Saturday, January 31, 2009

Pebbles on the Pond

Oh, the best laid plans...

Today is scheduled to be Day Six of Highlowaha's Virtual Baby Shower.  The assigned topic... resources all new moms should know about (books, websites, available discounts and coupons, etc....). I also intended to share thumbprint pictures and share some Super Bowl fun.

If it's o.k., we'll take a rain check.  I have something I want to write about that is more timely and dare I say, more important.  Check in tomorrow if you are interested in some Super Bowl Fun.

"Throw a pebble into a pond and watch the ripples it creates.  Kindness spreads in a similar fashion.  A kind act can be a catalyst.  It can reach beyond those directly involved.  Who can say how far the ripples from one simple act of kindness may spread?"  Author Unknown.

Yesterday I dropped the boys at their preschool and then, in typical fashion, headed to Starbucks to do some reading.  My head was buried in a book when someone standing over me said, "Hi, Claudia.  We have to stop meeting this way."  In front of me was a woman I met two weeks ago at the Potato Soup party that I posted about last Saturday.  She just purchased herself a coffee, so I invited her to join me for a while.  Forty minutes later we had covered a lot of ground - kids, husbands, career choices, and more.  By the end of our conversation, I really felt like I made a new friend.  It was, perhaps, the most uplifting 40 minutes of my entire week.  I can't say for sure, but I think Leanne might say the same thing.  Misty's simple act of inviting me to her Soup party allowed me to meet Leanne and two weeks later there was a ripple.

I arrived home from Starbucks to begin sifting through my emails before meeting a friend for lunch.    A highlowaha reader emailed me to say thank you for sending her her winnings from Monday's Chinese New Year celebration.  Small as her winnings were, she told me she would feel better about spending the money if she used it on a random act of kindness.  Peggy uses one $5.00 pebble and creates the first of who knows how many ripples.

Lunch in Arlington with Heather and then it's back home to Grapevine.

I head to my mailbox after parking my car and stuffed inside my mailbox was a large envelope, addressed to ME, from an unfamiliar address in Dallas.  Inside the envelope are four books and a two-page letter that starts out, "Claudia, I feel a kindred spirit toward you..."  At the end she says, "Read what you wish and pass on the rest.  You can leave them at Starbucks."  I will most certainly read all four books and, because of her invitation, I intend to anonymously pass them along at Starbucks.  The most important nuggets of information I learn from reading the books I will pass along to you.  One package of books creates upwards of 5 ripples. 

Living Highlowaha's Spirit of #218 means making choices to sometimes be the pebble and sometimes be the ripple.  Do this for me this weekend, will you?  While you are out and about be on the search for a pebble or small rock.  Pick one up and either put it in your pocket or place it somewhere in your home where you will notice it daily.  When you place your hand in your pocket or notice it sitting on the counter, take a second to think about the last time you made a ripple.  Maybe you'll even decide to share your story with us.  

A final thought...  the idea of pebbles and ripples doesn't feel completely irrelevant to this week's baby shower theme.  Consider this.  What if the children we raise are to be considered pebbles on the pond.  What kind and how many ripples will they make?  

Signing off until tomorrow...

Rabbit, Rabbit...

Friday, January 30, 2009

Free For All Friday: Favorites, Football, Freebies, and More

Announcements at the end...

T.G.I.F!  Today is day five of our Virtual Baby Shower.  It's been a fun week of activity, beginning with celebrating the Year of the Ox (and, of course, all of our own animal signs), in honor of the Chinese New Year.  Tuesday we explored thoughtful keepsakes we could make using the fingers, toes, and feet of our little ones.  Wednesday we shared all sorts of ideas about archiving our children's memories, important headlines, and other moments in time, and yesterday we took time out to play the inevitable baby shower game.  

Consider today the portion of a baby shower when structured activities are over and guests are left to sit around, sharing stories, advice, and mommy tips.  Today, after all, is Free For All Friday.  Newcomers, this is the day of the week when we benefit from the collective creativity and wisdom of our community.  The floor is open for you to talk about whatever you want or to seek advice on the topic of your choice.

In the spirit of this week's baby shower, I would like to propose a topic.  The question will be easiest for current mothers to answer, but those of you with illustrious day care or baby sitting careers should have plenty to share too.  Here it is...

What baby related item did you register for, thinking it would be essential, only to find out you would never use it.  Conversely, what did you not register for, that you later purchased, and could never have lived without.

I can't stop there.  There is way too much going on in this community of ours.

Sunday is the finals of the Super Bowl Snack Throw Down!  East v. West, with Onion as the featured secret ingredient.  Rumor has it East submitted an onion dip and West submitted a salsa.  It would be anticlimactic if I let the day come and go with only a brief announcement on Monday of who won.  No.  Today - Free For All Friday - we need to take a minute to wish Maureen and Lori luck and to make some predictions.  So whose going to win?  East, onion dip or West, salsa?  For added challenge... of the 20 anticipated bar flies at Struble Suds on Sunday, how many votes will the winning dish receive?

Next Freebie Friday and then it's on to announcements.

If you work outside the home, or ever have, you'll know what I am talking about.  There are people in our work places with whom interaction is not required, but whose company we actively seek.  You are drawn to them for reasons including things such as shared interests; their knowledge on a topic about which you know nothing; sense of humor; an office so filled with stimulus it's the perfect work break; or maybe just that their candy dish has a better selection than anyone else on your floor.

Today, I want to introduce you to Stacie.  Stacie is someone I met while working in Louisville, Kentucky.  The nature of our jobs on campus were not such that we were required to work together, but Stacie is someone whose company I actively sought out.  There are innumerable nice things I could say about Stacie.  She is smart; self-assured; an activist; knowledgeable about a lot of things, but still curious; funny, thoughtful, and has cork screw curls that most women would die for!  Oh, and have I mentioned that her interests and talents are more eclectic than anyone else I've ever met?  She is a walking cocktail party, able to move swiftly from conversations about the state of higher education, to politics, drama and the arts, massage, baby delivery, and just about everything in between. 

