Sunday, December 21, 2014

Retailer spreads Christmas Cheer to Teen and Her Family

This will only make sense if you read these two posts first:

We made the news! I won't send the entire article because of copyright considerations, but we are the lead story on today's print and electronic editions of the Marshalltown Times-Republican. How nice is that!

Here's another funny part of the story. My cousin, Denise Kemp, works at the Times-Republican. I actually called her ahead of time when my imagination was running wild and tentatively said, "You don't think they would have the paper come out, do you?" She said no way. She told me they were down to two reporters and it was a busy news time in town with big stories on a murder and a shooting. She said they might run a photo after the fact if the store sent one in. So when Jacob from the T-R was waiting for us in the store, I immediately thought, "That dang DENISE! I've been duped!"

I went to Denise's house that afternoon, and she told me that she really didn't know because she is in a different department. AND even if she had known, she couldn't have told me because she signed a confidentiality agreement that prevents her from revealing things like that. Well played. :)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

We Just Got Jingled at JCPenney!

What an exciting day this has been! If you haven't already, please start by reading yesterday's post.

We were very excited to get to JCPenney this morning, but got a late start because we ran into the same funeral procession THREE TIMES while doing some simple errands (a few too many than I should have attempted)! I called Ryan Peck, the store manager, and he said not to worry.

When Emma, Alli, Gwen, and I finally arrived, Mr. Peck asked us to come to the front of the store. He introduced us to a young man from The Marshalltown Times-Republican newspaper who took some photos and interviewed Emma and me about our experience. Brenda, the sales associate who helped us was also there, along with a few other employees.

Then the manager asked if it was ok to video record the next part. He started to get choked up, and told us how JCPenney has been looking for stories around the country and ways they can give back this Christmas season. As soon as they read my story, they knew they wanted to do something for us. This was the only story that had been picked in the state of Iowa. The plan was set just a few hours after I sent the email, which is VERY impressive for a company the size of JCPenney! Then Mr. Peck told us that they were giving us a $500 gift card to JCPenney! WOW!!! That's when I started tearing up. It was way more than I had expected, and was so touching! I said that I was trying to do something nice for them and didn't expect to get anything in return. He told me that is exactly why we were picked. I will post a link to the video and newspaper article after they are published.

For the first several minutes, I walked around the store with my hand over my mouth saying, "I don't know where to start!" The kids were giggling about that! We didn't spend all the money, but we sure got a good start. First, we went to the shoe department and got Alli the Converse shoes she'd asked for on Thanksgiving, but I had told her no. Emma got some jeans and a shirt that will go with her boots. Gwen wanted a necklace and a shirt. TJ got $55 worth of socks, which isn't as many socks as you would think it would be. I got a robe to replace my old one that I've had for about 15 years.

But my favorite thing I got is a sapphire ring. I'm not a jewelry person. TJ bought me jewelry the first couple years we were married, until I explained to him that I wasn't that kind of girl. But for some reason, when I was shopping at JCPenney on Thanksgiving, a ring caught my eye. It was on clearance for about $40 that night minus my coupons, and it fit my finger perfectly. I know because I tried it on three different times. In the end, I didn't want to spend that much money on something that wasn't practical. But for some reason, I kept thinking about that ring, and I regretted not buying it. So when we were invited to return to this very store, one of the first things I thought of was that ring. I assumed it would be gone. It was the only one in the store, and by this time would have been sitting in the clearance section for nearly a month. I was afraid to look, so it was the very last department we visited. It was there! And now this ring will remind me of the struggles we have gone through with Emma's little foot and of the beautiful kindness from JCPenney.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Something Exciting is Happening at JCPenney Tomorrow!

This poor POOR little blog has been abandoned! But guess what! Something exciting is happening! 

It all started when my sister and I took our teenage daughters Black Friday shopping in Marshalltown, Iowa. The very first store we visited was JCPenney. Fast forward to December 16, when I FINALLY sent this email to the corporate office. My hope was that the associate and store manager would be recognized for excellent customer service.  

