Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Out of the Box

I'm creative.  I'm not going to feign humility here, nor am I saying that I'm more creative than everyone else... I just know I am creative.  Creative people are famous for thinking outside the box.  Unfortunately many of us suffer from a malady I will call economic deficit disorder.

Because we don't have a lot of moola we are forced to find ways to use our creativity to pay the bills.  Usually this means performing menial tasks, or using our creativity in a way that has been historically proven financially sound.  (And by the way, spell checker, "moola" is a word.  I looked it up on

I spent most of my day hemming pants and taking in the waistbands of clothing other people designed, rather than creating dazzling new boutique fashions worthy of a New York catwalk.  Okay.  I don't really want to design "those" types of clothes.  But my point is, I spent my day doing alterations and it was pretty boring.

I'm sure there are tailors out there who love alterations.  I'm sure they just can't wait to clock in at the beginning of a day and spend their hours ripping seams and re-attaching buttons.  It's just not my cup of tea.

All that time in front of a sewing machine, even if it is mundane, makes me stop and think.  I mean really think. Creatively.  Because I'm not doing anything particularly mind boggling, I have all that time to think of other things, and today those other things centered around climbing out of a box created by perceived economic necessity.

In his book, Quitter, Jon Acuff stresses the need to keep your day job.  Seems a bit backward for a book about starting your dream job.  He has a point though.  If you're too quick to jump into the work you want to do, that pesky "economic deficit disorder" hits hard and fast.  Pretty soon you aren't doing the work you love, you're taking on whatever work you can find just to pay the bills.

At a recent writers conference, and in Steven King's book On Writing, I was reminded not to become a writer for the money.  This makes a lot of sense because I've noticed that I spend an awful lot of time writing, and I still haven't gotten paid for it.  I'm sure if I was doing it for the money I would have quit by now.  (Side note: I highly recommend Mr King's book, but I have to warn you that he has a potty mouth)

God has really been challenging me lately to think outside the box.  A friend of mine is the owner of a private film company.  She makes commercials for local companies and does audio-video recordings of special events.  She once told me that her clients often criticize ideas that took her hours to come up with, because it's easier to criticize than create.

It would be simple for me to pull up numerous images of a Gaultier original.  I know I have the talent to use those images to make a knock-off.  I could probably even alter it a bit to fit an average size figure.  But, that knock-off would never be as priceless as the one Gaultier designed.  Why? Because he created the original.

I love designing, and I love writing.  They are two of my favorite things to do.  With either one I can study the works of others and try to use the established pattern of success to make some money.  If I do, I will most certainly be proud of my achievements, and I will never be famous.  I'll just blend in seamlessly with all the other folks who make a living playing copy-cat.

Or, I can start blazing my own trail, think outside the box, and dabble in the unknown.  There will be no guarantee that I will make one red cent.  I may even die before anything I've created becomes valuable.  There's not even a guarantee that anything I make will last that long.

So now I have a challenge, for myself, and for anyone who's willing to try it.  Start thinking outside the box.   Welcome critique.  Prepare to be ridiculed.  Van Gogh certainly was.  Don't just sit and copy everyone else's stuff.  Embrace that thing inside you, that reflection of the God who made you.  You may be pleasantly surprised at the results.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Frenchie's Does It Again

If we could bottle the charm of an eight year old girl we could have every nation in the world at our doorstep.

Like any good parent I want my children to be able to handle the money God gives them.  I used Dave Ramsey's suggestions about saving for their first car and decided to apply it to bicycles.  I thought that if I could get them to save up half the money for a new bike and then match their half, then later on they would understand the concept of saving up for a car.

I tried it with my son, and it didn't seem to be working.  The bike he wanted was priced around $300.  I don't know if he felt overwhelmed or just didn't catch the vision, but it took him several years to save up the money.

Since all of my children are too young to get a job, I knew I would need to offer opportunities to make money.  I made up lists of things they could do to clean various rooms of the house and assigned dollar amounts to them.  I offered to pay $1 for doing a load of laundry on their own, without prompting from me.

I would have given up on the idea if it weren't for my daughter, Hannah.  A few months after I talked to my son Hannah wanted in on the deal.  She was learning to ride like her big sister and was growing tired of waiting for a turn on Deborah's bike.  As I did with my son, I took her to Frenchie's and she found a bike that was priced around $100.  Unlike her brother, Hannah was motivated.

