Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Thankful Stroll Down Memory Lane

This post marks the last post of November - only two weeks since visiting my parents in New York and two days since celebrating Thanksgiving. Before bidding farewell to this month and getting caught up in the excitement of next month, I thought I would share some final things for which I am grateful.

I am grateful for where I grew up. This little town sits on a peninsula of water - beautiful, serene, and with all the creature comforts of a small town. BUT, the Douglaston Manor is just thirty minutes out side of Manhattan, which is to say, that in addition to sailing boats we can hop on a train and experience the best of what the city has to offer. It is a truly special place.

A point worth making.... One of the reasons this place remains quaint (even historical) is because a small group of committed people fight relentlessly against the massive development and homogenization being pursued by commercial developers. I am thankful to my mother and my father who are part of the committed few fighting to keep the neighborhood from being commercialized.

Below is a small slide show of my folk's house (the same house they lived in for the past 48 years), our block - Hollywood Avenue, and the surrounding neighborhood. I like the idea of sharing these pictures with you, because it's part of who I am.

The other thing for which I am grateful is my mother's sense of aesthetics (and creativity). I always love coming home, because my mother has a great eye and, inevitably, she has rearranged small nooks and crannies around the house. Somehow my mom can take simple items and display them in such a way that they look important. I didn't inherit that same sense of style, but I know enough to know it is quality worth appreciating. Maybe these aren't the best examples, but it gives you an idea of what I'm talking about.

So today, let's share our appreciation for places that are near and dear to our hearts. Describe a spot on the map that, when you close your eyes, you remember vividly and with fond memories. For me, it is the Douglaston Manor, in Douglaston, New York. How about you?
Maybe I'll get to learn a little more about each of you today. And, for that, I would be grateful.

Signing off until Monday... when we host our second Friendship Party, featuring a week of inexpensive gift ideas!

P.S.  648 licks to the center of my Tootsie Pop.  Richard is questioning my Tootsie Pop eating technique.  What can I say?  That's what it took.  Six hundred forty eight licks.  Maureen, your vote of 223 came the closest, making you the winner!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Black Friday: Whooo, Whooo is Shopping?

By the sound of it, everyone had a nice Thanksgiving.  Ours was no different!  The company was great, the food was delicious, and the night was capped off with coffee and pumpkin pie from Richard's infamous espresso machine.  

Special thanks to Maureen who shared her last minute idea about the Tree of Gratitude.  Matthew and I took a walk at the local park to gather branches.  I bound the branches together with raffia, hung paper leaves so people could note the things for which they were thankful, and stuck it in a vase.  Easy, peasy, but it was a nice addition.

Also, yesterday Chaotic shared her blog address, so you could check out a picture of the fun turkandles (fun name, Chaotic) she made for the host of her Thanksgiving dinner.  They were CUTE and a great variation on the ones I made (I wish I would have seen hers first!).  Incidentally, live and learn.  If I were doing mine over, I would use tissue paper in a variety of fall colors (as opposed to just yellow and orange).  It would have added dimension to the flock to see turkey in different fall color combinations. 

Now onto the business of today.  Shopping!  

I've arranged a fun little gig for the readers of Highlowaha.  I hope you can get as excited about it as I am.  In the town where I live, we have the cutest little toy store.  It is the equivalent to Meg Ryan's quaint bookstore (The Shop Around the Corner) in the movie, You've Got Mail.  There are no isles - just quaint little nooks and crannies stuffed with all sorts of novel items that you'd be hard pressed to find somewhere else.  Shopping in this store is like being on a treasure hunt.  Total stimulus everywhere you turn.

The toy store is called the, Owl's Nest.  Smack in the middle of the store is a a big tree with expansive branches.  The leaves and branches automatically make you feel perched in a nest, chock full of curiosities.  The owner has an impeccable sense of detail, meaning the store is masterfully laid out and the epitome of what a toy store ought to feel like.  Add to it, their beautiful wrapping (and that coming from someone who LOVES packaging) and you have the ultimate toy store.

In honor of Black Friday, here's what I'm proposing...  Kids or no kids, Texas resident or not, join us for this fun holiday shopping experience.

North Texas readers (Grapevine, Euless, Bedford, Arlington, Addison, Denton, Grand Prairie, Addison, Richardson, Southlake, Irving, and Dallas, ) join me on Saturday, December 7 in visiting the Owl's Nest.  Our assignment... scour the store for the one "hot find" you want to tell our readers about (name of item, age range, cost, general description, etc...).  For some added fun... search the store for the hidden Ray and you will earn 10% off  any purchase you make.

There's more.

Not from North Texas?  Have no fear.  We wouldn't dare forget about you.  We want to "pinch shop" for you.  Tell us the sex and age of the person for whom you are seeking the ultimate gift and I will appoint one of our North Texas readers to search for you.  Then, read the blog later that day or on Sunday to find out what treasures we've found.  Decide you actually want the item?  Place an order by simply calling the store on Monday.

And, as if that isn't enough, there's more.  Teams (North Texas shopper + assigned person from another state) will be entered in a drawing.  One lucky "team" will win two lap desks (each personalized and then mailed to your respective homes).  The lap desk colors range to include red, green, blue, pink, purple, yellow.  Boys and girls alike will love one!

One more thing.  North Texas readers, this is a PATCH YIELDING EVENT!  To earn you own great owl patch, simply (1) Visit the store on Saturday, December 7, (2) post your review of a favorite item, and (3) window shop for an out-of-state reader.  Tell me you're in, so I know whether I can pair you with a non-North Texan.  Don't know what I'm talking about?  Visit the post titled, Patchwork (8/7).

O.k., I'm having fun with this.  One more thing.  I was in the Owl's Nest the other day and - of course - found a "have-to holiday accessory"  Come closest to guessing how many licks it took me to eat a Tootsie Pop and you win the accessory.
Still don't know what to write about?  Tell us if you're a Black Friday Shopper or a Shopping Scrooge.

Signing off until tomorrow...

Psst... It's Me...

Rayflower here.  Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

Claudia's asleep.  It was a late night of glue guns and feathers.  I snuck in and turned off her alarm.  She needed the sleep and she'll just blame Richard so it's OK.  She had some big plans to set up the table and show off her turkey lights.  For some reason she is completely enamored with turkeys.  Apparently, they're the simple, universal and cute symbol for Thanksgiving.  Well, gobble gobble.  No picture taking for Claudia.  I've beaten her to the punch.  The turkeys were all recovering from the hot glue treatment but I grabbed them anyway.  I set the table, lit the turkey lights (be careful, turkey feathers are flammable and they don't smell good when they burn) and took a few pictures.  Here's one.
A few of the turkeys expressed concern about having to witness a real turkey being eaten.  I figured since I burned a couple of them so badly I couldn't really argue. I grabbed them all up and moved them to the mantle.  
They look happier there.  Don't expect to see these pictures anywhere else.  I took the memory card out of Claudia's camera.  I hid it under Matthew's pillow.  Hah!

