Saturday, August 30, 2008

Thirty Days Away

Good morning.  My house is perfectly still right now... not a creature stirring, not even a mouse.  It's one of the things I love about waking up early.  It's the calm before the storm.

Today is Saturday, August 30 - exactly one month from the day when Highlowaha is supposed to meet our goal of increasing our number of views by 35% in the last 77 days.  For those of you who are new to our community let me explain.

It took us 77 days to reach 5,000 views of highlowaha.  The day we finally did it, Treye - one of our readers - congratulated the group and said "I hope it doesn't take as long to reach the next 5,000.  I'm always up for a good challenge, so I marked my calendar 77 days later and noted that on July 15, 2008 we should have a minimum of 10,000 views on highlowaha.  

On that July day, we not only reached 5,000 additional views, we actually had 6,765 views since- an overage of 1,765 views in the previous 77 days.  An increase of 35% over and above our goal.  Impressive, I know.  We celebrated by me presenting one lucky reader with a batch of Dividend Cookies (containing exactly 1,765 chocolate chips) and setting a new goal for 77 days later.  The new goal was to increase the number of highlowaha views by another 35% in the next 77 days.  Specifically... 9, 153 views between July 16 and midnight on September 30, 2008. 

That's the background.  Now a progress report.  As of this very minute we have acquired 5,722 views in the last 47 days, leaving us 3,431 more views in the next 30 days (minus Sundays, making it 26 days - an average of 131 views per day for the next 30 days).  That compares to 4,182 views, thirty days out from our last goal date (July 15).  Another way to put it... at this point in the last "quarter" we only needed 2,583 more views (an average of 99 views per day for the last 30 days).  I think that means to make our goal, we need 32 more people per day than we had in the last "quarter."

Incidentally, you might be interested to know our readers for the last "quarter" came from 17 countries and 48 states, while this time they are hailing from 25 countries and 49 states.  It seems our international market accounts for some of our growth.  But of course, this quarter we added MONTANA - a huge victory for us!  

Here's what this is NOT.  This is not a plea from me to you to help me get more readers.  Nor is this me dissatisfied with the number of readers we currently have.

This is two things.  First, it is recognition that I am somewhat motivated by challenge and achievement.  Looking forward seems natural to me and always with an eye on how things may be improved.  Second.  This is my acute awareness that the value of this blog increases exponentially with every loyal reader we acquire.  There are so many ways in which my life has been enhanced since knowing many of you.  From Nan I stole the Back to School Table Cloth.  From Alden I learned more about China.  From Cassie I learned how to bake cookies.  From Peggy I gained access to card maker extraordinaire and a whole new possibility for gift ideas.  From Heather I am kept informed of good deals around town.  From the ideas of Peggy and the talent of Cheryl, Ray Wattson was born.  Thanks to Julie and Melanie we are reading a book I might never have picked up and the list goes on.

My attempt to increase loyal readership is my recognition that the more creative and loyal readers we have, the better the product I can deliver to you.

So please, do not read today's post as pressure from me to grow our readership.  Companies all over the country, who believe in their product, create it and then using marketing tactics to try to spread the word.  We have created something and, though we have no marketing firm behind us, I think a small corner of the world will benefit from knowing we exist. 

So... here's the creative task for today.  In preparation of September 30 two questions...
  • Become a marketing executive for a day.  When was the last time you told a friend or colleague about a product and what motivated you to do it?  I for example have told two people in the last two days about the ability to get on Hobby Lobby's web site and print off a coupon for their weekly special.  What motivated me?  In both instances the people I told were in the market for an art supply and I wanted them to know they could get it cheaper.  That simple.  How about you?
  • Since dividend checks for our stakeholders are still not in our immediate future, what kind of incentive should the "Board" be thinking about?
Announcements:
  • Monday is labor day, but two things will still be happening on highlowaha.  First, I will be posting.  We are kicking off a fun week, so don't miss out.  Second, I will announce the winner of the beautiful Back To School - soon to be a family heirloom - Table Cloth.
  • Taste of USA trip to Philly is one week from TODAY!  Attendants... begin clicking on the Taste of USA page (top right hand corner of my blog) to get up to date announcements. 
  • Make Your Mark: A total of 22 stories were collected.  Packages will be mailed early next week.  Naturally I have a surplus of 78 boxes of markers, so feel free to send your story even after the fact.  Thanks to all who participated.  I know you are sharing the same good feeling I am.  
Signing off until tomorrow...

Friday, August 29, 2008

Free For All Friday

A special hello to E.W., a friend who I hope will become a frequent reader.  I've told her about our fun community, so make me proud and give her a big welcome.  While I am at it, welcome Boone, North Carolina.  I love that we have a reader from Boone - a beautiful place. 

Today is Free For All Friday, but first an important spotlight on the person responsible for sewing the Back to School Table Cloth I showcased on Monday (8/25).  The same tablecloth, I might add, that I am giving away to a lucky Highlowaha reader on Monday.  Want a crack at winning it?  Check out Monday's (8/25) post to find out how.

I love excellence.  I love meeting people who are excellent at what they do... whatever that is.  Julie sent me a video yesterday of a grocery store bagger who made it his business to be an EXCELLENT grocery bagger.  He thoughtfully placed inspiring quotes in customers' bags each day that he was scheduled to work.  Eventually customers caught on and sought to check out only in his aisle, even if it meant waiting longer than necessary.  Eventually, employees in other departments were motivated to improve the quality of their service, ultimately transforming the grocery store.  That is the power of excellence.

Christi Cooper is that kind of excellent.  Christi is the woman who volunteered to teach me how to sew while working on a Back To School tablecloth for me and for one lucky Highlowaha reader.  Cassie mentioned Christi was a hard worker, but in no way did I imagine the M*E*T*I*C*U*L*O*U*S work that Christi produced.  Mind you, I am no seamstress.  But, I know excellence when I see it and I think you'll agree.  The craftsmanship is beautiful!

The other most notable thing about Christi?  She is the epitome of humble.  She is excellent, not because of the attention it will get her, but because excellence is who she is at her core.

Here's the good news... Christi has a small collection of things she is willing to make in her free time -albeit limited with three children.  So, if you're organized, like our fellow reader Sue, and you've already started your Christmas shopping, consider ordering something custom made by Christi.  Two items she makes frequently for friends and as baby shower gifts are pictured below.