As an example, one day I told all three of the older kids that I would pay them $5/bag for cleaning up hedge clippings.  They had to completely fill a black landscaping bag.  My son didn't bother to try.  My older daughter filled one bag and then gave up.  Hannah filled about four bags and would have filled more if there had been more clippings to clean up.  

Within three months she had saved up her $50.  Unlike her siblings, she was motivated to earn.  I kept my end of the bargain and paid the remaining amount.  As a reward for her hard work I even paid for a little bell to be put on the bike.  The bell broke that afternoon when she wiped out for the first time.

Fast forward two years.  She's eight now, and I noticed the other day that her legs are getting too long for her old bike.  It's a great bike, very well made, but it is just too small for her.  I suggested that she start saving up for a new one.

I knew how hard she had worked to save $50 the first time around.  I knew the bigger bikes cost more money.  I didn't want her to be frustrated because she would have to save up a lot longer.  I prayed and asked God to take care of the situation.  If she needed to build the character to understand that replacing old things is a fact of life, then that would be up to God.  If He wanted to reward her diligence then He could provide the right bike for less money.

Hannah's birthday was last week.  She told a few people that she was saving up for a bike and would appreciate money instead of normal gifts.  Among her friends, her grandparents, and a wonderful lady at our church she made about $38.

Today I took her to Frenchie's to price out her new bike.  This way she would have a goal, rather than just being ambiguous.  We decided to take a look at some used bikes this time, since I knew it would be a bit cheaper that way.  She singled one out and asked one of the clerks how much it would cost.  I was surprised when he asked her how much money she had.  She proudly pulled her money out of her wallet.  $38 plus one gold dollar coin.  The man told her to save her gold coin for a rainy day.

I knew she would need a bit more than $38 to buy a bike so I pulled five $1's out of my wallet to add to her stash with the intention of paying the difference regardless.  She walked with the clerk to the cash register and to my surprise returned a moment later with three $1's to give back to me.  The clerk had charged her $40 even.

I told him how thankful I was, and how I our family had already bought three bikes there and would definitely be back the next time we needed one.  He told Hannah that if any thing went wrong or got broken she could bring it back and they would fix it.  Hannah mentioned that she had a bell on her old bike that was broken.  As if giving her a bike for $40 wasn't enough, he went in the back and found a bell to put on the handle bars.

Oh, and among the used bikes I found this beauty... I guess it's time for Mama to save up for a new bike. ;)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Unopened Gifts

I receive hundreds of gifts every day.  Most of them remain unopened.  On Christmas Day I am not so ignorant.  A physical package placed before me is much harder to miss.  As it is, these gifts don't come wrapped up in boxes, with shiny ribbons.  They are intangible, but more real than most people realize. 

My observational skills were a bit more awake than usual today.  This morning I counted several.  

1) The warmth of my toddler pressed up against my back as I woke.  She had another nightmare last night and came to sleep in my room.  She shifts against me like a kitten and I dare not move lest she awaken and the moment pass.  

2) The ability to imagine.  This gift was passed on to me by my parents, wise as they are.  I was able to lay in bed and conjure up pictures I can only hope to transcribe someday.  For now they are mine to do with as I please.

3) My husband's arm wrapped around my waist, his lips pressed gently against my hair.  I know too many with broken homes.  I dare not take this gift for granted.  

4) The technology provided to me allowing me to touch others with my writing.  If I were to use pen and paper I doubt anyone would ever see this list or share this thought.  

5) Cool peppermint leaves immersed in my cup of water.  It's hard enough for me to keep plants alive in my yard.  For some mint is a weed, for me it's a spark of hope that perhaps I'm not completely void of gardening skills.  

The longer I think, and the more I open my mind the more gifts I realize are at my fingertips.  Air to breathe and air conditioning to cool it.  The roof over my head, and all the objects that fit under it.  My children, their personalities challenging me to always be more than I thought I could be.  

Ann Voskamp, the author of "One Thousand Gifts" said this, "I want to see beauty. In the ugly, in the sink, in the suffering, in the daily, in all the days before I die, the moments before I sleep.”  Her insight is itself another gift to be opened.  I read her book over a year ago.  I forget so quickly.   

I will start again.  I will observe.  I will let no gift remain unopened.  I will unwrap each one as it is given to me, savoring the contents, keeping them forever in my heart.

Luke 11:13 -  "If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him."