Monday, June 30, 2008

Finding the Scoop: One Texas Town at a Time

Welcome to all Children's Courtyard Parents!


Many of us know that February is Black History Month, March is Women's History Month, and October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but does anyone know what the month of July is designated to honor? I know that until spending the past few weeks with Claudia in Grapevine I could not have answered that question. Lucky for you, I did spend a few weeks with Claudia and am now able to share with you the true importance of the month of July.

Let me begin with a bit of background. This past Friday, the day before I left Texas to return home, Claudia and I went on a bit of an adventure. We dropped Jack at daycare and then she handed the car keys over to me. From there, the road was open to us, taking us where we were fated to go. We had no preconceived notions about where we would end up that afternoon. Instead, we only had one goal in mind. Destination: Ice Cream. That’s right, July is National Ice Cream Month, and so we spent Friday in search of the perfect ice cream story.

Seeing as how I’m a Kentucky girl born and raised and my ability to drive around Grapevine consisted of getting from Claudia’s house, to Target, and to the boys’ daycare, we were destined to make our way to the middle of nowhere. Our adventure began driving down Pleasant Run Rd and making our way to both Southlake and Northlake, TX. Along the way, we stumbled upon Sweet Street, so I knew we were headed in the right direction.

A few miles down the road, however, we ran into our first no outlet. So, we turned around and eventually made our way to TX 114. A short time later, we spotted our first sign we were doing something right: a closed sno cone shop. While not exactly ice cream, it gave us assurance we were well on our way. A few miles later, we saw a billboard for Dairy Queen. As the billboard said, 2 miles down the road and to my right I saw the advertised Dairy Queen in a town named Rhome. In my mind, I immediately thought, “when in Rhome”, so we pulled off and got our first ice cream of the day at 10:43 am. We shared a small waffle crisp blizzard, which included pieces of a waffle cone, vanilla ice cream, caramel, and chocolate chunks. Since we had named ourselves ice cream experts for the day, we gave a great review to the blizzard, but a bad review for the actual Dairy Queen (cleanliness factors). A side note for those with a need for the “crunch factor” like Claudia: the pieces of waffle cone become soft when mixed in with the rest of the ingredients. If you’re looking for a “crunch factor”, this may not be the treat for you. While the treat was tasty and worth the stop, we knew that we had not yet found the true ice cream story for which we were searching.




Once back on the road, we stumbled upon two more signs that we were still headed in the right direction: a Dreyer’s ice cream truck parked in a repair shop parking lot and an ice cream truck traveling along side us on the road.



After a few stops to take pictures of the trucks, we decided (once again, just following our instincts) to pull off at Justin, TX. Upon arriving in Justin, we found the famous Justin Boots. After a short shopping spree inside the outlet store, we headed over to the recommended Lonesome Spur Café where we ordered grilled cheese sandwiches and onion rings. I feel the need to note that while Justin brought us no ice cream, it did bring the largest (I guess everything is bigger in Texas) and most delicious onion rings I have ever experienced. Between the boots and the onion rings, I am willing to say that the stop in Justin was well worth it, and of course was one more step in the right direction. Back on the road again and simply paying attention to my instincts and wandering off in my own mind, I spotted a sign for Ponder, TX.



We pulled off the exit and found our way to Ponder. We stopped off at the Post Office to see if anyone could point us into the direction of some ice cream. We quickly learned that Ponder had no ice cream shop, but we may be able to find what we were looking for at Bev’s convenience store down the street. So, we headed to Bev's and found what little they had to offer in small coolers toward the front of the shop. At 1:42 pm, as we picked out our second round of ice cream for the day (myself a Push-up Pop and Claudia a Toll House crunch bar), Bev came walking toward the front of the store and began to speak with us. Claudia shared with Bev our search for the perfect ice cream story, and in return, Bev gave us exactly what we had been searching for- our final destination.

She told us about a small homemade ice cream shop in the town square at Denton by the name of Beth Marie’s. According to Bev, they are famous for their ice cream and the fact that it is all homemade right there in the shop. Claudia and I looked at each other and knew we had found it. Bev gave us some brief directions to get us from Ponder to Beth Marie’s and then we were on our way!

Again behind the steering wheel, we followed the directions Bev had given us and headed to Denton to find Beth Marie’s. Upon our arrival, we parked at the antique shop and walked up to the town square. What we found was a square full of boutiques, restaurants, and barbershops. Having already had two rounds of ice cream plus lunch, we decided to stop in at some of the shops before finding our way to our final ice cream story. However, from the moment we set eyes on Beth Marie’s, we knew we had found exactly what we were looking for the entire day. Between the jukebox in the corner, the old style table and chairs spread throughout the shop, the checkerboard floor, the tie dyed t-shirts, and the smiles on the faces of the employees behind the counter, we were certain we’d found our ice cream story! One of the first things to catch our eye in the shop was the board listing the flavors and options for ice cream. As we began to try some of the flavors, we realized why this shop was so famous. The history of the shop was radiating even from the offerings of flavors, including: Ashley’s Key Lime, Sue’s Snickers, Beth’s Raspberry Truffle, etc. Many of the flavors were preceded by someone’s name, which we came to find out were people either from around town or former employees who had created the idea for the ice cream flavor. The owners take suggestions for ice cream flavors and upon its success, it then bears the name of the creator. After much debate, I settled on a sugar cone of Turtle Torture, which was cream flavored with nuts and caramel covered in chocolate. Claudia settled on a sampler including Campfire Marshmallow, Beth’s Raspberry Truffle,and Cappuccino Crunch.


After completing our mission for the day, we said our goodbyes, and pulled out the GPS to find our way home. What started as a random day spent on the road searching for a good ice cream story, ended up with a day full of laughs, memories, and the perfect small town homemade ice cream shop! The result was exactly what we were searching for: an ice cream story worth sharing and a great start to honoring ice cream for the entire month of July!

Happy National Ice Cream Month to all of you! In honor of our search for ice cream, what fun ice cream shops have you stumbled upon in small towns around the country? Where do you go for your favorite hometown ice cream?

Signing off as today’s guest writer and off to fall in love with new ideas.
Katie K (cspgradstudent)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

My apologies

I'll be brief, as I have been at this for an hour and a half now.  I thought I might get today's entry in under the wire, but as fate would have it... not going to happen.

Today was Richard's birthday, so rather than doing my blog at the normal time, I waited until later in the day when ice cream and cake was done and the boys were put to bed.

As it turns out... loading fifteen pictures is more than this computer illiterate chick knows how to do.  I've tried a number of ways and on more than one computer.  Hope springs eternal and I'm sure some day I'll make it work.  Just not this day.

Tomorrow has to be better or we'll have to abandon the week's plans for another Random Acts of Kindness Week.

Signing off until tomorrow...

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Identity, What an Idea!

We're here.  We made it through the week... starting with "introduction" on Monday, "involvement" on Tuesday, "interaction" on Wednesday, "investment" on Thursday, yesterday "influence", and today... finally...

Identity.
No more suspense.  Cassie P. guessed it right when she identified the picture as a batch of cookies made to look like light bulbs (174 to be exact).  Katie (still in Texas, but I'm sure thankful to be leaving on a plane later this morning) and I baked these cookies, because thriving communities have a strong sense of identity.  Often times that group identity manifests in some kind of physical way.  

It can be a logo.  If you see a metal fish affixed to the back of a car, what might you know about the driver?  Chances are he or she is Christian.  What about the "W" stickers that were so prevalent in the 2004 presidential elections?  The swish on the side of a sneaker?  Or, the apple on a computer?  What if I asked you to describe the emblem most associated with the Olympic games.  Could you do it?  Chances are yes.

Why?  Because each of these communities or organizations has done such a masterful job of creating a symbol so recognizable, that the image actually speaks volumes.