Bottom line.  Stacie loves all things pregnant.  Soon she will launch a website displaying a variety of mommy-related (and more) creations.  Diaper bags, toy bags, baby slings, and other novelty items are among a few of the sewn items you can expect to find.  Today, Stacie is offering to give away a Belly Cast Kit.  The kit is used to make an impression of your pregnant belly.  Talk about a creative way to commemorate your pregnancy!?  Once made, many women paint or decorate the cast.  To win this cast you must: (1) be one of our Virtual Baby Shower guests, and (2) guess the name of her beautiful 11 month old baby boy.  Hint.  Six letters, beginning with the letter "L" and ending in "N."

Announcements: 
  • Price is Right Winner:  While many of you did well, there is only one winner to yesterday's game.  Hands down, Cheryl O'Pry with a PERFECT 10!  Congratulations, Cheryl!  The final answers were: Q-tips, $1.06; Bibs, $8.99; Fitted Sheets, $10.99; Gym, $64.99; Wipes, $3.69; Diaper Bag, $68.99; Johnson & Johnson Liquid Soap, $3.39; Platex Drop-ins, $9.99; Robeez, $27.95; Baby Tylenol, $5.99. 
  • Goal Fishing:  Hopefully the 20 of you who signed up to participate in Goal Fishing have received your materials in the mail.  Let the fun begin!   Quarterly we will use the blog to check in on Goal Fishing participants to see how you are doing toward your resolution.  The first check in will be sometime in early April. 
  • Thumbprint Pictures:  We got some great submissions.  Check in tomorrow to see what was submitted and to "CASE" some ideas!
  • Virtual Party Host:  Whose up next?  We are looking for a party host for the month of April.  Remember, all you have to do is gather five friends and identify a topic that would be of interest.  I do the rest.  So far Heather, Katie, and Kristen have taken advantage of the opportunity.  Going once, going twice... 

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Price is Right


What kind of Virtual Baby Shower would this be if we didn't play at least one game?  Thanks to the generosity of Kristen, we have, as an added bonus, a $20.00 Starbucks card for the lucky winner.  Baby shower guests... while you might not currently be drinking coffee, you will appreciate this card months from now when you are sleep deprived!

Rules of the game are simple, and of course open to all party goers - pregnant or not.  Simply review the baby items pictured below and assign the correct price to each item.  The person who gets the most correct wins.  If there is more than one winner, the names of all those eligible will submitted in a drawing.  Your guesses can be emailed to cbeeny@lslog.com.

NOTE: I am sure many of you bargain shoppers will want to dispute my prices or want more detail about size or quantity.  Embrace the ambiguity.  The items were priced at main stream stores, with no coupons in hand.

It's a only a game, so I trust that even the most competitive of you will protect your integrity by not searching the web for answers.

Price points:
$64.99
$8.99
$9.99
$68.99
$27.95
$1.06
$5.99
$10.99
$3.69
$3.39

Baby Items
(A)   

(B) 
 
(C)
(D)
 
(E) 
 
(F)

(G)  


(H)  


(I)

(J)

Thanks for playing!  Tune in on Friday when we celebrate Day 5 of our Virtual Baby Shower.  Until then...

Signing off...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Announcement:  If you live in Louisville, you won't want to miss the last bullet of today's post.

Here we are... Day three of our baby shower.  A couple of fun points before we get down to the business of today.  Yesterday was a "snow" day in Dallas.  Not only was there no snow, there was no ice either.  Just a cold and miserable day stuck in the house with three boys - all of whom suffered a terrible case of cabin fever.

At 2:00 p.m. I finally decided I had to get out of the house - for the sake of all of us!  I went to the post office to mail your Chinese New Year winnings.  The post office worker asked me if I wanted heart stamps for my envelopes.  The envelopes were red (China).  The stamps were red (hearts), so it seemed like a match made in heaven.  On our way out of the post office we began talking about how nice it would be to use the heart stamps to mail our valentines this year.  So how about it?  How about valentines made out of thumb prints?  I'm thinking my boys and I will make love bugs, using each of their thumb prints.  What are some other Valentine related shapes we could make?

One more nice point from yesterday.  I mentioned Kristen won the biggest jackpot yesterday by choosing the Chinese envelope named "Alexis."  She promptly sent me an email asking that I not send her the $20.00 and instead that I use it for the baby shower.  The generosity of readers like Kristen is just one of the things that makes this community so remarkable.  I will use Kristen's money as requested and when I do I will let you know.  

Now today.

"Remember three months from this date!  Your lucky star is shining."  That was Matthew's fortune from the cookie he ate on Monday night in celebration of the Chinese New Year.  Keep it or throw it away?  That is the question.  Keep it and your house is overrun with scraps of paper.  Toss it it and miss the chance to capture, albeit, a small moment of time in his life.  

Scrap booking, journaling, archiving....  Whatever you want to call it, that is the source of today's post.  Lots to cover and only a limited amount of your attention.  Let's get going.

Moments in Time:  When Kristen and I spoke on the phone in preparation of this week's baby shower, she told me of a baby book she received as a gift.  It required her to capture lots of fun information soon after Jennifer was born.  Here are some examples.  Document the prices of a: gallon of gas, house in your neighborhood, car, computer, movie tickets, package of diapers, postage stamp, and babysitting rates.  I love the idea of this and though our kids will always be able to find it on the internet, it's so much more fun to see it in your handwriting.  So come up with your own list of notable things and then set out to start documenting them.

Extra! Extra!:  Make your phone calls now and put your friends, family and relatives on notice.  Ask them save the front page from their city's newspaper on the day your child is born.  It will be fun for your kids to look through them and to use them for class projects when they get older.  Line your people up now, because it won't be the first thing on your mind when you're in labor and delivery.  

Time Capsule:  Saving newspapers is one thing - kind of one dimensional, but a time capsule...?  A time capsule is 3-D.  How about gathering items such as advertisements from local papers, CDs with popular music, photographs of your house, car, pets, or anything else you might want your kids to see first hand when they get older.  You could either bury your capsule somewhere in your yard or simply tuck it away in the attic until his/her... 21st birthday?!?!?!   