The first are baby blocks made of fabric and the second picture is obviously a shirt with a handmade applique. If you would like to inquire about any of the items, please feel free to contact Christi at eurocooper@hotmail.com. 

Now for Free For All Friday...

So, whadda ya wanna talk about?  Today I have absolutely ZERO agenda items.

Newcomers... need a gift idea, hosting a party, looking for ideas about how to organize?  Pose your question here, today on Free For All Friday.  The impressive and collective creativity of our readership will weigh in.

T.G.I.F.  Signing off until tomorrow...
 

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Three Time Thursday

Some of your may remember, in an effort to teach Matthew the days of the week, I have affectionately named each. Monday is Munchkin Monday (we love donuts). Tuesday is Cartoon Tuesday; Wednesday is Wacky Wednesday; Thursday is Three Time Thursday; Friday is Fun in a Box Friday; Saturday is Sleep In Saturday (wishful thinking); and Sunday is of course... Ice Cream Sundae (for more about these, check out posts dated 2/25 - 3/2).

Today I take advantage of Three Time Thursday - the day we do things in threes. I have three items of business to cover. Short, sweet, and to the point.

Make Your Mark: This is my last ditch effort. You wouldn't respect me if I faded slowly into the sunset and just let this issue drop. Would you? Here's the thing. Today I was getting my hair cut and while killing time I read Shape Magazine (a girl can dream , can't she?). Below is snippet found in the bottom right hand side of page 34.
5. The number of dollars it takes to buy happiness. The catch: You need to spend it on someone else, according to a recent study in the journal Science. This small gift of generosity brings more joy into your life than purchasing something you want for yourself. So take a friend out for coffee or a smoothie - spending that time together will boost your mood all the more.
Coincidence? I don't think so. So please, please consider taking 15 minutes out of your day and typing me a short paragraph about a teacher who has impacted your life. Send your paragraph along with $5.00 to Claudia K. Beeny, 4012 Harvestwood Court, Grapevine, Texas 76051. We'll send your inspiring story, along with a package of Crayola Markers, to an unsuspecting teacher somewhere in the country. Stories and markers will be packaged up this weekend and mailed on Monday.

Countdown to Super Bowl: It seems we have firmly secured 12 people in our Countdown to the Superbowl: Half-Time Snack Throw Down. Here's what the line-up looks like so far...
  • Richard v. Brian, September 8
  • Stacie v. Tera, September 21
  • Nicole v. Julie, October 5
  • Katie v. Maureen, October 19
  • Melanie v Treye, November 16
  • Heather v. ?, November 30
  • Cheryl v. ?, December 7
As you can see we have two dates open right now. November 30 and December 7. Who will be the engaged members of our Highlowaha community to sign up first? Cassie, Kat, Sue, Montana, or Boone, N.C.? Jump right in and help create some Highlowaha fun! Lurkers, my offer from Monday still stands.

Helping Hand: Please take a second to read the post Heather left on Helping Hand yesterday (just click on Helping Hand in top right hand corner of my blog). She brings up some excellent points with regard to the service project that the Highlowaha community has committed to doing this holiday season. My biggest take away... to truly help a family in need, we need to think as much about what is important to such a family, as we do the gestures that will make us feel good.

Also, regardless of whether or not we are able to settle on a particular family this week... we can begin fund raising or conducting a "drive" for general items all families might benefit from (money for groceries, household items). Then, once we settle on a a family (or families), we can finish off our effort with "gifts" for the family members.

Finally, we can think big as suggested by Toni last week and Heather this week. Maybe we can consider a family somewhere in Northern Kentucky, a family in the Dallas area, and a family somewhere else in the country.

Visit the Helping Hand post and let your voice be heard.

I wish I could deliver on a more exciting post today, but we have lots of business at hand and somewhere along the line we have to square up on details. Is that the case or do I just run hot and cold? Hmmmm...

Signing off until tomorrow...

Psst... R. Wattson, Here


School is cool!

Three days into the new school year and I'm loving life. Girls, school supplies, and all-you-can-eat-lunch lines. What more could you ask for?

Did someone say... "A giveaway?"

O.k., o.k. I know Claudia throws a bone your way every once in a while and if I'm going to get you to take me seriously about helping spread good ideas, then maybe I need to, "see the light" and offer up a prize too. I can do that.

But I have more than a prize. Check me out. Where ever you see me, you'll find the letters "H" "L" and "A" cleverly hidden . The letters might be hidden somewhere on me or somewhere in the surrounding picture... or BOTH. Wanna an idea of how many to look for this time around? There's a number next to my boot. That's the number of HLAs for which you should looking.

What? You still want a prize. Darn, you're a tough crowd. Alright. Here's what we'll do. I'm picturing a particular school supply in my head. You have to guess what it is... SPECIFICALLY. For instance, instead of guessing "pencil," you would guess "Dixon #2 pencil."

Here's how it'll go. We'll play hot or cold. You post your best guess and I'll reply either "hot" or "cold". Back and forth we'll go until someone guesses.

How's that for fun? Let Claudia try and top THAT today.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Whack on the Side of the Head Wednesday: The Lost Day

Announcements at the end.

It's been a few weeks since we've delved into a Whack on the Side of the Head Wednesday.  Our last whack was an attempt to improve my strategy for gathering 100 inspiring teacher stories for 100 unsuspecting teachers around the country.  I dare say, with still only 15 stories in hand, that neither my strategy nor your creative suggestions will be winning highlowaha any awards.

A short commercial break...  IT'S NOT TOO LATE!  Low pay coupled with countless hours of work preparing lesson plans, grading papers, and responding to parents, makes teachers worth the fifteen minutes it will take you to share your story.  Ten to fifteen lines about your teacher of note is all we need.  Stories will be packaged with a box of Crayola Markers and mailed as Random Acts of Kindness to teachers around the country. 

And, if that isn't enough... submit yours before August 29 and be in a drawing to win the beautiful, hand crafted Back to School Tablecloth featured in yesterday's blog entry.  Those of you mailing your paragraphs should aim to have your letter postmarked today, Wednesday, August 26.  Paragraphs (along with $5.00 for packaging, postage, and markers) can be sent to: Claudia K. Beeny, 4012 Harvestwood Court, Grapevine, Texas, 76051.