Well, my work here is done.  Have a happy Thanksgiving and save me a turkey leg..........sorry turkeys.

Rayflower Out.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Eve: The Final Push

I'll be quick.  If you have as many items left on your to-do list as I have on mine then you don't have much time to spare.
  • Menu and shopping done.
  • Napkins and table cloth ironed.
  • Centerpiece underway.
  • Craft project less than half done
  • Silver still waiting to be polished
  • Straightening and cleaning... no sense in starting too early.
  • Boys outfits still need to be ironed.
  • Come to think of it, what will I wear?  Dig through closet.
Then I had another idea.  Wouldn't Pin The Feather on the Turkey be a fun game to play with the kids?  Maybe I can eek in just one more project.  I think I have everything I need: white banner paper, paint, and paint brushes.  Draw the turkey, have the boys paint it, add tape to cut-out feathers.  If I want to get really serious, I suppose I could get a prize.
  • Swing by Dollar Bin at Target to find a prize and some consolation treats.
Then I ran across a timely website and I started thinking... wouldn't Thanksgiving trivia at dinner be fun?  

No worries.  I'm not squeezing it into my list of things to do.  It's not exactly up my father in-law's alley and I don't have the time.  Maybe next year.

But you?  You could make it happen.  If nothing else.  Take a second and look at this site  It includes fun football facts; 15 things you didn't know about Thanksgiving; and truths about many of our favorite Thanksgiving myths.  If you haven't made place cards yet, you could place a question on the back of each place card!  Fun, fun, fun.

A couple more things then I'm done for today.

Yes, there will be a post tomorrow.  Many of you feel like family to me now, so I'd love it if you could check once during the day and let me know what you're up to.  When did you eat?  Are you watching football?  What was your favorite dish? Are you stuffed or going back for seconds?  You know, pick a topic and fill us in.

Today many of us will be hitting the road.  But, before you go...  Tell us what your thankful for this year.  I'll go first.  Mine is easy.  I am thankful my parents are still healthy.  And, of course, I am thankful for my three boys and a husband who is my perfect match.  Oh, and I suppose I'm also thankful for Starbucks, Sharpie Markers, and CNN's David Gergen.

Speaking of thankful... and then I'm done.  If you haven't already (and are able), consider purchasing an item for the family we adopted this holiday season.  Check out the Helping Hand link (top right hand corner of the page) for some ideas of what the family could use.  We are trying to bring closure to our portion of the initiative.  Christmas will be here before you know it and we need to leave time to get the items from Tera in Ohio to the family in PA, sometime between now and Christmas.  Items (or last minute donations) can be mailed to Tera at: 2590 N. Moreland, Apt. E22, Shaker Heights, OH 44120.

Signing off until tomorrow...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Turkey Talk

Announcements at the end...

Today's post is more about the aspiration of a creative idea than it is about the completion of a creative idea.  Thanksgiving is two work days away and my list of things to do is growing.  Iron napkins, steam table cloth, polish silver, straighten house, shop for final grocery items, oh... and crafts.  Thanksgiving just wouldn't be the same if we didn't create some kind of festive craft for the dinner table.  The question is what?

Last year we wove fun Thanksgiving place mats.  Over, under, over, under, over, using fall colored construction paper and then laminated.  I'd love to show the place mats to you, but I lost them.  It's o.k. though. Remember, we try never to use the same idea twice.

We also used paint, feathers, foam, construction paper, and hot glue to turn a clay pot into a turkey.  It was a decorative way to display each person's account of those things for which they were giving thanks.  I'd love to show you that too, but it must be safely tucked away with the place mats.  

What about this year?  Not sure yet, but take a look at the three finalists...
Turkey votive candle holders

Corn on the Cob Crackers

Cardboard Turkey Basket

So, what do you think?  Which one do you think will make it to my dining room table on Thanksgiving morning?  Find out on Thursday when I post a picture of our table!

Now, how about you?  What preparations are you still making?  Finding recipes?  Picking out a new outfit?  Cleaning your house?  Tell us.  You'll feel better.

Now for some quick announcements...
  • Christmas Conversation Cards: Sales were good yesterday.  We sold eight of the twelve boxes of Christmas Conversation Cards.  They make a great gift for a friend, neighbor, teacher, or holiday hostess.  Your family will also want a deck to help them get in the holiday spirit.  Order today and the beautiful box can be sitting on your dinner table by December 1.   $15.00, includes shipping.
  • Helping Hands:  Today I mail a check to Tera for exactly $380.00.  Thank you to everyone who was able to get their check to me on time.  If you are still hoping to pay your Blog-a-thon sponsorship, please mail it directly to Tera Johnson (unless you and I have already made an arrangement).  Her mailing address is: 2590 N. Moreland, Apt. E22, Shaker Heights, OH., 44120.
  • Paint the Town Red:  Yesterday I mailed Highlowaha's designated Regional Coke Directors hang tags, so that they may start a Coke Kindness Chain in their region.  Our goal is to keep each Kindness Chain going until Valentine's Day!  Wanna start one in your community?  Send me an email at and I'll let you know how.  It's easy and the impact will be big!  P.S.  The holidays are coming, so make sure you have lots of Coke products available for your guests (then send Heather your Reward Codes).  Don't know what I'm talking about?  Check out the post from Saturday (11/22).  
  • Highlowaha Friendship Party:  None of last week's participants was prepared to take on role of Party Host.  The invitation is wide open.  Volunteer to "host" (gather six readers and pick a topic) a party in February and earn the letter writing caddy I was prepared to give away on Saturday. 
  • Festival of Lights Virtual Party:  Mark your calendars for Sunday, December 14.  Beginning at 8:00, I'll post a short slide show of all our readers' Christmas trees (and other holiday decorations).  Then we'll have a lively ornament exchange.  To participate, send Katie a picture of your decorated Christmas tree, menorah, or other holiday decoration.  Participating in the ornament exchange?  Send her a picture of your ornament unwrapped AND wrapped!  Deadline for submissions, December 12 at 5:00 p.m. 
Signing off until tomorrow... when there will only be one more work day until Thanksgiving Day!

Monday, November 24, 2008

And Now...

A word from our sponsor.  O.k., we don't really have a sponsor, but this is a commercial break.
Festive holiday tin, plus 50 question cards

"From the creative readers of Highlowaha comes the most unique, most thoughtful, and most talked about gift of this holiday season. 