Snap Shot in Time:  Mind you, I've never done this. I've just heard about other disciplined people doing it and I think it is a great idea.  During your baby's first year, each month on the same date, take a picture of your baby sitting in the same place and possibly holding the same stuffed animal.  By reusing the seat and the stuffed animal, your baby's growth will become even more apparent.  Heather told me she recently saw a Baby's First Birthday invitation bordered with a series of photographs similar to those described above.  Another example of a great idea, but one you have to be ready for from the get-go.  By the time most of us come out of our post pregnancy fog, months have passed and it's too late.  

Scrap Journaling:  On Highlowaha.com we try never to repeat the same idea twice.  If ever I was tempted, it would be today.  Months ago I shared my "strategy" for keeping and organizing my children's keepsakes.  Many of my friends and some of our readers have begun using the system.  I am not at all into scrap booking (too costly and time consuming), but I love the idea of documenting the lives of my children.  I want them to look back and be able to find out things such as: funny phrases they used, favorite foods, least favorite foods, their favorite toys, who their teachers were, what car we were driving, what weather was like on Inauguration Day, who won the Super Bowl, and a million other mundane facts.  I do all of this (and more) in a system I refer to as Scrap Journaling.  Following are links to days dedicated to this topic.  If you are interested, check them out (to really understand, you must check out each day).  http://www.highlowaha.com/2008/07/kiss-keep-it-simple-system.html.  http://www.highlowaha.com/2008/07/kiss-step-three-of-four.html.  http://www.highlowaha.com/2008/07/kiss-step-four-of-four.html.

If you live in Louisville, you're going to LOVE this:  What better way to document the lives of your children than PHOTOGRAPHS!  Today we present Louisvillians with the chance to win a free one-hour photo shoot, along with a CD of photos.  The photo shoot is with Laura Kline, a local woman who is actively building her clientele.  You can see Laura's work by visiting her flickr site at http://www.flickr.com/photos/laurakline/ or visiting her blog at www.lkkphotos.blogspot.com.   Let's get on with it.  The winner's name will be selected from a drawing.  How do you assure a spot in the drawing? Easy.  Get a pregnant woman to join our party by making a post in today's comment section.  Your name will be entered one time for each pregnant woman you get to make a post. 

Don't win?  Don't worry.  Laura is focused on building her portfolio, so her rates by industry standards, are reasonable.  If you live in Louisville, I am sure she would welcome the chance to photograph your family... and you'd be supporting another Highlowaha reader. 

Have an idea related to something we've already covered today?  Share it with the rest of us. 

As for me...signing off until tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Now That's Thumbthing

Welcome back to the second day of our Highlowaha Virtual Baby Shower.  This week we are raving (and ranting) about all things baby.  Most notably, we are celebrating nine women - all of whom are expecting babies sometime in the next six months.

Melanie, Sara, Kimberly, Allison, Johnanna, 
Michelle, Erica, Kelly, and Molly

First follow-up to yesterday's celebration of the Ox and all things related to the Chinese New Year.  Of the 30 red envelopes containing various amounts of cash (ranging from .25 to $20.00), 20 envelopes were selected, totaling $40.75.  Check you mailboxes to learn of your winnings.  I will eliminate some of the suspense by providing one clue, as it is a little too ironic not to share.

Only one of the envelopes had a $20.00 bill inside.  Of all 19 people who could have won the $20.00, it went to Kristen  - who selected the name Alexis.  Kristen, for those who do not already know,  is the hostess with the most-ess, helping to make this week's baby shower happen.  In doing so, she is having to endure the challenges of working with me at a distance.  Bottom line... she deserves her $20.00 and then some.  Congratulations, Kristen!   

I'm kicking myself.  When Matthew was a baby and in child care, he frequently came home with pictures made from either his hands, feet, or finger prints.  Though I kept most of them, I made a mental note to do it better the next time.  Then came Jack.  I became fixated on the idea of an image a month matted and then framed, in one large picture, to hang in Jack's bedroom.  It was May before I knew it and I'd already missed three months.  Jack didn't enter child care until he was a year hold and by that time it was way too late.  My dreams were dashed... again.

But you!  You could do it.  Your babies aren't born yet.  You could start planning now, using the imprint of your baby's foot in the hospital as the very first.  Ghosts, butterflies, turkeys, reindeer, flowers, and the list goes on.  

Mind you, I thought this was a great idea years ago.  Then, a few weekends ago, Cheryl and I headed to a Sunshine Glaze, a pottery place in a neighboring town.  We were there on official Super Bowl Throw Down business, but while Cheryl was busy masterfully painting the winning bowl, I couldn't help but wander around.  Now I think the idea is better than great.  Take a look... 
This is a flower pot made from children's thumb prints.  
Perfect Mother's Day gift!

Reindeer made from your baby's feet 
It's never too early to begin thinking about the perfect holiday gift.  

Gather your kids, nieces, and nephews 
to grow your own beautiful plate

What an angel!
How about this for a Grandparents Gift?

Sure these make great gifts, but you could also steal the ideas and create your own image-a-month to matte and frame for your child's bedroom or play room.  The key is to plan ahead, making sure you're not getting your first imprint the morning you child shoves off for college.  That, come to think of it, a finger print of another sort!!!

I have a small book of thumb print ideas I would love to give away.  You know... to get your ideas flowing.  How about this?  Use your creativity to make me a thumbprint.  Send me a digital photo at cbeeny@lslog.com, by Wednesday night at midnight.  If I have a submission from you, your name will go in the drawing.  

Announcements:
  • People's Award Nominations: There are still some of you we have not heard from.  Nominations will be reviewed within the next 24 hours.  Please take a second and nominate someone for an award - even if it is only one person for one award.  
  • Party-Goers: There are a few of you whose address I do not have.  If you would like me to mail you your Red Chinese envelope, please send me an email at cbeeny@lslog.com, so I can mail it off.
Signing off until tomorrow...

Monday, January 26, 2009

Baby New Year

Welcome 
Melanie, Sara, Kimberly, Allison, Johnanna, 
Michelle, Erica, Kelly, and Molly!  

So much to celebrate, so little time.  This is my kind of Monday!  Today is not only the Chinese New Year, but it is also the first day of our six-day Virtual Highlowaha Baby Shower!  There's gotta be something Feng Shui about that!

For our veteran readers, you know, our virtual parties are a great chance to welcome new members into our community.  So, grab a cup of coffee, wake up, and let's show these women what we've got!