Moving on.

I sense we have enough new readers/lurkers that I am going to do a quick recap of the idea behind Whack on the Side of the Head Wednesday.  The idea... improve an idea by forcing yourself to think creatively.  But... if thinking creatively was easy, companies wouldn't have to pay consultants for creative solutions to old problems, people wouldn't complain of boredom, and the idea of rut wouldn't exist.  Truth... thinking creatively sometimes requires an outside force to, as my son would say, ..."shake things up."  We rely on von Oech and his Creative Whack Pack for this.  Each of the cards in von Oech's Whack Pack contains a different principle and when the principle is applied, in theory, our idea ought to be better than when it started.  Problem solved.  Here we go, giving it a whirl.

The story behind what we will be whacking today is funny and compliments of a woman many of us know and love... Cheryl.  

So, here I am repeatedly talking about the importance of the number #218 to our blog community.  We've had contests where #218 was incorporated into the answer; we're troop #218 for goodness sakes; and in less than a month I am going to introduce a new ritual... based on the #18.  Let's face it... #218 is here to stay.

The problem.  Soon after we introduced Patchwork (highlowaha jeans used to showcase all the cool patches earned by participating in fun activities), Cheryl emailed me to say... "How do I tell you this?  Your first blog entry was on February 19 not the 18th."  

WHAT?  Big gulp on my part.  Are you kidding me?  Countless number of initiatives, contests, stunts, etc... are based on the my first entry being posted on February 18 and all at once - in one fell swoop - Cheryl drops a bomb on me.

Thank goodness!

Quick re-frame on my part.  I have options.  Pretend I didn't get the email and just keep plugging along in my own little world of denial.  Acknowledge the email, but threaten Cheryl with something awful if she dares to tell a soul.  Fess up to my mistake and just move on.  Or... creatively problem solve my way out of the dilemma.  I like option number four.

My wheels started working fast.  How about a lost day?  That's it.  Highlowaha will have a lost day to recover the February 18 post that never happened.  Perfect.  And, it's leap year to boot.  Somehow that HAS to work to our advantage.  This year there actually is an extra day... an extra one to spare.  Perfect.  But here's the big question.  The question so much fun to think about and so irresistible, I almost have to share it with you.

What do you do with a lost day?  Is this a day we get to do everything we wish we could have done, but didn't have time for.  Or, is this the day we do nothing.  Or, is this the day we repeat everything we did on Monday, February 18?  Or, is the lost day the day a day of mystery?  So many possibilities.

That's the thing that needs some whacking today.  What should highlowaha do to recover and celebrate the lost day - February 18, 2008?  Here's what von Oech has to say...

Let Your Mind Wander.  Much of our thinking is associative: one idea makes you think of another - no matter how logical the connection.  Use this ability to generate new ideas.  Look at something, and make associations based on whatever  you can think of: function, location, size, shape, sound, personal, opposite, weird, etc.  Example - work: play: actor: star: sun: light: bulb: tulips: kiss: love: tennis: net: profit: prophet: oracle: auricle: heart: life.  What things does your idea remind you of?  What do each of these remind you of?  How can you use this cluster of associations to develop your idea?

I'll play this associative game, but I'm more interested in what all of YOU have to say!  Help me.  Help me turn this bitter lemon into lemonade.  Look around the room you're in.  Spot something and then play the associative game.  how can you use your cluster of associations to help me develop great ideas for how highlowaha can use our lost day?

Some announcements and then you can get busy...

Announcements:
  • Make Your Mark:  I received three paragraphs from Julie yesterday, boosting our count to 15 inspiring stories.  Eighty-five more to go.  The deadline is Friday, August 29.
  • Helping Hand: Click on the Helping Hand link at the top right hand of my blog.  Our service project coordinators are looking for input on families in our communities who ought to be considered as recipients of our generous initiative.  Don't fail us now.  Consult with your church, a local organization, or people in your work place.  Submit a name by before the week is over.
  • Countdown to the Super Bowl:  Still seeking four competitors.  My husband - chef extraordinaire - claimed one of the fourteen available spots.  Cassie, Montana, AZLori?  Who else?  We need four more people up for the challenge.
  • Taste of USA:  Ten days until our Taste of USA participants meet in Philly.  Our list of participants, to date, consists of: Cheryl, Amy, Tera, Treye, Julie, Katie, Nicole, Kristen, Heidi, and Jayme.  We're still waiting for definitive answers from Brian and Maureen.  For the purposes of planning, we will set Monday, September 1 as the last day to RSVP.  The sooner we know the better.  
Signing off until tomorrow...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Football Frenzy

Yesterday the start of school and today football.  Yes, fall is in the air.

I couldn't help but notice, a couple of weeks ago, the friendly banter going back and forth between highlowaha readers about who the winning football team would be this season.  I was entertained and intrigued.  I'm a college football girl.... sort of.  I'm a college football girl... so long as the Arizona State Sun Devils or Georgia Bulldogs are playing.  Other than watching those two teams, I can usually find something else I would rather be doing.

Have I mentioned, by the way, I don't know a technical thing about the game.  That means I never really know what's going on, until a touchdown happens (I'm sure I just lost some credibility).

None of that stops me from loving football season and, this year, finding a creative way that we - the creative readership of highlowaha - can get off the bench and participate.  So here it is... the next opportunity for you to show your stuff.  Have NO fear.  This is not a ten-day decathlon, nor will it require the same level of involvement.  The name of the game here is... be the kicker.  When your turn is up, put your best foot forward.  Introducing...

COUNTDOWN to the SUPER BOWL
Half Time Throw Down
A joint venture between 
Highlowaha.com and Struble Suds.com

This will be a battle of football snacks.  Fourteen lucky Highlowaha readers will have the chance to go head to head creating the ultimate snack food.  Beat your opponent and move on to the next bracket.  Make it to the end and you will be named Highlowaha Super Bowl Champion 2009.

Now onto Struble Suds...  Cristine is a somewhat regular reader of highlowaha and Matt, her husband, was first introduced to our blog in May when he won Blog Master for a Day.  He used his guest feature to showcase all the reasons we ought to celebrate May 1.  Matt and Cristine are the CONSUMMATE football fans.  So much so, they had a literal bar constructed in their basement, allowing neighbors, friends, and family members to gather and watch Green Bay Packer Football.  A literal bar.