The Greek system on college campuses is another place where group identity is communicated through symbols.  Sweatshirts, hats, t-shirts, bumper stickers, key chains, jewelry, and even tattoos are sported by students all over the country, in an effort to proudly announce group identity.  Sports teams are the same.  We mentioned Packer fans earlier in the week when talking about investment, but athletic paraphernalia also illustrates the power of identity.  What color are packer uniforms?  Did you say yellow and green?  Then it works.

Identifiable images, logos, emblems, and colors all work to help communities differentiate themselves from the rest of the population.  It's quick, it's easy, and it allows proud members of a community to communicate their affiliation without having to say anything.  It's also efficient.  Need to go to the rest room?  Depending upon how badly you need to go, you might be very glad you don't have to waste time determining which rest room is which.  The universally accepted symbol for men and women's rest rooms, is efficient and comes in handy.  The symbol for handicapped parking is similar.  Group affiliations help comprise pieces of our identity and those identities are often communicated through symbols like those mentioned above.  

Back to the light bulbs.... 

I've spent some time thinking, and consulting with others, about an image I might use to further develop a sense of identity among the highlowaha readers.  I've been through many ideas and even more renditions of those ideas.  I keep coming back to the light bulb.  It's simple, clean, and almost immediately conjures up the notion of "ideas."  I want to play with it some more and find a way to integrate a heart into the graphic.  Why?  Put on your creative cap.  What do you think of the tag line... "Fall in love with a new idea." ... followed by highlowaha.com.

  

As for the cookies.  We're packaging them in cellophane bags and delivering them to every family at my son's daycare.  It's a promotional gimmick, designed to see if we can pull in a new reader or two.  Today cookies.  Tomorrow t-shirts, caps, bumper stickers, screen savers... and did someone say tattoos?  A girl can dream.

Signing off until tomorrow... yes, tomorrow.  I've had a number of requests for an update about pen pal weekend.  Sunday I'll post the pics, along with updates about some other highlowaha initiatives.  Finally... Monday we will have a guest writer.  Next week is a big and fun week.  You won't want to miss it!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Free For All Friday: "I" Can Hear You!


A sneak peek at Altoid table progress!

In the spirit of community... WELCOME Chaotic and thank you for coming forward.  We are thrilled to have you as a new contributing member.  I will wait - literally with baited breath- to see what promotional idea you're working on this Saturday.  Also, thanks again to Sara who gave up her "lurker" status to become an active participant.  The community will be richer because of our new additions.  Now a clue about today's word.

What do m&m's, American Idol, Starbucks, and November 4, 2008 have in common?  Answer... they are all excellent examples of people having opportunity to influence their communities.  Remember when m&m's polled the country for what color candy shell should replace the light brown shell being retired?  I'm no expert on m&ms (I'm allergic), but I think it was blue that won. 
 
What about American Idol... an entire t.v. show built around the audience influencing who ultimately wins?  This year the battle was between the David's (Cook and Archuletta).

Starbucks also got smart and created their own way for community members to have influence.  Mystarbucksidea.com is a promotional gimmick inviting customers to share their best ideas for Starbucks innovations.  Log into the site and leave your idea so that fellow Starbuck loyalists can give it a rating.   A team of Starbucks staff members read the public responses to suggested ideas, stealing the good and providing a polite thank- you for the rest.  My idea... a Starbucks "coffee book," showcasing all the fun Starbuck's communities and friendships that have popped around the country.  It hasn't gained traction to date, but I'm holding out hope. 

November 4, 2008 is the day American citizens get to influence our ultimate community by voting for our next President of the United States.  A small public service announcement... "Please Vote."  If you aren't registered yet, the deadline in most states is a minimum of thirty days prior.  Each state has different deadlines and rules, so if you are unsure visit declareyourself.com.

You guessed it.  The fifth characteristic present in most thriving communities is the opportunity to have some kind of influence over the group's goings-on.  This can come in the form of a neighborhood association, elections for class president, open forums, phone surveys or even an evaluation.  Without opportunity to influence, the temptation to be a passive participant is far too great.

Again, let's take a quick look at highlowaha.com.  What kinds of things have you had the chance to influence over the past four months?  The first thing that comes to mind are the quotes and items included in the Altoid boxes.  But... what else?  The winning state for Taste of USA is completely and totally influenced by you the readers.  The criteria for distribution of P.P.D.C's fifteen Starbucks cards (while still in negotiations) was also completely influenced by you the readers. 
 
The idea here is that the more influence we give members of a community over the happenings of the group, the more invested they become in the outcome AND,  in fact, the more interaction and involvement among members there is likely to be. 

You might have guessed the reason I saved "influence" for Friday is because Free for All Friday's were designed with the sole purpose of giving you, the readers, influence.  So, in keeping with Free For All Friday... post something for which you would like the group's collective creativity OR respond to my prompt.

My prompt...  Based on what we've learned about one another this week (large number of book lovers, people wanting to publish, good number of moms, etc...), what new features (i.e. book club) or topics would you like covered?  Or, what other great brainstorms might you have about how to capitalize on all we now know about our readers?

A teaser for tomorrow...  Hmmmm.... what might these have to do with building community? Tune in and find out.
Signing off until tomorrow...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Community: Great Return on Your... INVESTMENT!!!

Day #4.  So far we have Introduction, Involvement, and Interaction under our belt.  Today we add, "Investment."  Yes, that's right.  In order to establish a sense of community members must feel some sense of "investment" in the group and in the group's happenings.  

Let's consider a few communities where this principle seems to hold true.  The first thing that comes to mind are sports teams.  Reader Cristine and her family come are a great example.  Her husband, Matt, is the consummate Packer's fan.  They own Green Bay shirts for every season, arm chairs, ornaments, Christmas lights, pennants and banners, glasses, bibs, you name it....  If a Green Bay logo can be printed on it, chances are Matt and Cristine have one.  But they're not alone.  Sports fans from all corners of the country are invested in their sports teams with the same level of fervor.  Why is that?

Jazz is the woman who cut my hair when I lived in Louisville.  In the right hand corner of her cutting station sat a plastic file box, organized by letters of the alphabet.  Each card contained the name, contact information, (and "treatments") of each client.  Jazz never let you tip her and insisted, if you were pleased with her service, that instead of a tip you refer her a new client.  She also offered a discount on your next haircut if, in fact, you sent someone her way.  Not only is Jazz excellent at what she does, but I was invested in helping build her clientele, first because she thanked me on the front end by not accepting my tip and second because each referral meant more money saved.  

The same is true of the preschool where my son's go.  Send a referral there way and save $100.00 on next month's tuition.  Investment in spreading their word.  Heck, even Adsense is effective at investing me in their company's purpose, by paying me a tiny dividend for each ad clicked on by one of my readers.  So, while fans become invested in community based on pride and the hope of bragging rights, other groups attempt to create investment by offering an incentive.  Still other groups such as churches, political campaigns, and local associations create investment by appealing to your self interests (religious beliefs, nomination of candidate, safety and well being of children or a neighborhood, etc...).  

Regardless of the motivation for one's investment or the method used, one thing is certain...  thriving communities have members who are invested in the life of the group.  What made highlowaha readers so invested in my reaching 5,000 readers back in April?  What makes a reader invested enough in the community that you might check the blog not once, or twice, but even three times in the same day (have I mentioned how GREAT I think that is)?  On the flip side, what might I do to get more readers invested in the outcome of Bigger or Better?  Or, is there a magic word or series of spells that could be placed on the community to make readers more invested in assuring I receive a Random Acts of Kindness postcard from each highlowaha reader (4012 Harvestwood Court, Grapevine, Texas, 76051)? 