For those who know me at all, you know it would be virtually impossible to bypass the opportunity to celebrate the Chinese New Year, even if I'm supposed to be at a baby shower.  So the challenge... find the point of intersection.  I didn't have to go far, as the Chinese Zodiac provides the perfect fuel for getting this party started.  

Tradition has it that the Chinese don't talk as much about age as they do the animal sign under which they were born.  In other words, rather than sharing that I am 43 and a Libra, I would simply say I was born under the sign of the Snake.  If I really wanted to self disclose, I might say I was a Wood Snake (as opposed to metal, water, fire, or earth).  Apparently that's all the Chinese need to know in order to, "have your number."

Skeptical?  Look at what my Chinese Astrology book (published in 2003) generally had to say about the year of the Ox.
"The year of the Ox will be an exciting one in which there will be major changes in the world leadership.  Political upheavals will be on the agenda.  In the first month of the first Ox year this century, Queen Victoria died.  There will certainly be struggles at the top of the political ladder where only the toughest survive.  Apart from instability on the political stage, the year of the Ox will pass without great floods or famines.  The Ox will spend most of his time in the fields, and the harvest will again be bountiful and the promise of an honest day's work means that there will be many willing to reap the benefits.  If you have serious plans of having children, the year of the Ox is a good time. "
Here are a few features of the Ox babies coming in 2009:

Qualities:  You are diligent, positive, and helpful.  However, you tend to run your own show and can be rather stubborn and authoritarian.  Some will find it difficult to work with you because you are tough and not always cooperative.

Luck: You appreciate the small things in life and you are extremly proud when you see the results of your work.  You work hard and are destined to succeed.

Money: You take care of what you have and build on your resources.  You may become very rich and famous in what you do - even something you learned as a child can bear fruit.

Social Life: You get on well with the people you choose to deal with.  When you find yourself among people you do not know well, you can be shy and introverted.  

Siblings: You enjoy relatively good relationships with brothers and sisters as long as they learn to give you space and try not to be too dominating.

Health: You are strong and extremely robust, like an Ox.  You won't suffer illness as you lead a healthy life and can look forward to prosperous later years.

Party-goers, if there is one thing you should know about this community that you will be hanging out with for the week, it is that we are fun and engaged (engaging too, but definitely engaged)!  It means we find reason to interact and share ideas just about every day.  As for today?  When in China, do as the Chinese do.
Apparently red envelopes are a big deal during the Chinese New Year.  They are given year round like greeting cards are given in the Western tradition, but never more than at the Chinese New Year.  The envelopes usually contain crisp, new money.  Sounds good, huh?

Here's how we'll play.  I have thirty red Chinese envelopes... yes, filled with money.  There are four envelopes with .25 cents inside; 20 envelopes with $1.00; three envelopes with $3.00; two with $5.00; and 1 with $20.00 inside.  Each envelope has one of 2009's most popular kids names on it.  You take a chance, pick an envelope/name, and see how much you've won.

Got it?  If you know your Chinese Zodiac sign then share that too!  

Here are the names corresponding with each of the envelopes.

Boys
Jacob
Michael
Joshua
Matthew
Ethan
Andrew
Daniel
Anthony
Christopher
Joseph
William
Alexander
Ryan
David
Nicholas

Girls
Emily
Madison
Hannah
Emma
Ashley
Abigail
Alexis
Olivia
Samantha
Sarah
Elizabeth
Alyssa
Grace
Isabella
Lauren

If I don't already have your mailing address, send me an email at cbeeny@lslog.com, so I can send you your winnings!

Announcements:
  • Speaking of Red:  You might have heard.  There's a red carpet event happening on Wednesday, February 18 at 8:00 CST, right here at highlowaha.  Today at midnight is the deadline for submitting your nominations for the nine award categories (see Saturday's post for detailed list of the nine awards).  If you don't want to nominate someone for all nine, but only feel strongly about one or two, then please just submit those.  It's only the People's Choice Awards if you, the people, actually vote!!!!!  Newcomers, we hope you will join us!
Signing off until tomorrow...

Saturday, January 24, 2009

This Spuds No Dud

Potato sacks are out and glitz and glam is in.  I hope you're taking note, because Highlowaha's People's Choice Awards Show is only three weeks away.  We have lots to do to prepare for our party and picking out just the right outfit should rank among the most important.  I know what you're thinking... Dress up for a Virtual Award Show to be watched on my computer in the privacy of my own living room?  Is she crazy?

No, I am not crazy, but I am serious.  Dressing up in anticipation of walking the red carpet is part of fully embracing and celebrating everything for which Highlowaha stands.  We live the Spirit of #218 - meaning we can find cause for celebration in even the simplest of things.  So, yes, there is a dress code for the People's Choice award and potato sacks are out.  Dust off your fanciest dress and most glamorous jewelry in anticipation of this important One Year Anniversary.

The only thing more important than securing the perfect outfit is submitting your nominations for the nine award categories.  For your convenience, the categories and criteria are listed at the end of today's post.  

Back to potato sacks.  While a potato sack would be wholly inappropriate for the likes of our celebration, potato sacks were 100% appropriate for the party I attended one week ago today.  This party tradition is compliments of my new and special friend, Misty.

Imagine my surprise when Misty excitedly stopped me in the hallway or our children's day care in early December to invite me to her annual... POTATO SOUP PARTY!  What?  Potato Soup Party?  Now I know parties, but never - I mean never - in my life have I have heard of, nor been invited to, a potato soup party.  I was intrigued.

Here's the idea.  Years ago, Misty and a handful of her friends decided to forgo gifts at Christmas time and, instead, to give one another the gift of time.  No presents, just an intimate gathering of girlfriends with a long and cherished shared history.  Part of their history dates back years to when one of the women (Misty) worked at Grady's, a local restaurant with award winning potato soup.  By hook, and probably a little crook, the women got hold of the coveted recipe and pronounced it the official meal of the evening.

Fifteen years later, these women continue to meet for their annual Potato Soup Party.  Over time, each has been granted permission to welcome a guest or two into the mix.  This year I was lucky enough to be among the chosen few.  The warm potato soup is great and worth every carb and calorie consumed.  But, the real warmth comes from an evening spent with smart, fun, supportive women, all of whom seemed to genuinely understand how rare and fleeting moments like these can be as we get older and life gets busier and more complicated. 