I was shopping with my 15-year-old daughter, Emma, in the Marshalltown, Iowa store on Thanksgiving evening. Emma was born with a severe club foot and struggles with self-esteem issues. She is able to walk, but that foot is quite misshapen and is 3 sizes smaller than her other foot. As you can imagine, shoe shopping is no fun and is expensive. To be honest, it is often a traumatic experience, and Emma usually cannot fit into the styles of shoes she would like to wear. Emma's eyes lit up when she saw the Thanksgiving boot display in your store. I told her that JCPenney doesn't do anything for people with differently sized feet, but she insisted that I ask. The sales associate told us what I expected...unfortunately, we would have to buy two pairs of boots. I just wasn’t prepared to do that. We were standing near the shoe department a minute later, and the sales associate came running up with a big smile on her face. She told us that her manager said the store could sell us a mixed pair of boots. I cannot express to you how happy this has made my daughter. I’m pretty sure she tried on every pair of boots in that store, and she found the perfect pair in sizes that fit her feet. She’s never had a pair of tall boots like so many teenage girls wear. As an added bonus, she is now comfortable wearing leggings because the boots conceal the extremely thin calf on her left leg. This act of kindness has had an amazing effect on my daughter. I would like to thank your company, the sales manager who approved the sale and most of all the sales associate who cared enough to ask permission. All this on the busiest day of the year. We have told many people about this story, and we will continue to shop at JCPenney.  
Ann Schaffer    

I didn't expect a response, but I received an email from the store manager the very next morning. He asked me to call his cell phone because it was his day off. The first thing I said to him was, "I hope I didn't get you in trouble!" Luckily I did not. He thanked me for my email and asked if I could come back into the store, but I explained that I live nearly an hour away in Waterloo. Coincidentally, he also manages the store 5 miles from my house, but he really wanted to get me back to the Marshalltown store. He said they would like to do something nice for my family. So the girls and I will be going there this tomorrow 12:30.

I have no idea what they are going to's so much harder to receive than it is to give! My initial reaction was that I wish the "something nice" would go to someone who needs it more than us. Of course my imagination was going wild. Here is a peak inside my twisted head...

- What if this is a big production?
- Will the news be there?
- Will someone be filming this?
- What if they ask us to be in a commercial for JCPenney?
- What if they are filming that commercial right there on the spot?
- What should we wear? I don't want to look like we've spent a lot of money on my clothes in case they think we don't have very much money, but also I want to look nice. Oh man...
- Should Emma wear the boots? (she will)
- Will Christmas carolers be present?
- Will all the associates dip into their own pockets for gifts? Are they sponsoring us for Christmas? Are our names on a giving tree in the JCPenney break room?
- If we get a gift card, would it look bad if I used it toward a ring I saw there that I really wanted, but didn't get? (It was under $100 and really pretty.)

Ok, I know my imagination needs medication. In reality, we are just going to enjoy this and will be happy with whatever they decide to do. I am also hopeful that the company will also do something nice for the sales associate.

Here's a photo of the boots in case you were wondering. Cute, right?

I will keep you posted on whatever happens tomorrow. We are looking forward to it!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Waterproof May Day Baskets

It's a rainy May Day this year, so my daughter, Emma, and I came up with an idea for May baskets that can be left outside without getting soggy.

Read this post from 2013 if you are unfamiliar with the fun May Day basket tradition.

We used half pint sized mason jars instead of traditional paper cups. We added a circle of fabric with a basket-type print as a nod to the tradition. You don't need to glue the fabric to the lid because the outside ring will hold it in place. We added a ribbon, candy, and a note. I know May baskets are supposed to be anonymous, but it's kind of nice to know who has left you a treat.

Happy May Day!

MAY your days be many and your troubles be few.
MAY you find laughter and joy.
MAY you find forgiveness, friendship and love.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Ingredient Substitution Fail!

I got up early this morning to give myself a homemade pedicure before heading to the Kalahari Indoor Waterpark Resort in the Wisonsin Dells. I started with the Listerine foot soak that I used a couple times last summer. You're supposed to mix 1/4 c. Listerine, 1/4 c. Vinegar and 1/2 c. Water. Well, I didn't have Listerine, but I did have this.

I used a bit more hot water to dilute it, but I ended up with THIS!

