Monday, January 26, 2015

When you cannot have a blizzard....

As we were finishing our wonderful dinner this evening, I thought I would take the opportunity to see what inspiration I could get from my girls for a blog post. I found that the more rambling blogs I write, the more ideas start rambling through my head. I even started entering my fleeting thoughts into OneNote on my phone because I found that I usually forgot the best ideas I came up with during the day. (That's why you haven't seen me write anything good yet.) Sometimes I'm just don't feel like writing about the ideas I already have though?!?

Anyway... I started my inquiry by thanking my girls for all the cute and silly things they do that continue to inspire me to ramble about them. No response. I asked what they did today and/or what the best part of their day was. No response. Next, I pulled out all the stops and asked them point blank: What should Daddy write about in his blog tonight? That did the trick. I could now see the deep thoughts bubbling up inside their tiny little heads. They were now deep in thought (my youngest even closed her eyes to concentrate) and generating what I was sure to be a whopper of an idea....and the response I got was: "I want an ice cream cone," followed by a "Yeah, me too." So, we had ice cream cones. It's pretty easy to throw me off task with the mention of an ice cream treat.

I know most of my friends back in my home state of Texas are probably wondering why I even have the fixin's for ice cream cones on hand in January. Well, I have an awesome wife and she helps ensure we have ice cream in the freezer year round. It doesn't matter if it's twenty degrees below zero outside, we still get the occasional craving for ice cream. As we're hearing news about blizzard conditions in the Northeast, the temperature here in southern Minnesota feels a lot like Spring. It warmed up to a balmy 45 degrees today. Any warmer and my girls would be asking when the local pool was going to open. (Not a joke- they just asked that last week when it was only 28 degrees outside.)

Right about now, if you're still reading at this point, you're probably wondering if there's any point to my rambling. The truth is, there is a very important and valuable lesson to be learned: Eating an ice cream cone in January is a lot less messy for a couple of kids under the age of 6 than it is in the middle of summer. To me, that's quite important. Seeing the majority of a perfectly good ice cream cone melt and run down to the ground rather than being eaten is almost as bad as spilling a pint of dark creamy stout. Almost.

I do realize that you probably would have rather read about one of my other amazing blog ideas tonight, but the girls got me focused on ice cream. For now, the ideas I have about how to create world peace, feed the hungry, and find the missing sock from your last load of laundry will have to wait for another time. If you're truly upset about this post or feeling depressed because of it, go grab yourself some ice cream. I heard it's also good for situations like those. Until next time....

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The patchwork of life

It took me quite a few years (ok, maybe a decade or two) to gain an appreciation for quilts. There have always been numerous quilts hanging around my folks' house and at least as many under construction in my mom's quilting room. "Quilting room" is probably an understatement. It has been the largest room in my folks' last two or three houses and it housed more fabric and quilting supplies than most main street quilt stores. The point is that there was a LOT of quilting going on.
The quilt in the picture above is the last quilt I got from my mom. As some of you know, it's also the last quilt I will ever receive from my mom. She passed away on January 19th last year...which is a year ago tomorrow as I'm writing this. I was fortunate enough to spend a wonderful week with her prior to that where we got to visit about a number of her quilts (among many other things). My sisters and I picked out some of our favorites (at mom's insistence) so she could see which ones we liked most and so she would know who ended up with which quilt. I chose the quilt above because I liked the colors (even though it was a bit more flowery that my usual taste) and because mom told me it was one of her favorites. It has really grown on me and currently adorns a wall in our guest room.

I don't remember exactly when mom started quilting, but I did learn for the first time last December that she didn't really get into it willingly. I know I will butcher the actual details, so I will just give the brief idea behind her leap into quilting. She was asked/urged/coerced into joining a sewing group. An idea that didn't appeal to her a bit, but she never learned how to say "no" when asked for anything. As it turned out, she was pretty good at it and went on to become quite a quilting enthusiast and even taught numerous classes and conducted a number of quilting seminars, She built many relationships around the sewing tables. One of the biggest rewards that comes out of quilting is friendship. She made many friends while quilting and her quilts are a daily reminder for many of us who have one of her quilts decorating our homes.

The quilt directly above is the first quilt I ever received from my mom. She would roll her eyes whenever she saw it up on the wall in my home over the years. It is a smaller quilt that she "just threw together" as a quick sample of how you can use up fabric scraps. I don't think she ever thought much more of it than a quick sample. It is still my favorite quilt of hers. It reminds me of a snow-capped mountain range with the northern lights rolling through. She says "it's just a bunch of colors I threw together". (My limited knowledge of quilting techniques means I pick by color rather than some difficult or special technique that would be appreciated by a quilter.) Another nice thing about a quilt is that you take from it what you want. What you see in a quilt isn't necessarily what someone else sees in that same quilt.

Another obvious joy many people get from a quilt is the snuggle factor. I don't snuggle in my quilts as I'm not much of a snuggler to begin with and I only have two quilts...which are both hanging on walls in my home as decoration and a reminder of mom. I know many people who love to snuggle up in a quilt with a cup of coffee or a book. It brings comfort and relaxation to many.

Quilts seem to be very generational as well. Many of us have quilts that were passed down through the family and now contain more stories than most of us can remember, Sometimes the art of quilting is also passed down through the family. My youngest sister has become quite a activity that shocked many of us (even her a little, I believe). Who knows, maybe she can teach my girls to quilt when they get older?? I would love for them to be able to experience many of the same joys my mom got from quilting as well as experience something that their Grandma enjoyed.

