Thursday, January 27, 2011

Evangelism Wear - Yes, it WORKS!

Yesterday, my friend James asked me to put part of a verse of Scripture, in Greek, into a word cloud style design for a t-shirt. The task seemed simple enough to start with, but let me assure you, typographic art is not nearly as simple as it might appear, especially when you're using Greek!

It was a challenge but a fun challenge, and I came up with this:

Now here's the part I think is sort of funny. You see, Christian t-shirts should be used/worn with the idea of evangelism in mind. As in, "hey, that's an interesting shirt". This is a great way to spark conversation, talk about what your t-shirt says and what it means, and get the person thinking about the verse or the meaning of the verse.

Why is this funny? Well, based on the comments left at James' twitter feed and FB wall after he posted a link to it, I already know it works exactly as intended because many many people (Christians) responded and essentially said "nice, but what does it say?"

I was quite pleased with the way this turned out, and you can get yours here at my zazzle shop, or here with a brand new merchandise supplier of fantastic colored hoodies.

Just be sure you know what it says before you wear it because... you WILL be asked!

(For those who aren't sure, the image says "No one can say, Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit.")

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Monday, January 17, 2011

Comfort in Pain

I'm going to begin this post by admitting upfront that it's a post I did not want to write. For days now I've tried to just forget about it and let other things keep me busy but I am not being allowed the luxury of forgetting about it and moving on. Not to sound all mystical and whatnot, but I take that to mean this is a post that I need to write, even if I don't really want to write it. I honestly don't know who the "need" is for, and it may be just for me. Or, you.

Back on the 11th of January, Phil Johnson posted a link on twitter that I clicked on, and read. His tweet said "Heart-rending: Pray for Tricia Williford and family". In more ways than I can explain, I wish I wouldn't have clicked the link and yet at the same time I'm very glad that I did. If you would like to go and read it for yourself, you should know that it's the retelling of a very sad day recently when a woman lost her husband to a sudden illness, and her raw emotions as the reality of what was happening, unfolded before her.

Before I go on, I'd like to take a few minutes to sort of vent a little about grief and the grieving process. I'm not even sure "vent" is the right word, but it's the best one I can think of just now so it will have to do. Grief, and the grieving process after someone close to you passes on, is one of those subjects almost no one wants to talk about. Understandably so, it's a sad and heartbreaking subject and if there is a football game or a political news bit or some other scandelous or equally entertaining tidbit of news or whatnot to talk about instead of grief and grieving, that's what you'll find people talking about. This is not to be accusitory or anything like that, because if I'm 100% honest I'm pretty sure I'd do it too. My hat is off to people in the field such as grief counsellors, hospital chaplains, hospice workers, funeral home workers and the like. They spend their career caring for others in their most vulnerable state ever, and it's the hardest work any person will ever do. Those folks deserve much much praise.

For the very same reason other folks don't want to talk about it is the same reason I really didn't want to write about it. It's a sad subject and it makes me sad, and will probably make you sad too (unless you're already sad due to grieiving and then it will likely have an entirely different impact on you). However, because I tried really hard to forget about Phil Johnson's link, and Tricia Williford's blog post, and the whole experience she went through and was entirely unsuccessful at it, I knew I needed to write this and say a few things about the subject.

It's All Normal

I do not know Tricia Williford but as a former widow I can tell you that we are connected in a way that only widows can be. As I read more of her blog I learned that we both snort sometimes when we laugh and were both nearly the same age when becoming a widow. Then I read that she's an editor and would likely cringe a great deal at my horrific writing, so the similarities stop there. In any event...

As I read the account she wrote about the day her husband died in front of her, my eyes began to well up and my nose began to itch pretty much the same way they're doing now. You see, I've been where she was and in my mind's eye it's all still very fresh, even though it's been over 15 years ago. When I read she found herself a little surprised that all she said was "okay" when she was informed that the emergency medical techs had done all they could and he was gone, I just sat here and nodded. See, you might suspect that you'll react with some larger than life kind of reaction, or flip out like what you've seen on tv or in movies, but sometimes all you say is "okay". Of course it's not okay, but somehow your heart and your mind disconnect at that moment in time and your heart runs one direction and your analytical brain takes over in a type of auto-pilot and "okay" is the most logical response.

