativity breeds creativity and, that on a good day, creativity can be found right here at this very blog site.

Have at it.

Signing off until tomorrow...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What's In Their Water?

Idea first... announcements at the end.  This change in format is thanks to my good and trusted friend.

A part of my morning ritual is flipping through the newspaper in search of interesting stories. If the stories translate into creative ideas then all the better.  Below are two stories I ran across. Individually they might not be all that interesting, but combined... I think they can be something of interest. 

See what you think.

Story#1: Sweet victory: Girl Scout sets cookie-sale record. 
The article tells of a 15 year old girl from Dearborn, Michigan who sold more girl scout cookies in a single season than anyone in the U.S.  ever has.  Her approach... set up Girl Scout Cookie shop in a church parking lot, Monday through Saturday between the hours of 3:00-7:00. Sundays she moved her location to an auto part store and extended her hours.

Story #2: More news play makes sense
This story tells of a 10-year old boy from Carleton, Michigan who collected his goal of 1 million pennies and then presented a check for $10, 000 to his catholic school

Again... individually, maybe not so interesting, but together they at least make you stop and go hmmmmm.  Same Dallas Morning New newspaper, two different sections.  Both articles reporting on resourceful children... IN MICHIGAN... who raised large sums of money.
There's got to be something here.  ESPECIALLY in light of next week's kick off to Taste of USA: What's Your State Made Of

For those of you new to the site... Taste of USA is an upcoming contest - showcasing the best of your state.  The winning state will be named host site for the First Annual Highlowaha Brainstorming Summit.  It is bound to be a fun-filled, high energy, community building, you-won't-want-to-miss-it event... complete with giveaways and all.

We are a blog of creative thinkers.  So, put on your thinking caps and help me figure out how we can either capitalize or adapt this information to benefit  Need some creative jarring?  Dig into our Wednesday archives for a Whack on the Side of the Head. Literal "brownie" points for the first person who applies one of von Oech's principles.

  • According to CSPgradstudent - who was appointed bean counter, all but three states are accounted for.  We need a mere three readers from the following sates: West Virginia, Montana, and Wyoming.
  • The reader for whom we brainstormed ideas about moving from one office to another reported a successful event.  She used some of our ideas by asking students to record favorite memories in a journal.  She also distributed cards featuring a photo of the view from her office window. Cupcakes were had by all, her signature treat.
  • CSPgradstudent also hosted the graduation celebration for which she was seeking our ideas. Maybe she'll post the outcome.
  • Remember!  Our goal is to have 100 educators post favorite student gifts they have received (or wish they would have received) THIS FRIDAY!  It is not to late to help make this happen.  Contact, parents, aunts, uncles, former teachers, coaches, neighbors, former classmates, etc...  All we're asking is that they post one idea.  Their name will go in a drawing for a box of school supplies for next year's classroom.
  • Added incentive... if they mention your name... you also win a treat.  
Signing off until tomorrow...

Whack on the Side of the Head Wednesday: School's Out!

New Readers... today is Whack on the Side of the Head Wednesday.  It is the day we draw a card from Roger von Oegh's magical deck of cards and use the concept described to jar our own creativity.  We do this with a particular predicament in mind and then, of course, I also challenge you to apply the concept to something in your own world.

Today's predicament is compliments of my trusty and creative neighbor.  She called me last night suggesting that spend some air time generating creative gift ideas for teachers.  It is, after all, the end of the school year and many of us will be looking for ways to show our appreciation.  This might even apply to day care providers... or heck... even your favorite college professors or administrators.  

To the untrained eye, this might sound more like an idea for Free For All Friday.  Friday's, after all, are reserved for generating creative solutions to problems just like these.  But, I got to thinking... Much like we did with Mother's Day (and to a lesser degree Father's Day), it might be nice to hear from actual teachers when generating gift ideas.  What are some of the favorite things/gestures teachers have received?  

How will we muster up enough teachers to make this segment truly useful?  That's where Whack on the Side of the Head Wednesday comes in....

So, today's predicament... How will I assure a significant increase in readership among educators for THIS FRIDAY (5/16).  My goal... have 100 teachers post the favorite treat/gesture they have received... or wish they would have received!  Now to the Whack Pack for my creative solution.

Make a Metaphor.  Philospher Ortega y Gassett:  "The metaphor is probably the most fertile power possessed by man."  The key to metaphorical thinking is comparing unrelated concepts and finding similarities between them.  Example: what do a cat and a refrigerator have in common?  They both have a place to put fish; they both have tails; they purr; they come in a variety of colors; and they both have a lifetime of about fifteen years.  What similarities does your idea have with cooking a meal?  Conducting an orchestra?  Building a house?  Raising a child?  Waging war?  How can these help you understand your idea in a new way?  What can you compare your idea to?

