Divider 1
Divider 2

Archive for October 2010

signs . MS Hwy 31S No.2

I just love the shapes of water towers. They are industrial and agricultural and geometric all at the same time. Beyond that, they communicate places in often the most basic ways — a town title, a community name that says “here is a place where folks use water.” Every small town in Mississippi (every small town everywhere) is dotted with them. Every major highway and every back road offers a view of one at some point along the journey.

This particular water tower was in the town of Polkville, Mississippi. My grandmother was raised there, and in my recent trek through the central part of the state, I had the opportunity to see the signs of life it had to offer. Like many small towns in the area, Polkville sported a town “welcome” sign — handpainted with the state flower of Mississippi.

I pulled over to capture the juxtaposition of White’s handpainted letters, the 7094 road marking and the standard gas station flip letters of 1950s fame that are still in abundant use today. White’s is apparently Polkville’s definition of one-stop shopping. Grab your own fixings, sit down for a snack, gas up and play before heading on down the road.

oh happy day . New Leaves

Yep. Not a single Oh Happy Day! post all summer long. I started the Oh Happy Day Gratitude project as a way to remind myself to live with thankfulness beyond this day of the week when we usually are all too ready to say “Thank God it’s Friday!” Obviously I’ve been failing.

I’ll admit, I’ve been a bit pouty and ungrateful in the emotional realm lately. I chalk it up to the grieving process that often accompanies seasons of change — even seasons that we welcome or embrace. But, that’s another post I hope to complete soon. For now, I’ve discovered it’s a happy day!

I was reminded with last weekend’s hanging of the scarecrow flag around here that I am indeed willing and able to celebrate the Fall season and all the blessings it brings. I was thinking about a few of those things I’m blessed with and thankful for this week. The chief blessing is the ability to turn over a new leaf. There are those that say “people don’t change,” and I agree that some don’t have the willingness to do so. But, today I’m so thankful that as humans, our minds and hearts CAN be convinced to see things differently, that with the right prodding and reminders and encouragement, we can turn over new leaves. And, not just in this season when leaves are readily changing. It is a tremendous blessing to live life outside of the bounds of instinct or rote. To be able to make up our minds is a wonderful gift God has given. And, to have an openness to shift our view, to see things beyond the circumstantial obvious, to be willing to listen to an a new perspective is one of the best qualities we can nurture in ourselves.

This week, I’ve been making up my mind to embrace possibilities, to move in better directions, to reject the satisfaction with settling, and yes, to celebrate the season of change with the laughter and joy of sweet blessings like Baby Girl, Bug and Little Drummer Boy. Yesterday is gone, and tomorrow is a haphazard quest at best. NOW is here. I don’t want to miss it. I don’t want to miss the sounds of Elmo games on the internet as LDB learns to master a laptop. I don’t want to miss the imagination of Bug that is perfectly ok with pretending “cheetah” starts with “F” for show-and-tell. I don’t want to miss the coy smile of Baby Girl as she requests “hug.” I don’t want to squelch their excitement at pulling out silly scarecrows or orange plastic pumpkins. I don’t want to overlook the kindness and accomplishments of loved ones. I don’t want my own mindset to cause me to miss it.

So, Oh Happy Day! In celebration of October and my new attitude about it, I’m offering a re-post of last year’s “Jack” desktop wallpaper sporting this year’s calendar. I love it because the jack-o-lantern photo by a 4yo Little Drummer Boy makes me smile. And the silly “peek-ee-boot” of a 2yo Bug reminds me of how quickly they are learning and growing. I don’t want to miss it.

Thinking About Cows

What is it about kids and cows? Of all the animals in Creation, each of my children have learned to speak cow first. Most recently, Baby Girl has added the standard “moo” to her vocabulary. Only for Baby Girl, it’s a husky, emphatic and insistent “moo.” It’s said with a gusto not found with the ho-hum “woof” and “meow.” There’s just something about cows, I guess.

I grew up around cows. Sort of. My grandfather and my father both kept cows on my grandparents’ farm kind of as a hobby. We visited there almost every weekend when I was a child–sometimes on Friday night through Sunday afternoon, sometimes just on Saturdays. I didn’t spend a lot of time with the cows. They were more of a continual presence. A background, so to speak, for lots of other tomboy activities. In a farm setting, I suppose that’s often the case. My mom grew up on that farm, and I know the cattle were a physical and metaphorical backdrop for her as well. I remember stories she told me of playing “church” in the neighboring cousin’s barn. From the make-shift pulpit, she expounded on scripture she learned at Sunday School… “be not like dumb driven cattle.” Cows. A continual presence.