In thriving communities, where purpose and vision is shared, members understand that success for one person inevitably means success for others.  Let's explore.  Spreading the good word about highlowaha.com to friends and family who might be interested directly helps me increase readership.  True.  But, Wendy, Beekayroot, and the artist from Philadelphia whose art will be featured soon, also benefit from increased readership.  The more people visiting the site, the more likely they are to drum up business.  Melanie's Beliz earnings could double in size for next year if more readers participated in the community and just one of them was service minded.  Free For All Friday exponentially increases in value when readership grows and more creative minds are tackling the "challenges" of the day.  The list goes on and on.  If we are a community with shared purpose (which I believe we are) then investing in the success of one member might cause a ripple effect of success for other members.

Maybe we can put this to the test.  I have an idea, but none of the "technical" ability necessary to execute.  Imagine a tear-away-flier promoting highlowaha.com and providing the website address for people to conveniently take with them.  You know the kind I'm talking about.  You see them on public bulletin boards at the post office, in gyms, and on kiosks around town and on college campuses.  They are used to advertise apartments for rent, things to sell, etc....  I see the flier portion simply stating...

Fall in Love with a New Idea
(a graphic of a light bulb)
Highlowaha.com

Plug In!
(At the bottom would be the small strips, each printed with highlowaha.com)

Once created, a copy could be emailed to all willing and interested readers, so that he/she might print it off and post the flier in their neighborhood, at their school, church, gym, or university.  I will know how much progress I've made toward creating an "invested" readership, if even one person jumps on my request to help make the flier happen.  The more invested you are, the more apt you are to root for our success - much like you did with "Reaching for 5,000).

One more thing.  I love Jazz's file box and decided I should have one too.  So, while you aren't clients and I won't be styling your hair.... I am invested in knowing more about you.  Knowing your birthdays, life goals, skills, things you want to learn, and marital status, etc... (see 6/23) helps me craft blog entries more focused on your interests.  I used Monday's responses to "introduction" to create your file box cards.  To date I have 19 cards in my box.  I file you by first name and so far the letters represented include: A, B, C, H, J, K, L, M, P, S, T, and W.  I still need at least one card for letters D, E, F, G, I, N, O, Q, R, U, V, X, Y, and Z.  So, while you're hanging your tear away fliers later this afternoon, help seek and encourage readers whose names start with any of the unrepresented letters.

Signing off until tomorrow...  

P.S.  Sara, thank you for posting yesterday.  It is great to have you as an active member of our community!  Kat, thanks for helping make it happen.  An example of "investment" at its best!
  

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Introduce, Involve, Interact...

Monday, "introduction"; Tuesday, "involvement"; Today, "interaction!"  This is going to be a great day in highlowaha history, because today we get to illustrate what happens when members of a group not only introduce themselves to one another, but when that simple act of involvement prompts countless interactions.  It is proof that building community, among a wide range of people, is possible using virtually any venue.

Nineteen people introduced themselves to the rest of the highlowaha community, using Monday's prompts (name, birthday, kids, life goal, etc...).  Twenty... count them 20 commonalities were found among the nineteen members, involving everything from knitting to years married, to publishing a book.  Check it out...
  • Interested in learning to sew: Claudia, Jenny, and Kat 
  • Knitting:  Jayme and Susan 
  • Publish something: Katie, Stacie, Cristine, Treye, Susan, Beekayroot
  • Enjoys reading: Claudia, Julie, Cassie P, Cheryl, Cristine, and Melanie, Kat, TReye, Stacie, and Susan.
  • Works or worked in Residence Life: Claudia, Katie, and Beekayroot
  • Collects craft supplies: Claudia, Cheryl, Peggy, and Kat
  • Enjoys listening to music: Katie and Cheryl
  • Wants to visit all 50 states: Julie and Melanie
  • Learn to play the guitar: Julie and Brian, and Melanie is willing to trade one up.
  • Loves to be outside: Julie, Cassie P., Cassie, and Melanie
  • Works as teacher (or substitute): Jayme, Peggy, and Susan
  • Good at scrapbooking: Jayme and Peggy who makes beautiful cards
  • Married 19 years (to be exact): Peggy, Maureen, and Susan
  • Excellent at organizing: Peggy and Melanie
  • Wants to travel abroad: Peggy, Maureen, and Cristine
  • Aspires to learn another language: Susan (sign) and Cristine (spanish +)
  • Married: Claudia, Jayme, Stacie, Cassie, Peggy, Jenny, Maureen, Cristine, Melanie, Kat, Susan, and Beekayroot.
  • Has sons: Claudia, Stacie, Cassie, Cheryl, Peggy, Jenny, Maureen, Cristine, Kat, and Susan
  • Has daughters: Cassie, Peggy, Jenny, Maureen, Susan, and Heather
  • Life goal to raise great and happy kids: Maureen and Cassie.
What's amazing about this activity is that there are upwards of 80, or more, regular readers (most lurkers) who did not introduce themselves (though NEVER too late!) AND... for each thing that I asked you to share, there are thousands of potential similarities you did not share.  Point.  We are a group of people with many things in common - possessing skills from which others can benefit and anxious to achieve things with which others can assist.

Think about it... if there are a group of us who want to publish a book, can we leverage our friendship to become more informed about the process or hold one another accountable for making ongoing progress?  If ten of us have sons, how might we use that information?  If two people tout themselves as master organizers and someone else struggles with managing their clutter, how might the two work together?  If Melanie has a guitar and Julie and Beekayroot want to learn how to play, is there a connection to be made?  Or, if ten people are self-proclaimed book lovers, could a book club be in our future (look out Oprah's Book Club.  Highlowaha is on the scene)?

The possible connections are endless and if willing to share even just a little of yourself, think about how much greater the whole can be than the sum of its parts.  If you've gotten to know me at all over the past four months,  you know I can't just let this virtual "bank" of strengths and interests sit there without trying to... cash in.   I believe in community, so I have to push this activity to its natural conclusion.   How about this?...

If you introduced yourself earlier in the week, find one person with whom you have something in common and reach out to him/her requesting contact information.  Then, initiate some kind of communication (email, snail mail, phone call... something).  If you haven't introduced yourself yet, consider doing it now or simply reach out to someone else who has.  In the end highlowaha will have a web of relationships that stretches well beyond the life of this blog and our community will be stronger because of it. 

I'll start.  Kat.  Like me, you want to learn to sew AND you have a 15 month old boy.  It seems we have at least two things in common.  If willing, post your email address so I can send an email requesting your phone number.  I'd love to talk on the phone.

Now it's your turn.  Arrange to interact with at least one highlowaha reader.

Signing off until tomorrow...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

"I" Number Two: Involvement

Announcements at the end...

For those of you lucky enough to have had a long weekend, let me bring you up to speed.  In recognition of summer, when neighbors are more likely to be spending time outside and daylight allows us to pack more activity into our days, we are spending the week celebrating and better understanding concepts of community.  Yesterday we focused on Introductions.  Essential to community is the idea that participants receive a formal introduction into the group.  What is it?, Why does it exist?, What is expected of you in community?  Similarly, introduction requires members to share basic information about themselves with other community members.  We did this and, if for some reason, you missed the chance, then PLEASE feel free introduce yourself today.  Inherent in community is the idea that it is inviting - meaning... it's never too late to jump in!

Today... Involvement.  You know what's great about this?  Just last week I was helping out Heather (a loyal reader and great friend) by scoping out Grapevine apartment complexes.  In and out Katie and I went snapping pictures and gathering information from Apartment Complex Directors.  While the amenities from one complex to another appeared to be the same - or very similar - it was the opportunity for involvement that seemed to most distinguish one location from another.  Not only was the experience perfectly timed, but it reinforced everything I know and intuitively believe about the essential role that opportunities for involvement play in building community.