We played a game, but actually the game only served as the excuse to get down to the business of sharing life's ups and downs and our most recent trials and tribulations.  An hour into the evening and we were telling stories like we'd know each other for years.  That's the magic of women and, in large part, the secret ingredient that makes the Annual Potato Soup party so special.

The other highlight of the evening to me was listening to the women share funny stories from years past.  There was the year the soup, which normally cooks the better part of the day, hadn't even been started when the guests arrived.  Then there was the year the wine flowed and one of the original five party goers got sick; the year a regular missed the party because she was literally in the hospital delivering a baby; and then the first year the party transitioned to an all night slumber party.  

They spent a portion of the evening retracing who hosted which party and where they were living at the time.  It was fun to listen to, because it was a simple reminder that though life changes, addresses change, family size changes, some things don't change.  Friendship doesn't change and all it takes is to keep something so priceless in tact is a simple bowl of potato soup.  I love for it's simplicity.

I would be remiss if I didn't brag about one more thing - Misty's invitations.  Take a look.  The invitations were handwritten on a cut out potato, placed in a burlap bag, and tied with raffia.  Perfect.  I know.  She's a pro.  One of us.

So while we will celebrate Misty and her potato sack, we will not confuse it, in way shape or form, as appropriate for our upcoming party.  Get busy picking out your outfits.  That's where I'm headed.

Recap of Nine People's Choice Award Categories:
Sliced Bread Award
This People's Choice Award will go to the Highlowaha reader who shared an idea you consider the "best thing since sliced bread."  It's an idea you have either utilized or passed on to others.  Please tell the idea he/she shared.

Raising the Bar Award
This People's Choice Award will go to the reader who shared an idea that has, in some way, enhanced the Highlowaha community.  Please share the name of the person and/or the idea he/she introduced.

Good Neighbor Award
This People's Choice Award goes to the reader whose overall participation and contributions to Highlowaha have strengthened our blog's community.

Energizer Bunny Award
This People's Choice Award goes to the adventurous reader who actively participates in daily activities.

Spirit of #218
The spirit of Highlowaha means making time for interactions and experiences, in spite of the busy, fast-paced lives we live.  This People's Choice Award goes to the person whose life seems to most encapsulate Highlowaha's Spirit of #218.

Home Run Award
This People's Choice Award goes to the reader who whacked an idea so hard, he or she knocked it out of the park.  

The Newbie Award
This People's Choice Award goes to a Highlowaha reader who has only been with us since October 2008, or later but whose participation we couldn't live without.

The Veteran Award
This People's Choice Award goes to a Highlowaha reader whose been with us since at least May 2008 and whose participation we couldn't live without.

Oz Award
This People's Choice Award goes to the Highlowaha reader you would most like to bring out from behind the curtain to meet.

Signing off until tomorrow...  

Friday, January 23, 2009

Free for All __________

Three times a charm.  That's what I've heard.  

The first time you hear a message... forgettable.  We're busy people, bombarded daily with messages, so a one-time announcement is our dream come true.  Total dismissal, guilt free.  Second time you hear an announcement... recognizable. The message might be familiar, but details are blurred and there exists no sense of urgency to take action.  But, three times.  Three times is supposed to be the charm.  After having heard a message a third time, its contents should be familiar - maybe even anticipated.

So let's see if it works.

If you've been on Highlowaha over the past two days, you might have heard _______ is in the air.  Highlowaha is 26 days away from celebrating our ____  _______   __________.  The celebration of our great achievement will peak on Wednesday, _________ 18, at _:__ p.m. CST.  Planning for The ______ _______ _______ Show cannot get underway until each of you does your part.  We need you to submit _________(s) for each category.  Wednesday I outlined the first three awards.  Thursday I outlined the next three and today we will introduce the final three.

To submit your nominations, simply send me an _____ at ______@lslog.com, by Monday, January __th at midnight.  Please be sure to put People's Choice Award in the subject heading.

Now for the final three awards to be presented.

The Newbie Award
This People's Choice Award goes to a Highlowaha reader who has only been with us since October 2008, or later, but whose participation we couldn't live without.

The Veteran Award
This People's Choice Award goes to a Highlowaha reader whose been with us since at least May 2008 and whose participation we couldn't live without.

Oz Award
This People's Choice Award goes to the Highlowaha reader you would most like to bring out from behind the curtain to meet.    

There they are.  The last three.  To get details about the other six awards (Sliced Bread Award, Raising the Bar Award, Good Neighbor Award, Energizer Bunny Award, Spirit of #218 Award, and the Home Run Award), please visit posts from Wednesday and Thursday.

Next an introduction and then it's onto the business of the day...  Free For All Friday.  

Let's give a big welcome to Shannon, a friend with whom I have recently reconnected.  If a prototype existed for the "Quintessential Highlowaha Reader," it would be Shannon.  She is creative, an event planner by nature (and profession), adventurous, lives the Spirit of #218 without even knowing it, and understands the value of participating in community in the same way we do.   She posed the perfect "Free For All Friday" question when we had lunch yesterday, so let's see if she jumps right in today and shares it with the rest of you.  If so, let's show her what we've got.  

Now, Free-For-All-ing.  For those of you who are new to our blog, Friday is the day of the week readers capitalize on the collective creativity of our group by posing their own questions.  You might want help developing a party theme, promoting an event, raising money, or as was the case earlier this week, generating ideas to help a homesick friend.  The canvass is clean for you to do with what you want.

With that, let me get out of the way.

Signing off until tomorrow...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Noteworthy

You might have heard.  Something special is in the air.  Highlowaha is 27 days away from celebrating our One Year Anniversary  - and in a big way!  Though the celebration will peak on Wednesday night, February 18 at 8:00 p.m.  CST, we have festivities planned for the week leading up to our anniversary and for the week following our celebration.

