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Archive for January 2011

favorite thing . Little Things

I saw this plaque featured in a post about the Patina stores on one of my favorite blogs, Creature Comforts. I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of weeks now, and it’s inspired me to begin something new for Plop!. I began Small Pond Graphics last July unexpectedly as a result of unforeseen life changes. Six months or so later, I am still fine-tuning the “story” of the Small Pond. And thinking small is a part of it. No, I don’t mean eschewing the big ideas. I just mean focusing some attention on the small details that so often translate into ripples of impact on the big picture.

Part of my goal in this blog has been to inspire MYSELF to focus on creating a well-designed company with well-designed projects, well-designed relationships and to open myself to the well-designed life all around me. So, I mostly post about things I like, things that interest me or give fuel to my creativity. To that end, the sentiment on this plaque echos my thoughts about daily habits and rituals, and about living a creative life–or about a life lived creatively.

I keep a book beside my desk that I pick up and read snippets of regularly. It’s called Living a Beautiful Life by Alexandra Stoddard, and I’ve probably read it through and through ten times. Still, it never ceases to inspire me. Mrs. Stoddard is an interior designer and how we approach our daily rituals is one of the things she considers in designing the most intimate spaces her clients inhabit. In her book, she talks about the power of elevating the “daily” to something wonderful, about creating beauty in even the most mundane of spaces and activities. She writes…

Daily rituals are personal statements; they fuel our zest for living…. Personal rituals make you a poet–and they can help you feel good about yourself and others. They reinforce the significance of the simple acts we perform repeatedly. While you are fulfilling basic needs, you can make the ordinary quite extraordinary. When you make your everyday rituals–simple things such as bathing, sleeping and eating–meaningful and attractive, they nourish other areas of your life.

Mrs. Stoddard’s thinking has encouraged me to make the ordinary special by savoring those moments, surrounding them and infusing them with what I find beautiful and meaningful–because life is a series of all those moments strung together.

My other favorite plaque… COLOR OUTSIDE THE LINES ūüėČ


photo 012811 . January Shapes


January often brings clarity–in shape, in color, in mindset.

signs . Greenwood, MS No.1

Greenwood, MS

There is no “sign of life” in Mississippi quite like the signs for bar-be-que. While there may be a discrepancy in how to SPELL bbq, you can scarcely find a small pond that doesn’t have at least one joint devoted to this Southern delicacy. And, invariably, the signs outside are just as lovingly created as the “special” sauces.

My Old Friend, 8 1/2 x 11

Have you thought about 8 1/2 x 11″ lately? I’ve recently worked on a few client projects sporting the standard “letter” size, and I thought I would share a glimpse today. Admittedly, the 93 1/2 square inches of marketing space available in a regular piece of paper is a little over-used–so much so that I sometimes recommend against it to help clients break out of the “standard” box. However, this tried and true format can also offer a lot of well-designed punch within a manageable budget. The fact is; it’s easily mailed, easily stuffed and easily hand-held. Not to mention the fact that it can be produced without much fanfare with your own desktop printer or with any quick-print company in your small pond. And, as the designer in the room, I kind of enjoy squeezing my creative juices to make this common format sparkle! Although the format is the same, these three clients each used the 8 1/2 x 11″ format in a slightly different way. Take a look…

Starkville Academy Annual Fund: This piece served as a folded self-mailer giving it a little more presence than the typical #10 envelope provides, but concentrating the information in a simple and inexpensive one-pager.

Greater Starkville Development Partnership Blue Ribbon Business Resources Flyer: This flyer was included in a packet of other information mailed to Chamber of Commerce members. Keeping it in a format that could be combined in a standard presentation folder or a standard envelope offered just the right amount of flexibility.

The Rogue Christmas Wish List: This mini “catalog” of favorite gift items (produced in collaboration with Halo Business Advisors) was hand-delivered to area offices and restaurants around the store’s location. Keeping the format simple made it inexpensive to print, easy to distribute and quick to grab attention.

photo 012111 . Icy Vibrance

“Icy Vibrance”

Oddly, sometimes January’s gray gives way to vibrant color.

favorite things . Lists

reOn a day like today when I’m away from my desk and entertaining my three kids for a school holiday, I make a lot of lists. I jot things down so I can keep the concerns of work at bay and focus on having some kid-fun. Yep, I’m a list-maker. I don’t mind admitting it. And, I’ll further admit that sometimes I get a little obsessive about it. Because of those little list-making obsessive tendencies, I find myself making and revising lists quite often as a way to get my brain organized. I write them. I type them. I add them to my calendar. I include them in my journal. Of course, January is prime real estate for a list-maker with all its planning and organizing and evaluating. If you want to start a real estate agency click here to learn more about financial loans. To my thinking, sometimes the value and effectiveness of a list has everything to do with the cosmetics of it. I like cool tools. They make me much more likely to look at a list — and therefore follow it or check it off. I know the life hacking mavens may not agree, but whether it’s color coding, interesting paper, lovely illustrations or creative designs, my list needs to look good. [And for me that means looking good in spite of my ridiculous handwriting.] So, I went in search of some great-looking list options. Here’s a few to inspire your next set of to-dos!