So here's what we're going to do.  Our world is going to meet theirs.  Highlowaha readers will get weekly glimpses into the bar where everybody knows your name, in exchange for the seasoned taste buds of some die hard football fans.  On designated weeks, highlowaha competitors will enter a snack to be judged by Matt and Cristine's bar flies.

To assure an audience, we will follow the Green Bay Packer Football Season.  Before claiming one of the 14 spots, check out the details.
  • A maximum of fourteen participants can compete.  I would love if some lurkers would consider using this as a chance to jump in.
  • Two competitors a week will submit a snack.  Bar flies at Struble Suds will judge which of the two snacks they liked more.
  • The winner of each week will advance to a future bracket.  The number of times you would be required to submit a snack is determined by how far you advance in the season.  The number of submissions will range from one to four (for the Super Bowl champion).
  • Each week highlowaha readers will vote on a "secret ingredient" that must somehow be incorporated in your snack submission.
  • All snack submissions must be able to be served in a BOWL.
  • Matt and Cristine are willing to do minimal prep work on your behalf.  Struble Suds has a refrigerator and a microwave.  If it can't be done using one of those two things, settle on a new entry.
  • Snacks will be mailed to the Struble residence, in time for the game to which you are assigned.
  • The following day, Matt (or Cristine) will play Monday Morning Quarterback, letting us know how the snacks stacked up and who was named the weekly winner.
  • Weekly winners will receive a football patch for their Patchwork Jeans (or jacket).
  • The Super Bowl Champion will be presented with a custom-made, hand painted highlowaha super snack bowl!
In the upcoming days a page of frequently asked questions and answers will be posted.  Now the dates up for grabs.  Remember, we need to competitors per date.  
  • Monday, September 8
  • Sunday, September 21
  • Sunday, October 5
  • Sunday, October 19
  • Sunday, November 16
  • Sunday, November 30
  • Sunday, December 7
Wanna check out our home away from home for the next few months?  Go to www. strublesuds.com  

No time like the present to start generating ideas for secret ingredients.  My husband insists men should weigh in on this process, as we can't risk 13 straight weeks of ingredients such as m&m's, Snow caps, and yogurt covered pretzels.  Poll neighbors, colleagues, neighbors, and spouses.  Make sure we end the day with a healthy (as in robust, not...food-pyramid-approved) list of potential secret ingredients.  

I'm excited.

Signing off until tomorrow...

Monday, August 25, 2008

New Shoes and Number Two Pencils

Important Give Away announcement at the end...

Welcome back from the Olympics and a final congratulations to Cheryl, Cassie, and Peggy for earning the gold, silver, and bronze medals, respectively.  Not to mention... the coveted patches for their jeans.  Patches should arrive with Amy and Alden, Highlowaha's very own dedicated and talented Olympic correspondents (who, by now, have hopefully landed safely in CA).
 Highlowaha Decathlon Medal Ceremony

Onward and upward.  Time to move on to the next outlet for our creativity.  

The start of school.  Aahhhh...  fall is in the air, even though it's 90+ degrees in Dallas.  TODAY marks the first day of school for all the schools in our district.  A special shout-out to Anthony, my handsome nephew who, today, embarks on the first day of his entire schooling experience... kindergarten.  He's all set up with the perfect Hulk back pack and all the essential school supplies guaranteed to make him an "A" student.

Weeks ago I introduced you to Nan, my very special neighbor who personifies c*r*e*a*t*i*v*i*t*y!  One afternoon, apropos of I don't know what, Nan told me about one of her many family traditions.  She explained that each year on the first day of school, she places a special table cloth over her kitchen table.  A simple gesture designed to help build the anticipation and excitement that comes with a new school year.  Don't you remember this feeling as a kid?  New clothes, new school supplies, and a totally clean slate.   Oooohhh, the excitement of it all.

I loved the idea from the moment I heard it.  I knew immediately I needed a table cloth.  Imitation is the greatest form of flattery and Nan was about to receive a Whopping compliment from me - her admiring neighbor.  I was unabashedly going to copy her idea.  Problem.  How would I, the not-so-talented-Claudia, get a table cloth?  I'm only an idea spotter.  I'm don't have the talent or the skill to make any of this stuff happen.

In walks Christi - seamstress extraordinaire - and close friend to my sister in-law.  Cassie suggested I give Christi a call to see if she might work with me to sew my very own back-to-school-soon-to-be-family-heirloom-tablecloth.  Kat, if you're out there... yes, this was going to be MY attempt at learning to sew (a skill we both agreed we wanted to learn).  I purchased all the fixins and Christi agreed to help.  Long story short... through the grace of Christy, I have my table cloth,though I am not a single stitch closer to knowing how to sew than I was before this whole episode started.  Suffice it to say, it's far easier for a pro like Christi to sew when she doesn't have a sub-novice hanging around her neck like an albatross.  
I have big plans for my new favorite belonging.  Today, a beautiful tablecloth marking the beginning of a new Beeny tradition.  But over time... over time... a warm and subtle reminder of an annual right of passage.  Our childhoods are made up of only 13 (counting kindergarten) first days of school and yet, those 13 days, and all the emotion that goes along with them, somehow represents so much more!  A table cloth for only 13 days of the year?  Impractical, I know.  But, isn't a table cloth only viewed on rare occasion part of what makes it feel extra special?  I think so (I love the table cloth so much, I might have to concede to the first week of school).  I hope to add over time, a small framed collection of their annual school pictures somehow woven into a centerpiece.  I imagine it being a short stroll down memory lane.

One more small note about the first day of school then a question... then you're outta here.

I recently saw in a catalog an idea for First Day of School Cones.  The idea originated in Germany.  Parents give their children giant paper cones filled with school supplies, small gifts, and candy.  I refused to order their $68.00 cones from the catalog, but decided I could probably improvise and make a much scaled down version.  My version... made of card stock in about 4 minutes and yes, still filled with school supplies.  My makeshift cone is also smaller (which ultimately means less expensive to fill).
Now a question for the day...  What is your favorite memory of "back to school" from when you were a kid?  As for me... First, our annual family trip to the Bass Shoe Outlet for new school shoes and, second... lining all our school supplies up on the desks in our bedroom and starring and talking about them for hours.

