Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Unveiling

Yesterday I presented to Stacey's Girl Scouts troop leaders a pair of wood plaques based on the following design:

A man I know at work has a laser engraver, and has a standing offer to do some custom designs for people at work. I'm not naturally an arts and crafts guy, so I never investigated the idea until just recently. I had been put on a pair of projects with him, and during some ADHD moments when I couldn't concentrate for very long on any one thing, I asked him about some of the wood items in his cube. One was a small cutout of a helicopter, another a plaque with an armed forces logo and a division number (23rd Airborne, something like that).

They were interesting and well put together, so I gave some thought to what I would like to see made. I'm a big fan of my daughter, so I first thought of making a design for her (which is coming once I find the perfect set of icons, more on that later), but I couldn't piece together a decent template after a couple passes at it, so I put the project idea on the back-burner. Then I noticed a few items I had sitting in my cubical at work for years: Cards with the signatures of Stacey's Girl Scouts troop.

A few years back, I taught for a Brownies Try-It badge, my most miserable failure of a computer class. The Try-It was "Point, Click, and Go", and I had about 20 minutes to manage 10 well sugared 1st graders and go over some basic computer information. It was horrible, showing me the differences between teaching to 5th and 1st graders, between school and extracurricular settings, and between early morning and pre-bedtime classes. The Brownies class was all of the latter, my stunning success of a volunteer gig that year was a PowerPoint class for 5th graders taught at around 10am.

Anyway, though the class didn't turn out as well as I expected, the kids and troop leader still thanked me, and the girls signed a piece of paper they printed out in Word. It has clip-art of a man sitting at a computer, and the text "THANK YOU!! Mr. Autery From TROOP 1711!!" I have kept it at work with me since March of 2003. A pair of the girls who signed it, Anna and Amanda aren't at the school now.

On my birthday in 2005, and the day before my birthday in 2006, it was coincidentally Stacey's turn to bring snacks to the Girl Scouts meeting. I enjoy baking for kids, and usually go overboard for Stacey's troop meetings. Near Thanksgiving I had always brought the troop homemade pumpkin pie, and in the Spring I did Rice Krispies treats and either brownies or cake. On the 05 and 06 meetings that were near my birthday, Stacey rounded up the girls to make me a big construction paper birthday card, both of which, again, have been sitting in my cubicle at work since I received them.

The cards inspire me, as do the 12 or so pictures of Stacey from different ages, the thank you cards on Volunteer Day from the Annehurst kids I taught Powerpoint and Excel to, the simple "I love you dad" on notebook paper and the lamenated valentine from Stacey, the CompuServe "Ovation" award for coding the CSLive logfile analyzer in 1997, my recent Commended Mentor certificate from the Mentoring Center of Central Ohio, a snapshot of me with Stacey on my lap with 6 girls I was teaching Excel to for a stock market project at Stacey's school, and, oddly, the picture of me and Teresa kissing outside the church on our wedding day. All these items help me keep centered when I'm upset, keep me moving when I'm feeling lazy, and are a peaceful respite from crazy IT snafus and company politics. I could survive without them, but it would be harder.

So there I am with three cards chocked full of little girl signatures, a good woodworker willing to do little projects for his buddies, a "multi function device" printer that had a scanner and file server, a copy of the graphics program "The GIMP", and a little downtime between work projects. So I spent a little time scanning and cropping at work, a lot of time doctoring and filtering at home, and the image above is what I ended up with. A plaque with the Girl Scouts "Trefoil" logo, the troop number, and real signatures from all the girls who have been in the troop since March of 2003, even the two who moved to different schools.

Here is the final product, rendered a little poorly thanks to my el-cheapo HP 215 camera:

I had two of them made identically, one for each troop leader. Stacey brought them into the troop meeting yesterday, and I gave a brief summary to the ladies of how it was made, and where the signatures came from. One of them almost cried, they both hugged me, and then I crept away quietly as to refrain from grandstanding. When I came to pick Stacey up from the meeting, I sort of snuck in and snuck out. I didn't mention the project to the girls or the other parents (except for one a few weeks ago, who's daughter was my only missing signature -- she coaxed the girl to sign a piece of paper without explaining why, and I was able to also include her on the plaques), and I did everything possible to present this as a random present out of the blue, and to shy away from anything smacking of "ain't I cool!? Doesn't everyone just love me now!?"

It is my hope that Cheri and MaryAnn will enjoy their gifts, and perhaps will hang them in a peaceful place they use as respite from the world and for inspiration to keep up the fight.

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