So lets take a page from the Dove Park Apartment Complex, for example.  Placed squarely in their front office for any resident or visitor to see is a bulletin board and a newsletter announcing upcoming activities.  June 12... Kid's Club.  June 21... Hawaiian Luau Pool Party.  Every morning... free coffee in the internet cafe.  Every Friday... Popcorn Friday's.  The complex is chock full of opportunities for residents to involve themselves in the life of the community.  With such a spread of activity comes - as my friend, Katie O. would say, "the promise of fun."  With each of those activities comes the hope, that yes... I will be happy here and maybe even make some new friends.  Community.   

Let's face it... many college students pick schools based as much on catalog photographs (students on the quad and in the football stadium) as they do on course selection.  How involving is the community?  It's true.  We select fitness clubs based not only price and equipment, but in many cases, also on how thriving the community feels.  My neighborhood became more fun the day I learned they have a monthly Bunco group in which I could get involved.  Churches, who in many cases compete for members, don't grow congregations by showcasing sparsely filled pews and empty social calendars.  No.  We gauge the potential for fun and interest in a group by how involving it appears to be. 
 
Let's turn inward for a moment.  One strategy used to build community among highlowaha readers is to present opportunities for involvement.  Rather than having you simply join me each day for a creative idea (receive), I like to present ways for you to get involved.  Vote in Taste of USA; Whack an idea one Wednesday; Share your creativity on a Free For All Friday; Take the "Never Eat Alone Challenge";  Offer something Bigger or Better; or send a postcard in hopes of receiving a Random Act of Kindness (it's still not too late... 4012 Harvestwood Court, Grapevine, Texas 76051).

So take quick inventory of the groups to which you belong.  Are there opportunities for involvement or could the sense of community be enhanced by inviting participants to do more than simply share space, faith, or common goals?

Maybe you'll get involved today and share an observation or two about your communities.

Announcements:
  • The 38 words/phrases for the Altoid Tables have been selected.  They are... Hugs are Free; Dream; Authenticity; Imagine the Possibility; What if?; Wish on Stars; Smell the Roses; Give Freely; Treat others as you would like to be treated; Why Not?; Serendipity; Dream Big; It's never too late to be who you might have been; Believe in yourself; Imagine; Live, Love, Laugh; It's Magic; Smile; Wish; You are beautiful; Call your mom; Hope; Think Big; Inspire; Carpe Diem; Do a random act of kindness; We have all we need; You Matter; Deep Breaths, Happy Thoughts; Make a Wish; Hope; Listen hard; laugh; continue to learn; Do what you love; Got Milk?; Failure is inevitable, success is optional; Live for today; You're destined to do great things.  Thank you for the 69 entries!
  • Speaking of the Altoid Tables:  Yesterday we received two more packages of trinkets for the table and a Freebie for an upcoming Freebie Friday.  Thank you Peggy, Cassie P, and H.F. from Pennsylvania.  Keep the trinkets coming.  So far we have items such as... an hour glass, a calculator, lottery tickets, scrap booking trinkets, sea shells, and earrings.  The possibilities are endless, so get creative and get involved
Signing off until tomorrow...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Community: Back to the B.A.S.I.C.S.

Announcements at the end...

It's official.  Summer is here and I love it!  Days are long, the sun shines, and nights are filled with neighborhood kids running around while parents catch up after a long, dark winter.  When I was a kid, we felt like owned the neighborhood.  We would run from the dock - where sail boats launched and friends would spend hours swimming, collecting shells, and waiting for Mr. Softee to pull up in his ice cream truck - to the Douglaston Club, where you could play tennis, swim, dive, and where tickets bought you the coveted basket of hot fries.  The beginning of summer was marked with the Strawberry Festival.  July 4th  brought with it the Annual Memorial Field races and Labor day was host to the Annual Back to School Carnival.  People gathered and friends were made.  I love summer.

Maybe it is those summer experiences, embedded in my memory, that are responsible for my interest in community development.  I'm not sure, but what I do know is I've spent the better part of my adult life thinking about concepts of community and why some "variables/experiences" make people feel more connected to a group of people than do other variables/experiences.  

In the early 1990's a colleague of mine and I - while working in the Office of Residence Life at Miami University - co-authored a workbook designed for residence hall staff.  The purpose of the workbook was to present simple concepts and processes for building a cohesive community among college students moving into a residence hall (or dorm for all those who don't work in student affairs).  The workbook was published soon after and used by a number of other campuses.

The concepts transcend residence halls or universities, for that matter.  Wherever you have a "group," you have the potential for community.  This could be a neighborhood, a church, a sports team, class, or office staff.  We are all impacted by community (OR LACK THEREOF) and it is for that reason I have dedicated this week's blog to the topic.  When writing BASIC, my co-author and I referenced six I's of community.  I thought each day we might look at a different "I."  You'll get to think about how each applies to the communities of which you are a part and I'll get to spend the week talking about one of my favorite topics. 

I'll also find this interesting, because in some small way... that is one of my goals for this blog.  I want this gathering of readers to feel as though visiting highlowaha is like coming home and reconnecting with friends... a place to share exciting news, but also a place to go when you need to feel better.  I want us to laugh together, to celebrate personal life events, and to feel safe when asking for help.  But community is also about contribution.  So, I hope as our community persists that we continue looking for ways to engage with one another, as well as the greater community- and yes, maybe in the process, to leave our community better than we found it.

Today's "i"... Introduction.  Introduction is important to community for two reasons.  First, it is - in theory - how one comes to understand what he/she should expect.  Unless I get a basic introduction to the "norms" of a group, I will continue to feel like an outsider.  Let's use me as an example.  Ordering a drink at Starbucks could be an intimidating experience.  There's lingo to know and protocol about where to pay and then where one should wait for his order.  People have regular seats they like to claim and all it takes is one "outsider" of the community to throw the whole kit and kaboodle topsy turvey.

A second reason introduction is important is because... in the end... the only way to really have community is for one person to get to know another.  There are no short cuts.  When I first starting visiting "my" Starbucks, I was nobody - just a nameless, faceless, random person stopping in for a drink.  Then the staff recognized my drink order, but not my name.  Now, months later the staff knows my name too.  It is not unusual for employees to strike up conversation and to ask questions about what I do, etc....  Consequently, I feel connected to that particular Starbucks and the people I can anticipate seeing each morning.  Slowly, but surely, community is being built.

So, today I thought highlowaha could do some of their own introductions.  If you liked the blog entry titled, "Take it or Leave it," you'll like today's entry too.  Today I will provide some basic prompts you can use to "introduce" yourself to the rest of the readership.  This will allow us to better understand who one another is and what we might have in common (essential to an "i" we'll talk about later in the week).  Here are the prompts:

  • Name:
  • State:
  • Birthday:
  • Work in home/Work out of home:
  • Married, divorced, or never married:
  • Kids or no kids (if so, ages and sex):
  • Your Age (range if you're too incriminating):
  • A skill you're proud of:
  • Life goal:
  • Something you want to learn/do:
  • Something you collect:
  • Favorite past time(s):

As promised... Announcements
  • Bigger or Better: Claudia's frog to Maureen for case of wine; wine to Heather for Craft Case of scissors, etc...; craft case traded to ???.  The two items on the table are (1) NASCAR 2008 Jimmie Johnson 1:24 scale racing car OR (2) a guitar.  Which should we select as the next offer... car or guitar?
  • To-Do Tuesday:  Winning by 10 points, Cassie is our winner of last Tuesday's to-do challenge. 
  • Altoid Table: We got over 50 words for inside Altoid boxes.  Pen pals leave today.  More progress by end of week.  Thanks to Durham, N.C. for the first mailed shipment of chatchka for the tins (not to mention the other fun treats!!!!!).  
  • Taste of USA:  This week Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Montana, and Virginia.  On deck: Kentucky, Washington, Oregon, Nebraska, and Connecticut.  To date... New York is winning.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Pen Pal Rundown

That's a double entendre!  "Rundown" as in overview and "rundown" as in... the general feeling at 4012 Harvestwood Court.  But, that's a good thing.  Rundown when you have a house full of kids means energy is being expended and fun is being had.  Allegra and Rebecca are getting along great... laughing; singing to the Jonas Brothers; eating lots and lots of gummy worms, sour patch kids, and chewy sweet tarts - sugar galore!; swimming; lots of crafts; and a big dose of Magic 8 Ball-reading and MASH Mania, F.L.A.M.E.S, and Crush Casters.