Anniversary fun begins February 2-7 when we spend the week wrapping up unfinished highlowaha business, so we can start  the new year with a clean slate.  February 9-14 will be RED HOT!  We'll use the week to prepare for February 18th's big gala, as well as the much anticipated Valentine's Day.  Five o'clock a.m. on Thursday, February 19 brings BIG, BIG changes to Highlowaha - an announcement you won't want to miss.  The fun won't stop abruptly on Thursday, February 19, as we have one final week of fun planned for February 23-27.  Mark your calendars now.  You won't want to miss a single day.

As noted yesterday, The People's Choice Awards, scheduled for Wednesday, February 18 at 8:00 p.m. CST can't get underway until each of you (veteran readers and newbies, posters and lurkers) does your part.  Yesterday I introduced three of the nine categories for which awards will be presented at our celebration.  Today I will present another three and tomorrow we will wrap up the week with the final three award categories.

Yesterday Julie asked some good clarifying questions about the nomination process, so let me provide additional details.  (1) You may wait until all nine categories are shared before submitting nominations.  (2) There is no limit to the number of awards for which a person may be nominated.  (3) Nominations must be submitted to me, via email, by Monday, January 26, at midnight (your time).  (4) Please place the words, "People's Choice Awards" in the subject line of your email.

Yesterday's award categories were: (1) Sliced Bread Award, (2) Raising the Bar Award, and the (3) Good Neighbor Award.  Check out yesterday's post for descriptions of each award.  Today's award categories are as follows...

Energizer Bunny Award
This People's Choice Award goes to the adventurous reader who is up for anything and actively participates in daily activities.

Spirit of #218 Award
This spirit of Highlowaha means making time for interactions and experiences, in spite of the busy, fast-paced lives in which we live.  This People's Choice Award goes to the person whose life seems to most encapsulate Highlowaha's Spirit of #218.

Home Run Award
This People's Choice Award goes to the reader who whacked an idea so hard, he or she knocked it out of the park.

Today's Creative Idea.  Since we are busy recognizing notable people, I thought I would share a "notable" gift idea.  I gave myself this great gift for Christmas.  For $35.00 I hired Peggy Robinson, long time reader and card maker extraordinaire, to make me a greeting card each month for the year.  Monthly, Peggy will hand make me a card and then mail it, along with an envelope, to my address.  Once received, I make a date with myself at Starbucks and spend 30 minutes in solitude thinking about and writing to the recipient of that month's card.  Yesterday I sent January's card, reaffirming what a great idea this was.  

Let's review.  I get guaranteed snail mail at least once a month for an entire year.  I get a handmade card, that if purchased in a store would be $5.00 - easy (!), for the very reasonable price of $2.00.  A quiet date at Starbucks at least once a month (alright, who am I kidding?).  And, as if not already good enough, next year at this time I will have committed a minimum of twelve random acts of kindness.  Pretty good for $35.00.

Final Note.  Anonymous, thank you for helping to keep me on track.  The winner of this months Highlowaha t-shirt(s) are...

Heather and Cassie P. 
(If I am correct, it so happens that neither already has a shirt!)

Signing off until tomorrow...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Virtually Groundbreaking: The Countdown

What a go of it we've had!  First the summer Olympics; followed by the primaries; then presidential campaigning; the melt down of the economy; presidential elections; and yesterday the 56th Presidential Inauguration.  Phew! Our country has been busy.

Just when you thought you we were done and you could go back to your quiet corner of the world, Claudia announces Highlowaha's next big event.  We are 28 short days away from Highlowaha's One Year Anniversary and it is time to get our festivities underway.  We can't pull off an event of this size and scope without a lot of preparation and involvement from all of you!

Here's an overview.  Next week we welcome new readers as we spend the week at our Virtual Baby Shower.  The week after (February 2-7) we will finish some of Highlowaha's unfinished business, in an effort to kick the new year off right.  February 9-14 is Red Carpet Week.  While normally I support going green, this week we'll go red.  We will share ideas of fun ways you can prepare for the big event on Wednesday, February 18 at 8:00 p.m. CST.  Did you get that?  Wednesday, February 18 at 8:00 p.m. CST.  Mark your calendars.  Oh, and in addition to Red Carpet Week, we'll throw in a creative idea or two to get you ready for Valentine's Day.  

Then comes the the week of February 16-21.  This is a week you won't want to miss!  It is when we will celebrate all our community has accomplished over the past year.  There will be lots of reminiscing, but also some looking ahead.  The main event for week will be Wednesday, February 18.  We are hoping each of you will carve out an hour of your evening, so you can join in our festivities - not to mention celebrate your accomplishments with one another.  

The fun won't stop abruptly on Wednesday, February 18.  In fact, on Thursday, February 19 an important and groundbreaking announcement will be made about the future of Highlowaha.  You won't want to miss it!

Having said all of that, in preparation of our One Year Anniversary festivities, we have some business to conduct.  Wednesday, February 18, at 8:00 p.m. CST we will use our blog to broadcast the...

Highlowaha People's Choice Awards

The People's Choice Awards will allow Highlowaha readers to recognize one another for contributions made to our lively blog.  The event will be the perfect combination of both community and creativity.  Community because you will be honoring one another's efforts and creativity  because we, of course, have to figure out how to make it all happen virtually.

So with no further ado, let us get the nomination process underway.  You will nominate someone by sending me an email at cbeeny@lslog.com and indicating who you think is most deserving (please put People's Choice Award in the subject).  Please include a line or two about why.  There are nine total awards.  Do not post in the blog's comment section or the nominees will not be surprised!  

We will feature three awards each day for the next three days.

Sliced Bread Award
This People's Choice Award will go to the Highlowaha reader who shared an idea you consider the "best thing since sliced bread."  It is an idea you have either utilized or passed on to others.  Please tell the idea he/she shared.

Raising the Bar Award
This People's Choice Award will go to the reader who shared an idea that has, in some way, enhanced the Highlowaha community.  Please share the name of the person and/or the idea submitted.

Good Neighbor Award
This People's Choice Award goes to the reader whose overall participation and contributions to Highlowa have strengthened our blog's community.

Lurkers!  I hope you feel like you can participate in the festivities by casting your vote and by tuning in on Wednesday, February 18 at 8:00 CST.  We know there are a good number of you out there and we are interested in what you have to say!

