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Archive for November 2010

A Unique Shopping Experience: 4450

This week, as the Christmas retail season gets into full swing, I wanted to highlight the great shopping experience provided by one of my clients, a successful locally-owned business in the state. For the past month, I’ve had the opportunity to work with the team at Halo Business Advisors in crafting a new email marketing “look” for 4450, a unique, high-end women’s boutique in Jackson, Mississippi.

I was able to visit the store for the first time in early November and meet Luke and Alison Abney, the owners. To be honest, I was blown away by the environment, the look and the unique clothing pieces they offer. It was such a different shopping experience from the big department stores where you might find some of their brands, and it made me want to come back again and again.

The look they’ve created in the store is very spare, but inviting. With white walls and trim, lots of gray and neutral interior accessories, exposed metal beams and pinpoint lights, walking into the boutique was like a breath of fresh air. My favorite part was the preservation of space. You know how when you shop in a large department store, you are constantly tripping over items and running into racks of clothing just to get a peek at the merchandise? Well, the 4450 experience is the polar opposite. Their unique displays and well-chosen selections are artfully shown with plenty of comfortable space to sit or explore. Their choice of a neutral background palette really helps the clothing take center stage in their two-story space.

Alison Abney shared with me that she feels the greatest strengths of 4450 as a retail option are their buying choices. They try to offer brands that are unique to the area and feature new design styles that aren’t as prevalent. This really appeals to a broad range of clientele who is interested in a unique and special look not found in every other store. Alison also said that they focus on pieces rather than collections when they choose their designers, offering customers the opportunity to mix and match items to serve their own wardrobe needs.

The urban influences of 4450 are clear in the clothing choices and in the interiors. And, Alison and her team wanted that influence reflected in their email marketing as well. While some of their print advertising might be a little more staid, my job was to create an email look that offered a little “pop” in the inBox. Using black as our base color, we combined some brighter colors with an edgy look to convey their promotional messages in a fun, but sophisticated way. Take a look! And if you’re in the Jackson, MS area, don’t miss a stop at 4450. It’s well worth a trip down the I-55 Frontage Road!

Golden Moment

I was driving south on Highway 45. Going home to my parents’ house for Thankgiving with the children. The trip is only about 45 minutes, not enough mileage to be considered a real trip, I guess. Still, it was a symbolic trip of sorts, the opportunity to step away from my weekday surroundings and our normal work and school routines. I had spent much of the day working on last minute design projects and gathering clothes, toys, movies, and bedtime favorites for four days away from home. The short drive was my first moment to relax. It’s funny how powerful those moments can be sometimes.

The children had already spent much of their excitement about the trip that morning and one by one drifted off to sleep, lulled by the tires on the pavement. I was alone with my thoughts in transition from the busy-ness of the week and ready for a few unscheduled days. My mind was pressed. It had been a full week of thinking crammed into only two days. I had been in a period of thinking and creating, dealing with stressful situations and my own wrestling leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s hard to quiet myself during those times.

It had been raining off and on during the morning, so the sky was striped with clouds. The sun had finally dropped below the cloud lines enough to make its appearance. The timing was golden. It was a perfect sphere of light hovering just before its decent into sunset. The glow was what distracted me.

Suddenly, for the first time that day, I was bathed in sunlight. It felt like the first time that week. The first time that month. My light blue shirt was aglow as the western sunbeams streamed into the car window. It’s interesting when light presents itself. It’s unmistakable. It commands attention. It demands to be noticed and given its due. That one shaft of light stunned the noise in my brain into silence.

It made me take a deep breath.

As I looked in the rear-view mirror, I could see each of my gifts. Their faces were turned in odd but restful angles in their seats and shining. The sunlight set them aglow. The same glow I see constant in their spirits through the changes, through the stages, through the brotherly love and scuffles, through the first words and moments of learning, through the bedtime kisses and cheeks pressed against mine. Life. Aglow. A glow that brought into sharp perspective all the efforts of the week, all the commitments, all the decisions, all the needs and wants, all the challenges and joys.

Suddenly, I wasn’t alone with my thoughts anymore. I was alone with the three most precious hearts I’ve ever known.

12 Days of Thanksgiving: G

Giving thanks.

Well, through whatever wrestling required, Thanksgiving leaves its mark. On our hearts. On our mindset. Jacob wrestled with an angel. He left the experience with a blessing and a wound. A wound, perhaps, of laying aside his own will, his own preconceptions, his own ingrained thinking. A wound from succumbing to the blessing. The wound was a remembrance I think he carried his whole life. The book of Hebrews describes the end of Jacob’s life. He worshipped “leaning on his staff.” Perhaps the result of a hip dislocated in a wrestling match with an angel. I can’t help but admire how very much he wanted the blessing. How valuable it was to him. How he recognized its significance. I want to recognize my own blessings in that same way. And I want to wrestle against whatever thinking might rob me of seeing them.