Christmas Conversation Cards.  It's not just a deck of cards... it's a celebration of everything we love about the holiday season.  Memory lane in a box.  Just one card can have your family and guests laughing and reminiscing for hours about memories of Christmases past. 

Although other holiday cards or books might exist,  none compare to these.  Fifty questions, all generated by readers of Highlowaha during our Christmas in July Extravaganza.  Edited, designed, and beautifully packaged in a durable stainless steel box, these cards make the perfect gift for friends, family, or holiday hosts. 

So forget about boring scarves, tasteless fruitcakes, or impersonal gift cards.  This year give a box of Highlowaha's Christmas Conversation Cards.  Only twelve boxes available, priced at only $15.00 per set - including shipping. 

Remember, if you don't treat your family and friends to a box of these limited edition cards, someone will!  Act now while there is still time.  Order today and your gift will be shipped on Tuesday, November 25, just in time for you and your family to begin enjoying them on Monday, December 1.

To purchase, simply post the words "YE$!" in the comment section.  Want the cards delivered to friends or family across the country?  Just send me an email at, including the mailing address and your personalized message, and away your package will go.  Limit two."

And, now back to you...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Let's Get Red!

Heather and friend, Julie

Maple syrup it is, by one measly vote.  Good luck Heather and Susan in your Super Bowl Snack Throw Down.  We are anxious to see what each of you comes up with for your winning recipe.

Today we finish the first ever, Highlowaha Friendship Party.  It has been fun getting to know Laura, Mary Beth, Jessie, Jenny, Mandy, Marie, and Amber and, we hope in the process, allowing this fun group of women to get to know us.  Heather and "The Snowflakes" experienced the daily exchange of creative ideas, participated in our monthly Highlowaha ritual, were invited to our next Virtual Party (Sunday, December 14), shared the excitement of Highlowaha Patchwork, and have even had their voices heard in yesterday's vote for our next secret ingredient.  

But, in the words of Dr. Seuss... "That is not all. Oh, no.  That is not all."

Two more things.  

First, a giveaway to go to one of the six party goers mentioned above.  This giveaway is based on two things.  First, while we have all adopted some new forms of technology for staying in touch with friends, nothing beats Snail Mail.  I heard that repeated a lot last week.  The second thing on which the giveaway is based is my belief that one of the reasons we don't send more Snail Mail is because is because we don't have easy access to the necessary supplies.  If you have to rummage around for paper, pen, and stamps forget about it.  Not going to happen.
I have a caddy similar to the two I am giving away today.  It is chock full of pens, note cards, stickers, and stamps, making it easy to grab the caddy and go.  Sometimes I bring it to Starbucks and sit and have a coffee, while I write a note or two.  Sometimes I bring it to my kitchen table and spread out for thirty minutes or so.  One caddy will go to Heather, the host of last week's party.  The other caddy will go to the "Snow Flake" who volunteers first to host her own Highlowaha party.  Hosting is easy.  Identify six other people you think might enjoy the Highlowaha blog community and pick a party topic!  The party would be scheduled for February.


Today we introduce our new friends to the thing about our community for which I am probably most proud - the the use of our creativity to help others.  In an effort not to make today's post too long, I won't go in to great description about all the service and fundraising we've done since the blog started ten months ago.  Suffice it to say, that since the first service project opportunity presented itself in April, we've never not been working on serving someone.

I like to say this blog is about where creativity and community meet and l love the idea that we live that concept by putting our money where our mouth.  We, in a sense, help community by employing our creativity.  AND, in the process of creatively working together to help others... build a stronger Highlowaha community.  Hopefully the cycle is as evident to you as it seems to me.

With no further ado, let me get on with Painting the Town Red - a service project for, and in honor of, Heather's long time friend, Julie.  Phase one of this service project has already been launched and you can read all about it by going back to the post labeled, Paint Your Town Red (9/13) .  In that earlier post you will read how we have eight "Regional Directors" spread throughout the country in order to help make our project a success.  You will also see a website you can go to in order to learn more about the illness with which Heather's friend has been diagnosed.

Thanks to Julie S. another Highlowaha reader... today we will roll out Phase II of our service initiative.  Months ago Julie sent me a generous check, supporting another service project.  In that check she sent a little extra money.  She told me to hold onto it and spend it on Highlowaha, however I saw best fit.  Well today Julie, you will see how I've decided the $15.00.
Heather's friend, Julie loves Coke.  In fact our whole service initiative to this point is centered around gathering as many Coke Reward Codes as possible, so Julie can use them to purchase items she couldn't afford to buy.  Julie loves Coke like the readers of Highlowaha love performing Random Acts of Kindness.  Today, the perfect blending of both.

Each of the eight Paint the Town Red Regional Directors will receive in the mail $1.00 plus one set of these hang tags.  The goal... start a Kindness Chain.  The Hang Tags instructs readers to enjoy the Coke left for them, but then to keep the chain going by purchasing someone else a Coke and placing the hang tag over the new bottle.  The hang tag, in turn, instructs recipients to email the Coke Reward number in the top of their lid to Heather.  Goal: Keep the chain going from now until February 14!

So easy and such fun does this idea seem to me, I want to give anyone who is interested the chance to start a Coke Kindness Chain.  If you are interested, just drop me an email at and I will forward you the PDF file of the hang tag graphic (special thanks to Sherry for making the hang tag happen, better than I ever could have imagined).  You can then print it off, (laminate it, if you feel so inclined), punch a hole in each of the bottles, and put a metal ring or piece of string through the holes.  Finally, hang it over the bottle and then you are ready for the real fun... deliver it for the person of your choice!

Colored copies at Alphagraphics ($6.72) +  Start-up Cokes $1.00 x 8 Regional Directors ($8.00) = $14.72.  I think, a pretty good use of Julie's money.  So let's do it.  Let's go out and teach the world to sing.

Signing off until Monday...   

Friday, November 21, 2008

Free for All Friday: Another Highlowaha Ritual

Congratulations, Mary Beth! 
You are the winner of the Patchwork Denim Apron or Bag (let me know which you would prefer).  Now you're ready to start collecting your very own Highlowaha Patches!  
T.G.I.F.  I love the feeling of Fridays.  If I was going to an office today, I would be looking forward to dressing down -  a turtle neck and a warm sweater to celebrate the arrival of fall and Thanksgiving.  I love this time of year!

I look forward to Friday's on our blog, because it is Free For All Friday.  This is the day of the week when we open the floor to whatever you want to talk about or brainstorm.  I have a few agenda items of my own, but I'll be brief, so we can open the floor to you and your interests.