Finally... a creative idea for the day.  Yesterday was my oldest son's birthday.  He turned 16.  Those of you with teenagers know, they really only want money, so he can buy... in his case a car (Yes, buy.  No free rides in the Beeny household!).  Rather than just give Ricky cash - kind of impersonal and nothing creative about it - we decided to give him "Cold Hard Cash."  

Picture it.  I filled a meatloaf pan with water, laid the bill on top, and froze it.  Once frozen, I added more water on top and froze it again.  In the end, it was a block of ice with a bill on the inside.  Cold Hard Cash.  Love it.

Cheryl, jump in with the creative adaptation you shared with me.

Signing off until tomorrow...

  

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Psst..

InauguRAY
Psst.  InauguRay here,

I'm getting too old for this.  Not as old as Cheney.  At least I'm not here in a wheelchair.  They pulled me out of Secret Service retirement to help out.  The good news is that they let me keep my boots.  What choice did they have.  It's not often that you need 20,000 Secret Service agents at one time.  I did have to promise to keep StingRay away.  Apparently, he was off his meds the last time he visited.  Claudia has him imprisoned in the guest bath of her house and is making him watch countless hours of CNN.  You probably won't hear from her today.  What with StingRay and the Inauguration......

It's funny, I reached into the pocket of my coat and pulled out a receipt.  The last time I wore this was 2001.  My Starbuck's Quad Tall 180 degree latte was $1.98 with tax.  Those were the days.  The Dow was soaring, oil was cheap and I was still bullish on my Beanie Baby retirement program.  I don't need to go into what's going on today.  It's too painful.  Let's look forward.  What's it going to be like at this time next year?  I'll throw some items out there and you give me your predictions.  Also, throw in an item of two of your own.  You know, case of Bon Bons, Bic Disposable Razors, diapers, or Midol.  I crack me up.  Crying laughing.  Speaking of tears, you should know that Onion beat Cayenne Pepper for Super Bowl Throw Down. 

Here we go.  Give me your predictions.

Gallon of milk
Gallon of gas
How many car companies will still exist?
Mortgage rates?
Obama's approval rating?

Uh oh, there goes a Streaker.  What it is about the Mall that makes people want to streak.  It's 25 degrees out here.  What's he think we're going to see?  Got to go.   Come back here Pee Wee!

Ray out.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Huddle Up

East Meets West
Super Bowl Snack Throw Down
Sunday, February 1, 2009
New York Maureen v. Arizona Lori
Congratulations Maureen and Lori, who after 20 weeks, 14 competitors, 11 secret ingredients, and a small fortune in postage have earned their way to the First Annual Highlowaha.com Superbowl Snack Throw Down! You are both fierce competitors and good sportsmen (or women), sure to make this throw down memorable yet... "tasteful."

Today's business at hand...

Casting votes for the Ultimate Secret Ingredient of the season.

Newcomer and returners alike are welcome to participate.  That goes for your lurkers too.  If ever you were going to get off the bench and cast a vote, today would be the day.  

Quick background.  Highlowaha readers have been competing since September to see who reigns supreme in our Football Snack Throw Down.  Each Friday readers vote on the secret ingredient our competitors must use in cooking up their recipe.  Snacks were then mailed to Struble Suds in Naperville, Illinois, where a group of die hard Packer fans gather to judge our entries.  Together we make the perfect team.  The eleven winning ingredients were as follows:

Bacon
Garlic
Vanilla
Nutmeg
Peanuts
Mustard
Brown Sugar
Parmesan Cheese
Honey
Quaker Oats 
Tabasco

It would be no fun, nor would it be creative, to simply vote on the secret ingredient for the Super Bowl in the same, predictable way we have voted for the first set of eleven.  It's Monday - the start of another big week - and the occasion requires something more.  Instead...

East Meets West
In keeping with our competitors, one of which is from New York and other from Arizona, I thought it would be fun to do an ingredient "draft" - of sorts.  Here's how it will work.  Simply vote for the ingredient you would most like to see in the finals.  At day's end, your votes will be tallied and assigned based on... whether you live East or West of the Mississippi.  The ingredient on the East coast receiving the most votes will advance.  The ingredient on the West coast receiving the most votes will also advance.

Finally, Matt and Cristine Struble - proud owners of Struble Suds will convene over the Official Coin Toss.  Heads = East Coast (it is where the "head" of our country lives); Tails = West Coast.  The coin toss will occur at 9:00 p.m. and the winning Super Bowl ingredient will be announced right here on Tuesday morning!

The list of ingredients from which we will be voting should be somewhat familiar.  They are the losing ingredients from each of the previous 11 weeks.

Dill
Cinnamon
Mustard
Candy Corn
Coconut
Cayenne Pepper
Cumin
Onion
Mint
Lemon
Pistachio

Ready to get going?  Again, the rules are simple.  Cast your vote for the ingredient you would most like to see at this year's Super Bowl Throw Down.  Tell us in which state you live and we'll do the rest.  Tune in tomorrow to find out which ingredient won.

I'll start...

West of the Mississippi...  Coconut!

Signing off until tomorrow...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Happy January 18 Eve!

Good Saturday morning.  As you can tell by my late post, "Sleep in Saturday" worked today!  That's good news for me and bad news for any of you early risers.

Today is Saturday, January 17 - the eve of the much anticipated 18th, when Highlowaha engages in its monthly ritual of sharing "highs," "lows," and "ahas" for the past month.  We won't be together tomorrow and since the very notion of a ritual requires recurrence, we will use today to celebrate.

Also, it seems last month we forgot to draw the name of a lucky winner to receive a highlowaha t-shirt.  This month we'll draw two, in order to make good on our agreement.

If you're new to the scene, the rules of play are simple.  Take a few minutes to reflect on your past month.  Do this in spite of  your long list of things to do.  In fact, do it because of your long list of things to do.  Reclaiming control over your life to engage in life's simple pleasures is what we, at highlowaha.com, affectionately refer to as "Living the spirit of #218."

Join us as we kick of 2009.  And while I'm at it... Did anyone else notice the coincidence... 2 x 0 x 0 x 9 = 18?  That means this is going to be a good year!

