Wednesday, May 30, 2007

keeping busy

i got up early this morning to finish a project - it can be difficult to separate life and work when your office is 10 feet from your bedroom and your cell phone and email gives everyone instant access to you.

the last couple of weeks have been insanely busy.


this week either daniel or i have something going on EVERY night so we aren't seeing much of each other, i will be glad when it is the weekend.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Memorial Weekend

Saturday, Daniel's manager came over so that Daniel could do some work on his Jeep and to help us install some baseboard.

We managed to get the office knocked out, but he left us with more ideas and projects to complete. So now we still have a long list of items to finish in the house.


I mowed the lawn while the guys worked. Our grass is extremely crunchy and we are in some desperate need of rain - we are officially in drought because we haven't had rainfall in 15 days!


Sunday morning, we went to the Original Pancake House for brunch and then home to work. I was outside painting baseboard and listening to the sounds of summer: kids yelling and splashing in sprinklers, dogs barking, lawn mowers cutting, when our neighbor popped out from his fence and invited us over to their lunch cookout.


I didn't want to be un-neighborly, so Daniel and I stopped working at 1 to join the neighbors and their extended family for their Memorial Day cookout. This family is from NY and they fed us White Hots (big, white hot dogs) and educated us as to what a "Garbage Plate" is.


After a couple of hours, we excused ourselves in an attempt to get some work done on the house. We had to stop again at 5 to get to Life Group. I took dessert and my friends wanted to know if it was home made. I said, "No" because I had purchased the angel food cake from the store and then worked my magic on it. They laughed at me and said that if I did not buy it pre-made then it was home made. I conceded that it was semi-home made and only took me 10 minutes.


Sunday night we came home and finished cutting the floor out of the closet so that we can frame out the closet.


Monday we worked on the framing and also caulked the baseboards in the office. We had to stop around noon to head to a cookout with some people from Daniel's work. You never know how a get together will turn out when you don't know anyone, but this turned out to be a lot of fun. Afterwards we headed home to finish some of our house projects before the weekend was over.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Race Week

This week is RACE WEEK in Charlotte. So all (or most) race fans are gathered in the city of Charlotte for good music, bands, race cars in the streets and a big party every night uptown for the week.

Daniel says that uptown has been a mad-house all week and that when he left at noon to come home today, the air smelled like beer.


Anyways, we too will join the frenzy tonight when we brave the crowds to go see Better Than Ezra at 10:15. We have gone to a portion of RACE WEEK every year that we have been here.


It is really strange b/c uptown Charlotte is the ultra-conservative place where you only see people in suits, but during RACE WEEK, all sorts of people come out of the woodwork (granted they are not your typical Charlotteans) and it is definitely an interesting experience.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Boundaries


our life group is currently reading a book called, Boundaries. in general i have felt that i do a good job at setting boundaries but this week i realized that as a freelancer where designing is my livelihood, i CANNOT take every little project that people what me to do for free, even if it is for a good cause. i just did 5 pro bono assignments in less than 2 weeks - what was i thinking??? i just had to tell someone from my church that i have created a new boundary that means that i only do 1 pro bono project per month (which is really covered by the committee I am volunteering on) and after my quota is full, i will CHARGE... anyways, that is my rant for the day. i have to take care of myself and that means getting paid for what i do.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Do you think about hunger?

There are so many people in America and in this world that deal with hunger on a daily basis. Do you think about hunger when you are going through your day-to-day life? 2nd Harvest Foodbank in Charlotte, NC has requested the help of 100 local churches to help fight hunger that many children will experience. This slide deck was created to encourage the members of Providence Road Church of Christ to think about hunger and to do something about it.

Click
here to view slide deck from Slideshare's site.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Camping/My Journal


We had a really good time camping with Angela & Robert this weekend at Fall Creek Falls. The weather was perfect and overall the campground was good. Daniel and I generally avoid campgrounds - we prefer camping where there are no people, but we made the exception so that Angela could sleep on an air mattress ;)

  
Anyways, the first night Daniel and I got stuck in the overflow camping area and it was awful b/c we were crammed in next to other people. The 2nd night we did manage to get a nice secluded spot with lots of trees and no one around - which was much better.