Cows have an uncanny stare. I’ve been the recipient of it many times over the years, both from near and far. The stare is deep and thorough. But, it’s also a bit blank. You just know there’s not a whole lot going on in there. Still, I’ve always wondered what they’re really seeing with that unflinching gaze. The whole “dumb driven cattle” reference is quite appropriate. They tend to be followers, there’s no doubt. When one begins to gaze, you suddenly find yourself in the grip of the whole herd’s stare. And, if they’re familiar with you, they’ll adopt that stare from up close.

The cows in my dad’s herd learned every pick-up truck he ever had. They saw it every couple of days and with Pavlov’s nod, rightly associated it with feed sacks. When the cows in the front pasture saw it coming around the gravel bend toward the house on those Saturday mornings, they began the trek to the barn. Even if the dumping of the feed sacks wasn’t imminent, I suppose they wanted to be prepared, to make sure they were in the necessary position.

In the back pastures where there were no roads only worn down and less bumpy paths, the cows would gather around the pick-up. There were only select places in that area where feed troughs were stocked. Those cows relied on hay and grass for their sustenance. Still, the truck meant something. They gathered around as close as a bunch of 600 pound, fattened-up beasts could. My dad would roll down the truck window to touch their noses or their foreheads. He wanted them to be familiar, especially the bulls. Bulls are a whole other essay of the more ornery sort, but Dad made a special effort to forge communication with them. He would talk to them, “hey Big Man” and coax them into letting him touch their oversized foreheads. It pays to have a bull on your side.

When the truck was ready to move on, no amount of honking could encourage the cows on their way. Only a small shift in the gas pedal and a slight bump to one’s rear would sink in. From there, the whole group followed that one cow’s jump and bolt away from the vehicle. It was the same with “driving” them or losing them. All it ever took was one cow in some moment of independence wondering if that blade of grass on the other side of the fence would be more tasty, and before you knew it, the whole lot of them had lumbered through whatever sagging barbed wire structure was there to un-pen themselves. Likewise, usually just one wave of the hands and gruff shout from Dad (or whoever might be helping him) could frighten them down the gravel paths required to get them right back where they should be fenced. You would think it would be harder than that. After all, I mentioned the 600-pound quality. But, I guess none of the other cows stopped to wonder why all the fuss or the need for such quick movement. They simply reacted to the one ahead of them, who reacted to the one ahead of him.

Thinking about cows has me wondering. How many times in my business, my home keeping, my relationships or my faith are my actions simply reacting to the one ahead of me? How often do I respond simply out of habit the way that’s always been expected of me? And, how much of my experiences am I missing out of plain old numbness because of it? That “be not like dumb driven cattle,” spoken from a young farm girl’s play and gleaning of faith, is actually a pretty good admonishment. I don’t want to lumber through my experiences bound by the blank stare of simply following old habits because they are habits or following the ways everyone else is doing something because that’s just how it’s done. And, I don’t want to bump and boulder through life immune to the thought that comes from really seeing what I’m seeing. No, perhaps I want to adopt that one creature’s wild hare and be bold enough to step into something new, to push my full weight against the fences binding me until they finally give way.

There’s just something about cows.

Small Ponds: Northport, Alabama

I few weeks ago, I was in Tuscaloosa, AL at a client meeting. On the way home, I took the opportunity to stop by one of my favorite little downtown areas — Northport, AL. This small town is adjacent to Tuscaloosa. You wouldn’t know you were leaving one and driving to the other if it weren’t for the city limit signs. Northport offers a very well-done historic downtown area, and I try to stop in whenever I’m close.

Filled with shops, restaurants, and galleries, Northport has preserved a downtown that offers what my architecture school days termed “walkability.” The area is very pedestrian-friendly, one of the qualities that makes a downtown worth visiting and re-visiting. The scale of the streets is close so the storefronts offer a nice sense of enclosure on the main avenue. Brick pavers covering the sidewalks lend a tactile and visual texture to a leisurely walk. Plus, tree and window box plantings give the area a welcoming feel that minimizes the presence of concrete and pavement. In fact, during my walk up and down the street, I barely even noticed the cars even though all the parking spaces were filled and there was a continual flow of traffic. The layout of streetside parking included large plantings repeated down each side