I spent the next hour working with foot scrub and a file. They're still slightly blue, but hopefully no one at the waterpark will notice!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Softball Fleece Tie Blanket

Hey, World! Fastpitch softballs are YELLOW! 

Baseballs: small and white
Softballs: big and yellow

Yes, white used to be the standard color, but yellow has been standard for softballs since 2004.

If you are a softball family like me, you know a good solid blanket is a key part of the game day gear. Spectators and players can wrap up in it to keep warm, or can spread it out on the grass for a comfortable resting spot on a warm day.

I had an itch to make a quick no-sew tie fleece blanket with a softball theme in our team colors. What I found was a lot of fleece with white balls, intended to apply for baseball and softball. That just will not do! 

Here's what I came up with.

Here is what you'll need to make a similar blanket:
  • 2 yards each of any two colors of fleece. There are a couple kinds of fleece, and you want the kind that is not super "stretchy". Look for sales!
  • 1 yard bright yellow fleece will make two large softballs. I used them to make two blankets.
  • A special marker from the craft store that wipes off with a damp cloth. Don't get the kind that disappears in an hour unless you're a quicker stitcher than me!
  • Tape measure
  • Masking tape
  • Sharp sewing scissors
  • Red and florescent yellow embroidery floss, I strongly recommend DMC brand.
  • Straight pins and a large embroidery needle
  • Optional: a small piece of fleece with matching embroidery floss to add a number or logo

Here are the basic steps I used.
  • Use something large, like a round laundry basket to trace a circle from yellow fleece with your special marker. You can fold the fleece in half to cut two circles at once. Or you can cut smaller circles to add several softballs instead of one large one.
  • Create a curved pattern for the softball seams. I freehanded one half of a smooth arch on a piece of paper and flipped it over to create the other half of a symmetrical arch. Tip: draw the arch quickly, and don't overthink it. Trace onto the yellow circle with your special marker.
  • Use two strands of black embroidery floss to backstitch the seams. See Youtube for many tutorials on back stitching if needed.
  • Lay the two large pieces of fleece on top of each other. If there is a right size to your fleece, put it on the outside (faced down, and faced up). The fleece on which you wiant to place the softball should be on top. Trim off the edges if there is a thick curl or finish. Trim both pieces of fleece to make them very close to the same size and shape.  
  • Place the yellow softball in the middle of the top piece of fleece. Use a tape measure to make sure it is centered. Pin it to the top piece of fleece, using as many pins as you can around the outside of the circle. Set the bottom piece of fleece aside.
  • Sew the sotball to the large fleece with bright yellow floss using a blanket stitch. See Youtube for many tutorials. Remove your pins.

  • Use red floss to create the stitching along the seams. You'll want to make the red stiches longer than you think, at least a half inch per stitch. I made them too small and had to re-do them twice! The red stitches should go through the yellow circle and the large piece of fleece to help hold the softball to the blanket.

  • Optional: Trace a number or logo onto a piece of fleece, and attach it to the center of the softball, using the blanket stitch.
Type a number into a document, increase the font size, and print for a pattern.
Trace a logo on a t-shirt using tissue paper for a pattern.

  • Once again, place your two large pieces of fleece on top of each other with the right sides out. Line up the edges as closely as possible. They can be off by a fraction of an inch, but trim if necessary.
  • Use your tape measure and masking tape to mark a border 4 inches from the edge, all the way around the blanket.
  • Cut off the corners of the blanket, from the edge to the tape, removing 4"squares. Cut 1-inch wide strips all the way around the blanket, using the taped border as a guide for how deep to cut. Remove the tape.
  • Double-knot every-other strip to attach the two pieces of fleece. The knots should be tight so they don't come undone, but be very careful not to cinch them too tightly toward the base of the strips. The blanket will pucker and won't lay flat if they are cinched too tightly. You'll also want the knots to be tied consistently. 
  • Flip the blanket over so the back color is on top, and tie the remaining strips. This helps the blanket look good from both sides.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Two Curious Packages in One Glorious Day

I curiously received two packages at work one day last week.

I opened the sturdy padded envelope first, and inside was just one thing. MY CHECKBOOK! No note. No explanation. I had just been at my company's headquarters, and figured I must have accidentally left it there. I didn't even know I had lost it, was very thankful it was returned!