This weekend I came to the end of my "written" journal. I keep a written account of all trips that we take. Sometimes I make other people write their thoughts - thank you Angela, Robert and Daniel - I might even posts yall's thoughts later. 


I looked back through my journal b/c it is sad to come to the end but it is also an exciting prospect to start a new one. This journal actually started with a camping trip to Myrtle Beach with my brother in the summer of 05 and it ended with a camping trip to Fall Creek Falls with my sister and brother-in-law this weekend.
 

This journal has spanned several trips to TN and AR as well as our trips to Oregon and Canada. It has brief thoughts on hurricane Katrina and war. It covers my frustration with work as well as the elated feeling of quitting a job. There are trips with friends and trips with family. Our summer of bad luck, our hitch hiking experience. 


I periodically look back at where we were compared to where we are now. Life speeds by so quickly, sometimes it is nice to stop and think about the past.

 

Friday AM

I just finished my vanilla latte and piece of banana loaf from Starbucks and I am waiting on Daniel to give me a call to come pick him up. I would much rather be waiting at Starbucks than to be at the dentist like Daniel is. We are headed to Tennessee for the weekend to see Angela and Robert one last time before they leave for Zambia – also to give them our backpacks for traveling. With gas reaching $3.10/gallon, this weekend will probably be our last traveling weekend until my family reunion in August…

It is so odd to me that I can be sitting outside of Starbucks, enjoying one of the many fountains in Charlotte, while picking up internet from Stool Pidgeons. I love that I can conduct my business pretty much anywhere – coffee shops, my home office, my bed, at client’s offices, etc.


My favorite is meeting a client for coffee. This gets me out of my home office and interacting with real people. I try to avoid working from bed, but I broke down and designed a set of symbols while in bed yesterday because I am fighting a cold and just didn’t feel like getting up. So even though I didn’t feel good, I was still productive.


It is odd how my confidence with freelancing cycles. Most days I feel good about my business. I am slowly, but surely growing it. Other days I wonder what the heck I am doing and that maybe I should rejoin the “real world.” The only problem with the “real world” is that I don’t really fit into that mold. Maybe no one does, but we all keep trying to force ourselves to fit the mold…

Thursday, May 17, 2007

time

why is it that when you punch 30 seconds on the microwave and wait, it seems like forever? however if you punch 30 seconds and then try to do something, you don't have enough time? perception of time is a strange thing.

Communication Addiction

My 21-year-old brother is spending the next 6 weeks in New Zealand on a mission trip with his university. Yesterday he posted this on his facebook notes: 
So I have:
...no phone/text 
...no personal computer
...no tv
...no car
...no music
...no summer hot time

I feel like I am at a drug rehabilitation center or detox center for some reason. Well we do have these routine schedules that we follow and we do these service projects and have devos and meetings and talk about our feelings a lot. It's just so weird to only have internet really to contact people I guess we humans have become to interconnected for our own good. I think this will have a positive effect on me. I think everyone once in a while to remove one's self from one's life and just breath and not worry. And I guess that's what I'm doing.
His observations got me to thinking about my own life. I can barely go on a weekend getaway with my husband without taking my laptop. I constantly want to know what is going on with my family, friends, business, the world, etc.

It is strange to me that I put off getting a cell phone until several years after college. Now my husband and I do not even own a home phone line. In general it is good to be connected. I can be online in North Carolina and my brother can be online talking to me simultaneously in New Zealand. The world sure has gotten smaller.

Some days I need to make more of an effort to "unplug" from it though. Maybe this weekend, I will leave my laptop at home when I go camping...

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

angry bird

there is a little bird sitting outside of my window chirping furiously. i am not sure what is making it so mad, but it is driving me crazy!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Non Profit Organizations

I feel that I am on the brink of seriously broadening my horizons. Several weeks ago I sent out marketing piece advertising my services specifically to non-profit organizations. I feel that non-profit organizations are lacking in good design, so I am starting a journey of offering my services as a designer at a discounted rate.

Yesterday I had my first official meeting with the Latin American Coalition. They desparately need their website redesigned. As we talked and they showed me what they were about, I realized that there is so much that I do not know. It is so easy to form on-the-spot opinions based on the news and what others say.