I started this 12-day journey with doubts. I stepped into it kicking and screaming. And I’ve found, as I have each year, that of all the blessings enumerated at Thanksgiving, the act of giving thanks itself offers its own indelible joy. The act of acknowledging all the wealth bestowed on our lives is a blessing.

Last night, Little Drummer Boy asked me a question.

“Mommy, are we rich?”

It made me giggle inside. He’s learning about money and that we have to earn it in order to be able to spend it. That we need it to get special things. He knows that Mommy works. So, he is becoming conscious of whether we have money. My answer…

“No, sweetie, we aren’t rich.”

A sigh. And a half-growl. “So that means we’re poor.”

“No, sweetie, it doesn’t.”

“So, we’re somewhere in between.”

“We have just what we need, love.”

We have just what we need. Through the blessing of giving thanks, we can hope to understand that anyone can be rich. Through grateful hearts, we recognize our own wealth in any circumstance.

Happy Thanksgiving.

12 Days of Thanksgiving: N

Nearness of God.

Thanksgiving really needs an object. Yes, it’s nice to be thankful. Gratitude is a good mindset. But, there is something hollow in attributing our blessings to our own good “karma” or simply to chance. My heart wants to thank someONE. The tradition of the Thanksgiving holiday has its roots in showing gratitude to God for the bounty he has provided. Offering thanksgiving to our Creator is a natural response to recognizing the good that comes in our lives through His providence. Thanksgiving is also the catalyst for trusting Him through the challenges that surround our lives as well.

At some point during the Thanksgiving season, I usually gravitate toward this verse from Psalms…

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise.”

For the last two years of producing this thanksgiving-themed series of essays, that verse has been a starting point. It brings the realization that through giving thanks and cultivating a grateful heart, we can more easily focus on the One bestowing our blessings. We can more easily draw closer to Him. This year, it looks like that verse is more of a culmination than a beginning thesis.

I’ve written recently about the themes of change and transition that have been prevalent in my EyeJunkie pursuit. I’ve written about the searching and wandering I have felt in my spirit of late. I’m reminded (and thankful) this season that God is never closer than in times of wandering. Though it seems He may be far, his far-reaching arm is not distant.

Sometimes we degrade wandering. It has somehow obtained a bad reputation as wasted time, procrastination or following the broken path. But, under the hand of the Almightly God, is ANY time ever wasted? I’ve been writing another post about faith (which I’ll share soon), that has helped me realize that sincere wandering is part of the full package of a sincere faith. It’s part of the process. And, God’s nearness during that time (as in every other time) is a tremendous blessing. It brings me back to the story of Jacob that began this year’s 12 Days.

Jacob’s life was not a silver-spooned, ivy league portrait. He was a cheater, a traitor, a Mama’s boy, a wanderer. In his life, he deceived those closest to him, and he was deceived by others. He was disappointed. He was afraid. And that was long before he became the patriarch of the Lord’s lineage. Still, it was clear that God never left Him or the world-changing goals for his life. In fact, we see that at his greatest moments of fear and wandering, God came to him. God even wrestled his strength and will to offer him blessings. There was no moment of searching, no moment of indecision, no moment of mistakes, no moment of fear that could thwart the bountiful blessing of God.

“The nearness of God is my good.” (psalm 73:28)

Regardless of my wandering or wondering, God is near.
He surrounds this life, my life, as only He can.
He is much bigger than all I can see.
His blessing can’t be thwarted.

12 Days of Thanksgiving: I

Investments.

I’ve been thinking during these 12 days about how blessed I am by people who have chosen to make an investment in me–parents, mentors, friends, clients. The confidence and encouragement of others has such a powerful and long-lasting impact. Sometimes it takes others showing that confidence before we can believe it ourselves.  The investments of others are gratitude-worthy, to be sure. But, beyond that, I was reminded last week about what a blessing it also is to invest IN someone else as well. After all, good investments bring a return.

I had a conversation with a friend last week about a simple phone call. I didn’t know the other party, but felt as if I did to hear my friend describe the encounter. A man was calling to inquire about job opportunities–not always an easy task for someone who’s been in the workforce for a long time or in these challeging economic times. During the course of the phone conversation, with a few well-placed comments and sincere reflections, this friend really blessed the man on the other end of the line. What’s interesting is how exhuberant my friend was to talk about the encounter. How much the conversation prompted his own recollections and gratitude for the impact this man had made on him many years ago.