Your turn.

Oooohhhhh.... have I mentioned I am going to GIVE AWAY a second Back To School Family Heirloom Tablecloth, hand crafted by the very talented Christi?  Yes, I am.  One week from today (Monday, September 1).  You didn't think I was going to get on my blog and brag about my great new family heirloom and then leave you hanging.  Did you?  Hopefully you know me better than that, by now.  To be in the drawing to win the tablecloth, you must make sure I have in my possession, BY SATURDAY, August 30 (should be mailed by Wednesday, a.m.), the following:
  • A minimum of one Make Your Mark paragraph from you, to be used in our Make Your Mark campaign and, 
  • A minimum of one recommendation for a teacher who you think ought to receive one of our Random Acts.  No submission... no chance of winning.  And trust me when I tell you... kids or no kids, you will want this table cloth.  It would make a spectacular gift or... hang on to it until you have your own family.
As added incentive... collect five paragraphs (and the accompanying $5.00) and earn a Patchwork Patch.  Don't know what I'm talking about?  Check out the posts from August 5 and August 7.  

Montana, are you still out there?

Signing off until tomorrow...
 

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Medal Ceremonies

Wierdest thing.  The first time I tried to post this morning's blog, my menu indicated a blog was already posted for today.  Impossible, I say.  I've been sound asleep.  Not a single ray of light shinning anywhere in my house.  It's a good thing the Olympics are coming to an end.  This sleep deprivation is beginning to take its toll!

C*O*N*G*R*A*T*U*L*A*T*I*O*N*
YOU MADE IT!

We started the decathlon with 21 decathletes.  
Two weeks and ten events later, we finished with 9 creative, competitive, and tenacious participants.

Create - a - Caption
ChampionCHIP Bake-off
Lunch With Yin and Yang
Feng Shui This
Boggles The Mind
Name That Tune
The Incredible Edible Discus
Bullseye
A Big Haiku To You
Record Time

Join me in congratulating the decathletes on their success and in thanking them for letting us watch their friendly competition.  It was truly fun. 

Special Congratulations
to our ...
Highlowaha
DECATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Cheryl
Gold Medal Winner - 38.9 points

Cassie
Silver Medal Winner - 47.4

Peggy
Bronze Medal Winner - 52.6

Medal winners, your packages will either be delivered or mailed this weekend

Congratulations, Treye who won our Haiku competition.  
(Your patch is on the way)

OVERALL DECATHLETE STANDINGS
Heather 53.3
Kat 55.5
Tera 59.6
Julie 62.1
AZLori 62.6
Brian 77.9

And, a heartfelt congratulations to the other decathlon winner, Bryan Clay, an AMERICAN who won by the biggest margin since the 1972 Munich Games (and is only the second American to win since 1976).  Cheryl, you are in good company!

Resting up and signing off until Monday...

Psst... It's Me Again.

Pssst.  Me again.  Ray Wattson, here.  

It's been a while, I know.  I've had a busy summer.  After flying Claudia's coop, I camped out at Cassie's for a while.  She bought me the cool purple boots I'm wearing.  Check 'em out.  Go ahead, say it... You like 'em... you love 'em... you want a pair of 'em.  Too bad.  They're mine.  The closest you'll get is a pair of purple cowboy boot cookies.  That's provided you can get Cassie (or Stacie) to bake you some.

Cassie showed me a great time with her three kids, swimming at the pool everyday.  Much as I loved hanging out in Euless, it was time to go.  

You can't keep a good idea down.  I had Olympics to see and people to meet.  So, while you all were enjoying your Virtual Dinner Party, I was enjoying the real thing.  Since opening night it's been one party after another... rubbing elbows with Michael Phelps; rooting on Nastia and Shawn; leading the cheering section for Misty May and Ms. Six Feet of Sunshine; trying to keep pace with all the track athletes; and last night watching the diving (did you see me, Alden, and Amy on the Jumbo-tron?).

Anyway, the Olympics end any day now.  Kids around the country are returning to school and I have to  be back in the states by then.  I love the smell of crayons and new school supplies really boost my wattage!  After that it's off to Pennsylvania.  Rumor has it you all are meeting up in Philly the weekend of September 5.  Maybe I'll pop in for a visit.  

Oh, I almost forgot.  Today I bought a t-shirt while shopping the Beijing markets.  I figure I'll make Claudia proud and give it to one of the lucky readers smart enough to send Claudia a postcard for her Random Act of Kindness (RAK) box.  She'll like that.  In fact, if she was here, she would probably say, "Don't forget to remind readers to send in a postcard with their home mailing address."  I'll appease her.  If you've moved or you've never sent Claudia a postcard with your mailing address, take a second and send her one.  First of all, you could win a prize.  Second of all, maybe just maybe, she'll shut up!  Her mailing address is 4012 Harvestwood Court, Grapevine, TX, 76051.  

As for the lucky winner... Sue Kolkmeier!  It'll be on it's way to you just as soon as I get back from China.

Gotta go.  Claudia will be posting any time now and I don't want to take a chance she'll spot me.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Decathlon Day #10: Record Time

The ChampionCHIP Bake-off had me up later than normal.  The lack of sleep is my excuse for any and all typos you find today.  

You will be happy to know the treats were a hit  and judges left feeling sufficiently guilty about all the calories they consumed.  Ballots are in and votes have been tallied.  The results from Bullseye and the ChampionCHIP Bake-off have been calculated and are posted below.  Points from Haiku You and today's event will be tallied and then factored into the decathletes final scores.  The winner of the gold, silver, and bronze medals will be announced tomorrow.

 Congratulations in advance to all the decathletes who were able to stick it out and make it to the final day.  I realize, in retrospect, what a big commitment this has been on your part.  I thank everyone for indulging me and participating - whether it be as a decathlete or a spectator.  Brian, a special note to you.  Your cookies did not arrive in the mail yesterday, so you did not have an entry for the ChampionCHIP Bake-off.  I am keeping on the decathlete roster, hoping your cookies show up today.  If so, I will keep you in the decathlon, but I will have to assign you nine points (total number of decathletes still standing).  