Maybe the best way to fill you in is to do it through it through the lenses of high, low, and aha.

High:  Today we took the girls to the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Forth Worth, Texas.  We wandered through the Dinosaur Roundup, dressed up in chaps; posed for cowgirl movie posters; and rode bucking bronco rides.  On the way out of the museum I looked up and Rebecca and Allegra were holding hands.  It warmed my heart.  There was a little bit of risk involved in flying these two girls to Texas without them meeting beforehand.  It seems to be working.... so far.

Low:  Tie Dying T-shirts.  I'm going to go on the record for saying... craft projects, like recipes, should be REQUIRED to forecast prep time and "cook time."  Now, I'm an event planner by nature, so accurately assessing how long something will take is not usually a problem for me.  NOT SO for the Twisted Tie Dye Machine.  Back in the day when t-shirts were a nickel and we had to walk three miles to the store to get them... through the snow and up hill both ways... the whole shabang took a couple hours.  Heat the water, a little bit of vinegar and dye, rubber band the shirts, and hang them out to dry.  Within two hours your sporting your new shirt.  

The Twisted Tie Dye Machine is more like a Time Machine.  There's "fixing solution" that needs to sit and I suppose "cure" for an hour before the shirts can be "prepped" for tie dying (there was no prepping back in the day).  Next the die tablets (used to be liquid poured in boiling water) must also sit and "cure," but for two hours.  Then, and only then, are the shirts ready to be dyed.  Once done, they must sit OVER NIGHT in plastic bags, then be rinsed, and hung to dry.  According to my calculations... they should be done with the shirts in time to board the plane on Monday.  P.S.  We started on Friday morning.  The  best laid plans...

Aha:  Hard to say where to go with this...  Is it, that ten year old girls thrive on drama?  Nah... too obvious.  Is it... that ten year old girls still possess an insatiable curiosity that will compel them to open an emergency exit door in the middle of a restaurant - even though it says in big, bold, red letters, "Emergency Exit?"  Nope.... we can do better.  Is it that the taste of ten year old girls can be so vast and so eclectic, that buying plastic horses, a metal lunch box, chokers, and a bag of rocks could all seem like reasonable purchases for a single afternoon?  Maybe.  But I think my real "aha" for today is that the interests, dreams, and hopes of young girls transcends geography and even generations.  I can remember being excited about all the same things they're talking about... and, yes... even still I want to know Mansion, Apartment, Shack, or House.

Side note:  Katie is sitting next to me and wants to add her "aha" for the day.  Rebecca and Allegra also love music.  It seems that today Katie learned, she is too old to know who Aerosmith is, but not too old to ask Santa for a tubal ligation.  

Signing off until Monday...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Fortuitous Friday

It's fortuitous because Free For All Friday is notoriously easier to compose than a typical day's post.  What was I thinking to believe Pen Pal Weekend flights would arrive on time?  No.  Flight number one was five hours late and flight number two was one and half hours late.  That had us two hours off our action-packed itinerary, before the weekend even started.  We got a late start and 4:55 a.m. came fast.  

I indulged myself in the snooze button, knowing today was a Free For All and all I would have to do is set the stage.  So, it's 6:30 a.m. and I was thankful for the extra sleep.
My Free for All question...  

Sunday the pen pals and their mothers (along with some other mother-daughter guests) will participate in a game show much like the Newlywed game show.  Katie and I will pose questions to both mothers and daughters testing how well the mother-daughter teams know each other.  The game will last approximately 30-40 minutes.  In that time, we expect to ask 12-15 questions.  

What are your ideas?  We'd like 7 questions for daughters and 7 questions for mothers.  As usual... you too can benefit from the brain trust by raising your own question or posing your own challenge to the group.

Calm Before the Storm

Yes, this is it.  Today marks the beginning of Pen Pal Weekend!  I have been anticipating this day for almost a year.  It was last June when I connected up two very special girls as pen pals (see March 4, Dear Mr. Postman...).  I did so with this caveat...  Exchange 12 pieces of snail mail each and earn a weekend in Dallas.  Twenty-four pieces of mail later, here we are on the eve of the big weekend.  CSPgrad.student and I have been cruising the town pulling together all the final details (Tera, it feels a little like coordinating a wedding).  I fully expect to do a full recap of the weekend on Tuesday (June 24), the day after everyone shoves out of town.

Until then... suffice it to say, there hasn't been a whole lot of time to lie on the grass, staring up at clouds.  However, due to a VERY unfortunate set of circumstances - on which I will someday report - I did have the opportunity to pause and take this picture.  I'll tease you by revealing that the picture was taken last week (Friday the 13th, to be exact) at an RV lot on the side of the road, about 17 miles outside of Austin. 

Knowing that the next few days will be very hectic, let's pay heed to Cheryl... "Deep breaths, happy thoughts."  Take a moment to relax, stare up into this cloud and tell me... what do you see?

Signing off until tomorrow when we will be tie-dying, painting pots, visiting Fort Worth, enjoying a late night swim, eating smores, and maybe - just maybe - hittin' the hay around... midnight.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Whack on the Side of the Head Wednesday: Part II


You made it back tonight
and for that I am glad
For, to be here alone
would surely be sad.

Von Oech suggests
that to whack what we think
Change things up
with sox, either red or pink.

So now that our thinking 
has surely been whacked
The seal on the dilemma
can finally be cracked.

To fully understand
and assure we don't fail
Take a minute to read 
a delivery of mail.

So... since I posted my first blog yesterday I spent last evening thinking about what I would actually do if I won the $74.  Here are my thoughts... If I had won, I would divide the $74 by 5 and purchase 15 $5 Starbucks giftcards for 15 highlowaha readers and send it to them in some creative format.  This would commemorate the 100 written blogs at Starbucks and celebrate the great readership.  Even though I didn't win, the offer is on the table if there's a way that you can think of to incorporate it into the blog.  I can also take 15 random addresses you may have from the readership and anonymously send a giftcard to them.  I, of course, would use my own money, not yours.

Sitting at my desk eating watermelon and dreaming BIG.

The author of this mail,
is a mystery to me
My only clue,
are initials P.P.D.C

Her offer is one
We must accept
It's"how" at which
you must be adept.

Fifteen cards,
five dollars each
Best solution 
for maximum reach.

So whack your thinking 
and make a post
We will determine
which works the most.

This poem never ending
might fill you with sorrow
I'll oblige you by 
signing off until tomorrow...

Whack on the Side of the Head Wednesday

So here I am... 5:15 a.m. sitting in Starbucks with a Cinnamon Dolce in one hand and my Whack Pack in the other.  It's Wednesday, the one day of the week my brain (and hopefully yours) is sure to get a a vigorous workout. 
 
Challenge locked firmly into place.  ...Now now for Von Oech's whack.

Give Yourself A Whack on the Side of the Head.  The more often you do something in the same way, the more difficult it is to think about doing it in any other way.  Break our of this "prison of familiarity" by disrupting your habitual thought patterns.  Write a love poem in the middle of the night.  Eat ice cream for breakfast.  Wear red sox.  Visit a junk yard.  Work the weekend.  Take the slow way home. Sleep on the other side of the bed.  Such jolts to your routines will lead to new ideas.  How can you whack your thinking?

