gene..

Could it be you don't realize some of the free software you're installing are considered "spyware"? One example being, those which offer emoticons. Have you installed any of Fun Web Products suite of utilities?

Scroll down to where you see "How Do I Remove My Web Search?" included within the page titled Fun Web Products "My Web Search" Removal Instructions.

You'll notice all the below products listed. If installed, they need to be removed.

My Web Search (Smiley Central or FWP product as applicable)
My Way Speedbar (Smiley Central or other FWP as applicable)
My Way Speedbar (AOL and Yahoo Messengers) (beta users only)
My Way Speedbar (Outlook, Outlook Express, and IncrediMail)
Search Assistant - My Way

Also note at the bottom of the page, where it lists "Other FunWebProducts"

It would also help to read, "How to Get Rid of the Mywebsearch Toolbar"

Lastly, I would suggest running a scan with Malawrebytes' Anti-Malware and/or SUPERAntiSpyware Free Edition. They both offer a free version.

Let us know how you make out..
Carol