Announcements and Decathlon Standings at the end.  

Now onto today's big event.  

Highlowaha.com
D*E*C*A*T*H*L*O*N
Day # 10
1500 Meters, Record Time

Today's event is about stamina.  Just like the decathletes who, after competing vigorously in 9 other events, must dig deep to compete in a 1500 meter run - so too must you dig deep.

Today is not so much about running 1500 meters in record time.  No.  This day is about re-cording time (long e, not short).  Fifteen times during the course of this day, decathletes must arrange to make a post in the comment section of Highlowaha.  Details below.

Each decathlete begins with 15 points (think of them as hurdles).  Your goal is to "clear" as many hurdles as possible.  Each time you "clear" a hurdle you LOSE a point.  Clear all fifteen hurdles and end the day with zero points added to your final score.  

Now the big question?  How do you "clear" a hurdle?  Decathletes clear a hurdle by making a post in the comment section of today's blog, between the hour and the fifteen minute mark.  Here's what this will look like.  Sally Jane (a good neutral name) might make her first post at 7:10 (remember, posts must be within the first 15 minutes of the hour - in this case the 7:00 hour).  Sally Jane might make a second post at 8:07; then 9:12; 10:04; 11: 13; 12:00; 1:02; and on and on until she has made her fifteenth post.

What should your post say?  Your post should indicate where you are and what you are doing at that moment.  This way, we get to learn more about how many of you spend your days.

Hopefully that is clear.  One post per hour, between the hour and the fifteen minute mark, for 15 hours.  Hurdles can be cleared between 7:00 a.m. and midnight YOUR local time (this will level the playing field for AZLori who's on the west coast)!

Good luck and see you on the other side.

Unsportsmen-Like Trivia Question of the Day:
Olympic athlete, Rogers, spent five figures and one and a half years building what in his backyard?
  
Announcements:
Bullseye: Julie did, in fact, find a Montanan to post during yesterday's challenge.  Alice S., her native Montanan, is not computer savvy enough to know how to make a post on a blog, but she did send an email.  As someone who understands computer illiteracy FIRST HAND, I have decided to count Alice's submission. 
Helping Hand:  Votes are in and we are just waiting to hear from our fearless leaders about (1) the outcome and (2) next steps.
Reading Raynbows: Don't forget to check in with today's Book Club discussion, based on Pausch's book, The Last Lecture.

Decathlon Standings After Bullseye Event:
Cheryl: 27.2
Cassie: 33.1
Heather: 41.3
Peggy: 43.1
Tera: 47.3
Kat: 47.5
Julie: 49.6
AZLori: 51.1
Brian: 52.9

Decathlon Standings After ChampionCHIP Bake-off
Congratulations to our winner, CASSIE (with her yummy chocolate eclairs)
Cheryl: 32.9
Cassie: 35.4
Heather: 47.6
Peggy: 48.9
Kat: 50.5
Tera: 51.6
Julie: 55.1
AZLori: 55.9
Brian: I will keep you on the roster, assuming your cookies will arrive today.  

Signing off until tomorrow... 


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Decathlon Day #9: A Big Haiku to You!

Welcome to another busy day on Highlowaha.com. We have a decathlon to get to, but first some fun announcements. Decathlon Standings and other important announcements are at the end.

Welcome MONTANA!!! It took you half a year to find us, but now that you've arrived we fully expect you'll be great and contributing members. You entered our community in the middle of a ten day Decathlon, but stick with us because starting Monday we'll return to our more traditional exchange of creative ideas. IN THE MEANTIME... let us know you're out there today, by posting a comment (maybe even a word of encouragement for the decathlete you helped yesterday). Be the first "Montanan" (is that right) to post and receive a highlowaha treat in the mail.

North Dakota AND South Dakota also logged on yesterday! These are two states we don't hear from frequently. Do you think they were jealous of all the attention Montana was getting? No worries ND and SD. There's plenty of highlowaha love to go around. Welcome to you too!

Ashlee, Lori, Julie, Tera, Kat, Peggy, and Cheryl... rest easy knowing your entry for the ChampionCHIP bake-off is safe and sound and in my possession. Cassie, Heather, and Brian... I'm waiting with baited breath. A special note to Julie. You make me laugh! Julie baked a cake and LITERALLY slipped it in a post office box to be delivered... from PENNSYLVANIA! To satisfy your curiosity. Your cake made it, though I think it is safe to say... not in the original state you mailed it. Taste prevails, however, so all hope is definitely not lost. Now to the business of the day!

Highlowaha.com
D
*E*C*A*T*H*L*O*N
Day #9
Haiku


To date we've tested you creativity through humor, baking, innovation, word-smithing, music, crafts, problem-solving, and today... POETRY.

We will honor the Asian culture today by challenging Highlowaha readers and decathletes to craft a haiku - a Japanese form of poetry. I consulted a syllabus found on-line to brush up on my understanding of haikus and to find an explanation more coherent than anything I could present. Here goes...
"Haiku is a poetic form and type of poetry from the Japanese culture. Haiku combines form, content, and language in a meaningful, yet compact form. Haiku poets, which you will soon be, write about everyday things. Many themes include nature, feelings, or experiences. Usually they use simple words and grammar. The most common form for Haiku is three short lines. The first line usually contains five (5) syllables, the second line seven (7) syllables, and the third line contains five (5) syllables. Haiku - to put the poems meaning and imagery in the readers's mind in only 17 syllables over just three lines of poetry!"
An example...
The Rainbow
Curving up, then down.
Meeting blue sky and green earth
Melding sun and rain.

Your task... create your own haiku about a high, low, or aha. Submit by posting in the comment section before 10:00 p.m. today.

Unsportsmen-Like Trivia Question of the Day:
While diver, Laura Wilkinson's, coach blamed her right tricep for early semi final struggles, Laura attributed her struggles to which other part of her body?

