Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Not Just Hot Air

Today at 4:00 p.m. Matthew's teacher, Ms. Latrice, will cross over the threshold of Children's Courtyard for the last time, bidding farewell to the class that adores her and preparing for her family's move to California.

Interestingly enough, today's post won't be about Latrice - at least not directly.

Today's post will be a short tale of what it means to live the Spirit of 218. Newcomers to our community won't already know that, Spirit of 218 is the phrase Highlowaha readers use to describe the joy of making time for life's simple pleasures.

It didn't take long after learning of Latrice's departure that Matthew and I decided that an unfinished class project from last winter would be the perfect going away present for her.
Hot air balloon with barely one layer of paper mache applied. The recipe for paper mache, by the way, is simply flour and water (and strips of newspaper).

Tissue paper rolled into small balls and adhered to the balloon by dabbing each ball into Elmers Glue.
The hot air balloon is topped off with a basket holding a gift card Latrice can use to help her family get settled in their California digs.

Here's where Gift of 218 comes in. I ate lunch with a friend the other day and I was so excited about the project Matthew and I were working on, I couldn't help tell her about it. She immediately rolled her eyes in a lovingly way and said, "Claudia, why do you do this stuff to yourself. Do what ever other mother will do. Buy Ms. Latrice a present, put it in a gift bag, and be done with it."

She challenged me to think about why I busy my life with projects that are clearly unnecessary and how much more simple my days would be if I didn't "go overboard."

All at once I blurted out my defense and I'll be dammed if the conviction and clarity of my explanation didn't even surprise me! Here's what I said.

Getting the time to work side by side with Matthew on a project like this is EXACTLY what life is about. It is the Gift of 218 personified. Not only do we get to sit on the garage floor getting dirty while paper maching, but we also worked together rolling tissue paper, deciding on a design, and brainstorming from what we could make the basket.

BUT even more importantly... the two of us talked. I got quiet time to instill in Matthew my beliefs about the importance of thanking people who are good to us and the thoughtfulness involved in giving a handmade gift. We spent time talking about all the reasons we were appreciative for Latrice and what he thinks he'll miss most about her. He got to participate in a creative activity - not just hear me talk about the importance of being creative and using our imaginations.

Those lifelong lessons of gratitude, generosity, and creativity were worth every bit of the four hours we worked on Latrice's present this month.

To the outside world what Latrice will receive from Matthew is a finally finished paper mache hot air balloon, with a basket and a small treat inside. What I know, and what you now know, is that Ms. Latrice is actually receiving the Gift of 218. And, as is the case with the Gift of 218, the real recipient is actually the gift giver.

So thank you, Latrice. Thank you for being so good to my son over the past year and a half. Thank you for loving him, teaching him about the globe, the importance of drinking water, and letters of the alphabet. Thank you for choosing him be Rug Captain, feeding his interest in books, and reminding him to wash his hands after going to the bathroom.

But also, thank you for inspiring us to forgo a quick run through of our local mall in search of the quick and easy present. Instead, thank you, Latrice for the Gift of 218!

We will miss you.

Signing off until tomorrow...


Heather said...

And the balloon looks awesome!!!!

Good for you for standing up for what you believe in. Matthew and Ms. Latrice both deserve more than a quick run to Target or the Mall.

Chaotic said...

A gift that is truly unique...how can that be wrong? A gift you got to spend quality time w/M,priceless.

Anonymous said...

I have to say this post choked me up a little this morning as I think about the moments in life that matter. I am sure this will be just one of many moments Matthew will cherish and remember spending with you.

Kat said...

The balloon goods great! It is so special that you got to do something one-on-one with your son and give your project to someone else. While I am sure Ms. Latrice will love the balloon, the lesson you taught Matthew is so much more valuable. This is a situation where the phrase "It's the thought that counts" really applies.

Peggy said...

Simply adorable! Good for you Claudia to actually take the time! In today's society it makes me sad when soooo many people are busy... their lives are crazy! You can TAKE time if you really want to... it depends how badly you want to do something!

PS: When my kids were little we did all this stuff too! Creative gifts! that's why my cards are creative greetings!!.... but as they get older, you get less personal with the people who help you shape their lives... the handmade gestures aren't always necessary anymore! :sigh:

Peggy said...

PSS: and before anyone gives me any 'lip' :0) about just do it! I have... but Claudia you don't mention too much about doing these things with your older Ricky... and yes ladies in college... you can be fun and quirky... but some of these ideas work best for the wee ones and run their course... and you kind of know when it's time!

Cheryl said...

Excellent job Beeny's! I'm sure Latrice is going to love her finally finished balloon and appreciate your thoughtfulness.

I have to admit that I sometimes fall into that "Look, I'm just too busy. I'm only one person with not enough time." category. But what I have discovered this past year being on the blog is that if it is important to you- you find and make the time. :)

Katie K said...

Peggy, I'm going to challenge you for one second on this. And maybe I'm just one of the 'quirky' college girls, but I might be okay with that! :)

Part of what I LOVE about this blog is the collective creativity of every community member. We may not all be artists like Cheryl or great with paper mache like Claudia, but we all have something. My way of expressing my creativity is through the written word and I often take the time out of my day to express my thanks through that. Then I enter in the creativity of this blog and I might do a random act of kindness to go along with the card. So while we don't all have little ones running around, we all have the creativity in us to give the special gift of time and uniqueness in the gifts we give. And I feel somewhat certain that someone in your children's lives deserve recognition for the impact they are having. I know this because it was not that long ago that I was in high school and I know there were times when my teachers deserved all the recognition in the world. Certainly we all have our days when we just have to run to Target to get that gift because there isn't enough time in the day. But the Gift of 218 is about those days when we take our talents and our creativity and put it to a great use, like Claudia and Matthew did with this gift for Ms. Latrice.

:Steps off soapbox:

Peggy said...

Sorry y'all...as part of me is happy and excited about life and learning... my job is ending in a few days and I'm a bit blue, too!

Katie K said...

Peggy, I'm sorry to hear about your job. We all have our times when we aren't feeling 100% like ourselves. I just didn't want you to doubt your ability to create something as special as the hot air balloon. We all the ability within us...we just have to find it. I hope you have a great day. As Cheryl and I always say, deep breaths, happy thoughts!

Claudia said...

I realized on my drive to work, while replaying today's post in my head, that I might have sounded self righteous.

Let me set the record straight. I, too, can be found dashing through the store spending more money than intended on a gift, believing that what I haven't spent in thoughtfulness I can make up for in cash. I'm a working mom and sometimes that is my reality.

What makes today's post special to me is that this time I was able to live the Spirit of 218 and it felt good. Like all of you, I can't do it all the time, but when I do I am reminded of how good it feels.

So read today's post as encouragment, as a symbol of what I know each of us is doing in our own way.

If join us each day on this blog than you already believe in the Spirit of 218. Go forth knowing you are surrounded by others who also think it matters.

Claudia said...

P.S. Peggy... I know you have been worried about your position ending.

I ascribe to the belief that where one door closes another will open. I don't want to oversimplify your worry, but I for one am looking forward to hearing about which lucky office gets you next!

Lauren said...

I really enjoyed your post today Claudia. Not only because it brought a smile at the memory of the student affairs gift basket at homecoming (a night on the town - it all goes back to homecoming!) but also because it reminded me that it is important to take time out of our busy days to show our appreciation to those who have impacted our lives or those lives of our loved ones. I know I often get caught up in the daily grind of life and forget to do that. Thank you for reminding me. Paper Mache was one of my favorite things to do as a child, and I actually remember the first time I did it with my mother. I made a pig out of a shoebox and empty toilet paper rolls. I am sure neither Matthew nor Ms. Latrice will forget this gift.

heather said...

Peggy...I'm sorry you are blue...
I know what I've got right now with Lily being little and things like "hot air balloons" being special and cool rather than dorky and over the top. Now I just have to make sure I maximize it.

Oh and Peggy if you ever want to use one of our little ones to express your creativity with feel free...I'd love to send a Peggy creation with Lily to daycare!

And I think you do buy into the concept everyday through your cards. You realize that a store bought card doesn't care the same thought that one of your creations does so you take the time...

Peggy said...

Gosh guys! Thanks!

Yep! I try and create a 'party' on a card all the time. Things happen for a reason, a season or a life time!

It makes me happy when people create, or like what I create, or are inspired to create something!

Anonymous said...

HLA (aka Claudia): I appreciated your addendum @ 9:59. I read the blog this morning and was feeling a bit frustrated, especially after reading some comments. I don't think it is fair to say that the teacher deserved "more" than a Target run (although I am sure she is fantastic). We all decide to spend our time differently. Although I don't have the time or crafty talent to make a homemade gift, and instead pick something at the mall doesn’t mean I value that person less.

I do think there is something to be said about the culture of gift giving. Someone in my office left recently...and didn’t get anything like this balloon. Instead, she had enough smelly lotion to last her at least 3 years of multiple daily applications. It seems gift giving is a bit of an art. Coming up with something that doesn’t say "obligatory" can be difficult in some situations...even sometimes for those we are close to (my father, for example). You have a great way of making it special, a friend of mine writes amazing personalized notes; another manages to find something that isn't on the seasonal shelf at Target, but something that speaks to the receiver’s essence every single time (it is the gift of gift). I think that you are right, it has to be about more than hot air…but we all have to find a way to make it genuine.

I also had two questions, since I am here again today…

1) Did I miss the mermaid cookies? If so, what was the date so I can check them out?

2) How did you take that photo (the 2nd one)? It looks like it is about to float away and the balloon looks like it is about 3 feet tall. It's amazing!

Sporadic Spy

Cheryl said...

Have I said how much I like Sporadic Spy?

I'll help Claudia out.

The mermaid cookies were displayed last Friday, June 26th.

The photo was altered in Photoshop. Originally Claudia's arm was in the photo.