"Prison of familiarity."  "Disrupt your habitual thought patterns.."  "Think about doing it another way?"  Hmmm.... I always make my daily post in the morning.  Hmmm... not today.  Today we're going to do it another way.  Today, we'll meet tonight.  Check back sometime after 6:30 p.m..  We have a dilemma to solve and I'll need your help.  Rest up, write a poem, eat ice cream for lunch.  Do something to whack your thinking and show up this evening ready to be creative.

Signing off until later today... 

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

To-Do Tuesday

1.  Get into the 21st Century.
2.  Post today's blog
3.  Order and drink Cinnamon Dolce, non-fat, no-whip, and heated to 180 degrees.
4.  Prepare for Pen Pal Weekend
5.  Mail treat to highlowaha winner.

Last week we were 100% wrapped up in celebrating 100 highlowaha.com posts, meaning that not much other blog news was covered.  Therefore, today must be about bringing readers up to speed on all the highlowaha.com happenings.  But, it isn't just about bringing you up to speed.  You are part of a thriving community now.  A community that, to truly thrive, must count on your participation.  So grab a paper and pen (or as the case may be in the 21st century, access your electronic management system).  I hope you'll make a few notes.

Highlowaha Reader To-do List
  • Altoid Table Phrase:  We need two things from you in order to move along the Altoid table project. First, post a comment on today's blog sharing a word or phrase you would like included inside one of the 38 tins to be used (see picture below).  The phrase I will contribute, for example is, "Think Big."  How about you?  
  • Altoid Table Chatchka:  Within the next two weeks we expect to fill all 38 Altoid boxes with the inaugural items.  This is a BIG deal, because we will be setting the tone for all future treats.  So, dig around your house for a fun trinket you can send.  Examples might be things such as: a fortune, a wishbone, a macth box car, quarters, a vintage ring you no longer wear, tea light, fun eraser heads, a Micro Sharpie marker, a pin, a coupon or gift card to a favorite store, a new lip balm, a scratch-off lottery ticket and the list goes on.  See item #4 for mailing address.
  • Bigger or Better: Resuscitate this project, before it dies a quick death.  We successfully traded up from beautiful fish pin to a case (yes, I said case) of Sauvignon Blanc wine... delivered to your door.  Our goal is to trade up for one plane ticket, so the very lovely Cheryl can accompany me to Taste of USA's host state later this summer (state still to be determined.  See item #5).  Your item does not necessarily need to be monetarily worth more.  You never know who might be trying to build their thimble collection.  So, just post your trading offer and let's get this show back on the road.  
  • Random Acts Postcard:  The first card was drawn yesterday to select a random recipient for the 101 Dalmatians.  To date, seventeen postcards have been received.  Each of those readers has the chance of receiving a treat in the mail.  Trust me when I say, there is a Random Act Giveaway coming up that you won't... WILL NOT... want to miss.  The only chance you'll have of winning, is to mail me a postcard including your mailing address.  You don't even have to include your name if you don't want.   My address is: 4012 Harvestwood Court, Grapevine, Texas, 76051.
  • Taste of USA:  Up this week for Taste of USA: What's Your State Made Of are... California, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio and Vermont.  On deck... Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Montana, and Virginia
In an effort to include a "creative" idea for the day, I thought I might include a to-do list tip or two.  After getting lost in a google search for way too long, I'm not sure I found anything life altering... though I did realize my organizational skills are archaic.  I'm a simple girl.  I use good old fashioned paper and pen to record my to-do list and when the task is done, I'm sure to cross it off with a red pen.  And, yes... I am one of those who writes a task on my list - even though its already done it - JUST so I can mark it off!

The extent of my creativity is creating "buckets" for my to-do items.  Rather than lump them together, I label my lists with headers such as: "Boys," "Home," and "Highlowaha."  That way, rather than one endless string of 1-100, I have three smaller lists.  Call it a mind game, but it works for me.
The most creative idea I saw while sifting through the ENDLESS amounts of information was the notion of assigning point values to each item on your list.  Determine values ahead of time and then work throughout the day to attain a certain number of points.  It's Weight Watchers in reverse.  With Weight Watchers you're given a certain number of points at the start of the day and each time you eat something you subtract the appropriate number.  With the to-do method, start each day with zero points and work to attain a particular number.  

Let's see if it works.  Your highlowaha goal for the day is to reach 81 points.  Reach it and you could receive something in the mail.
  • Provide an Altoid Phrase  = 10 points
  • Send an Altoid Chatchka = 15 points
  • Make Bigger or Better Offer = 20 points
  • Mail Postcard = 10 points.
  • Click on Taste of USA and make a comment about today's state (Iowa).  Even if it's just a thoughtful comment about the terrible impact the weather is having on their community = 5 points. 
Have a good day = 21 points.

Signing off until tomorrow...

Monday, June 16, 2008

I'm Baked!

If you're a reader of this blog then chances are you know what I mean when I say, sometimes... every once in a while, you embark on a project simply because it is outrageous.  If you asked my husband, he would say my life is one of these projects after another - strung together by brief moments of rest.  Not true.  But, I've have been known to get involved in a few... shall we say... impractical projects. 
 
While working at Southern Methodist University, my students and I hosted a regional conference for people who planned orientation programs on their respective campuses.  Four hundred seventy-five students and staff attended the conference and, because "packaging is everything, I thought it would be better to roll 475 conference t-shirts, wrap them in ribbon, and tuck some shred under the ribbons.  Who, after all, wants to be handed a t-shirt... no fanfare, no pomp, no circumstance?  Not when, with a little effort, the t-shirt can be made to feel like so much more.

A few years ago, I worked with a handful of students to paper mache' forty-two boxes, then paint them, affix antennas and attach plugs.... and all in order to have them look like t.v.s, as part of a promotional gimmick.  The first paper mache' job didn't come out as planned, requiring us to sand them down, re-paper mache' them, and give them a new paint job.  Again... audience tune in!  Oh, I could go on (and on), but you get the gist and chances are you have plenty of your own stories.

Today I add another to the list.  A few weeks ago, Cassie and Cheryl came over for our monthly Cookie Box Baking Extravaganza.  I decided we would make Dalmatians and fire hydrants, so Cheryl could have an excuse to visit the tall, strong, and handsome firemen at our local fire stations (a silly reference to the past when Cheryl proclaimed her affinity for these civil servants).  Anyway... while we were baking I stated, that one day I thought it would be cool to bake 101 Dalmatians and give them to someone.

Then it hit me...  If last week was dedicated to celebrating the number 100.  Then it would be appropriate for the Monday after the week's celebration to recognize the number 101.  That was it... my excuse for baking the 101 Dalmatians on which I became fixated.  Have I mentioned Katie (cspgradstudent is still in town?... though she may be looking to leave... soooooooooon?).
So last night that's what we did... baked and decorated 101 Dalmatians for some lucky reader.  Which reader?  That is where the postcards... yes, the infamous Random Acts of Kindness postcards... come in to play.  Here I have 101 Dalmatians to give away and no particular person in mind.  So, right now... at this very moment... I will have Katie draw the name of the lucky dog!  All you slackers who never mailed your postcard (mailing address: 4012 Harvestwood Court, Grapevine, Texas, 76051) are S.O.L..  Oh... I know there are a few of you thinking.... "Phew, what would I have done with 101 edible Dalmatians, anyway?" Well, you could...
  • Make the day of your local daycare
  • Bring them to your next church function
  • Surprise your neighborhood kids with a treat
  • Take them to your local fire station...where you too can meet tall, strong, and handsome firemen.
  • Deliver them to your local pet shop and make their day.
  • Bundle the cookies, attach notes that say... 101 reasons I think your great... and surprise your employees and fellow staff people.
... to name a few.

So, Melanie Evans, you lucky dog.  You are the winner!