A final topic I want to cover, before completely turning over today's blog to "free-for-all-ing" is the use of  technology in staying better connected to our friends.  The irony... I know NOTHING about technology (I'm still patting myself on the back for learning how to create files in my email).   I'm no dummy, though.  It is precisely the reason why I waited until today to bring up the topic.  I set the scene and all of you share what you know (which is inevitably more than what I know).  Already this week, Skype and Facebook were touted as useful tools.  What else is out there?

I do have one contribution on the subject.  Virtual Parties have become somewhat of a tradition at highlowaha.  Our first was a virtual dinner party to celebrate the opening of Olympics.  Readers ordered Chinese food and watched the Olympics in their respective homes.  Throughout the night, blog readers made posts and celebrated with one another.  We did something similar on Talk Like a Pirate Day, while we played an interactive, but virtual, game of Pirate Bingo.  Prizes were won (and stolen) and we had fun, fun, fun.

Announcement!  Get out your calendars!  Our next Virtual Highlowaha party is scheduled for...

Sunday, December 14
8:00 p.m.  
Join us for...
The Highlowaha Festival of Lights & 
First Annual Highlowaha Ornament Exchange

Rules of participation are easy.  Submit two photos to Katie Kolkmeier at, by Friday, December 12 at 5:00 p.m.  The two photos should include (1) a picture of your decorated Christmas tree, menorah, or other holiday decoration, and (2) a picture of a wrapped ornament, that you are willing to exchange with another highlowaha reader.  More details to come as the party gets closer.  For now, SAVE THE DATE!  P.S. This is a patch yielding event!!!

How about you?  Do you have a virtual party idea for you and your friends?  Or, one that we can use on highlowaha?  Let us know.

Pen Pal Match-Up: While on the subject of friends and correspondence... a favor for a good friend.  I am in search for a young girl who would like to have a smart, loyal, and conscientious pen pal from the state of Georgia.  She is in the fifth grade and turned eleven years old in September.  If I could hold interviews to find her a pen pal who would reciprocate her enthusiasm, I would.  Instead, I am turning my request over to the most reliable people I know - my friends at highlowaha.  Incidentally, if there seems to be a lot of interest, I would not mind coordinating a Pen Pal Match-Up.  Have a lead?  Either post a comment telling me so or send me an email at

Secret Ingredient:  Highlowaha is partnering with Struble Suds, a "resident" Green Bay Packer Bar, to host the Super Bowl Snack Throw Down.  Fourteen creative and courageous highlowaha readers are participating.  Each week, two readers face off in throw down by submitting a food entry and allowing the Struble Suds bar flies to judge them on flavor and use of the secret ingredient.  Winners advance to the next round, ultimately competing for a spot in the Super Bowl.  The prize for which participants are competing?  The ultimate hand painted Super Snack Bowl!  Guaranteed to make you the envy of all your friends and family.  

Today we must vote on next week's Secret Ingredient.  Chefs have been consulted and ingredients have been narrowed.  The two ingredients between which you are voting are:

Lemon Juice or Maple Syrup

Heather and the Snow Flakes... we are nearing the end of our first Highlowaha Party.  You all have set the bar high, with great participation and countless creative contributions.  We are better and more fun because of your involvement.  The good news... unlike other parties that actually end... this one doesn't have to!  Feel free to continue joining us, even after tomorrow.  We hope you will.

Remember to tune in tomorrow, for our final post on the subject of staying connected with friends who live at a distance.  There will be a fun giveaway and, more importantly, a tribute to Heather and one of her dear friends.  It will be a nice way to end the week and to start your weekend.

Signing off until tomorrow...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bee A Friend

"Friendship Plates"

I can't believe we are already four days into our first highlowaha-sponsored party!  Time flies when you're having fun!  And, what a whirlwind it has been.

We covered snail mail, postcards, labels, technology, lots of rituals such as: lunches, weekly meals, "Friends Thanksgivings," coffees, Pallet Nights, Wednesday night Open Houses; and Thursday night Pizza nights.  Yesterday we used history to whack our conventional thinking about staying connected.  We reminisced about Circle Journals, Note Notebooks, the simplicity of making a personal visit, embracing brevity, instead of feeling obligated to write a lot; and employing the concept of a RAK box.  Mandy topped the day off with her suggestion to capitalize on shared hobbies as a way of staying connected.  Well done readers.

No resting yet.  We have three full days ahead of us.

Today we'll cover a few things: First we'll go into more detail on Amber's notion that one way to stay connected is to recognize things in our daily lives that remind us of our friends.  Second, we will expound on the idea of friendship symbols.  Finally,  I will break the silence on the whole Girl Scout reference, in an effort to entice this week's party-goers to stick around even after the party ends.

Let's get down to business.

I can be linear in my thinking.  Tell me something and it is forever so.  Just ask my friend Melissa Trifiletti.  Years ago (as in 14 years ago), my friend Melissa and I spent an afternoon painting pottery.  Melissa wanted to paint a plate in the same spirit as the Red Plate (see post titled, "My Great Day Green Plate" 3/20), but she wanted her own, personalized variation.  Melissa would frequently compliment people by telling them they were the, "Bees Knees."  I helped her sketch a bee in the middle of her plate and helped her come up with wording for the rim.  That's it.  From that point forward anytime I saw a bee, I thought of Melissa.  I showered her with bee cups, stickers, mugs, shirts, stationary, household items, cards, charms, pictures, ohhhh.. the list is long.

Funny thing is, Melissa doesn't collect bees or bee items.  It was I who collected bee items for Melissa!  Finally she had to call me and tell me, "Stop!  I like bees, but I don't need a bee colony."

I do this with everyone - good or bad.  Here are just a few of the connections I make between people and items...
  • Lori, all things purple
  • Heather, pink
  • Amy, cupcakes and sprinkles
  • Associate Provost at SMU, Penguins
  • Toni, Roosters
  • My sister Ellen, musical notes
  • Dawn, heart shaped items
  • My mother, flowers
What this means is that anytime I see anything with one of these images or colors, I automatically think of the person with whom I make the association.  If I'm in a store, and it isn't too costly, often times I will purchase it, so I can send a small package.  That can get costly, so here's another tactic...

Virtual Shopping Spree.  Sometime I see images in catalogs or magazines.  When I do, I rip the page from the catalog or magazine and stick it in a manila envelope.  Occasionally on a rainy afternoon or while watching t.v. I will sort the images by person and make a collage.  I treat it like a virtual shopping spree - all the things I would buy you if I were rich, but can't because I'm not.  My friend Dawn and I pass a friendship journal back and forth and Virtual Shopping Sprees are a standard activity for the two of us.

Friendship symbols.  I only have a few that really stick out as relevant.  In 1993, two friends of mine at Miami University found a pin for me at an art fair.  It is made of metal and it says, "Think Big" (my mantra).  Every time I wear it, without fail, I get compliments.  I love using it as an opportunity to tell people about these two fun women with whom I got to work.