Often the next response you might be surprised coming out of your own mouth is "what do we do now?" Your heart doesn't want to know what to do now, your heart is hiding away in unbelief and unbelievable pain, but your brain is in auto-pilot and taking care of business. The thing about this is, it is entirely normal. It doesn't mean you're emotionless, or don't really care or anything like that at all. It simply means this is one of the ways people normally respond to a surreal, impossible, traumatic moment. For the record however, flipping out, screaming, crying, being struck mute, or just walking away, those are all normal reactions as well.

I can only speak to this from a spousal perspective but I will say there is no such thing as a "proper" response to hearing that the one person on this planet you shared your heart with has just stepped out of this life into eternity. It is the most devastating news you will ever hear, even if it's at the end of a prolonged illness. You can prepare yourself as much as possible but there really isn't anything you can do to "prepare" yourself for that moment of finality when it's over, and someone says it outloud, and you know it's actually over.

Because I Was There

As I read Tricia's account of her final moments with her husband, I just kept nodding through tears. I didn't really want to keep reading but I wanted to keep reading at the same time. In a way that I can't explain I know that she was writing it because she had to as much as I was reading it because I needed to. I know that might not make sense to anyone else, but it makes sense to me. When she wrote about the way their eyes locked for the last time, I remembered. When she wrote about the last words he said, the last conversation they had, I remembered those too. When she wrote about holding him until she saw his skin color change, I definitely remembered. I suppose I could look it up on google and find out, but the truth is I have no idea how long it takes between the moment of death and the moment there is a noticable difference in the color of the skin. What I do know, is that there is an immediate change in the physical appearance of a person when their soul is no longer in their body and their skin does take on what seems to be an immediate grayish color. In my own personal experience that physical change came in just moments, even though it felt like seconds, I'm sure. I also know that this is a very unpleasant topic and most people definitely do not want to talk about it or hear about it. However, if you are with your loved one when they go, you'll notice it and you'll remember it and somehow, in some way I can't explain, it's comforting to know that others have experienced this as well. There are others who do know how you felt at that moment because they've felt it too. If you have gone through being at the bedside of someone you love when they leave this life, there are certain things that you will remember and quite vividly, that you really never wanted to have as part of your memories of that person but they're there all the same and always will be. It's definitely heartbreaking but at the same time, in a way that only Christians will understand, there is a profound inner rejoicing in knowing at that moment in time, while you were still saying goodbye, they were present with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. It is the most bittersweet moment, but you hang onto the sweet as it brings great comfort.

Grieving is one of those things that defies a neat and tidy little definition or limit, or explaination. Just a few moments before I started to write this I noticed a friend of mine posted a FB status where she mentioned a sudden outburst of tears she had today for her dad, who passed away in November. What sparked the outburst? An item on a grocery store shelf. It's this kind of thing that you least expect and is perfectly normal and will happen. His favorite shoes, that stupid commercial she always laughed at, those chips he liked, the smell of woodsmoke in the fall, the way the sunset turns the sky a brilliant display of pinks and purples, or the color you painted the downstairs bathroom that he absolutely hated. You can be weeks, months or even years down the road from the passing of a loved one and quite literally out of nowhere something like this comes up and just dives right straight into the center of your heart and fresh tears begin to flow. That's perfectly normal too, because that person was a part of your life and your world and their likes, dislikes and memories you shared together - that connection will always be, even if they are no longer here.

I think I needed to write this because there are a lot of people that don't understand grief. I think I also needed to write this because I know people that right this minute are experiencing a death anniversary of someone they loved so much. I think maybe I also needed to write this for Tricia so that she knows she's not alone, even though we don't know each other and will likely never meet this side of Heaven. I think I also might have needed to write this because I know so many people very close to me that often feel like it's something they can't or shouldn't talk about because doing so brings other people down. Maybe I also needed to write this so that I could strongly encourage grief counselling even if it's years after the fact. I just can't recommend it enough, and it's never too late to spill your heart to a professional counsellor and learn healthy, positive, practical ways of dealing with your emotions that stem from losing a loved one. It's one of the hardest things you'll ever go through, and not all of us know how to handle it very well. That's what grief counselling is for, to better equip us to process all the emotions, reactions and even trouble we might have in our relationships with others.