Today I had another meeting with a friend who is also trying to help a non profit called, 2nd To None. We are hoping to collaborate our services to help this organization.


I am also volunteering for a committee at church where we are communicating the importance of helping people. The first big project is a food drive. In Charlotte, NC it is very easy to forget that our city is full of poverty and hunger.


My eyes are being opened with each new project.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Picture Analogy


A picture is worth a thousand words. Tonight I was reading "Made to Stick" by Chip and Dan Heath and I was struck by the example they shared in their introduction, entitled "The Truth About Movie Popcorn."
 
In this particular example, they told how Art Silverman was given the task of communicating the unhealthiness of movie popcorn - 37 grams of saturated fat of unhealthiness to be exact.

To the general public, 37 grams of sat fat means nothing. Art knew the importance of communicating the extent of this unhealthy food and he came up with this stunning visual: one medium bag of movie popcorn was = to a bacon & egg biscuit breakfast, a Big Mac and fries AND a steak dinner with all of the trimmings.

When looking at this type of visual it is much easier to comprehend the unhealthiness of the movie popcorn. This illustration was able to convey an idea of unhealthiness and changed the way that movie theaters popped their popcorn.

Finding the right picture analogy can create a lasting impact.

Dave Ramsey

Last Thursday I had the privelege of attending a Dave Ramsey, Total Money Make-Over Seminar in Birmingham, Alabama. My husband and I have read some of Dave Ramsey's books and when we lived in Tennessee, we would periodically listen to or watch his show. 
 
We had never heard him live, so we were unsure of what to expect. Right before the 3-hour seminar started, by husband leaned over and whispered that he hoped this wouldn't be a bunch of motivational mumbo-jumbo.

This turned out to be one of the best seminars I have ever sat through. Dave had us laughing the entire time. He has this way of walking around on stage and making you wait for the punch line. The entire audience related well. He spoke to the difference between husband's and wives when it comes to money. I found myself periodically nudging my husband. With clips of baby steps from "What About Bob" thrown in for good measure, it was hard to miss any of his points.

From a design perspective, I didn't feel that Mr. Ramsey had the best slides, but he had something better - a powerful message and a charismatic way of delivering. If you have never heard Dave Ramsey speak, I would highly recommend him. He is a great speaker and he has a topic that most American need to hear - he conveys a good "one-size-fits-most" message to people trying to get out of debt.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Atlanta, Birmingham, Dave Ramsey & Trek Bikes

This note is a condensed version of the last 3 days for me and Daniel.

Thursday we left Charlotte at noon to head to Birmingham to meet friends and hear
Dave Ramsey speak. We hit Atlanta at 3:30. How a city can have traffic on a Thursday at 3:30 is beyond me. I am glad that where we live in Charlotte does not require us to sit in traffic for ridiculous amounts of traffic for ridiculous amounts of time on a daily basis.

Birmingham was nice. It was great to see our friends, Marshall & Hillary. Dave Ramsey was a great speaker. If you have never heard him speak, I would highly recommend him. While I do not agree with everything he has to say, he does offer some stellar "one size fits most" advice on finances. Someone told us that they thought Dave Ramsey was a bit of an extremist. Since most people in America are in debt, I think there is a need for extreme measures for us to conquer this mountain of debt we all continue to build.


Friday morning we had breakfast with our friends and then booked it home. Once again, Atlanta traffic sucked. We made a short detour to see a bike dealership which involved wandering through Atlanta neighbors hoods instead of sitting on I-85 but it still was bad.


We made back to Charlotte with 1.5 hours to spare before Daniel's Dad & Grandma rolled in. We frantically cleaned for 1.5 hours and were still vacuuming when they pulled in the driveway. Talk about an exhausting day!


Today we got up and I cooked a country breakfast of sausage, eggs, bacon & biscuits. This is what Daniel's grandma always cooks for us, so I figured it would be nice to make it for her.