Friendship Plates are my other favorite.  A few days before I got married I had thirteen close friends, from all walks of life, join me at a Paint Your Pottery store.  Each friend made me a dessert plate.  The only criterion I used was that the plate had to somehow depict our friendship.  These plates are GREAT!  They have images such as the Talbots red door, a favorite tree, m&ms, a ship, cactus, the number 7,  the zip code 90210, and many more.  Here's the fun part.  Often times when Richard and I host people for dinner (which we try to do as often as possible), we use my friendship plates to serve dessert.  While eating dessert, I tell guests about each of the plates and pay a special tribute to the friend who made it.  If time permits, I will stop what I am doing and actually call my friend to tell her we are eating from her plate.

Side bar.  I still have a dream of hosting an Annual Friendship Dinner, where the plates get featured and as many of the 13 women as possible can attend. 

Finally... The Girl Scout reference.  The readers of highlowaha are motivated, creative people.  In July we started an initiative called," Patchwork."  (See post titled, "Patchwork" 8/7)  The idea is simple.  Earn patches for participating in fun highlowaha activities.  Not everything we do is deemed "patch worthy," but opportunities for earning patches are plentiful.  Two Patchwork events will, in fact, be announced n the next couple of weeks.  The only thing you need to participate is sheer will and something denim to which you can affix your patches (jeans, a jacket, an apron, a denim bag, a pillow cover.  You name it).

Want the chance to earn some patchwork denim?  Make a post today telling me about some of the associations you make between items and friends.  Also indicate your denim preference - apron or bag.  I'll do a drawing and one of your will be named the lucky winner.

That's a lot to swallow in one post.

Signing off until tomorrow... 

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Whack on the Side of the Head: A Lesson from Lincoln

Is there room for two more people at our party?

It's Wednesday - the day we invite Roger von Oech to join our blog community, so that he can whack our thinking.  It just so happens, Lincoln wants in on the fun, too, this week.  Newcomers... here's some quick background.  

The best way to keep this space a haven of creative ideas is to assure that the minds of our creative readers stays limber.  Think of Roger von Oech as our coach.  Roger presents (via a randomly selected card from his Creative Whack Pack - available in bookstores) a principle of creativity.  Then we, the highlowaha readers, apply the principle to our dilemma of the day.  In the end, our thinking has been stretched and we've generated new ideas or insights.

Laura, Mandy, Jenny, Jessie, Amber, Marie, Mary Beth, Molly(!) and all you returners.... Are you ready?

The context for today's whack is friendships.  What are easy, creative, and inexpensive ways to stay connected with our friends who are at a distance?

Now for von Oech's whack.  

Look to the Past.  History is loaded with creative analogies.  Napoleon marching on Moscow is really just project management.  Mao waging a guerrilla war is like launching an ad campaign.  Pick a culture from the past.  How would someone from that culture deal with your issue?  How about from your own personal history?  What were you doing ten years ago that might be useful now?  What ideas from history can you apply to a current project?

I've pulled this card before, but as a former history major, it suits me just fine to have pulled it a second time.  A quick glance at reveals a long list of things that happened on this day in History.  1620, The Pilgrims reach Cape Cod;  1863, Lincoln delivers the "Gettysburg Address" at the dedication of the National Cemetery at the site of the Battle of Gettysburg; 1897, The Great "City Fire" in London; 1969, Apollo 12 touches down on the moon; 1973, New York stock market takes the sharpest dip in 19 years; and about 15 other events I won't list. 

Me?  I'm putting my money on Lincoln and the Gettysburg address.  I haven't gotten that far in the 762 page book Maureen bought me for my birthday, in leu of my one of my Bucket List items (see post marked, ), but I think I remember enough  of the basics to eek my way through.

Here's what I know.  Lincoln was asked only 9 days prior if he would make a few remarks at the dedication of the National Cemetery.  Edward Everett, considered a great orator of the time, was actually appointed to be the equivalent of "keynote"speaker.  Everett's speech was 2 hours long (and something like 13,00o words), whereas Lincoln's remarks was 10 lines and 272 words long (that I remember, because his brevity always impressed me).  His speech lasted just over two minutes.  Lincoln's Gettysburg address continues to be acclaimed as one of the greatest speeches in American history, whereas Everett's was forgotten almost immediately.

My insight isn't going to earn me Mensa points.  It's actually pretty simple.  Writing  a thoughtful note to a good friend does not have to be 13,000 words long or take over 2 hours to write or read.  In fact, it can be 10 lines, or fewer, and have far more impact!

So stop putting it off.  Some say, Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address on the back of an envelope while on the train to Pennsylvania.  A letter from a friend on the back of an envelope, while killing time, is a.o.k with me!

One more unrelated thought and then I turn it over to all of you.

Newcomers, it is time we talked about my Random Acts of Kindness Box (affectionately known on the blog as the RAK box).  The idea is simple.  Send me a postcard with your name and address on it and I will put your name in my RAK box.  Then, when I'm feeling either blue or feeling generous, I randomly pull a name from the box and send a card, small package, or baked treat to the lucky winner.  I tell you this for two reasons.
  • First, wouldn't it be fun to have your very own Friendship RAK box?  Include the names of your closest friends, relatives, and even former colleagues.  No pressure.  No expectations.  When you get a minute or need a break, randomly pull someone's name from the box and - in the spirit of Lincoln - send short note.
  • Second, we want you in our RAK box.  Jot your name and address on a postcard and send it to me at Claudia K. Beeny, 4012 Harvestwood Court, Grapevine, TX., 76051.  
Now it's your turn.  What insight might you glean from another historical event, a different culture, or your own personal history that we can apply to today's topic - easy, creative, and inexpensive ways to stay connected to friends who are at a distance?  Contribute and help keep this a blog... "of the people, by the people, for the people."

  • And the winner of yesterday's highlowaha t-shirt is... Montana Kelly!  Can you believe it?  Montana Kelly revisited us for the first time today, after having been MIA for the past couple of weeks and she won!  It was meant to be!!!

Biding Farewell to von Oech and Lincoln and signing off until tomorrow...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Low Cost, Lasting Impact

Announcements at the end.

Thank you.  Thanks to Heather and the "Snow-flakes" for making the first day of our six-day party successful.  Heather gave a nice introduction to our seven newcomers in the comment section.  We look forward to learning more about Laura, Mandy, Jenny, Jessie, Amber, Marie, and Mary Beth as the week goes on.  

Recap.  Yesterday's post talked about the use of postcards and labels as simple tools for staying connected with friends at a distance.  In true form our readers jumped in, adding to the mix other tools such as: Skype, Blogs, Peggy's Creative Greetings, Texting, Instant Messaging, Facebook, and Chaotic's suggestion of conveniently storing postcards and stamps in a Ziploc bag so you can grab them on the go.