Announcements:
  • Farewell to Stacie: It was particularly hard to watch Stacie bow out of the Decathlon yesterday. She's been a strong competitor from the beginning, sitting in either gold or silver medal contention all along. Thanks for being such a strong competitor, Stacie.
  • Note to Decathletes: Tomorrow is the last day of our decathlon. Rise and shine early to make the most of your time.
  • Calling All Readers: Remember, you can compete in an event even though you are NOT competing in the decathlon (to be a decathlete you have to compete in all 10 events). Event winners receive a winning patch for your patchwork jeans or jacket. Want to know more about Patchwork? Check out the blog from August 7.
  • Reading Ray: Thanks to readers Julie and Melanie, we'll continue discussion on Pausch's book, The Last Lecture, this Friday. Just click on Reading Raynbow's (top right hand side of my page) to learn more.
  • Helping Hand: Votes are in and soon we will learn from Sue, Brian, and Maureen what the upshot will be for our holiday service project. Toni challenged us today to THINK BIG about our ability to have broad-based impact.
Decathlon Standings
Congratulations to Peggy for winning first place on The Incredible Edible Discus Challenge. Competing against Peggy in this challenge was, in some ways, was like going up against Bobby Flay in a Food Network Throw Down. Cheryl, you lost by only .5. Congratulations, Peggy! Another patch is on its way to you.
New Standings:
Cheryl 26.2
Cassie: 32.1
Heather: 40.3
Peggy: 42.1
Brian: 43.9
Tera: 46.3
Kat: 46.5
Julie: 48.6
AZLori: 50.1

Signing off until tomorrow...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bullseye

Decathlon Standings and Announcements at the end...

A moment of recognition for a fun and important fact. Today is HALF WAY through the year of posts for Highlowaha. That means for all the fun we've had, we still have that much ahead of us! Good news, I know. Now onto today's Olympic events.

Highlowaha.com
D*E*C*A*T*H*L*O*N

Day #8

Bullseye


Today we pay tribute to the Javelin - the art of throwing a spear-like instrument with the intent of having it land point down... and in a particular location. Our Javelin Throw will be virtual. We too will take a pass at having our "spear" land point down and in a particular location.

Today we will test how creative and resourceful you are. Creative because you must develop a sales pitch, compelling enough to recruit a new visitor to our highlowaha community. Resourceful because the new visitor must come from a particular state in the country. It is the ONE state for which - half way through the year - we have NEVER had a single visitor.

When you're done rolling your eyes, focus on this bit of reason. We are ALL somehow connected to a group larger and more expansive than accessed in an average day. You are bound to people in other states whether it be by a professional association, a national soccer league, the National Parent Teacher Association, an organizational like Girl Scouts or Cub Scouts, a web-site, an alumni association, or a religious network.

This event, late in the decathlon, will undoubtedly build suspense... as it is the only "all or nothing" event in the series. You will earn an ideal 1 point for successfully having a resident of the state make a comment on today's post. If you are unable to have a resident of the state post a comment, 10 points (the total number of decathletes still standing) will be added to your score. IN ADDITION, you must send me an email telling me from which city in the state your resident will be posting.

How will I know? My trusty Googleanalytics program tracks daily the locations from where our highlowaha readers are coming. As residents of this state post on your behalf, I can cross reference Googleanalytics for their locations. Or, I can rely on what I know is a strong sense of ethics shared by our extraordinary readership and know you wouldn't compromise your integrity for something meant to be fun.

I'll warm your brains up this morning by letting you unscramble the letters to determine which state will be today's object of attention.

O*T*N*M*A*A*N

The Unsportsmen-like Trivia Question of the Day:
What was notable about the kite strings shown in the special interest story covered by Mary Carillo? Also, anybody want to take a guess at what was said to Nastia by the man presenting her with the silver medal for her bar routine? I'm dying to know.
  • Decathlon Standings: Congratulations to HEATHER, our winner of Monday's event - Name That Tune. Standings as of last night.
Cheryl: 23.4
Stacie: 25.1
Cassie: 27.3
Heather: 32.5
Brian: 37.4
Kat: 39.7
Peggy: 39.8
Julie: 40.8
Tera: 42.3
AZLori: 44.3
  • Make Your Mark: Knock, knock, who's there? No one!
  • Olympic Correspondents: Don't forget to check out Amy and Alden's daily Olympic post. If you've been following their travels, you know how much fun they are having and what a knack they have for sharing their experience with us.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Incredible Edible Discus

Highlowaha.com
D*E*C*A*T*H*L*O*N
Day #7
The Incredible Edible Discus

The seventh event of the Decathlon is the Discus Throw.  The event is designed to test an athlete's arm strength, by requiring him to throw - with accuracy - a disc weighing 4 pounds, 7 ounces.

Yadda, yadda, yadda.  That's all well and good, but we're not about sheer strength of body.  No.  No.  We are creathletes... as concerned about the strength of mind and creativity as we are about strength of body.  Yes, we want be strong and healthy, but primarily so we can execute on the countless number of creative ideas generated here at highlowaha.

So I'll test arm strength and raise those decathletes... imagination.

Today's event...

Flex those scissor cutting biceps and forearms.  Stretch those glue applying triceps. And, get ready to prepare for National Cream Filled Donut Day.  Your task is to design - inside and out - a greeting card to be presented to a fellow highlowaha reader on Sunday, September 14.  Cards will be judged not only on design, but also on the quality of caption inside.

You will do two things with the cards.  First, scan and email me the front of your card, along with the caption (by 10:00 p.m., as usual).  Second.  Mail the hard copy of your card to me at Claudia Beeny, 4012 Harvestwood Court, Grapevine, Texas, 76051.  Cards must be postmarked no later than Wednesday, August 20.

Un-Sportsmen-Like Trivia Question of the Day:
What unexpected fan was spotted in the stands watching Nastia perform her uneven bar routine?

Announcements:
  • Christmas Service Project:  Sue, Maureen, and Brian are closing voting booths at end of day today.  Go to top right hand side of my blog and click on Helping Hand.  Cast a quick vote, by posting, to let them know if you would prefer to collect items for an agency or a family.  We must make our final decision this week.
  • Make Your Mark: Today I mailed 75 postcards soliciting teacher stories from friends and family.  Have you written yours yet?

    9 sold packages; 91 more to go!
   Have you mailed your story yet?

Signing off until tomorrow...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Name That Tune

Decathlon standings and other announcements at the end... except this one...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM.  I LOVE YOU!!!

What an exciting weekend of Olympic activity!  My family and I went to a dinner party on Saturday night, but we were home and perfectly positioned in front of our t.v. by 9:55 when Phelps made history by winning his eighth gold medal of the games.