Then we headed toward Belmont where we dropped Daniel's dad off at the Belmont Abby College and then we cruised over to the
US National White Water Center where TREK was offering free mountain bike demos. We had 45 minutes to test Gary Fisher bikes on the 7 miles of mountain bike trails. The bikes were full suspension and rocked. I dont know if mountain biking on my crappy, cheap mountain bike with no suspension and terrible shocks will ever be the same.

We need to go spend an ENTIRE day at the white water center so we can kayak, rock climb and mountain bike - now that would be a fun day. We just need to drop $5000+ for 2 really awesome bikes... what would Dave Ramsey say???

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Exhausted

Do you ever just get to a point where you are so exhausted that you feel like you have hit a wall? I went to bed at 2 am last night and then was up about 7 am this morning. I have been going hard all day. I was grocery shopping about half an hour ago and it hit me that I can barely think and I feel like I am going to fall over. My coffee from this morning must have worn off. I think I need a nap before Daniel gets home from work.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Oops.

Tonight I had a dinner meeting at Maggiano's in SouthPark at 6:30. Daniel had work to do so we agreed to just see each other when we both got home.

Well, my cell phone fell out my purse in the car and I didn't realize it and my dinner meeting ended up lasting until 10 p.m.


Let's just say that Daniel was less than thrilled that I was out so late without calling to let him know that the meeting was lasting longer than expected OR the fact that he was unable to reach me on my phone. Oops.

scatter brained or just an idiot?

In the last 10 days, I have completely forgotten about 3 different, important events. I am not sure if my scatter-brainedness is just getting worse or if I am just a complete idiot.

A week ago Saturday, I was supposed to attend an event, Uptown, called All Fired Up. I had 2 free passes to go because I had created the invitations for the event. It was a pottery demonstration/live music/free meal/fun event that I completely forgot about and we ended up missing. Besides that fact that it would have been fun and it was free (tickets were $50/each), I missed an opportunity to network...


Then this past week, Daniel called me up on Thursday wanting to know if he could plan something for the weekend. Without really thinking, I said SURE. We were almost to Hilton Head when it dawned on me that we were supposed to attend a party on Saturday afternoon hosted by my mentor from church!!! So I called her and apologized for having to skip.


Third times a charm... we got home on Sunday and all of a sudden it occurred to me that I am on a committee at church that was meeting Sunday morning during second service. Not only is it bad that I missed without informing anyone, it is worse b/c I am a co-leader on said committee. I called and apologized and am meeting the 2 guys on my team tonight for dinner to discuss what we should have discussed Sunday!


Maybe I need to invest in a crackberry...

Monday, May 07, 2007

Clients - Urgh!!!!

Can I just say that is extremely frustrating when you send an invoice to a client and they call you up complaining that their bill is too high.

They think that a postcard design with 3 different comps, copy AND all corrections and file prep time should have only taken you 2 hours when it took you closer to 6.


They proceed to tell you that since you are a professional it should only take you 2 hours because you "know what you are doing" and that they could produce the same work if they sat down for 5 hours!!!


This is the time when freelancing really sucks.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Hilton Head 2007


Last Thursday, Daniel gave me a call from work and asked me if I would mind if he made some plans for the weekend. We haven’t really worked on our house since November, but Daniel rarely takes the initiative to make plans, so I said sure. Our house will eventually get finished and I love surprises and going places.


This morning, I am sitting on the porch of our condo at the Disney Resort in Hilton Head. I am looking out over the marsh and the rain is falling and the thunder is rolling. It is our last day here and for me it is a perfect end to our weekend.
 
Daniel and I are not your typical Hilton Head visitors. This is our third visit to the island and we do our own thing and love it. We don’t golf and we are not big beach people but we love the relaxed feeling and the lack of commercialism of the island. Another thing we love is the 50+ miles of bike paths.

On this particular visit we tried to do things in a more “local” fashion. We found restaurants that the locals frequent, spent several hours biking, took a nap on the beach, took a long walk on the beach, played checkers, visited a local coffee house and took advantage of cable television.
 

Daniel and I are definitely learning to appreciate each other and to compromise. My idea of a vacation is to “go, go, go” the entire time while Daniel appreciates just relaxing. I think we accomplished both. We have enjoyed sleeping in and being lazy while also spending time biking over 20 miles.