As I sit here and think for a minute about all the people I know who've lost loved ones and still grieve for them, a lot of names come to mind. Names I don't get to say very often anymore because they're not here and talking about them doesn't happen much. This is one of those sensitive things that people aren't sure about and don't want to mention in case they'll upset you. Sometimes I think not hearing their names makes us feel like they've just been forgotten. We certainly haven't forgotten them. We haven't forgotten Ben, Harry, Jasper, Bruce, Bruce, or Rosemary's dad, James' mom, Phil's mom, Stephanie's grandma, Victoria's son, Tricia's husband, Barb, Michael or Keith, or the countless other people I could mention. These are people that were a huge part of someone's life and it's still good to hear their names, and know others remember them too.

I don't have any kind of fantastic closing for this post, so this will have to suffice. Just know that if you're grieving today, there are many who grieve with you and understand at least some of what you're going through.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Friday, January 7, 2011

For the Girls: Kitchen Questions

Okay ladies, this one is for you:

You know those awful, ugly, brown rings you get on your stove around the burners? What's the best product on the market for dissolving that junk and getting rid of it?

Not that I'm afraid of a little elbow grease, but I'd love to find a product that makes the job a little easier, if possible.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Custom Work? Yes I do!

It's funny how sometimes a nice surprise shows up from a place you never expected. That happened to me recently when a lady contacted me and asked me to do a custom birthday invitation for her daughter.

She had seen this invitation in my store Reflections for a sweet sixteen party, and wondered if I could do some heavy editing on that and turn it into a mall scavenger hunt flyer. To be honest, my first thought was "hmmm". Only because I'd never even heard of a mall scavenger hunt, let alone what a mall scavenger hunt birthday party invitation might look like. I did what any resourceful person does and turned to my pal google to get a better idea/understanding of what these mall scavenger hunts are all about. First, I wish I could have one for my birthday and second, they look like a LOT of fun for girls of any age, really. I know that sounds funny to those who know me best and know how much I hate shopping. This is different though, this is sport/competition shopping, with prizes! :o) At any rate, I digress.

For several days and with multiple emails back and forth (let's use this font, move that up, change that color, slide that over, etc.) I finally had the perfect layout for the mall scavenger hunt birthday party flyer. But, it wasn't the first sample I'd sent this client. Initially I created one and sent her the sample but she had me make a lot of changes to that and by the time it was finished it looked quite a bit different than that first sample. For privacy reasons (her daughter's picture and name are on the actual product) I can't show you the finished work but this is very close to the way it looks.

Once it was finished, I looked at the initial sample I'd sent her and decided to heavily re-edit that one as well and offer it for sale at Birthday Sweeties. The ironic thing is, the changes I made were ones that the client had specifically asked for, for hers, and changes I would have not considered myself. In a very real way, working with this lady was a blessing to me as well since she gave me some ideas that were a bit new to me, and stretched my way of thinking on certain things. She was a very VERY picky client, and the thing about that is, it's the BEST kind of client to have. They really know what they do want, what they don't want, and how they want the layout to look. It's a lot easier to work with people like that than it is to work with someone who just isn't sure and would like to see several sample styles. Much more effecient to work with picky people! :o)

The really sweet added bonus is, without me ever mentioning it to the client, she found this redone mall scavenger hunt birthday invitation at Birthday Sweeties (she contacted me through my main store Reflections) and left a really nice comment there. I was quite surprised to see that when I logged into that account to leave a thank you message for a lady who just bought 20 of them for her own daughter!

So this custom design story has a really happy ending. They should all end this way!

If you have a special event coming that you'd like custom invitations for, please consider my collection at Reflections (all invitations) or my collection of invitations at Birthday Sweeties.