Two things struck me. One is how “easy” it is to turn something difficult for someone into a day-changer, even a life-changer. My friend lost nothing but a few seconds of time in communicating some things that perhaps gave this man renewed confidence. It requires so little from us to bless others. The one thing it does take is paying attention. Noticing. Reflecting. This conversation required thinking with sincerity about an individual’s impact, thinking with gratitude about a person’s role in another’s life. That’s the hard part sometimes. It’s so easy to live only in self-awareness, oblivious to the needs or even strengths of others around us. Yes, noticing those things requires an investment of our time and energy and emotional space. But, the return allows us to reap the benefit of soaking up what another human has to offer, the benefit of really experiencing some person or place rather than simply pushing past them to get to the next thing on the list. It made me want to think more carefully about the seemingly insignificant conversations I have each day, and infuse them with a desire to show that person their worth. That type of investment has so much power, and to wield it is a privilege.

The other lesson from this friend’s conversation was how much the act of blessing another person prompts us to see our own blessings. Giving is such an odd little mathematics-defying equation. When we give, we so often get in multiplied measure in return. When we show confidence and value to others, we more easily embrace it ourselves. When we recognize the amazing qualities of others and their impact, we are reminded of the blessings WE have received. We are reminded that people and experiences ARE blessings. It tells me that if I’m feeling gratitude-challenged, perhaps the first step to recovery is blessing someone else.

12 Days of Thanksgiving: V

Vision.

I’ve been listening to the wheels of imagination turning recently with Little Drummer Boy and Bug. As they play together in those sometimes rare moments of being best friends, I’m always amazed by the random adventures of Thomas the Tank Engine or Lightning McQueen or whatever toy has the fortune of being involved. At our house, it’s a common occurrence for dinosaurs, asteroids, firemen and race cars to occupy the same world view. As I listen to them drawing pictures and the running commentary that accompanies the marks on the page, the same wonder ensues. Railway tunnels, fire-breathing dragons and rainbows peacefully co-exist in that world, and any alarm sounded is quickly squelched by simply turning the page. What a blessing an imagination is! What a gift to be able to envision something that can’t be seen!

The most concise definition of faith can be found in the book of Hebrews… “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The ability to “see” what isn’t there is faith at its core, to take our vision as evidence of what is possible. To embrace it as reality. That truth becomes no more apparent than in times of difficulty, times when the circumstances we CAN see are perhaps what we don’t want to see. Times when the reality is less than what we want for ourselves. In those times, we are tempted to give up, to let our courage give way to acceptance or fear. In those times, we are tempted to despair. It’s part of the human condition. The proverb rings true; “where there is no vision, the people perish.”

My children have become such a vibrant example of the concept of possibility. In their minds, anything is possible. They have no preconceptions about what can happen, and what can happen simultaneously. More and more, I’m realizing that it is this vision that fuels hope. And faith. It allows us to see byond where we are. It enables us to imagine a different place or time or circumstance, to see ourselves differently. It makes the impossible possible. It makes us willing to lay aside assumptions. It encourages us to see our best selves, our best lives. And to reach for it.

I started this year on a quest for courage, adopting it as my “theme word.” I don’t know how much courage I’ve actually attained, but I can see evidence of courageous acts. Small inclinations toward the possible I can see. Tiny tangible steps toward becoming more of what I want to be. This year, I’m so thankful for the vision that fuels that courage, for the ability to see beyond the evident and take that vision as evidence of what might be. Of what can be.

12 Days pf Thanksgiving: I

Instant Gratification.

For my Bug…
From the moment I laid eyes on you, you owned me.
In that instance, I knew you were something special.
That earnest look, punctuated by a smile and interrupted by mischevious ideas.
As you’ve grown, I’ve come to know your incredible imagination, your unmatched resolve, your unquenched spirit.
The way you mold your surroundings by sheer will.
The way your heart is uncontained.
The way you have to dance and sing, as if some part of the universe can only be set in motion by your contribution.
And you’re right.

I’m thankful for the undeserved gift of each of my three children.
But during the Thanksgiving season, for Bug in particular, who’s light entered the world on this day.
To leave its indelible mark.

Happy Birthday, 4yo Bug!

12 Days of Thanksgiving: G

Gourmet.

At our house, we have a Little People Thanksgiving set by Fisher Price that makes an appearance each year. It depicts a very cute version of the first Thanksgiving and includes two pilgrims, two indians, a bountiful picnic table and a little horse pulling a giant pumpkin in his cart. We usually make a big deal about getting it out as a celebration of the season, and this year it happened on Thursday. I was running behind in that part of our Thanksgiving ritual (typical this year), but that didn’t seem to dampen the excitement. After a few skirmishes over who got to help the pony drive his cart and who would hold the girl pilgrim, we settled into playing.