Quilts spend most of their time being overlooked as a piece of artwork on the wall or a fancy blanket to keep you warm. Next time you see one on display or have the opportunity to snuggle under it, take a look at the details. Think about the amount of planning, stitching and quilting that went into it. Think about the person who made it. Most of all, try to imagine the time spent building friendships while producing the quilt and the amount of love that went into it. You may even have the advantage of learning a little bit of the history of the quilt that will then make it mean that much more to you. I will continue to enjoy my two quilts. I am fortunate to know the history of the quilts as well as the detailed history of my mom who poured her love into the making of her quilts, I will enjoy their presence as a constant reminder of my mom in the years to come. One day they will belong to my girls and they can share the story of their Grandma. Until next time....

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

I can do it myself

My youngest daughter transitioned from at-home childcare to preschool last week. On top of that, she also turned four in the middle of last week. Putting the two together means we now have a "little" girl on our hands who feels that she is ready to take on the world. It's a really fun transition to watch. I was curious how much she was going to enjoy the preschool setting because she seemed so much more at home in the smaller in-home childcare setting. She hadn't portrayed any extroverted qualities in the past. I'm pretty sure it was just a few months ago that she would first get off my wife's lap in Sunday school to sit on the floor with the other kids and listen to the stories.

Well, a little to my surprise, and much to my relief, she took to preschool like a duck to water. She came home after the first day at preschool and very clearly stated: "That. Was. The. Very. Best. Day. Ever!" We were thrilled that she loved it so much. It also turns out that she is quite the little socializer as well. She fit right in and is continuing to have a blast.

One of the (many) ways she takes after her old man, is that she instantly became determined to do everything for herself. I know I've heard the story 100 times about how I came home from my first day of school and told mom I was going to do the dishes because I was grown up now and needed to start helping out around the house. (I'm sure that mentality lasted about five minutes.) Flash about 35 years forward, and you have my daughter's version of doing things herself. The photo above is of her trying to take a selfie while making a silly face. (We can break down the whole issue of my 4 year old freely using the camera feature on my old smartphone another time.) She was determined to do it herself. It only took about 30 seconds and 18 photos for her to realize that maybe a little help wouldn't hurt.

In the end, she learned the valuable lesson (that I think she forgot about five minutes later) that it's great to try and do as much for yourself as possible, but don't be afraid to ask for help. I'm just hoping she asks for a lot of help right now because I'm not sure how many years I'm going to be of much use when it comes to helping with things like homework. I can also see with her absolute joy in her new daily activities at school that she is like her old man. She looks for the fun and enjoyment and rides it for what it's worth. We'll see if I'm still saying the same thing when she hits her teens. Until next time...

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Marketing yourself

I have to say that I'm pretty excited with the way this new year is starting out. I've recently passed the 90 day mark at my "new" job and I am still loving every minute of it. I am glad to say that my initial enjoyment of the job wasn't just the "honeymoon stage" of starting a new job. I am still loving every minute of it. Not only am I still enjoying my job, I have added to my duties as of the new year. I now get to work some marketing into my day along with the account management that I have already been doing. Marketing has always appealed to me and now I have the opportunity to do more with it than just the occasional ad creation or Facebook post.

In honor of my new role in marketing, I have developed a personal marketing plan to generate nominations for my Average Jester blog for the 2015 Bloggies. I am going to use an indirect, sneaky and scheming manner to generate nominations through misdirection and some smoke and mirrors. (I guess that's only true if I hadn't warned you first...and I don't have smoke or mirrors.)

When I first started looking into writing a blog last year, I did a Google search for "best blogs of 2013". That search resulted in a listing of the winners from the 2014 Bloggies. For those of you who aren't up to speed on all that is blogging (I don't think I intentionally read a blog until just prior to starting my own), the Bloggies is an annual award for best blog of the year in a variety of different genres. I went through the list and started visiting blogs. I'm a sucker for doing a little research.

While doing this research, I stumbled across one of the winners from last year, Chaotic Kids & Clutter, and I really enjoyed it. What started out as me just trying to get an idea of what people are writing about in blogs ended up with me now being a loyal reader of Chaotic Kids & Clutter. I enjoyed the way he wrote because it was, well, kind of chaotic and sarcastic with a pinch of gibberish (no offense Scott)....just like me. Technically I should say I write like him since he WAS writing a blog long before I started mine. Basically though, if you enjoy my ramblings, I'll bet you'd enjoy his blog and you should check it out sometime. Now, don't all of you surf over to his page at once. I don't want a surge in his bandwidth when all seven of my loyal readers rush over to his site. Once you've had a chance to read his blog (and see that he is every bit as witty and well versed in the art of rambling as I am) be sure to navigate over to the 2015 Bloggies and nominate his blog for this year's award. While you're there, you can put in a nomination for me too. I only mention that as a favor to you because you are required to enter a minimum of three blogs. I've already helped you out with Chaotic Kids & Clutter and my blog, Average Jester. Now you only have to find one more on your own. Who knows, maybe by next year I will have finally convinced my sister to start her own blog and you can add her to your list for next year. Then of course be sure to go back on March 1st to vote for a winner. I doubt you'll find my blog in the finalists, but by then, you will have built up enough love for Chaotic Kids & Clutter to vote for him.

Believe it or not, there is a little bit of a marketing message in all this rambling. Ok, maybe it's a bit more of a sales message. People rarely buy stuff from you because of the stuff in itself. They buy that stuff from you because they want to buy from YOU. That's how I know I am going to get at least six or seven nominations for a Bloggie. Yes, I really do have that many friends who follow my blog. I'm still trying to figure out who all the other page views are coming from....especially the ones from Poland, France, Germany, Malaysia, and Ukraine. Gibberish must be a universal language. Until next time...