Today.  Tuesday, November 18 we will examine another vital tool for staying connected.  Today we will talk about the use of rituals to connect with and celebrate our friendships.  Veteran readers understand why this should be the focus of today's post, for the eighteenth of each month is reserved for our very own highlowaha ritual.  It seems fitting then that we invite our new friends into the fold by asking them to participate.  In addition, we will open the floor for readers to share rituals shared by you and your friends.

Background.  Party-goers and new readers... our monthly ritual involves sharing our "high" from the past month, our "low" from the past month, and our "aha (something we've learned in the past month).  It is the perfect celebration, not only of our blog's name, but also of the significance of number 2(18) to our blog community.  The simplicity (and anticipation) of hearing where our highlowaha friends "are at" each month fosters warm feelings in the same way that reconnecting with an old friend over coffee might.  If you think might stick around this community beyond this week, consider taking a minute or two to visit the posts labeled "Ding, Ding, Ding... I Interrupt This Programming (4/29)" and "Begad, It's the 18th (9/18)"  They will give you all the background you need to feel in the loop.

Giveaway.  As part of our monthly tradition, we give a highlowaha t-shirt to one lucky winner each month.  All you have to do to get be in the running for this month's shirt is post your high, low, and aha.  Peggy, I have your winning t-shirt from last month in hand and will put it in the mail before the week is out.  I will insert a short note letting you know why I have been sitting on it.

Transition.  Before setting you free to post your monthly high, low, aha... a couple more examples of friendship rituals.

Example #1.  Chantilly Lace.  This was one of the best examples of a friendship ritual I've ever heard.  It was shared with me by a former staff person who, many years later, maintains close friendships with her friends from high school.  The group of friends has named themselves Chantilly Lace (can't remember why - sorry).  Every two years the group meets at a small cabin in Illinois where they grew up.  They play games, stay up late talking, share pictures, and laugh about the good old days.  The friends have made Chantilly Lace sweatshirts and anticipate with their excitement their alternate-year gatherings.

Example #2.  Another, less involved, example.  When I first moved from Louisville to Texas, life was bittersweet.  I missed elements of my life in Louisville and did not yet feel connected to Texas.  Heather and I were working on a professional project and we needed to have ongoing communication.  We agreed we would talk at 6:00 am every Friday morning.  Heather was on her drive to work and I was comfortably seated at my favorite Starbucks.  That one weekly friendship ritual became excessively important to me.  It was something to which I very much looked forward.  Some weeks we got right down to business.  Other weeks we'd hit the 50-minute mark and realize we'd not yet done any business.  Fortunately, our weekly phone call has been replaced with a bi-monthly lunch date , but that morning ritual served an important role in helping me through a transition and in feeding my friendship with Heather.

Question.  How about you?  Tell us about your highs, lows, and ahas in the past month - as well as any rituals you may share with friends?

Challenge.  Don't have a ritual?  Maybe you can challenge yourself to develop one before day's end.  Don't rely on traditional things like birthdays or holidays.  Pick the half-way point between the birthday's of you and a friend and establish that as your "celebrated friendship holiday."  Working with a group of friends?  Take the average of your birth months and the average of your birth dates.  Viola.  There's your personalized friendship holiday.  Now you just need to figure out how to spend the coveted day(s).  Got ideas?  Share them.

Announcements.  Lots of announcements today.  If you are a party-goer or a newcomer to our community, some announcements will make more sense than others.  Read them all, though.  It is a GREAT way to get a sense of the fun community upon which you have stumbled.
  • Winners of the Infamous Postcards: Laura, Mandy, and Marie are the only three party-goers who either posted or sent me their mailing address.  That was step one in winning a stack of Picture Postcards.  Step #2.  I will mail the three of you a Picture Postcard TODAY.  The first one to receive the postcard and do what it instructs wins.  Veteran readers... no such fun and games for you.  Thirteen of you posted.  And the winner is... Chaotic!!!  I like it, Chaotic.  I can't remember you ever having won something from highlowaha!
  • Blog-a-thon:  I got three more checks today.  That leaves us about eight checks short of having received them all.  I WILL mail the money to Tera on one week from yesterday (Monday, November 24).  Stick your check in the mail to me today and I will still get it in time to include it in the final tally.  My address is: 4012 Harvestwood Court, Grapevine, TX 76051.  Thanks to VERY generous checks from a number of you, we have already collected $285.00 in Blog-a-thon money (to go toward our Helping Hand Christmas family).
  • Super Bowl Throw Down:  Congratulations to Melanie who won last week's Super Bowl Snack Throw Down.  The secret ingredient was peanuts.  Up next is Heather and Susan.  Tune in this Friday and help choose the secret ingredient. 
Signing off until tomorrow...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Low Cost, High Touch

Welcome new friends...  
Laura K.
Mandy B.
Jenny K.
Jessie F.
Amber S.
Marie T.
Mary Beth B.

Today we embark on a new highlowaha adventure.  Hopefully this will mark the first of many blog parties.  After all, if you can meet and mingle with fun women while looking at Tupperware, shopping for new accessories, learning how to use power tools, or scrap booking, then surely we can host a fun party experience tailored to meet the creative interests of our guests. 

This week's highlowaha party is compliments of host Heather S.  Heather recently moved from Louisville to Texas (lucky me), leaving behind family, friends, students, and colleagues with whom she hopes to stay in touch.  Her suggestion for this week's party topic is...

Simple, Inexpensive, and Creative Ways to Stay Connected

So that's what we'll do.  This week I will offer a creative-idea-a-day (or two) about how you can keep networked with family, friends, and colleagues even when there are miles between you.  New readers, you will quickly discover that the real beauty of this blog is not so much the idea I post each morning, but instead about the cumulative experience and creativity of our loyal and generous readers.  Visit the "comment" section of each day's blog for enhancements to my idea or other thoughtful comments about the day's topic.  Veteran readers, remember... I'm limited.  Stay to the day's topic, so you don't cover my week's worth of ideas in the first eight minutes of the day.

Having said all of that, we're ready to go...

I've moved a bit myself.  New York, Arizona, Georgia, Semester at Sea, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, back to Georgia, Kentucky, and now back to Texas.  Lucky for me that, in each place I've lived, I have made (and then left behind) cherished friends.  Therefore, I love and am always in search of good and easy ways to stay connected.  The ideas I share today are two of my favorites.