SUITOR ~ The Pocket Checklist
A minimalist do-it-yourself option!

BOY GIRL PARTY ~ Bear To Do List
I love that this one gives you the option to check off even if you didn’t complete!

OBLATION ~ Memorandum Note Cards
I love the retro-feel of these. An opportunity to share the list-making wealth!

SKEL DESIGN ~ Moo To Do Pads
Who could resist a Moo To Do? Really?

OWL SAY DESIGNS ~ Repurposed Spiral Bound Notebook
This notebook is filled with random paper samples light enough to write over. Love it!

Love the message. Love the eco-friendly mindset. Love the creativity in this shop!

Courage to Dream

Of the many profiles in courage available in our time, the example of Martin Luther King, Jr. is shining. As we commemorate his life on this national holiday, I’ve been thinking about the type of courage he possessed and wondering about the lessons it still offers for my own pursuit in 2011.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man of controversy to be sure. At least he entered our stage at a season of controversy, a season a long time in the making. He was a catalyst, an instigator in his sheer and unwaivering pursuit of freedom AND peace–at the same time. This man who was so hated and reviled by some, but deemed leader and even savior by many ignited the actions of others like few men in recent history. This man with the ear of pastors and presidents and poll workers and paupers alike demonstrated the life-changing quality of being willing to lend his ear and the power that results when we lend our words and actions to what we see as necessary and right. He was indeed a courageous man.

As I think about the legacy of Dr. King, many lessons emerge, but of all the teachings of courage available in this man’s exemplary life, this one rises:

“I have a dream.”

For me, this courage–the courage to dream–offers a poignant lesson and challenge. Delivered in one of the most profound and memorable speeches in our modern rhetoric, Dr. King spoke not only of life as it was on that day in 1963–as it had been for many years before–but of the reality he envisioned standing in stark contrast to it. Dr. King possessed the courage to look into the face of a dark and hopeless reality and pull from it a new vision of how life could be. A dream. And dreams require courage. Dreams require the courage to look past what seems immovable, to look beyond what has become normal and dare to see it as abnormal. To reject the notion that life as we know it is acceptable when, at our very core, we know it is not. This ability to see and voice the desire for that changed existence brings hope. And often makes a path of action possible.

Several months ago, Little Drummer Boy’s school conducted a book fair. I, of course, went to the school library to peruse the books and find the selections on LDB’s wishlist. I’m always looking for books that make science and history fun, and as I looked through the educational section, I came across one called A Value Tales Treasury by Dr. Spencer Johnson. It was a book that combined an introduction to several American historical figures with lessons in character building. Right up my alley! It used a unique approach to storytelling that highlighted how each memorable person listened to their “true voice” to make the right choices and to demonstrate the character of their best selves. I brought it home to the kids to a decidedly uneventful reaction compared to the Marvel Heroes treasury I also purchased. So, I put it on their bookshelf for later days.

A few weeks ago, that later day came. Little Drummer Boy found the book and became interested in the stories. Louis Pasteur taught us the value of believing in yourself. Helen Keller taught us the value of determination. Will Rogers taught us the value of humor. And, although Martin Luther King, Jr. wasn’t included, we came to a story about Harriet Tubman–another profile in courage worth exploring, to be sure. Harriet listened to her “true voice” to demostrate the value of helping–helping other slaves find freedom in the underground railroad, as she had been helped herself. It was a lesson in paying it forward, so to speak. And, for Little Drummer Boy, a lesson in a new idea. The idea that someone might be treated unfairly because of the color of their skin.

After we finished the story, he wanted to turn back the pages to examine a few points he didn’t understand. The first was the concept of slavery where one person could be owned by another. Then, he turned to the page where Harriet had to ride home after the Civil War in the baggage compartment of the train. And how Harriet told her story. How it shocked many who read it and prompted them to work to change how others were treated. Little Drummer Boy was curious about this. He asked me, “why did Harriet have to ride with her suitcases?”


I explained that at one time people were not allowed to go places or do things because they had dark skin. It was a powerful moment for me in realizing that this thought had never occurred to him. Thank God. I further explained to him how very important it was that Harriet let others know about her experience so that people could learn how they needed to be different. “In fact,” I told him, “we enjoy the results of what Harriet shared today.” His face told me another “why?” was coming. (LDB is nothing if not inquisitive.) “Well,” I asked him. “Who is your best friend?”

A smile broke across his face. And a light of understanding. “E,” he admitted in recognition. “E” is a 6-year-old African American classmate of several years and LDB’s best friend. It was his first recognition that E’s dark skin might be anything more than an interesting cosmetic feature that took a back seat to E’s amazing ability to kick and catch the ball or discuss the continuing saga of Transformers. And while in many ways it pained me to introduce the reality that there was a time when people might not have seen “E” this way, I was thankful for the opportunity to teach him that fairness is important for everyone. It’s important so that we are free to see friends near and far for the wonders they really are.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.”