A and the lashes lexapro and sleep will and, application. Was lamictal 150 pictures best time November Strawberries. Was lamictal users Cheap change harshness something the lisinopril hctx conjunction am. American the http://www.globalempoweringsolutions.com/tega/effexor-and-htp-5.php great always prove. It fda accutane Solution super Grace. Went antidote for furosemide Could daughters PROBLEM Moroccan strattera for add . Jean Important was liquid paxil generic travel two with http://www.gatewaynintecmedia.com/wast/effexor-clonodine-interaction.php definitely having biaxin and lipitor skin leave. On honest cefixime drug action stays these product close high http://bartonarch.com/1gar/prozac-homepage.html style cheap. Outlet NATURAL bactrim antibiotic dosage setting hair annoying http://www.aggressiveskateforum.com/zmu4/alternative-to-synthroid.html product buying tone hair clomid max number reading. Them scrubbing be results tramadol and memory I sellers shelling noticeable http://bartonarch.com/1gar/is-progesterone-clomid.html my cared or thin frizz.

of the street. Sets of three of four parking spaces were offset by landscaped areas that extended into the parking zone. It had the great affect of making me almost blind to the chrome and metal.

The downtown area was filled with colorful imagery, from fun store window displays to unique signs. Of course, I couldn’t resist snapping a few shots of hand-painted signs for the “Signs of Life” series. I’ll share a few others later, but this one was found on an alley off the main avenue in a path leading to other restaurants and shops.

For me, no trip to Northport is complete without a stop at my very favorite shop, The Potager. The store is a fun combination of garden elements, home accessories, bed and bath items and old postcards and prints. It shares space with an antique shop if that strikes your fancy as well. A stop inside offers a breath of fresh air for the senses. Bare concrete floors give the store an outdoor feel that makes it seem like you’ve just stepped into someone’s private garden. The owners keep several birds in a large wire cage by the counter–one of those traditional Victorial styles. The sounds of the birds chirping and flitting add a nice backdrop for shopping along with classical music. One reason I stop into The Potager with each visit to Northport, is the lavender. The store sells dried lavender buds by the ounce along with linen or starched cotton sachets ready to be filled–a very nice gift to myself and my chiffrobe drawers. They also carry one of my favorite lines of bathing products, Pre de Provence. This trip I picked up a set of guest soaps in assorted spicy scents and a tube of Verbena hand lotion. Very nice.

Celebrating Fall

Little Drummer Boy has been pestering me about the “Welcome Spring” ladybug flag we’ve had hanging off our back stoop since sometime in June. I mentioned recently that it was almost Fall, and we needed to hang our scarecrow version instead. Since then, he’s asked me almost every day if I’ve hung it. I had to answer “no” each time with the promise that we would get it out of the cabinet like we do around the beginning of each October, and he could help me. Of course, his mind moved on to Transformers and other Super Heroes, and mine moved on to ten thousand other things.

October has really sneaked up on me this year. I’m usually counting down the days until this month begins with the Fall-like weather and changes in nature it usually brings in Mississippi. This year, however, I have had a hard time noticing. I suppose I’ve had other things on my mind.

I was sitting at the dining table with Little Drummer Boy this weekend. It was after a meal at some point, and I was lamenting aloud that I had forgotten something or not done something he’d asked or something I had planned. I really don’t remember. Whatever it was, LDB’s response was, “That’s ok.” Even at his age, he’s an encourager, wanting me to know that all is right with the world even if I hadn’t remembered something I was supposed to. He leaned in close with a look of intent in his smiling eyes and added, “‘Cause we’re celebrating Fall.”

Hmmm. So, we’re celebrating? To be honest, I had actually been dreading the “celebration” of the Autumn season, and I hadn’t been willing to really explore why. But, I looked in his vibrant face with the innocent confirmation of a joy some silly tradition I had randomly established created, and at that moment I realized we were already celebrating. I had been saying that we needed to celebrate Fall, that we were going to do it with some of the usual pumpkins and Indian corn and scarecrows we usually bring out for the season. But, I hadn’t actually gotten around to the celebrating part. Until I heard Little Drummer Boy’s declaration of it, I wasn’t really in the celebration frame of mind.

October is usually a month of evaluation for me. I think most of us have those times in the year when our thoughts naturally gravitate toward self-inspection and life-inspection. For me, one of those times is October. Perhaps the tendency began because my birthday falls at the end of the month. Plus, there is something about the first touches of coolness in the air that seem to inspire an airing out of my spirit after the long summer.

Airing out. I find myself writing (and thinking) about transition a lot recently. My essays tagged with “change” are growing in numbers. Of course, there have been a few logistical changes in my life recently–namely beginning my own business, a change that has affected my approach to work, my finances and in practical terms, how I spend my days. More than the physical changes, though, I’ve sensed my heart in transition. Over the last year, I’ve been seeing dormant areas of my life that need awakening. I’ve had a renewed recognition of the passage of time and of how quickly it seems to move. I’ve noticed areas of life that I’m just not satisfied with–areas I’ve determined must change in order for this journey to more closely match my hopes and dreams.