First, postcards.  I don't consider myself a "maven" (see post titled, 1-800-Maven Trap, April 9), but when it comes to these postcards I am.  I tell everyone and anyone who will listen about their practicality.  They are perfect for two reasons.  Reason #1:  They're postcards, so you're not obligated to write a lot.  Let's face it.  One of the reasons we don't stay in touch is because we are short on time.  Postcards are perfect, because it's still personal (nothing is better than getting something in your mailbox), but does not require the same amount of time (or text) as a greeting card.  Reason #2.  The front of the postcard peels off, so that you can adhere a photograph.  This is perfect, because not only are you sending a quick hello, but you are also sending an updated photograph.  

Now is where I have to get a little fanatical.  I know you've seen these before in camera shops or maybe at the counter of the photo studio at Target.  Wherever you've seen them, they're not as good as the ones I'm talking about.  It's like calendars.  Not all calendars are created equal.  Fine if you don't care, but if you want the perfect calendar then Planner Pads it is (see post titled, Behind Every Great Woman is a Planner Pad, March 10) and if you want the perfect picture postcards (easy to use, thick, etc...) then...

Kimac Company, Ltd.
3"x5" 100 = $14.50; 1000 = $130.00
4"x 6" 100 = $17.50; 1000 = $160.00
5"x7" 100 = $21.00; 1000 = $190.00

My friend Dawn uses these postcards as her annual Christmas letter.  Family photo on front and clear label with limited text on the back.  Voila, her Christmas card is done - cheaper than an actual card, and isn't arriving in July (at best), like my attempt at more elaborate Christmas update.  I have, however, used these picture postcards as change of address announcements, save the date wedding announcements, baby announcements, and for a variety of other reasons.  I like them more than the photo postcards you order at Walgreens or Sams, because they look more personal.  Some of you have been recipients of one of my postcards, so feel free to give an endorsement in the comment section!!!!!

In fact, so excited am I about these postcards, I fully intend to give a stack away to one of our party guests.  Party guests, here's what you have to do to get in the running.  Either post your address in the comment section or send it to me in an email at  Then check back tomorrow to find out what's next.  Veteran readers, I haven't forgotten about you.  Post a welcome to our guests and one of you will also receive a stack of the infamous Picture Postcards.

Onto my next favorite.

Mailing Labels.  I give myself credit for this idea, though it is my good friend Katie who logistically makes it happen.  I call this idea, "Begin with the end in mind."  We all have an idea in our head of how often we would send mail if we were, "a really good friend."  And, by the way, let's face it....  Some friends - depending upon how long and how well you know them - would get mail more frequently than others.  For example, my parents.  If I was really good, I would send my parents written mail at least once a month (phone calls weekly).  Same with my friend Dawn and a variety of other people in my life.  Other people might ideally be every two months.  Still others might like to hear from me four times a year.  Finally there are whole groups of contacts (former bosses, old neighbors, distant relatives) who would render me organized if they heard from me just twice a year. 

I start the new year off with the end in mind.  I (actually Katie) helps me develop mailing labels for all my contacts.  My list of contacts is categorized by either 12 labels (monthly); 6 labels (bi-monthly); 4 labels (quarterly); or 2 labels (Christmas + birthday).  If I have labels left over January 1 of the new year, then I have failed.  It's real easy to see who you've done a good job keeping up with and who you've neglected.  Again, create the labels at the start of the year and make it a goal to end the year with zero labels.

Discover the beauty of my Picture Postcards and using all your labels just became easier!

O.k. that will get us started for the week.  I have lots more in store, so stay tuned.  

Signing off until tomorrow...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Gracias, Paraguay!

Now Arriving... Paraguay

From the coasts of Turkey to one of only two land locked countries in South America - Paraguay (the other is Bolivia).  

Today we wrap up our World Kindness Week tour of countries.  We've had an eventful week celebrating the romance of Italy; the wonder of South Africa's Zulu Beading; the impressive lists of musicians, artists, doctors, and other notable figures living in Austria; and the generosity of Turkey's St. Nicholas.

How can I say this?  After much researching on the internet, I could find very little published about the uniqueness of Paraguay.  If we were doing a survey of great musicians, it would be the equivalent of visiting Beethoven, Mozart, Joplin, maybe even the Beetles and Rolling Stones, and then ending with Britney Spears.  An artist in her own right, but not quite of the same caliber of some of the other musical artists.

The only fact I could find resonating at all, as something you might be interested to know, is that Dueling is still legal in Paraguay.  Dueling...  as in, facing back to back, take 10 paces, turn around and shooting  (or stabbing, depending upon whether you are using guns or swords) your opponent!  It's true.   

This fun fact is a little interesting (and timely) since I have been mentally dueling someone for the past week.  Last weekend I briefly referenced an encounter at Babies-R-Us and told you I would share more later.  Maybe today is the perfect opportunity.  I maintain the wide spread use of the internet is a far more effective and painful tool for dueling than any gun or sword.

So, today I'll duel with Liz at Babies -R- Us, store #6389 in College Point New York.  It will be a duel because I intend to forward my little rant onto the Babies -R- Us headquarters, so that they may respond. 

This duel on the heals of an earlier entry titled, Just Say Yes, posted on October 4 .  Like, Just Say Yes, this is a duel with all the lazy people out there who expend more energy telling you why something is not possible than they do figuring out a solution.

Enter Babies -R Us.  One of the reasons we picked last weekend to visit New York is because friends of ours were having a baby shower for their baby, due in January.  The invitation, received weeks ago, indicated the couple was registered at Babies -R Us.  Being smart and practical shoppers, we decided to wait until we get to N.Y. to purchase their gift (a smart thing to do when you have three kids in tow).  Saturday, November 8 the family heads into New York four hours early , so we can swing by Babies -R -Us on our way into the city and do some sight seeing before the 3:00 shower.

Get to Babies -R-Us and head right to the registry.  This whole thing should take no more than 20 minutes, max.  As it turns out, the couple was registered at the store, but they never put anything on their list.  No problem.  They know it's a girl, so I'll get her a pink receiving blanket and a $100.00 gift card.  Run through the store, pick up a blanket, see a cute dress (can't resist, since I only have boys and my chances to buy girl clothes is limited).

Now to the register where I will get the gift card and then head straight to the complimentary gift wrap where I'll quickly package it up and be out the door.  Richard will be proud, so far only 9 minutes into it.  While standing in line, look over at gift wrap station and notice it is empty.

My turn at the register.  Casually ask the woman if they can replenish the gift wrap so I can wrap my items.  She informs me they are out of all gift wrapping for the week.  Ugh.  An inconvenience, but I chalk it up to Murphy's Law.  Back out of line to gather boxes (forced to buy 3 when I only needed 1), tissue paper, wrapping paper, and ribbon.  Finally at the register, I jokingly say to the woman, "So, do we get a discount on wrapping since you are out of complimentary wrapping?"  I say it jokingly, but the more I'm thinking about it, the more sure I am that this would be the A+ service thing to do.  She laughs and shrugs off my request.  I let it go, but make a mental note to self that I am not impressed with my overall Babies -R- Us experience.  Have I mentioned, by the way, that I am of child rearing years and that so are MOST of my friends?  And, that I attend my fair share of baby showers and that I purchase my fair share of baby gifts and baby items?  I am NOT the smartest demographic on which to leave a poor impression!