As important as this lesson in racial equality was, the lesson in courage is even more powerful for me at this moment. You see, in my bedtime reading with Little Drummer Boy, I saw the reality of Dr. King’s dream realized in the most innocent and uncontrived circumstances. I saw a young boy who took no thought of the color of his friend’s skin. And, while I certainly don’t take full credit for that reality as his mother, I am grateful for it. And while I can’t claim that this reality is true for all in our nation, I’m thankful for the collective actions and experiences with others in Little Drummer Boy’s life that made it possible for us.

Dr. King never saw the fruition of his dream. But, the courage to dream that dream did, in fact, move what seemed immovable.¬†I’m spurred toward his courage in my own day-to-day struggles, no matter how they pale in comparison. The courage to conceive of a life that is more than the one I see before me. The courage to believe in the best version of myself to make that life possible. Inspite of fear. Inspite of detractors. Inspite of the incredibly overwhelming “normal.” The courage to dream.

photo 011511 . Coming and Going

“Coming and Going”

photo 011411 . Foreground


January is a study in the beautiful glories of gray. And the subtle promises of Spring.

Courage: Where Am I?

Ever have one of those days when you look around you and say, “where am I?” I don’t even recognize this place. I don’t recognize MYSELF in this place. HOW did I get here?

2010 was filled with lots of those days for me.

For the last couple of years, I’ve chosen a “theme word” for myself in January rather than laboring over the typical new year’s resolutions. The goal was to adopt a single word (a concept) I wanted to explore and magnify in my life for the coming year. The word represented something I needed or wanted to develop, a new area of growth for myself sought out in words and action.

The theme word for 2010 was Courage. As soon as I began the process of choosing a word–as soon as I even had the thought, really–I knew that Courage was the one for 2010. I had reached a point of intersection in several areas of my life. An intersection where the day-to-day realities of living didn’t match the hopes and dreams I was banking on. An intersection where I saw a Haley I never wanted to be, a Haley I felt sold myself short, a Haley uncomfortable in her own skin and yet oddly complacent in that covering. An intersection of which I had become undeniably aware. And, no matter the level of distraction I infused in my life, that awareness couldn’t be denied. And, it seemed that every action and every thought begged the question, “where am I?”

So, Courage jumped to the forefront of my mind. If those life realities weren’t the authentic life of meaning I needed–demanded–for myself, then something had to change. I had to learn confidence and courage. I had to develop the courage to make changes, to take actions, to form new habits, to move. Away from this intersection in a new direction.

Easier said than done sometimes. For we are indelibly mired in our own skin and the trappings of our own making and choosing.

I thought 2010 would be about action. About brave acts of throwing off the bindings. About rejecting foolishness. About having the courage to stand up for myself and my gifts, the courage to create that life of meaning in concrete ways. About the courage to act. And it was to a degree. Still, I reached December with a decidedly uninspired mindset. For all the blessings and accomplishments of 2010, I saw the year as one of failure in many ways. I surveyed the landscape of my life and found the same intersection. The same frustration with the self I saw in the mirror. The same discrepancies between all that looming potential and the nut and bolts realities. What had happened to my courage?

I couldn’t even begin to think about a theme word for 2011. But then, as the evaluations of last year began to sink in, I started to realize something. 2010 WAS a year of courage for me. Perhaps not the “charging the hill” type of bravery the term immediately calls to mind, but courage none-the-less. Last year’s courage involved counting costs. It involved the sometimes painful commitment to look at myself squarely in the face and recognize that I wasn’t the person I wanted to be. It involved an undaunted gaze at my own life situations, recognizing the areas where I had willingly given over control and wisdom and compliance where it shouldn’t be. It was a courage of realization. The courage to recognize and accept. And it isn’t always fun.

Counting the cost takes courage. Taking stock of what your choices are costing you, what they are costing what is most precious to you, is not for the faint of heart. And admitting I’ve been more than willing to pay for everything that cost me dearly has been downright debilitating at times. Taking a close look at my own part in the hard situations I see around me–in that intersection–isn’t easy. But, it’s a necessary first step to having the courage to act.

Having the courage to step forward or step back often begins with accepting that you brought your own self to this unknown place. That courage to look at our own flaws and diminishing tendencies without blinking is a prerequisite to the courage required for change, for action. It’s the kind of courage that throws off distorted views and watered down visions. It’s a clarifying courage, one that puts questions more easily into perspective. It’s a courage that imbues each small step with more as we see that person begin to become more in line with who we know we need to be.

I’m realizing my work in courage isn’t done. It may never be done, but at this intersection, a new measure of courage is certainly required. And I’m ready to see where this new courage can take me. So, I’m continuing my theme of courage for 2011. I imagine some of the essays on the subject will be a little more personal in nature, perhaps a little more raw. Following through with courage tends to do that. I hope you’ll hang in here with me as you seek out areas of courage in your own life this year.

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