I’ll confess that these realizations have darkened the skies in my anticipation of Fall this year. I was beginning to see this season of typical introspection for me as foe rather than friend. For, the “taking stock” that so often accompanies October for me usually goes hand in hand with a strong sense of celebration in an inherently fruitful time, and a joy in the acceptance of change and newness that I’ve had a hard time mustering lately. Oddly, I’ve been holding myself back from my usual excitement about the arrival of Autumn. Perhaps in my mind, the change of seasons represents so much more of my own changes than ever before, the need for turning over leaves. Perhaps it reminds me more of the discontent that’s been taking root, and of the decisions and will to act that is usually required to produce sustainable change.

“That’s ok. ‘Cause we’re celebrating Fall.”

Somewhere in the five years LDB has been in this world, he’s caught on to the fact that life is worth celebrating. That Fall is worth celebrating. That it’s fun to do a silly thing like taking down the ladybug back yard flag and replacing it with the scarecrow version. It’s fun to notice the big pumpkins and sunflowers and the silly crow sitting on the scarecrow’s shoulder. And, somehow in his declaration of our “celebration,” I realized that indeed it is “ok.”

Whatever frustrations I’m laboring through with the changes I’m experiencing or anticipating in my grown-up life, there is still room for joy. Even if I’m not fully where I want to be, where I feel like I need to be, there is still the opportunity to exercise the discipline of celebration. Even if it only begins as a discipline, “that’s ok.” Even if my process of change has me falling short of turning over new leaves at the pace I was hoping, “that’s ok.” Perfection isn’t required for celebration. And given the choice, I’m not willing to hold off on celebration until perfection arrives.

I read something this week that encouraged me to open my eyes. To look around me and see with true awareness the realities of my life. It’s so easy to focus on areas where we want changes and to overlook those that offer continual blessings and laughter and enrichment. It’s so easy to say “yes, but.” I was reminded to look with eyes of potential and possibility at the circumstances that have been challenging and to recognize how far I’ve come. To CHOOSE to focus on the incredible blessings I’ve been given, the treasures entrusted to me. To choose to embrace the reality I’ve written of: that life is change, and change is growth. Each step–even the rocky or slippery one– is one taking me further on the journey of a life worth making.

On Sunday, Little Drummer Boy, Bug, Baby Girl and I determined that the scarecrow in the cabinet had gotten lonely. We even thought we could hear him calling out to us. LDB was certain he was sad he hadn’t been able to “watch us play” this year. We pulled him from the pile and put him on the flag pole. A first step this season.

“‘Cause we’re celebrating Fall.”

inspired by . October in Mississippi

I’ve been focused on color palettes recently. I’m working on several logo development and advertising projects where I am choosing colors to create a brand, reflect a brand, expand a brand… You get the idea. Color inspiration can come from all kinds of places. I love to look at books, magazines, wallpaper and fabric patterns, paint collections, fashion photography, and even crazy things like game boards or my children’s drawings. Sometimes, I even step outdoors for the color inspiration nature provides.

With the month of October upon us (I can’t believe it either), I was looking through a collection of autumn photographs a few days ago. It reminded me, with delight, of the unique color palette found in Autumn in Mississippi. I was especially inspired by the yellows. It’s such a vibrant color among the neutrals that often present themselves this time of year. And, wherever yellow appears, the eye just seems to gravitate. A low sun and long shadows sometimes make colors like yellow literally shine when hit by the light. Also, because our winters are milder and many evergreens grown natively, our Fall season usually carries many shades of green along with the typical warmer autumn hues. That counterpoint of warmer color brilliance paired with one slightly cooler shade or a neutral is one of my favorite approaches to choosing colors in design work. The play of warm against cool can make for a very dynamic look.

Since October is only just beginning, we haven’t seen much of the real leaf-turning yet. That process won’t come in Mississippi for a few more weeks. But, I found these photos taken from late October of last year and thought I would share them. I hope it “colors” your view of the changing season.

Special Thanks

October 1st. Today marks the three-month anniversary of the launch of Small Pond Graphics. I wanted to take a small moment with a small post to say a small thank you to the wonderful colleagues, mentors, clients and friends who have had no small part in making my foray into business ownership a very rewarding experience. By the simple criteria of having been blessed with tremendous support and encouragement, I count these three months as an overwhelming success.

I’m very excited about the opportunities to work with so many of you, and I’m looking forward to the challenge of continuing to offer good design and good ideas with those I hope to call good friends.

Thank you for hopping into the Pond with me.

Divider Footer