Head to the wrapping station with all my personally purchased wrapping materials.  No scissor.  I turn to the woman at the register and ask if I can borrow the scissor I am sure she has in the supply drawer beneath her register.  As it turns out she doesn't have one and points to the manager's office.  I knock on the door, per her suggestion.  No one inside. I turn back to the woman and ask if she can find the manager.  She heads across the store and returns to relay the manager's message that. "We don't have a scissor."  The employee then suggests that I somehow use the blade from the wrapping paper roller (beneath the counter) or that I crease the paper, wet it with my spit, and tear it.  Agitated, but for some reason still composed, I explain neither option will work, and ask to talk to the manager.  She points across the store and tells me where I can find her.  Pick up ALL my stuff, plus Matthew, and head across the store.  I'm now 28 minutes into this experience and getting more annoyed.

Wait 5 more minutes to finally get Liz's attention.  She immediately tells me she doesn't have a scissor and then turns away.  Regain her attention and explain my dilemma.  I am here from out of town and on my way to a baby shower.  If I can't wrap it, I will be forced to return the items and go to a store where my item can be wrapped.  By the way, the total bill (presents plus wrapping was $173.20).  She then explains that not having a scissor in the store is company policy, because there are kids around.  She then points to an exacto blade and say, it is the only thing in the store that can cut (because an exacto blade is so much safer).

Willing to use the blade  - or let her use the blade - I explain that I don't want to leave the store without the items (and I really don't because I've been in the store for almost an hour) and that I want to give her one more chance to "right" the situation.  Surely, I explain it wouldn't be smart to let my $175.00 purchase walk out the door, because she can't help me figure out how to make a simple cut.  I guess Liz's t.v. isn't reporting on the worst economy since the Great Depression.  With no recognition of my suggestion as a solution, Liz shrugs me off and tells me there is nothing she can do for me.

Sent to the back of the "Customer Service" (and I use that term loosely) line, I wait to return my items.  ONE HOUR and two minutes later I leave the store with NOTHING in hand and with a new found conviction that (1) I will NEVER step foot in a Babies -R- Us again, and (2) I will report my experience to my blog readers and know that my story is in cyber space for all to read!

End of story.

Incidentally.  We ended up getting the couple a lovely gift at Baby Gap where the staff person was happy to help me not only select my items, but also to supply the tools necessary to wrap the gift!

Maybe you will join me in rewarding the merchants who care enough to create a culture of care in their establishments and avoiding those stores so unimaginative that they cannot figure out how to cut paper. 

Signing off until Monday...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Eyvallah, Hindi!

Now arriving in Turkey!
Yesterday we were in Austria, celebrating greats such as Freud, Haydn, Schubert, Strauss, Adler, the von Trapp family, and yes... musical genius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Only today's featured country can top Austria's list of people whose enduring works have indisputably influenced the world.  And, Turkey's list - just as impressive and certainly as enduring - is only one person long!

St. Nicholas.  Yes, Santa Claus was born in Demre - Turkey's Mediterranean Coast.  Look...  
As noted in Wikipedia, "because of the many miracles attributed to his intercessions, he is also known as Saint Nicholas The Wonderworker.  He had a reputation for secret gift giving such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and is now commonly identified with Santa Claus.

Does anyone else think it's a coincidence that we just-so-happened to randomly select Turkey - home of St. Nicholas - during World Kindness Week?  AND, that St. Nicholas had a thing for doing Random Acts of Kindness - just like we do?  I love it when the planets align!  

As it happens, we are just weeks away from St. Nicholas Day (December 6).  This occasion is a meaningful and fun way for you, your friends, and your family to kick off the holiday season.  Bellarmine University, under direction of their first-rate Campus Minister, always did a nice job of creating celebration around St. Nicholas Day and the events served as a wonderful way to spread the spirit of Christmas.  How about you?  Do you and your family and friends celebrate St. Nicholas Day?  

If not, consider doing something this year.  Below are two interesting sites I ran across while preparing for this morning's post.  The first is a story and the second are some ideas you might use when celebrating with your loved ones.

One more coincidence!

Today is the day, under instruction from the Helping Hand Committee, that I was to make a reminder about the family our blog community adopted for the holidays!  I could not have done any better if I stayed up all night searching high and low for the perfect context in which to talk about helping our holiday family!  One more sign, that we (this blog, this day, this service project) are meant to be!!!

This small, but committed blog community has done yeomen work raising upwards of $500.00 for our Helping Hand Family.  By any measure, the money raised is a thoughtful and generous act.  One that is in perfect keeping with St. Nicholas himself.

As you move forward in the holiday season, if you are able and willing, there are items we would still like to purchase for the family.  Please visit the Helping Hand link, in the top right hand corner of my blog, to see a list of the items.  So important is this to me, that I will make you a deal.  For every person who checks out the Helping Hand site today (and leaves a comment), I will donate an additional $1.00 to Helping Hand Family Fund.
What a perfect way to close out this work week.

Isaret uzakta-e kadar yarin...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Danke, Osterreich!

Announcements at the end...

From the newly designed South African flag (1994) 
to the Austrian flag - one of the oldest in the world (1191)

I'll cut to the chase with Austria.  They've been around a long time and made lots of contributions to our global community.  Sure they've given us items we enjoy such as Porsche's, Volkswagens, and the sewing machine.  But, my inquiries (albeit rather cursory) left me with one overarching impression. 

The Austrian culture is responsible for introducing us to great minds such as:

Sigmund Freud
Mendel, who established the basis of modern genetics
Adler,who contributed to the foundations of modern psychology and our very own...
Arnold Schwarzenegger!

A name is missing from this list.  Take a shot at guessing whose name (without the aid of the internet).  We'll play jeopardy style.  

This famous Austrian...

At age 17 accepted a low paying job and then left it in search of a better position
Married his wife against the wishes of his family
Was the father of six kids, only two of which survived infancy.
Had one living sister
Had a good relationship with his mother and father
Produced an illegal copy of a piece of art from the Sistine Chapel
Eventually fell into debt and had to pawn valuables
Was fired from a position and literally "kicked in the @$$."
Lived a plush lifestyle that later led to financial stress
Had a declining career due to a struggling economy
Liked to play pool
Liked to dance
Had pets including a bird, a dog, and a horse
Died at age 35

Your turn to guess.  Who is...

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