We had a big week on Highlowaha last week, launching our very own Olympics chock full of challenge and creativity.  We kicked the week off testing wit, by having readers complete a caption-less cartoon.  Tuesday we introduced the ChampionCHIP bake-off (to be judged THIS Thursday).  Wednesday you worked with Yin and Yang to invent a craft project; Thursday we tested principles of Feng Shui by creating something from a toilet paper roll; and Friday our ability to get creative with letters was tested as you readers competed in an Olympic game of Boggle.  Things will heat up this week as we try to find out exactly how creative, resourceful, and tenacious our readers really are.  Hopefully all of you - especially our Highlowaha decathletes - are rested up and ready to compete in another fun-filled week.

Highlowaha.com
D*E*C*A*T*H*L*O*N
Day #6
Name That Tune

Today we will test your creativity with music and lyrics.  I'm in the market for a Highlowaha jingle and I believe you can help.

Using the tune from the Beach Boys song, Kokomo, write a jingle about Highlowaha.  Submissions should be posted by 10:00 p.m.  Below is a music video of the song.



Un-sportsmen Like  Trivia Question of the Day:
In an unusual turn of events a female gymnast scored "0"  in an event last night.  Which event and why?

Announcements:
  • Decathlon Standings:  Once again, proof that it's anyone's game.  After Thursday's event Heather was in last place, but after placing FIRST PLACE in Boggle, Heather is now in 5th place.  Congratulations Heather.  Special thanks to Cassie P.  and Ashlee for competing in Friday's event, even though you are no longer competing as decathletes. 
Stacie: 19.8
Cheryl: 21.1
Cassie: 23.6
Brian: 29.4
Heather: 30.5
Jayme: 31.8
Tera: 32.3
Julie: 34.5
Kat: 34.7
Peggy: 35.8
AZLori: 36.0
  • Taste of USA Trip to Philly:  So far our participant list consists of: Claudia, Cheryl, Amy, Katie and her two new fun friends from James Madison, Tera, Treye, Julie, and Heidi.  I'm feeling hopeful about Jayme who has convinced her husband to visit family in Philly that weekend - and Maureen who will either bring her daughters AND/OR Layne (another fun reader!).  This is shaping up to be a big crowd.  My task for today is to determine a reasonable hotel close to Temple University where we will hold our fun day of activity.  What we do know is things will get underway at 10:30 and wrap up around 4:00.  That... and, of course, that it will be a FUN, FUN day!
  • Make Your Mark: NO MAIL for me this weekend!  Our goal is to have all letters in hand by this Friday, August 22.  Later this afternoon I will mail 70 postcards to people I know soliciting their inspiring letter.  Who can you ask for a letter?  Remember... collect 5 letters from people you know (along with $5.00 per letter) and earn a patch for your highlowaha jeans!  Want to pass the instructions along to someone?  Check out the post from August 5 (Now I've Gone and Done It).

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Big Reveal

Good morning everyone.  Late, late, late today... I know.  My crazy Bunco friends and I met last night for our monthly game and I went to sleep later than normal.  Coupled with the fact that when I did finally get home, I had to stay up and re-live the Michael Phelps's winning moment.  Amazing!  A fun side note about Bunco... Heather joined the group last night for the first time since moving to Texas and... walked away with virtually all the winnings.  That's never been done before in our group.  So while Phelps was making his own Olympic history, Heather was busy making Bunco history. 

Today will be about four things:
  • Revealing Peanut and the Shell
  • Sharing Current Decathlon Standings and,
  • Sharing today's creative idea
  • Announcements
Let's get down to business, so we can make the most of our weekend.

Peanut and Shell:  For all 18 of you who have participated in what I would deem our first and very successful game of Peanut and the Shell, please post your best guess of which highlowaha reader has been sending you treats for the past four weeks.  I'll go first right here and right now, since I have a funny story to tell.  I guess Peggy is the creative person who has been sending me treats.  I feel certain I am correct, because Peggy accidentally revealed herself to me a couple of weeks ago.  She kept sending me treats in the mail (return address and all) and I finally contacted her to ask whether I should be giving them away on the blog.  Naturally, she was confused.  Truth of the matter... her cards are so beautiful and so distinctive, there would have been NO way I wouldn't have guessed anyway.  As for the rest of you... make your guesses.  Once a guess has been made, feel free to verify whether the Peanut or Shell is correct.  Have fun with this and maybe even get creative about how you "reveal."

Decathlon Standings:  Proof that you can move up from behind.  Congratulations, Peggy for winning the Feng Shui Challenge!  Your winning patch is the mail. As for all overall decathlon standings.  Here you go:
Cheryl: 17.1
Stacie: 17.8
Cassie: 18.6
Jayme: 20.8
Tera: 21.3
Julie: 23.5
Kat: 23.7
Peggy: 24.8
AZLori: 25.0
BKRoot: 26.4
Heather:29.5

Sharing Today's Creative Idea:  Creativity is everywhere.  One of the women playing Bunco last night had a coaster made to look like a flip flop.  Her wine glass was slipped in the flip flop, holding the glass in place.  The straps of her flip flop were covered in fun rhinestones, but she described others as having colorful flowers, etc....  Apparently the idea was born when a couple was on a beach vacation.  The couple's cocktail napkins kept flying away, until finally one of them took off her flip flop and slipped their glass inside!  A great idea is born!  You might even take a crack at making some of these, by buying regular flip flops and rounding the back to fit a glass.

Announcements:
  • Welcome back Treye and Maureen.  What I love about his community is when someone leaves for a period of time, the rest of us notice.  Cassie P, ainiowa, Chaotic, and a whole slew of others have been dipping in and out over the past month.  Hopefully you're soaking up your last days of summer and not permanently gone from the highlowaha scene.
  • Make Your Mark:  I think I am going to repost the brief directions for Make your Mark, making it extra easy for you to (1) find, and (2) print off for distribution to friends, family, etc....  As busy as we are, I know you don't want to miss this opportunity to thank an educator who made an impact on your life.  Be motivated by knowing how much you would love to receive one yourself.  I actually did receive one, apropos of this activity, and it felt GREAT.  We are doing a good thing here.