Today cookies... next, who knows.  So get your postcards in (mailing address: 4012 Harvestwood, Grapevine, Texas, 76051) the mail.  It's not too late.  It's never too late.  Round and round she goes.  Who's picked next?  Nobody knows!

Enjoy your Monday.  I'd end on a witty note, but... I'm baked.  

Signing off until tomorrow...

P.S.  Look at the fun AND EASY Father's Day cake we made yesterday!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Build a Poem

As promised, below is the poem we composed last Thursday.  Frost we are not, but not too bad for a first attempt...

If I Had One Hundred
By: Highlowaha.com

If I had one hundred wishes,
I would still only wish for good health.
If I had one hundred bottles of beer on the wall, 
I would take one down and pass it around.
If I had one hundred hours in the day,
I would get all my work done and spend time with family.
If I had one hundred more days until my wedding, 
I would then have enough time to get everything done.
If I had one hundred hours in a day,
I would still look for more.
If I had one hundred margaritas,
I would have a party.
If I had one hundred jellybeans,
I would eat them all.
If I had one hundred bottle caps,
I would be able to make something cool.
If I had one hundred flowers,
I would have a beautiful wonderland.
If I had one hundred comments in a single week,
I would be www.highlowaha.com.

WE DID IT!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

100 Happy Flag Days to You!

At this point, if I could, I would be waving a white flag.  I surrender from this horrible, terrible, almost unbelievable day.  I can't bear the idea of reliving right now, so you'll have to wait until later in the week.  Suffice it to say, Katie/CSPgradstudent (who happens to be in town visiting) and I fully celebrated Friday the 13th.

But, it's not about me... or Katie, so instead we'll celebrate the American flag.  Today is Flag Day and in keeping with our theme of one-hundred I will present one hundred ways to celebrate.  One hundred thanks to Katie who helped me generate the list while holding her captive in my car on a road trip to Austin.

By the way... if you're thinking these ideas are coming too late to implement today (though many require no planning), then save them for the Fourth of July.
Here goes...Color a flag on your driveway using side walk chalk
  1. Display small flags in the windows of your house/apartment (like candles at Christmas)
  2. Place a flag at the grave sight of a war veteran.
  3. For each star and stripe on a flag, name one thing for which you are grateful.
  4. Wear red, white, and blue
  5. Wear a flag pin
  6. Make the classic jello flag using strawberry jello, whip cream, and blueberries.
  7. Search the internet for a brief bio on Betsy Ross
  8. Count the flags in your neighborhood
  9. Weave place mats out of red, white, and blue construction paper
  10. Sing the Star Spangled Banner
  11. Rub on a tattoo
  12. Compose a short fact sheet about our American flag and distribute it to your neighbors
  13. Create as many words as possible using the letters F*L*A*G*D*A*Y
  14. Identify other countries who use the same colors in their flags
  15. Say the Pledge of Allegiance 
  16. Attend the raising of the flag at your city building
  17. Conduct a flag scavenger hunt while running errands throughout the day
  18. Wear a shirt with a flag on it (sold at Old Navy or Target)
  19. Bake cup cakes then decorate with flag tooth picks
  20. Make a flag from felt
  21. Face paint using red, white, and blue... and maybe even some glitter
  22. Assign yourself a point for every red, white, or blue car on the road
  23. Check out a book from your public library about the making of our country's flag
  24. Convert your driveway into a flag using red, white, and blue electrical tape
  25. Name as many brands as you can that use red, white, and blue in their logo (Chevron, IHop, Cool Whip, Remax)
  26. Honor our country's flag by learning more about your state flag
  27. Shop for red, white, and blue paraphenalia in the dollar at Target
  28. Say a prayer for any flag you see at half mast
  29. Using shoe polish, decorate the back window of your car
  30. Tie dye something red, white, and blue
  31. Draw a flag on a dollar bill before spending it
  32. Bake flag cookies using pretzel rods as the poles
  33. Wage a squirt gun fight on someone using red and blue water
  34. Reflect while watching the beauty of the American flag waving gently in the air
  35. Make a red velvet cake using the red velvet as the stripes
  36. Sew a pillow using flag bandannas
  37. Enjoy a blast from your past wit ha red, white, and blue rocket popsicle
  38. Hang a flag pole outside your house (just in time for July 4th)
  39. Brainstorm as many songs as you can that include the words "flag" or "America"
  40. Generate the names of as many cities as possible that include the word "flag" (i.e. Flagstaff, Arizona)
  41. Place flag stickers in fun places throughout the day
  42. Serve a completely red, white, and blue dinner (i.e. milk, spaghetti with marinara, blueberries
  43. Use a napkin to learn/practice the military folding of an American flag
  44. Hang red, white, and blue streamers from the branches of your trees
  45. Compete in flag trivia (found on the internet) during dinner
  46. Search garage sales (Heather) for any items on which a flag is displayed
  47. String a necklace of red, white, and blue beads
  48. Attach a flag to the antennae of your car or your child's bicycle
  49. Fly a red, white, and blue kite
  50. Whip up a vanilla shake and use red and blue dye to create ribbons of color
  51. Replace the laces in your sneakers with red and blue shoelaces
  52. Use sparkles to do a mini fire works show in front of your flag
  53. Give your neighborhood a lift.  Tie red, white, and blue balloons to mailboxes
  54. Scour your local paper for picture of an American flag
  55. Paint your toenails red, white, and blue
  56. Iron a flag patch on your jeans
  57. Dye the water in your toilet bowl red or blue
  58. Count street signs with the names red, white, or blue in them
  59. Gaze at fifty stars tonight
  60. Take your First Annual Family Photo in front of an American flag
  61. Celebrate capitalism... partake in a Flag Day department store sale
  62. Create your own family flag
  63. Set the table using a white table cloth, red plates, and blue utensils
  64. Paint the flag on an old piece of wood and turn it into a serving tray
  65. Search an antique store for old flag treasures
  66. Tie a flag bandanna around your pet's neck
  67. Plant red, white, and blue flowers in your garden
  68. Use material to sew festive flag napkins
  69. Cook a flag pizza
  70. Put red, white, and blue streaks in your hair
  71. Send a Random Act of Kindness note using white paper, blue ink, and a red envelope (and a flag stamp)
  72. Using red, white, and blue, stars, and stripes... create your own fun pattern
  73. Wear red, white, or blue ribbons in your hair
  74. Rent an Uncle Sam costume
  75. Create a flag using red, white, and blue cups in your local elementary school's fencing
  76. Roses are red, violets are blue, I sure am glad to have a neighbor like you.  Present flowers to an elderly neighbor
  77. Make a red, white, and blue fruit salad
  78. Make a mosaic garden stone of the American flag
  79. Play BINGO and have the winning prize be a flag... something
  80. String red, white, and blue Christmas lights from your front porch
  81. Decorate a sun visor with red, white, and blue
  82. Show up at your local park with red, white, and blue sand toys
  83. Deliver red, white, or blue lollipops to the neighborhood kids
  84. Build anticipation by letting family members pick a treat from either Box #1 (red); Box #2 (white); or Box #3 (blue)
  85. Play a pick up game of Flag Football using red and blue flags
  86. Research one of the first colonies
  87. Cool down with red, white, and blue ice cubes
  88. Search your phone book for a Red Roof Inn, a White Castle, and a Blue Berry Patch.  Visit each.
  89. Drawn attention to your Flag Day Celebration by flying red, white, and blue pennants
  90. Gather the kids for a Flag Day parade through the neighborhood
  91. Sprinkle your food with red, white, and blue sprinkles
  92. Write a fifty-word, thirteen-line poem about Flag Day
  93. Bite into a red, white, and blue packaged Nestle Crunch Bar (minus the packaging)
  94. Set up a red Hawaain Punch or blue Kool-Aid stand.
  95. Create a word search puzzle (websites available) using flag-related words 
  96. Create your own Flag Day ice cream flavor
  97. Wear flag socks
  98. Visit a paint-your-own-pottery place to make a mug or bowl
  99. Distribute flags to a retirement home
  100. Me... I'll be wearing my flag scarf!