On to the box. Here's the first thing I pulled out!
A Magnificent Chocolate Award!
Weird, but awesome! Without a doubt, I deserved this award. Either that or maybe someone was pranking me. I dug through the box and found a heavily taped and bubble wrapped framed certificate. I couldn't wait to find out who finally was recognizing my outstanding achievements!

And then I found this.
A slight misspelling of my name, perhaps?

My first thought was that this is a very weird prank! There was also an envelope, which I was sure would explain the joke.
The anticipation is killing me!
I'm beginning to think this award is not meant for me.
If this is a prank, it's an odd one!

My company does a lot of business with Sears, but no one in my office knows Walter Chamberlain. One co-worker thought she knew him, but I suspect she was thinking of Wilt Chamberlain, who I really hope is a totally different guy. Unless Wilt Chamberlain finally had enough of fame and fortune and turned into a programmer at Sears. Of course, I googled Walter. Remember that show Alice and how they always talked about Wilt Chamberlain? I sure hope you're old enough to remember that show!

ANYway. I weighed my options.
   1. Eat the chocolate award.
   2. Display the award.
   3. Find the rightful owner.

I chose Option 3. A little because it felt like the right thing to do, but mostly because I found it entertaining. I asked my co-worker to do the dirty work and call the Sears Mail Room. Guess what! They were happy to hear from us because they had mixed up two packages. I got Walt's award, and he had something for me! I took advantage of the spacious box and included a deck of promotional playing cards, a box of Thanks-A-Lot Girl Scout Cookies, and this letter.

At the last minute, I threw in this framed 8 x 10 photo.

I don't know if this will amuse Walt, but it certainly amused me! And that's worth something.

I haven't heard back from Walt, but I received this email yesterday.

So it turns out that I didn't leave my checkbook at my company headquarters; I left it at a tradeshow I recently worked for Sears. Apparently I'm TERRIBLE at reading return addresses and equally inept at keeping track of my belongings! My checkbook somehow survived being shredded and falling into water, and made it's way back to me. It's a checkbook miracle!

Monday, January 20, 2014

I accidently strangled my toe

In honor of my toe and millions of other injured toes, I beg you to please throw away your socks that have holes in them. Do not donate them or give them away. First of all, that's disgusting. Second of all, they're dangerous. Save the toes, people.

Let me tell you a slightly embarrassing story. A few days ago, I decided to get on the old treadmill. I noticed a tiny hole in my sock as I was getting ready, but I decided it would be ok. I was afraid I might lose my motivation in the time it took to find and change into a better pair.

About a half mile into my five mile walk/jog, I noticed that my toe had poked through the hole in the sock. It was slightly uncomfortable, but I knew I wouldn't get back on the treadmill if I stopped to fix it. No pain, no gain, blah, blah, blah.

When I finally stopped, I immediately took off my sock and freed "this little piggy stayed home," which is the second toe for those of you who don't remember the rhyme. I was expecting instant relief, but it is still hurting after FOUR DAYS. I've limped. I've elevated. I've whined. But I haven't looked at it even once. I just can't, and I can't ask anyone else to look at it either. To be honest, I'm afraid of what I might see. I would post a photo here, but that would mean looking, and I'm not ready to do that.

Now do you see what I'm saying? Please help spread the word. Clean out those sock drawers. Your newer socks will enjoy the extra room and your toes will stay nice and safe. Please don't let this happen to you or anyone you know. Are you with me?

P.S. Here's the piggy poem in case you can't remember it.

   This little piggy went to market.
   This little piggy stayed home.
   This little piggy had roast beef.
   This little piggy had none.
   This little piggy went wee wee wee
   All the way home.

P.P.S. It's always bothered me that home and none don't rhyme or even have the same vowel sound. Also, I've always wondered where the little piggy was coming home from? Did he go to market with the big piggy? If so, the two piggies who did and didn't have roast beef interrupt the flow of the story. Did they go to market? Did piggy number three eat his roast beef at the market?

Here's a better version, don't you think?

   This little piggy ate bananas.
   This little had bread.
   This little piggy had roast beef.
   This little piggy was fed.
   This little piggy went wee wee wee
   All the way to bed.