Two years ago, on our first trip to Hilton Head, we rented beach bikes and road all over the island. Daniel convinced me to ride over this huge bridge, which I agreed to. At that time I had not ridden a bike in over 10 years and beach bikes do not have gears so it was a REALLY difficult ride.


Yesterday we rode over that same bridge with our mountain bikes, which have gears. I have also been riding my bike pretty frequently in the last year. It turned out to be a decent workout and a lot of fun to ride over that same bridge. Having gears made a huge difference in my experience.

Our eating experience this weekend has been great. Friday night we found a “local” restaurant, The Sea Shack. It reminds me of Bobby’s in Searcy only they serve great seafood. For about $10 each, we got massive plates of seafood. I had blackened fish and shrimp with to-die-for mac and cheese, fries and hush puppies. The blackened fish and shrimp was awesome but very spicy. My mouth and lips were on fire the whole time. Thank goodness for that mac and cheese to tone it done. The mac and cheese was the best I have EVER had! Daniel had grilled Tilapia with fries, apple sauce and hush puppies – also an excellent choice. The next time we come we are definitely going back – you can’t beat the prices, the amount of food, quality of the food or atmosphere.
 
Sea Shack on Urbanspoon

For lunch yesterday, we stopped at a small café while we were on our bike ride. The Market Street Café had a lot of Greek items on the menu. We enjoyed outdoor dining and I had a Souvlakia with lamb while Daniel had the Greek salad with chicken. Both were really good and we enjoyed sitting outside with other vacationers.


Market Street Cafe on Urbanspoon



Last night we ate at the New York Pizza restaurant. This is a good place for large groups. The pizza was fairly the good except we were a little disappointed because the middle of it was soggy.

New York City Pizza on Urbanspoon


After dinner we ran by Java Joe’s where I tried a Hazelnut Latte – I would definitely recommend this coffee house. They have a variety of joe as well as liquer-coffee and wi-fi. Their desserts are supposed to be really good. Also they are close to the beach, so we took our coffee and walked down to the beach and enjoyed a walk at dusk.

Java Joe's Gourmet Coffees on Urbanspoon



At the beach we saw a group of girls dressed up in crazy 80’s prom dresses. When we left the beach we saw a van that had “I Love the 80’s” and other crazy things written on it – I am pretty sure this was a bachelor-ette party. What a great theme – they looked like they were having a good time being crazy.

Yesterday, at lunch, we sat by a group of girls about our age. It really made me wish that I had girlfriends to go on a weekend getaway with or better, other couples to go on a getaway with. We have done that twice – once with Angela & Robert and Mark & Carolina to Hilton Head and once with 3 other couples from our Life Group to Snowshoe. Both of those trips were so much fun and I really wish we could do that type of thing more often.


The best way we could end this trip would be to find a local pancake house - eating out for breakfast is one of my favorite things.


It is so peaceful right now. The rain is letting up and the fog has rolled out. It is still overcast, but we are leaving today so that is okay. My only disappointment is our camera. It stopped working for an unknown reason yesterday while we were at the beach, so we have limited pictures - that is ok because we have pictures from other trips and I am sure we will be back.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Red Penguin

At my last job, the president/COO of the company, Pat Riley, was always talking about the Red Penguin experience. Basically a Red Penguin is someone who exhibits a wow factor, they go above and beyond what is expected of them, thus adding intrensic value to their business.
 
An simple example of this would be employees at Chick-fil-A always saying, "My pleasure" when they serve you.

I believe that Seth Godin calls this type of person/experience the "Purple Cow."

Whether you are talking about penguins or cows, I think that the message of these men is that in this over-crowded markeplace, you have to find ways to stand out from your competition.

This morning I had a Red Penguin at Starbucks. I was up early, working on a last minute project, and then I had to run my husband to the bus stop at 6:00 a.m. Since I was up and working, I took the opportunity to run into my local Starbucks.

The woman behind the counter was a wonderful example of a Red Penguin. After taking my order, she took the time to converse with me. She asked me about my weekend plans and then was generally excited for me when I told her that I was going to the beach. I am not the type of person to shout out my plans to the world so it felt good to have personal interaction, even with a stranger.