Hmmm... I'll start with the first one and see where that takes me.  What similarities does my idea, of recruiting 100 teachers who are willing to post their ideal gift on this Friday's blog, have with cooking a meal?

  • There's more than one way to cook an egg, just like there's more than one way to recruit teachers: Scrambled, poached, sunny-side up, fried, hard boiled, soft boiled... these are all the ways you can prepare and egg.  Call, email, write a note, personal invitation, list serve, word of mouth, students, contact professional teacher associations, notify the PTA, advertise... these are all ways to recruit teachers for Friday's blog. 
  • Both require turning up the heat:  Barbecue is low and slow.  Grilling is hot and fast.  For the purposes of this week's exercise, we will be GRILLING.  Today is Wednesday.  We have until mid-night on Friday to solicit input from 100 teachers!
  • Chefs and recruiters follow recipes: A recipe when talking about cooking a meal is fairly obvious, but what about a recipe for recruiting?...  For the purposes of this activity, we'll view recruiting as a form of marketing (marketing the idea of posting to teachers far and wide).  The four "P's" of marketing include : Product (getting teachers to post); Price (free); Promotion (Any teacher who makes a post on Friday will be entered in a drawing to receive school supplies for his/her classroom next year); Place (teacher lounges, highlowaha and other relevant blog sites, pick up and drop off lines outside of school, etc...)
  • Both are better when they include dessert: Preferably CHOCOLATE.  So, have I got a treat for you!  Refer the greatest number of teachers (which we'll know if they mention your name in the post) and YOU too will earn a treat...compliments of Sous-Chef Claudia.
Now your turn.  What ideas can you cook up, using the analogy above?  Or, test out one of the other metaphors...recruiting teachers and... raising a child, conducting an orchestra, building a house, or waging war.  

Either way, we want everyone to pitch in.  Contact every teacher you know and have them tell their friends.  There's no time to waste.  ... Dig in!

Signing off until tomorrow...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I Heart Mail. I Do!

Yesterday it was Make-Shift Mailboxes. Today it is Friendship Journals and Flat Stanley. Clearly I have mail on the mind!

I have Friendship Journals on the mind, because my very good and patient friend, Dawn, is still waiting for the journal's Arizona arrival. Here's the quick low down. About eight years ago ten women I knew tried to join forces to begin a never ending Friendship Journal. The idea was the journal would fill with entries as it moved from person to person. I think the journal started in Georgia, stopped in Arizona, then LA, and then New York where it was lost and never recovered. That was the end of that.

Two years ago my friend Dawn suggested we revive the idea, but this time modified to be a touch more realistic. Round two has worked much better. She started us off. Back and forth between the two of us the journal has gone, ever since. The pages are filled with funny stories, serious reflections, family photos, recipes, winning ideas, life ambitions, and so much more. There's no timeline and no pressure. Hang onto it for a month (or more...) or turn it right around. Tag your it. That's why it works. It's just a simple gesture reflecting our own going commitment to stay in touch... forever.

I savor the days the journal shows up in my mailbox. I never let myself open the envelope immediately, as it is impossibly tempting to flip to the last page and get her latest update. No, instead I savor the experience. I tuck the journal away and make a date with myself. I either go to Starbucks for a cup of coffee, where I can hide in the corner of the store and read the pages slowly, or I curl up under the covers in my bedroom. Either way, it is quiet, uninterrupted time. For those fifteen or twenty minutes I am single, with no kids and remembering what life was like surrounded by supportive and loving girlfriends. It is my oasis.

We've learned a few things along the way... things you might think about should you be inspired to start up your own journal.
  • Ship it "Media Mail." It costs less and because there's no rush... it works out fine.
  • Bubble envelopes can be recycled if you using mailing labels and cut the top.
  • You'll be surprised to find all the fun, one-dimensional things you can fit in the pages of a journal (DVD's, CD's magazine clippings, stickers, quotes, photographs). Have fun with it and view it as another venue for your creativity.

So today the journal is Arizona bound. Off for another journey - carrying with it fun tales, hopes and dreams, pictures, and thoughtful questions. And, maybe a small treat is included in the envelope to boot. From the moment I mail it, the wait begins for its long journey back to Texas. Dawn, tag you're it!

Speaking of journeys... check out Helena's Flat Stanley adventure under today's posts. She did a great job of hosting Stanley in Canada and now he's off to his next destination. Julie beat our readership to the punch, so she is his next host. I am not sure where Julie is posting from (we have a couple), but where ever it is, Flat Stanley is sure to have fun! Julie, pass along your mailing address and I will be sure Helena gets it.

Signing off until tomorrow when we will DEFINITELY will be whacked on the side of the head...