Thursday, July 28, 2011

Christmas in July – Who Knew?

We’re getting started on the Christmas season early. Sure, we make it look easy, but designing’s photo Christmas cards is harder than you might think. Stuff this good takes time.

That’s why in July, when most people are wondering what kind of hot it’ll be that day, or which beach to go to on the weekend, here at, I’m thinking about snowmen and candy canes, with the intent to craft some photo cards featuring children’s artwork.

Here’s the thing. To have been drawn by six-year-olds, these pieces of art are amazing. However, having studied general design principles for the last five years, and having a reasonable understanding of good design, I find it very difficult to lay out a children’s Christmas photo card using a purple wreath and blue candy canes. My instincts are screaming in my ear, No, No! But it’s not my understanding of proper holiday colors that matters here; it’s the touching drawings of these kids.

I never would’ve thought a great thing like Christmas could be so difficult to conceptualize graphically, which gets me a little frustrated. But it’s simply because my brain is divided, split between my instinctual self and my jolly Christmas spirit. It’s just a learning curve. I
m 24. Before this month, I had no idea that Christmas in July even existed.

Finally, Christmas in July has impacted me directly by forcing me to ignore my aesthetic instincts, but I put on my elf hat and get into the Christmas spirit. . . well, as much as possible while wearing a red felt cap in 100-degree heat.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Thanks, Mom! Giving does make the world feel better

My mother is a “giver.” She’ll give you her time, money, food, probably the clothes off her back if you need them. I’ll always be grateful for the giving spirit she instilled in me as a youngster. I think that may explain why I wanted to be a philanthropist when I grew up. I believe this was Mom’s “fault.” Now that I’m grown, I still dream of being a philanthropist, and I continue to chase that dream. In the meantime I give when and what I can. I’m not talking about writing checks, although I’ve done that too, I’m talking about service. I believe everyone is obligated to give back to their own community. I also believe that everyone is able to do so.

Becoming a pet partner team with Hand in Paw is one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done. The power of a Human-Animal team is extraordinary, and you can’t quite comprehend this unless you have served or been served in this special way. It has been a life-changing experience for me, and I like to think I made many lives better with my faithful little partner, Cowboy, during the four years we worked together.

I’ll never forget the magnetic smile of a young man when we set Cowboy on his bed in the Neuro-Intensive Care until at UAB, or the thrill on the face of the Speech Therapist when the Autistic child who would not speak, said “puppy.” I still get chills when I think of the eight –year-old boy at the Comprehensive Cancer Center we spent time with every week. On his last day of radiation treatment, I was so excited for him, yet he was very sad. When I asked him why the crinkled frown, he simply replied, “I won’t get to see Cowboy anymore.” Until that moment, the real impact of our weekly visits wasn’t that apparent to me. But at that moment, it became crystal clear that Cowboy brought even more joy to this little boy than the likelihood of having another birthday party. But the best news for his family, was that getting better meant having more and more birthdays.

Birthdays, as many as possible, are meant to be celebrated. My Mom taught me that too. Many thanks to those who give, share, minister, and treat others. Together we help make kids, and the world, a little better.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Adoption Announcements – Kinda Like Having a Baby

It's natural to want to spread the news of a newborn's arrival. What about adoption? Seven years ago, my wife and I adopted two beautiful teenagers from Ukraine to join our existing family of six.

What were we thinking?
Aside from the incredible theological ramifications of being adopted by our Heavenly Father, James 1:27 came in to play - undefiled religion is equated to loving on widows and orphans.
Bringing Alexa and Jessica into the family brought many blessing. Alexa is third going left to right, and Jessica is sixth. At the time of their arrival we were excited just as if we had newborns. would have been our choice to print our adoption announcements; it just didn't exist at the time.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Ahh, Much Ado About Doing Nothing

I love being on vacation. For seven whole days I’ve got no bills to pay, no one to answer to, and my greatest obligation is to do as little as possible. I think I’m doing a mighty fine job of it. Right now I’m about to stroll over to the beach to do a bunch of nothing in the sun, but until then, I get to lie around here in the hotel and watch TV.

Now, the TV-watching is a special treat for me. A throwback to a bygone era, I don't have TV at home, so when I get to sit this close to one for this long, I feel a little like Tiny Tim at the toy store window – with money in my pocket. At least enough to borrow the shiny carousel for a week.

Here’s the thing about TV. I hear folks at work talk about this all the time – how they’ve got hundreds of channels and nothing good on any of them. Usually I just laugh and nod along with them like I can relate to what they’re talking about. But inside I recognize this as another good reason I don't need cable TV at home.

I’ve been researching it at the hotel for several days now, and my work people are right. There really is crap on TV. The commercials, however, are fabulous. I've been repeatedly amazed at how clever these advertising people are. I just saw a dog sticking its butt out a car window, which was awesome in an ironic sort of way, and even better, I saw Santa drinking a Pepsi on the beach with a bunch of young hotties. But then, Santa was on vacation. So am I, now that you mention it. (Note my dedication.)

Working in the world of marketing, great slogans stand out to me. I can't tell you how unexpected it was that I wound up in this line of work. Probably a hundred times in my younger life I declared, “There’s no way I’d ever work in advertising.” And yet here I sit. Or rather, here I lie, worthlessly, in a hotel room.

But I’ve discovered things come together the way they’re supposed to. I love it when that happens. This morning, for example, I roused my sleepy, unmotivated self out of bed for some free hotel breakfast. They’ve got one of those waffle irons where you pour the batter in, flip it over, and out comes a giant waffle of fluffy golden goodness. In 20 years (heck, maybe 40), I've probably used a waffle iron twice. I was really excited about using it today – I get homemade food without any real effort. Once I had my waffle on plate, I sat down for my morning social media fix. What did I discover? Today’s holiday: Waffle Iron Day. Kismet!

Last time I was down here on the coast, I saw what was perhaps the best worst slogan I’ve ever seen. It was a tagline for a seafood restaurant: “Dead Food. Live Music.” Ben, our creative director, says he wishes I could write stuff this good. Why don’t I churn out copy as fast as my putdowns?

I remind him that making fun of him comes naturally; selling a brand with clever, poignant prose takes a little more thought. Rebuffed, he usually backs down. He knows I’m on my game.

Next week, I’m heading to the Okefenokee! I wonder what adventures await me in that swampy, moss-covered marshland. Voodoo magic and alligators? I’d settle for some good food. Pensacola brought me waffles, maybe the Okefenokee will turn up a little poke salad.