High: "Cut it out," Julie!  This orange pair of scissors, that I received in the mail from Julie yesterday, is my high for the month!  It is my "high," not only because it is thoughtful, (other have also sent me thoughtful treats), but because it clearly illustrates that every once in a while, people actually learn from this blog site.  Julie painted the over-sized scissors (I collect over-sized things) orange and wrote on them, "Remember to disorganize to create growth."  This is a direct reference to a Colin Powell quote I shared a couple weeks back.  It thrills me that any of your found it worth remembering.  This blog site is a tribute to both creativity and community, but I am an educator at heart, so knowing that learning is also occurring makes me happy beyond measure! 

Low:  My car dying and not seeing my family for the holidays.

Aha:  Let's see... Mind Mapping, the words to Auld Lang Syne, the difference between stress and eustress, or maybe - like Julie - the power of being "Chief Disorganizer?"  Hmmmm.... I would I've had a few "ahas" this month.  I learned I am persnickety and all too willing to prejudge my UTPA Leadershape experience on something as superficial as room conditions.  I learned that when given one-on-one attention and uninterrupted time to think, most college students are capable of imagining meaningful change for our country.  And, most importantly, by virtue of teaching concepts of leadership for a week straight, I learned the enormity and commitment required to lead. 

Your turn.

Oh, and since we are almost exactly one month away from Highlowahas One Year Anniversary, let me leave you with this...
Virtually Groundbreaking
Wednesday, February 18
8:00 p.m.

Signing off until Monday, when the real countdown to February 18 begins!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Fish Lips Friday

Only on Highlowaha, could we bring perfect closure to the week, by literally supporting a resolution about fish!  Am I the only one amazed and impressed by the perfect convergence of two seemingly unrelated topics?  

The first part of the week brought reminders about our New Year's resolutions.  The middle of the week was preparation for Goal Fishing and yesterday we had an unexpected (and unwelcome) visit from Sting Ray-the-grouch.

Thanks to Cheryl, we'll finish the week strong.

Here's the thing about Cheryl, as I have come to know her over the past year.  She is talented above measure.  Yes, Cheryl is a creative thinker like most of us who gather at HLA each day, but in addition to being a creative thinker, she is an artist!  Need mosaic tiles or a cutter?  She's got 'em.  Need labels, paint, ribbon, or art paper?  She's got it all.  Cheryl has a room chock full of everything and anything you need to start an assortment of art projects.  She would say the operative word here is, "start."

Cheryl is self deprecating, so chances are she'll rarely talk about her talents, but she will be quick to tell you she's never finished a project in her life.  Stacie - another HLA reader - would diagnose Cheryl as the classic "Scanner."  Scanners are good at a lot of things and are notorious for engaging with a project only long enough to get the gist.  Once scanners master the basics of something they get bored and are ready to move on. 

Cheryl's resolution for 2009 is to create - that means start and finish - at least 12 pieces of art centered around Lip Print Fish.  Need a visual?  Check it out.
She uses your "kisser" and turns it into a fish!  Cute, huh?  A friend of hers used a series of Cheryl's Lip Print Fish and framed them for her bathroom.  I don't know about you, but I love the idea and want to get started on my own school... now!  But, I can't.  Cheryl's busy.

She's resolved to keep her resolution and she needs our help.  Today begins the Official Highlowaha S.W.A.K. Drive.  Cheryl is looking for a few (actually, a lot) good SWAKs.  All you have to do to participate is apply some lipstick (guys can play too.  We won't tell), find your favorite piece of paper, and give it the biggest smooch you know how.  Then, seal it in an envelope with your name and mail to: 

Cheryl O'Pry
2701 Knoll Trail
Euless, Texas 76039

Sealing this Friday with S.W.A.K. for Cheryl and signing off until tomorrow...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Psst...

Sting Ray, here!
Blah Blah Blah.  Who gives  a  *&^%$ about a goal fish.  I'm a sting ray.  I'll stick you.  I don't care what you want to do this year.  Shut up.  You want resolutions.  I'll give you one.  I'll never compete against anyone from Arizona in another snack throw down.  Sun Devils - all they do is sit around and tan.  How did I lose?  

I'm so disappointed.  Wimps.  Why do you need help.  I don't want to hear about it, talk about it or support it.  As Nike says.......Just Do it.

By the way,  all my schoolies, I'm ageless.  Don't even try to guess.  I'm like royalty.  I would say that I'm like a woman in that regard but.........that would be a little too weird.  I prefer royalty.  Don't ask. 


Gone Fishing

Or, in this case... 
Goal Fishing!

Kudos to the 18 of you who have taken the plunge and committed to participating in Highlowaha's Goal Fishing event.  For those of you just tuning in...  Goal Fishing is a program designed to support HLA readers in attaining their New Year's resolutions.  

Today, each participant will "go fishing" for another participant's name, so that once matched, he/she can serve as a cheerleader and support person.  Ideally "accountability partners" will drop in the mail a monthly note of encouragement, an affirmation, a relevant article or a tip sheet that might help their partner attain his/her goals.

The goals and resolutions are varied.  Many are fitness related, but not all.  Take a look at some and see how they compare to your resolutions.  We'll use these topics to inform blog posts throughout the year.  Not only will it help our Goal Fishing participants, but you might also pick up a helpful tip or two.
Getting into an exercise regimen
Set up a savings account for my first child and 
get caught up on her baby book before baby #2 arrives.
Start and stick with an exercise program
Move out of my parents house
Work on my book a minimum of once a month
Get organized
Spend frugally
Lose 25 pounds (2 people listed this)
Be active 3-4 times 
a week
To get my family healthier
To create at least 12 pieces of art in 2009
Exercise 30 minutes, at least three days a week
Get back into the physical shape I was in 2 years ago
Read to my kids 5 nights a week
Lose weight
Paint my craft room and take a piano lesson
Be more efficient at preparing well rounded/healthy 
meals for my family.

With no further ado, let the fishing commence.  To the 18 of you participating... pick a number between 1-18.  Once a number is "caught," you gotta recast your fishing line.  Expect a package in your mailbox by the end of next week, providing the name of your assigned person, along with contact information, and a brief overview of the Goal Setting Program.

Didn't get your name submitted in time?  No worries.  Tell us which of the goals/resolutions are most similar to yours and we'll make sure to provide you some support throughout the year as well.

Signing off until tomorrow...