Whether it's a birthday, baby shower, sweet sixteen party, family reunion, graduation celebration, pool party, Christmas party, Thanksgiving dinner, St. Paddy's Day party, New Year's Eve event, Halloween party or just about any other event you've got planned, you're sure to find a great invitation template there you can personalize. If you see an invitation you like but would like further customized, I can do that too! Just contact me any time with your customization requests and I'd be happy to work with you to create the perfect, custom invitation to your upcoming event. I currently do not offer wedding/bridal shower invitations but be sure to check out the zazzle marketplace for a brilliant selection there.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year - New Stuff - New Toys

Being it's the new year (Happy New Year everyone!) I thought I'd list a few great NEW things going on in Rolfeland, and with me specifically.

New Toys

I surely didn't like it that Kev had put in a TON of overtime in the last several months but he did it so he could spoil me rotten at Christmas. He went out after his last day at work before Christmas and before his 12 day vacation, and bought me a brand new laptop. When I opened it Christmas morning I saw the box but didn't believe that's what was inside. He assured me it was so I opened it just to make sure it wasn't socks or something. Those would have been the world's heaviest socks, if that would have been what was inside. Sure enough though, it was a shiney new laptop. I haven't really done anything with it yet aside from turn it on and charge the battery. It's just been so crazy and hectic around here since Christmas eve that I haven't had the time to play with it yet. I think that's coming tomorrow though! I'm so happy to finally have one, so when I want to go to my room or go outside and do my work, I can do that. Plus, when we go on vacation this coming summer, I can take it with me then too! I know, for you seasoned lappy users this is all old hat, but for me it's all new stuff.

More new stuff for me, is the Garmin GPS he also bought me. I have wanted one of those for so so so long, and now that I have one I'm like a kid in a candy store. I really wanted to choose a Scottish male voice, but they don't have one so I decided to go with Daniel, the British guy. I've taken it with me to go to places I already know how to get to, just to see how it all works. I loved it when Daniel told me to go straight, and I turned left and he assured me he was "recalculating". This little unit is so cool, it even has a huge directory of local services such as shopping, hospitals, police, etc. I know, again, for you long time owners of a GPS this is nothing new, but maybe you can remember how impressed you were when you first played with yours?

In the same category of New Toys is... the family gift we bought this year - the Kinect for xbox. Up until today I hadn't even touched it, and up until today I'd never even used the xbox that we've had for a few years now. I'm just not a game playing kind of person, so it never interested me. Until now!

On one of the games that we bought for it, they have demos for other games and one of them is called Dance Central. As soon as one of the kids played the demo several of us (me included) knew we were going to love it, and love the full version game. We don't have the full version yet but the things you can do on the demo are great practice for when you do get the full version. Once I saw this I decided it was time for this old fatty to learn how to turn on the machine, use the controllers and play this game. I had to have my 10 year old son show me how, and I think I've got it mostly figured out. Rachel and Ruth played this with me tonight for a while and then when they went to bed I practiced on my own for 45 minutes! Yay for old fat moms! Well, maybe not fat for long since this game is a very intense workout. I got my heart rate up, started sweating, and it was an absolute blast. I am SO going to feel this in my legs tomorrow, that's a definite. But I really really love it. The only downside is that at least with the demo you only get 2 song options. One is Lady Gaga and the other is some hip hop group. I didn't even listen to the hip hop one, I just danced to the Lady Gaga song. I know there are other dance games for the Kinect but this workout is intense so I'll stick with this one for now, even though it's definitely not my style of music. Who would have ever suspected I'd know all the words to Poker Face? Certainly not me.

The funniest thing about this is, once you're done dancing you can play back a short video clip of yourself that was taken during the routine. LOL... oh man, let me tell you a thing or five. I was once young, thin and a very good dancer. I watched the playback clip tonight and the first time I wasn't sure if I should laugh or start bawling my eyes out. Somewhere along the way from young, thin and talented I became and old fat white lady dancing like a an old fat white lady. I can't do a thing about the age, but I intend to change the rest. May those initial video clips of me playing this game suddenly and mysteriously be erased for all eternity, lol. (Oh, and after 45 minutes and about 7 repitions of the same song, I nailed every step and got 5 gold stars - on the easiest level of course).

Well, I had more NEW new stuff to write about but this post is already long enough. I'll add some more new stuff tomorrow.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe