Thursday, March 25, 2010

She's Not Lucky---She's Good!

I first found out that my daughter is a winner when she was nine months old.

As a bookkeeper for a restaurant, one of my job duties involved making the daily bank deposit, and picking up coins so the cashiers could make change.

One day, as I was making my deposit, the bank manager asked me if I wanted to sign up for a drawing for a special toy giveaway. It seems the bank was changing hands, and their stuffed bumblebee mascot was no longer going to be used. They were giving away all excess stuffed bees.  I signed up three-year-old Daughter Em for the drawing and tossed her name into the bucket.

As I was walking out the door, it hit me. I had two daughters now. Granted, Kay was only nine months old, but shouldn’t I enter her name as well? I turned around and signed an entry form under her name.

A week or so later, I received a phone call from the bank manager, telling me that Kay had won one of the bees. I thought it provident that I had entered her name at the last minute. Em was a little disappointed but soon got over it when I showed her how many more toys she had than Baby Kay.

When Kay was about 4 years old, our local grocery store had a coloring contest. Both Em and Kay were excited to enter so they could win some cool prizes. They did their best coloring jobs and entered their masterpieces in the drawing. A few weeks later, while grocery shopping, the girls noticed that the winners were displayed in the customer service area. We hurried over to see if either of the girls had won. Kay was excited to see that she won a happenin’ new soccer ball. She proudly carried that ball throughout the store while we shopped.

It was around that time that our shopping mall got a new store called Mr. Bulky. It was a bulk candy store and both girls had a grand time whenever I would allow them to pick out their own bag of candy. They loved hearing the sound of the metal scoop digging into the candy bins. In front of the store was a giant gumball machine with huge multi-colored balls of gum displayed through the glass globe. The store had a policy that if anyone paid their quarter and received a blue gumball, that person received a free grab bag of goodies from the store.  Many times Kay got to march into the store, proudly display her blue gumball, and receive her prize bag. Em most often got to watch, though Kay was always good about sharing.

One day, Kay took her friend Jonna to the mall with us. Jonna had never seen the huge gumball machine so Kay excitedly explained to her about the lucky blue gumballs. Knowing Kay’s proclivity for winning
ev-er-y-thing, I suggested to Kay that if she did indeed win the blue gumball again, she let Jonna have it this time. Kay agreed and let Jonna go first. We were surprised to see Jonna hold up a blue gumball!  Kay went second. Guess what. She got a blue gumball too. Both girls were overjoyed as they compared the contents of their goodie bags. The blue gumball gods did indeed shine upon my second-born.

My brother visited us one year and wanted to take my girls and me to a dam that was in our vicinity. It was an afternoon’s drive there and back, so we stopped out of town for a bite to eat. When traveling, we like to eat at local restaurants, rather than the franchises, hoping for a unique experience.  At the restaurant we chose, they had a coloring contest, with a variety of different prizes. Em and Kay stayed within the lines and colored their best.  A few weeks later, a postcard arrived in the mail, addressed to Kay. Not Em. It seems Kay won a free dinner at the restaurant.  We never did go back, due to the distance, but Kay chalked up another win.

Kay was about eight years old the day we walked into Reel-to-Reel at the mall. I was looking for a new anime movie and Kay saw something that caught her eye—a 6-foot tall poster of Brad Pitt from Legends of the Fall.  Wouldn’t you know, the store was having a drawing for cardboard Brad, and Kay felt that he must be hers.  The next week, I came home from work to hear this message on our answering machine—“Hello, this is X from Reel to Reel and I am calling to let Kay know that she won the stand-up Brad Pitt and can pick it up anytime.” 

I had one happy skipping girl as we walked in to pick up Brad. We waited behind an elderly lady who remarked, upon seeing cardboard Brad, “My, that is one handsome man.”  Kay informed her, “He’s mine. I won him.”  The lady smiled and replied, “Well you are one lucky girl.”  To say the least.

We walked down the mall, past the stores, Kay proudly carrying Brad under her arm. I’ll never forget her face as she looked up at me and said, “Mom?  I rock.”  Brad stood guard in our living room for quite some time after that. I figured if his cardboard outline freaked me out in the middle of the night, it might do so for an intruder as well.

After she won Brad, I was walking past Maurice’s in the mall. A t-shirt shouted to me---one saying, “I’m Not Lucky. I’m Just Good!”  The t-shirt of necessity became part of Kay’s wardrobe, and the saying became her motto.

Over the years, Kay continued to win various items. She called me one night from college to tell me that an event she was attending was giving away a video camera. She gushed, “I told all my friends not to bother entering because I win everything, and guess what?  I won!”

I was reminded of all her winnings earlier this week when Kay posted this on Facebook: “Won Jason Aldean tickets for Thursday!”  She just “Facebooked me” from the concert, saying, “It’s amazing!”

You do rock.

P.S. Daughter Em called me recently and said, "Mom, you know how I never win anything? Well I just won free portraits! Finally, I won something!"   I didn't have the heart to tell her that everyone who enters wins a free portrait---that it's their way to get you into the store. That'll be our secret, right?  Shhhh...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I Won Something!

Recently I happened upon a website that is always displaying fun new crafts, recipes, and decorating tips to try.
Check out How Does She? for information on how to make cute home decorations out of old 2x4s, decadent cheesecake, or chore charts for your kids.

I entered a drawing to win a set of vinyl letters that say "Happy Spring."  For those who don't know, vinyl lettering is the new rage in home decorating, with people using them to embellish pictures frames, walls, glass, and whatever else imagination can fly away with. I was lucky enough to be one of the winners. Click here to see how Alison used a scrap 2x4 and some vinyl lettering (the kind I won!) to make an imaginative gift.

Hop on over to their site if you love all that is cute, easy, and inexpensive in life.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday Serenity 3-21-2010

Adversity is like a strong wind.  It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are. 
~Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha~

Capitol Reef, Utah

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Wearing of the Green

I blame my mother for my love of all things Irish. And there's more to it than the fact that there are no snakes in Ireland.

When I was a teenager, I learned Mom had no shame when it came to St.Patrick’s Day. She would go to work wearing her traditional kelly green t-shirt, dangly four leaf clover earrings, a Kiss-Me-I’m Irish badge or pin, and bright green socks. Perhaps a headband with boingy bouncy light-up shamrocks would sit atop her head, but if not, then for sure her noggin was graced by a shiny leprechaun top hat.  She was Irish and proud of it. (She was German too, but if you mentioned it, she would deny it.)

I passed her love for St. Paddy’s day onto my own children. When my girls were small, they each got a green carnation or a leprechaun toy on the holiday. Of course, we wore green, but we had enough self-pride to forgo the light-up shamrocks on our heads and the pot of gold tattoos on our cheeks.  The girls were used to Grandma’s eccentricities and the poster-sized map of Ireland in her living room. Mom and I would actually weep when we watched any Irish dancing shows. To this day I still get choked up when I see the Maxwell House “Riverdance” commercial.

Utah is not big on St. Patrick’s Day. On my first March 17 after moving here, I stopped into a local florist and asked for green carnations.  The owner looked at me like I was cuckoo.  I said, “For St. Patrick’s Day.” 

She looked at me strangely and said, “Oh, is it St. Patrick’s Day?”  How could you not know it’s St. Patrick’s Day?

I traveled to the next town, sure that the florist in my town was purely ignorant.  Seven miles away was a bigger florist. I confidently walked into the store and announced that I needed some green flowers for St. Patrick’s Day.

“We don’t carry any green flowers.” 

“ I know you probably don’t normally, but since it’s St. Patrick’s Day, I thought you would have some.”

“No. I can’t say that anyone has ever asked us for that before.”

That was the first year that Daughter Em had no St. Patrick’s Day gift. 

I’ve learned that I have to take things into my own hands.

I was feeling kind of sickly when I woke up today, with a sore throat, mild laryngitis and a thick feeling in my head.  I was not about to waste the wearing o’ the green though.  My son and I put on suitable green shirts and off we went on errands.

On our first stop I was greatly encouraged to see children dressed in green, without a reminder from me, no less.

Walmart was our next stop, where I picked up green food for our dinner. I also rounded up some crafty items so I could make it up to Em for her deprived 1998 holiday. Gnome and Hoolie were invited for dinner. Gnome had also grown up in an Irish household, full of O’Something last names and Darby O’Gill banshee nightmares. She was all pumped for a little green action.

We feasted on green mashed potatoes (Hoolie discovered she likes mashed potatoes after all, now that they’re green,) green beans, lime jello with kiwi, lemonade in green cups garnished with lime, and chocolate mint ice cream.

Public television was our hero tonight. While eating, we watched Rick Steves’s and Burt Wolf’s travelogues of Ireland, topped off with a Celtic Woman performance. Hoolie graced us with her own 6-year old’s version of Irish dancing. We had a drawing for a pot of gold that I crafted this afternoon (Hoolie was the winner,) and then took a second one over to Em’s house.

I know it’s too late for this year, but here’s how I made the pots of gold.  I did an online search and found many variations on this pot, too many to just give credit to one. I bought the terra cotta pot, gold alphabet stickers, “I’m Irish and Proud” ribbon, green sparkly tissue paper, and gold-wrapped Hershey candies at Walmart.

The round “Kiss me” cutouts were found on the website How Does She?  They can be found here.

It’s now 12:12 a.m., the Irish boy is zonked on the couch, and it's technically March 18, but I hope all of you had a very green St. Patrick’s Day! 

P.S. Cousin Jill: I know you are as insanely Irish as I am. Care to tell us what you did today?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Using Google Analytics When You Need a Laugh

A fun aspect to blogging is to peek in with my Google Analytics account to see what’s going on. Each day I can see how many people visited my site and view a map telling me from which state or country they viewed Foreign Quang.

Google Analytics tickles me most when I use it to see what combination of words a user typed into a search engine to find my site. Out of curiosity I looked over the figures from last year to see which combinations were the most popular, and which were the most unusual.

I assumed that someone actually typing in “Foreign Quang” would have turned in the highest number of results. Not so. The number one string of words that was put together to find my site was “Randi quangness.” The words “foreign quang” only produced half as many results.

The greatest combination of words on one topic were related to being a giver or a taker. People looking for that subject landed on my post “Are You a Giver or a Taker?” by typing in such strings as:

Givers and takers sermon

Takers and givers book

Givers and takers quotes

Are you a giver or a taker?

When you have money problems the taker leaves while the giver gets a second job [Issues!]

I am the giver everyone else is the taker [Of course.]

Accusing me of being not a giver

Givers and takers people who gets things done and people who make excuses [Right on!]

Givers governmental loopholes

He is a taker I am a giver

I am the giver you are the taker

In-laws who are takers not givers

Parent takers and children givers

Show me all about givers shall never lack

What do u think are you a giver or taker of your school

Who is to be blamed? The giver of the bride or the receiver? [Hmmm…]

These are just a few of the giver/taker combinations that were typed in to reach my site. I learned that most people acknowledged that they are indeed givers and that we have very few takers in the world. Maybe because the givers want to know why the takers take but the takers never want to know why the givers give?

Quite a few people landed on my site while they were searching for someone else. Here are a few people that drew searchers to FQ.

Merrill Osmond stroke

Robert Brault [I am so honored people found me by looking for him]

Yoni Posnick

Kelli Solsma [ Two people found me by looking for my sister.]

Tony Almeida scowl [ 24 reference]

Cheryl Burke [Dancing with the Stars reference]

Justine Dorton [I have no idea how this led anyone to my site.]

Chloe O’Brien scowl [another 24 reference]

Chloe O Brian underwear [Seriously? They found me by typing that in?]

Joanne Landis [I made up this name in one of my posts—apparently she’s real.Oops.]

Laura Bush

Liz Armbruster [I was just getting to know Liz when she suddenly passed away. She signed my guestbook.]

Louie Dillon [Author who signed my guestbook]

Marie Osmond [Famous person who signed my guestbook—NOT!]

Merrill Osmond new granddaughter

The following searches I can totally understand because I actually wrote posts on a topic that pertained to the search:

Essentials of good customer care

The bluest skies I’ve ever seen are in Seattle TV show

Packing 72 hour backpack

Chocolate Ambrosia Pie [7 people remember this Midwestern delight.]

Frugality with poverty mentality

Enjoy what’s left of summer

Bright and sunny dispositions of Down syndrome [A guest post by author Madonna Dries Christensen.]

Stop Gore

Addicted to Lipton chicken noodle soup while pregnant boy or girl

Childrearing teenagers

Filipino children’s punishment and discipline kicking [Because I said my daughter went to the Philippines?]

Gnome party napkins/plates [Because we have a daughter named Gnome, Google assumes we sell all kinds of party paraphernalia relating to her name.]

Hack the Planet 5x tshirt [I listed the movie Hackers as something I had seen more than 5x. Understandable.]

Surprise someone using computer

Listed below are some of my favorites because I either have absolutely no clue how the search led people to my site, or because the reference is so obscure that I stand all amazed.

Tying two doorknobs together [this was typed in ten times!]

Mallard duck baby sipper cup

Content that will not be delivered using http

Creative copy challenge

With my sharp fingernails

I got my braces my son

Accidentally smothered kitten in bed [I swear I did not.]

Birthday blessings to the queen [Yeah, I can see this one. Yup. Yup.]

Do you want to only view the web page content that was viewed securely?

How to next an unresponded text message

I love sneaking peeks up my mom’s bathrobe [OK I’m really worried about this person.]

Is there any dirt on the Osmond family as far as child abuse or controlling parents [Whoever typed that in will be sorry they got my site-yeah!]

Lice [Really? You were looking for lice and found me? That makes my head itch.]

Love advice links [Well, I’ve never tried it before, but sure. I’ll give you some love advice.]

Bishops Cafeteria basement [Did all Bishops’ have creepy basements?]

Musiche 4story [No earthly idea.]

Orbit gum. [Sure, I’ll take some free Orbit gum.]

Poem about soap, toothpaste and toothbrush [It should be easy enough to write your own.]

Special candy for foreign holidays [I have “foreign” in my blog title!]

The I Worlud movie [Auntie M., I think this one’s for you.]

Write an essay about baby in the beach the author explores the fear and vulnerability of a child who cannot find his mother. [Now that was pretty specific. How did Google not lead them dirtectly to the correct site?]

Kid giddy blogspot [I'll admit, I have had my share of giddy kids on my site. Still.]

Lastly, we have my least favorite search that led someone to my site:

How many quangs does it take to suck?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Things Kids Say

Yeah. Even my adult kids.

Daughter Em was driving home last night and remarked that someone just waved at her, but she didn't know who it was. I replied that I hate when that happens to me. People are always waving at me and I spend the next hour trying to figure out who the bleep it was. What if it was someone who was trying to track me down because of unclaimed cash somewhere?

Dear daughter replied that it wouldn't be uncommon for unknown people to wave at me because I have a car just like the owner of the local telephone company.

"I wave at him all the time because I think he's you, Mom. But I know him anyway, so I never feel like I wove in vain."

Like I wove in vain?

May we all wave in earnest, and never feel like we have woven in vain.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sunday Serenity 3-7-2010

Last fall I wrote a post about my daughter's and husband's employer, L.L. Cool Guy, shown here getting ready to take my 4th graders on a helicopter ride.

I gave him an alias out of respect for his privacy. Lately though, I have decided that I am extremely proud to have met his acquaintance, extremely grateful to have been the beneficiary of his unending generosity, and feel extremely lucky that I have family members that he keeps employed.

If you feel so inclined, please Go Here to find out more about this amazing individual.

His story is perfect Sunday reading material, I think.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

My Two Week Clutter-Fest

Every piece of junk mail we leave lying around, every book we can’t part with or memento we don’t know how to deal with can become an avalanche of clutter.

~~ Janice Hunter~~

Last week I was asked to team-teach a class, to about one hundred people, on getting rid of clutter. To prepare for the class, I was asked the week before to read Clutter Be Gone, by Don Aslett.

I am what I call, a reluctant clutterer. Deep down inside, I am a very organized person. B.C. [Before Children,] the books on my shelves were organized alphabetically, by author. The clothes in my closet were arranged by color, in order of the spectrum. [Creepy, huh?] On a team of 25 people, I was the only one who rejoiced when my employer made it mandatory for members of management to use a Franklin Planner. I was in my element.

So clutter annoys me greatly. Does that mean I don’t have any? Au contraire! When I move every 1.3 years (see previous post) I pretty much throw boxes where they land and then get up the next day to go to work or teach school. And those boxes sit, while I prepare lessons, teach school, do laundry, make dinner, clean the house, teach Sunday School, get my son in uniform for Scouts and kyuki-do, attempt a garden, balance the scout checkbook, etc. Does this sound like your life?

We have a storage room in our basement where a few of our packed boxes reside. Last summer, I was able to go through, throw out and de-clutter my way through about half of those boxes. Getting rid of clutter is very freeing. Looking at piles of unpacked boxes is enslaving. The awful part about visible clutter is that you don’t feel guilty about adding to the mess when clutter is everywhere you look anyway. You only feel guilty cluttering a clean room.

I spent some time over the past few weeks reading portions of Clutter Be Gone. I’m going to share with you just a few of Don Aslett’s many tips—those that I found most useful for my situation. Then, I’ll show you what I did to improve my clutter zone.

Use a family calendar. The author says to get the biggest calendar you can find, one with huge spaces to write in, and then put it next to the phone. You can write down appointments as they are made. No looking for that loose piece of paper that you “know” you put on your desk but in reality ended up in your apron pocket. Doctor appointments, ballet class changes, field trips, new phone numbers, all go on that calendar.

Don’t leave junk from the grave. This tip jolted me, in a productive way. Do I really want my loved ones to have to go through all my junk when I die, trying to decide what is important and what is merely clutter? This tip alone spurred me to action, more so than any of the others. If I pass on tomorrow, do I want my daughters going through pile after pile of “important” papers? Will they be able to distinguish between family heirlooms and costume jewelry? [Trick question! In our family it's the same thing!] Will they accidentally throw away something I borrowed? How will they know what had value to me, like a photo of Donny Osmond ripped from a magazine in 1973, and what was merely junk that I never got around to tossing?

Always look at mail before tossing. One of the first things most de-cluttering publications will advise you to do, is to get rid of junk mail. However, the author insists that every piece of junk mail be opened first, a tip I heartily agree with. He says he once almost threw away a large check because it came in an envelope that looked like a piece of junk mail. [Maybe the sender purposely does this, hoping it will never get cashed? I’ve had this happen too.] On other occasions, he missed knowing that he had credits due to him because he was too afraid to open envelopes that came from places where he was behind on his bills. I have opened junk mail to find things such as a notice that I was part of a class-action lawsuit from which I was due $3000, a set of scrapbooking stickers, some cute return address labels, glossy recipe cards and a set of wild animal fact cards that kept my son entertained for days. Look, then toss.

Consider a scrapbook. If you love to keep every ticket stub, “I love you” note, or matchbook cover from the hotel where you spent your first anniversary, at least have a book into which these items go immediately. I used to scrapbook a lot, but have gotten out of the habit. My desk shows it on some days.

Delete junk bunkers. A junk bunker is something we buy so that we can store more junk. These could be things such as shelves, pencil holders, cabinets, and shoe organizers. Before I taught my class, I checked my pencil holder at home to find over thirty dysfunctional pencils, pens and markers. Out they went! The pencil holder had become a stashing place for every writing tool someone picked up from the floor, whether it worked or not.

Don’t keep something just because you love the person who gave it to you, if it serves no other purpose. This is a hard one. My mom bought me a huge Chicago Cubs nightshirt that has seen better days. The logo has completely faded, there’s an unrepairable hole at the neckline, and the material has worn so thin that it is nearly sheer. My mother passed away in 2001 so I keep it because she gave it to me. I don’t wear it because it has worn so thin that I must wear a bathrobe so I don’t give my son nightmares.

Keep what you need close to the accompanying item. The author gave an example of having a pair of safety goggles. He kept them with his tools, so every time he went to his workshop, they weren’t there. Rather than go back to get his goggles he would work without. He did this until he got a metal sliver in his eye. Then he hung his goggles, right on his machinery and wondered why he never did that before. I used to keep toilet tissue in the bathroom on a high shelf above the toilet. If someone ran out of paper in the middle of a “job” they would have to get up and root around on the shelves looking for paper. I have since put the rolls in a pretty basket, which goes right on the back of the toilet. How easy was that!

There is one thing that the author recommends against, that I disagree with. He says to never give someone a gift in which the packaging will be a temptation to hoard more junk. For example, he says never to give a gift that comes in an attractive basket because the recipient will have heartache about throwing it away. I say—if it helps keep needed items handy, then keep it. Let me give you some examples.

I could never find a paper clip when I needed one. Finally, in keeping with his advice to keep things where they are needed, I put some stickers on an old lid and these now go right by my keyboard.

One of my big irritations is when I go to a website that I have used before, have created an account, and then when I go back, I can’t find the darn post-it note that had my login information. I have had to recreate accounts more than I care to admit. My daughter gave me a watch for Christmas a few years ago and it came in this beautiful tin that I hated to throw away. I embellished it with a pretty sticker and put all my web account information on tiny index cards inside.

Nothing is more enticing to students than a blank whiteboard and a set of dry-erase markers. Nothing is more annoying to a teacher than to try to use a marker whose tip has been “smooshed” by students. I solved that little problem by buying them their own markers. Now they don’t touch mine. A few weeks ago, an anonymous student gave me a gift of chocolate goodies housed in attractive tins. I spruced them up with distressed scrapbook paper and velcroed them to my whiteboard. I added the markers and now--no more markers all over the classroom.

In the past few weeks, since reading the book, I have reorganized, decluttered, or thrown away the following:

*Since paperwork is probably some of the most omnipresent clutter in our house, I made new folders for sorting vital paperwork: Legal items, taxes, church papers, school master copies, pending and past internet orders, and keepsakes all have their own folders now.

*I threw away three bottles of body spray that were over five years old. I have never used them because to me they smelled like a combination of attic dust and mothball.

*I threw away socks that had holes in them, rather than saving them for a day when I could mend them. Really. Have you ever mended socks? Not me. Yet for over twenty years I kept up a saving--feeling guilty over not mending--finally throwing away cycle.

*A stack of Oriental Trading magazines went into the garbage. I order a lot of novelty items to give away to students and so I have an abundance of these catalogues. Do I ever place an order from said catalogues? Oh nay! I go online to place an order, after I go through web page after web page of cheap plastic items. In other words, I look at all the same stuff I looked at in the catalogues again. My new vow is to check each new issue for promo codes, then toss it.

*Over thirty lipsticks met their demise. None of them had been used for over two years because none of them were “my” color. I introduced them to the garbage can.

I have to tell you about the best $100 we have ever spent. I bought my first computer in 1995. It came with a 17-inch monitor. Almost three years later the monitor decided it was through being used by people. It wanted to be a waste of desk space instead. Luckily, Gateway being the macho supremo computer company that it is [I used to work there] had a three-year warranty on their monitors. They sent me a new one. That was 1998. It is now 2010. My monitor was still going strong, twelve years later. That is good. The twelve-year-old 17-inch monstrosity however, took up nearly all of my desk space. I barely had room for my keyboard so I couldn’t actually do any paperwork at my desk. It all had to be done on the kitchen table. The table was the home for my teacher manuals, pens, grading charts, master copies, mail, and attendance records.

Not being a jealous type person, I never cared that my husband had a cool flat screen monitor that allowed him to work right at his desk. But one day, I was lamenting not being able to find something in the morass of my desk or in the pile on the kitchen table. I looked at Computer Geek’s desk and noticed several feet of clean space. I looked at my desk and noticed a cube, 2 ½ foot square, laughing at me. It said, “I don’t plan on dying anytime soon. I’m only twelve.”

We spent $118 to obtain deskual freedom. The new monitor has freed valuable desktop realty. My desk is clean. My table is clean.

Thanks to my new monitor and Don Aslett I am on the path to a clutter-free existence.
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