Friday, June 13, 2008

It's A Wrap!

I read somewhere about a teacher, who in order to celebrate 100 days of school, wore 100 pins attached to her sweat shirt.  She also told of a colleague who wore 100 pieces of jewelry.  I don't have 100 pins or 100 pieces of jewelry, buy scarves... now that's something of which I own 100 (or more).

So here I am in all of my glory... with a little help from Richard and Matthew, sporting exactly 100 scarves and neckerchiefs! 

T.G.I.F and thanks for making the week such fun! Heather, I appreciated yesterday's challenge and feel certain we can reach the goal of 100 posts by end of day today!

In the spirit of Free For All Friday... I will pose my question for the day and then get out of the way so you can either answer what I've asked or pose your own question.  In theory, when I string all the responses to my question together, we should have a created a fun poem.  Find out on SUNDAY when I post the summation of our work.

Fill in the blanks...
If I had 100 _______
I would __________

Signing off until tomorrow...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

2109... Crystal Clear

Today we'll consult our crystal balls.

First a note about yesterday...  THANK YOU for turning out in such great numbers... especially you lurkers who were generous enough to do something out of your norm.  Cands, Jenny, Peggy, Lindsay, Kat, Close2it, ppdc, and Wendy... it was great having you around for the day.  If you decide to fade back into the wood work, it's a.o.k with me, but I have no question we could benefit from what you might share.

What I learned...
  • Money is a motivator.  Thirty-one posts yesterday, versus the standard 8-12.
  • Morning is when we have our heaviest traffic, though most readers check back a few times a day.
  • It is not uncommon for HLA readers to pour over the daily post with a cup (or bowl) of their favorite vice.
  • Most vices come in the form of a beverage... Green Tea, Coke Zero, home-brewed coffee, the ever indulgent Starbucks coffee, or a class of wine.
  • Summer seems to shake up the "usual" routine.
Now I get to mill over how I might use your information.  Got ideas of your own about how I might use what was shared?  Do tell.  I'd love to hear what you have to say.

Onto today's topic - the future.  In keeping with our theme for the week, we'll focus on 100 years from now.  The other day I read a short article in the Dallas Morning News titled, You Are Not So Formally Invited. The article told of a new trend among engaged couples.  They are said to be skipping the formality of printed wedding invitations, mailed via the United States Post Office, and replacing it with the more informal, cost effective and efficient option of sending electronic invitations.  Naturally pros and cons of each option were shared (ie. eco-consciousness vs. preserving a sense of etiquette).  

The topic was only mildly interesting to me, as I am happily married and at least ten to fifteen years from my oldest son getting married (or better be).  Nonetheless, I found myself curious about how the world, in all of its current practices, protocols, norms, and yes... even rituals will inevitably change over time.  For arguments sake...  over the next 100 years.

So I pose this question to you....  Look inside your crystal ball and, based on your interests, area(s) of expertise, and observations, what aspect(s)s of society are bound to change over the next hundred years?  Today we experiment with being futurists.  Have at it.  Make your predictions.

Oh, and the moment you've all been waiting for... The winner of the $74.00 is...

Close2it.  Congratulations!  Think of all the Coke Zeros you can purchase, if you so choose.  So, tell us... what do you think you'll do with your small windfall?

Signing off until tomorrow...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

No Whacking, Just Winning ($100.00)!

Ok.  Not exactly $100.00, but $74.00 isn't too shabby!

Let me explain, but first an aside...  My goal today is to bring at least 1, ideally MANY, "lurkers" (readers who frequent the site, but are not interested in making comments) out of hiding... if only for a day.  If you go back to being "lurkers" again tomorrow, it's ok.  I'm shooting for a one-time showing.  Read on and you'll know why.

Today, in celebration of 100 posts, we are going to be talking about highlowaha.com rituals.  Anybody who knows me well, knows that I love the idea of rituals.  My family has fallen victim to many such as Sweet Cereal Day, Fun in a Box Friday, Great Day Green Plate, Shamrock Shakes, Birthday Dinners, Ice Cream Sundae, and the list goes on.  Rituals, not only create a sense of occasion, but they also help mark time in the otherwise busy and over-scheduled life of our families.  They are the things we and our kids know, that regardless of what else is happening, time will slow down long enough to do.  That's what makes them comforting.  They are rituals, because they can be counted on.

What had NOT occurred to me is what I could learn from rituals.  Today's excerpt does not come from von Oech (he deserves a day off after being such a loyal participant in our Wednesday ritual).  Instead, today's post draws on the work of Sam Harrison, author of Ideaspotting: How to Find Your Next Great Idea. 

Harrison talks about the important role of listening when trying to spot new ideas.  And while I might not be searching for new ideas, I am always in search of how to improve the current idea on which I am working.  In this case highlowaha.com.  He tells a story of marketers exploring for a new Sprite campaign.  "Ogilvy's Brand Integration Group listened to one young consumer say Sprite felt 'like a chill explosion of lemon-lime icicles going down my throat.'  Ogilvy's team spotted an idea.  The comment inspired visually exploding designs that morph from cans to basketball goals to giant murals."

What does this have to do with us and, even more importantly, what does it have to do with rituals?  I want to hear about your highlowaha rituals, so that maybe, just maybe, I can use what I learn to enhance some aspect of what I deliver.  So, here's the million dollar (actually $74.00) question...

When it comes to highlowaha.com, what is your daily, weekly, monthly ritual?  Help me understand things such as when you check the site, how often you typically visit; how long do you spend looking, per visit; do you share highlowaha with your morning cup of Joe (mug or cup and saucer), your evening dessert, or after the kids are asleep; do you read comments posted; where do you normally read it... home (which room), work, commuting; if you only visit periodically, are there particular days.  If so, why?  Basically, I want to know anything and everything you can think to tell me about your experience with highlowaha!  The more specific the better!  If today starts the BEGINNING of your highlowaha ritual, then more power to you.  Tell us what you expect your ritual to be and we'll celebrate that too.  Anything goes.

Now, where does the dollar figure $74.00 come into play?  Here's my highlowaha ritual.  Each morning the alarm goes off at 4:55 a.m..  I drag myself out of bed, put on sweats and a t-shirt, lightly (and I do mean, lightly) brush my hair, and head out the door.  I head true North to "my" Starbucks where I promptly order my drink and begin crafting my post for the day.  Done by 6:15 and home no later than 6:45, when the rest of house has begun stirring.

My drink of choice is a Grande Cinnamon Dolce, non-fat, no whip, heated to 180 degrees.  The drink total is $4.26 (staggering, I know) and gets paid for with a five dollar bill (specifically so I can sit here on this day and type the following...), leaving me $.74 cents change.  Multiply the $.74 cents change by the 100 days we've been in business and you get... $74.00!

So, that is what I have to offer one lucky reader.  Submit your highlowaha ritual and be entered in tonight's drawing for $74 smackaroos!

This, I'm excited to read!  Lurkers, don't fail me now.

Signing off until tomorrow...

P.S.  And the winner of yesterday's Scavenger Hunt is... Stacie Walker... (and the crowd goes wild).  Not only did Stacie's guess of 47 scissors come closest to my collection of 49, but she also included a number of impressive details in her responses (Middle initial "A," for Julie A. Cole; the ill-fated beer mugs; and Sundae with an "ae," instead of "ay").  Not to mention... I never knew about Cheryl's March 10 post until you sent me back to the archives.  Nice going, Stacie.  I know your love for books, so I am pleased to be sending you (and Lucian) one of my childhood favorites.