Little Drummer Boy and Bug have been immersed in Thanksgiving activities, programs and crafts this week. They’ve had Thanksgiving dinners at school, presented singing programs complete with chopping sounds and “10 little indians,” made pilgrim books and indian head-dresses, and read books. As LDB was setting up our little first Thanksgiving scene to his satisfaction, I made an off-handed observation: “They’re having their Thankgiving dinner.”  LDB was quick to correct me with a response that made me smile. And think.

They’re having a FEAST.”

Hmmm. “Feast” is probably a new word for him, and I’m surprised he didn’t ask me how to spell it. We are in a perpetual spelling bee lately spurred on my the first steps in learning to read.

They’re having a feast. It was more than a lesson in semantics. Little Drummer Boy rightly recognized the distinction that our little pilgrims and indians weren’t just eating. It was evident to him they weren’t just getting by with table scraps. They were feasting.

It made me realize the truth that abundance is almost always in the eye of the beholder. Our mindset often determines how full our table is. And while I could expound a whole other post about the delicious family Thanksgiving recipes we look forward to, what’s steaming in the serving dishes really doesn’t affect our recognition of bounty. At least it doesn’t have to.

I’m so thankful for that reminder from my little Thanksgiving Gourmet this year. I want to enjoy this and the upcoming holidayseasons with a gourmet mindset, regardless of the circumstances. I want to cultivate a lifestyle where my eyes are always bigger than my stomach. I want to recognize and embrace the feast before me in each endeavor.

photo 111910 . Left Hanging

“Left Hanging”

12 Days of Thanksgiving: S

Small things.

8:50am
Well, I got up on the absolute wrong side of the bed this morning. Between travel plans and holiday plans and marketing plans, I’m feeling the stress, and I’ll admit that my gratitude quotient is running a little low. SO, I decided to come to you in real time (hence the time stamp) and see if I can turn this day around with a little giving of thanks.

You know how I love lists (such a nerd). Each year I’ve embarked on the 12 Days of Thanksgiving essay series, I’ve included at least one list of “things I’m thankful for.” You can’t enter the holidays without harkening back to that age-old kindergarten question at least once. And, although it’s not a Tuesday Ten or a Thursday whatever, I had already decided that “S” would represent “small things.” I’ve been expounding on the concept of “small” over the last few months with the launch of my new design business, Small Pond Graphics. It’s made me think about so many small things in business, in relationships, in life that make a big difference. SO, I decided to focus on those little things, wee blessings, that really add richness to my life.

And be thankful for them.

Just thinking about them is already turning my heart around today. Forgive the random order. I’m in real-time after all. Forgive the lack of numbering. It just seems better to dive into a brainstorming list. I hope it will encourage you to look at the small things (and not so small things) bringing blessing to your life.

8:59am
This year, I am thankful for…

The sweet cheek of Baby Girl against mine as I rock her to sleep  >  Little Drummer Boy’s spontaneous “I love you, Mommy”  >  Bug’s uncontained excitement about so MANY things. It’s contagious.  >  Oreos  >  Clients who take time to say “thank you”  >   This office space I’m able to enjoy each day  >  Technology  >  Newspapers from all over the world online  >  The correspondence of dear friends  >  Tangible reminders of special times  >  Electricity  >  Books  >  Crayons  >  Generous parents  >  Autumn’s changing colors  >  Cool weather  >  My new iPhone  >  The blessing of getting paid for doing something I love  >  Good timing  >  Loving and faithful daycare teachers  >  A kindergarten class that inspires Little Drummer Boy  >  Warm blankets  >  Drawings made just for me  >  iTunes gifts  >  Online shopping  > 15 wonderful years at Dux D’Lux Advertising  >  A mentor who told me, “you can do this”  >  Song in D Minor by Tokyo Milk  > Black Gardenia by Aspen Bay  >  Houseplants  >  Baby’s Girls new words — today’s was “shoelaces.” Go figure  >  Imagination  >  Facebook connections  >  Clients willing to take a chance on me  >  Enough money to pay the bills this month  >  Starkville Public Library  >  The Farm  >  Bug, who I brought home on Thanksgiving Day four [!] years ago  >  Thomas the Train and all the stories he inspires at my house  >  Encouraging words  >  Sunshine this morning  >  Kermit, the laptop — enabler of many things both large and small  >  Hand-painted pumpkins  >  The food my Mama will make next week  >  The blessing of my Dad’s stroke recovery  >  Healthy children  >  Giggles  >  Bedtime stories  >  Natural light  >  The opportunity to set my own hours, no matter how crazy they may be  > Lunch with my boys  > A change of scenery  >  Old friends  >  An open heart, despite circumstances  >  God’s love and continual grace each day  >  Kind words from strangers  >  A new day.

9:19am

For the beauty of the earth
For the glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies.

Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.

For the beauty of each hour,
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, and tree and flower,
Sun and moon, and stars of light.

Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.

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