After I left her post and waited for my coffee to be mixed, I listened as she continued to be genuinely interested in the customers in line behind me.

In our world of drive-up/drive-through/walk-through machines where you can choose to avoid human contact, it is refreshing to have a person interested in you. She could have taken my order and still been courteous, but she went above and beyond and took the time to connect with me.

Maybe it is a woman thing, but connecting with people, whether they are strangers, friends or family is important to me and I feel that it is becoming a lost commodity. If you are looking for a way to stand out from the competition, try connecting with your customers/clients on a human level.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

have a headache

It is super humid outside. I shouldn't complain too much because there is no comparison between here and Arkansas humidity, I am just not ready for the heat yet.

I have been running ragged today and yesterday. When you are freelancing and your office is a bedroom in your home, you have to meet clients all over the place.


Yesterday morning I had to book it over to north Charlotte for a "coffee" meeting at a Starbucks and then back to south Charlotte for an afternoon "coffee" meeting at Caribou Coffee.


Today was lunch with my copy writer and then off to a last minute meeting in another town, south of Charlotte, for a meeting with a real estate agent at her office. Followed by a conference call with my partner in Nashville to discuss what we should do about our start-up business...


It is great to be busy but the mileage is adding up and I have been sweating all day from running from one place to another and now I have a headache. At least I am currently staying busy and I can claim mileage and food expenses as tax write-offs...

paying cash for gas???

Today I stopped by a local Citgo that I frequent to fill up my Pathfinder. I was somewhat annoyed to see that all of the pumps had notes on them saying that they were only accepting cash inside because their pay-at-the-pump machines were not working.

I left and went across the street to another gas station for a couple of reasons:

  1. The lack of convenience
  2. Long lines at the one register inside due to EVERYONE having to pay cash inside
  3. I do not generally carry cash with me, certainly not $50 to fill up my Pathfinder at $2.89/gallon
  4. I was just plain annoyed
If you want my business, you really need to provide a convenient way for me to pay with plastic...

home alone on a saturday

it is a beautiful day and i am home alone because daniel had to finish up some work is at the office. i am so thankful that his job does not regularly make him have to work extras hours because it definitely sucks when he does.

i just finished mowing the lawn and i suppose i will go look at the fabric store to see if i can decide on fabric to make curtains...

Get Wet

"There are no right answers. But there is a right question. It's the one that rubs up against our self-righteousness, resistance and fears.... When you ask yourself, "Why not?" you may find yourself in motion, across a vivid and unpredictable landscape, over impossible mountains and beyond the water's edge, where you surprise yourself, once and for all, by getting wet." - Karen Maezen Miller, in Momma Zen (Trumpeter)

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

late nite bike ride...

daniel is working late. he should be home soon and then we are going on a quick bike ride before bed. i will be so thankful when his 3 big projects are finished.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Wachovia Championship

Traffic is bad this week in Charlotte thanks to the Wachovia Championshop. Tomorrow Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan will be teeing off together. People around here are crazy about golf.

The Other Inconvenient Truth per Ernie Schenck

In the March/April 2007 issue of Communication Arts Magazine, in the advertising column, Ernie Schenck warns about the war on creativity in our culture. This is an article that I would highly recommend that you read. 

The education system in the US is going to pot. Every time you see a comparison of grade scores from around the world, US children continue to lag behind in English, Math and Science. They are even further behind in Reasoning/Problem Solving.

I remember back to ten years ago when I was in high school taking the ACT and how everyone was deathly afraid of the Reasoning part of the test. This is because we were not trained to be thinkers and problem solvers. I was one of the few to score relatively high in this area.

What will happen in the next 10 years as less and less students come out of the American education system less and less prepared? Who will come up with new inventions and solve our world's problems? Will there be anyone who knows how to truly be creative or will they continue to insist on taking ideas from others and recylcing them as their own? There are days that I worry tremendously about the future of this country because it will always rest on the shoulders of the generations to come...

Grayson Highlands, 2017

I'm so thankful we were able to spend last weekend as a family, tucked away in the Virginia mountains, just the four of us. It was a ...