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Happy Holidays!

Whether you’re traveling, feasting with family or home alone on a cozy couch watching those movies you’ve wanted to all year, hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoy the rest of the holiday weekend!  It’s been a more challenging year than your average, but each one of us has much to be thankful for, so I hope we all remind ourselves of that.  At Tiny Prints, we’re commemorating this important weekend with an upgrade of our Gratitude Challenge – check it out!

Gratitude and Holiday Update

It’s been a couple of weeks again, and lots has happened.  First, back to project gratitude.  While I didn’t expect it to all of a sudden rule my life, I’ve been amazed at how it occupies a small space of my teeny, tiny, little mind every day.  Just the other day, I rushed out in between meetings to grab a Subway sandwich (flat bread Italian BMT – yum…).  I was wondering how I could make it back in time for my next meeting that was 5 minutes from the last one that just ended.  So when I got to Subway and saw a line out the door, I was feeling hopeless.

Then I noticed the uniform.  The guy in front of me dressed in camo.  You see men and women in military service every now and then near our office because we are so close to Moffett Airfield.  My thoughts turned to a different place than the meeting I was going to be late for.  I started to think about my daily problems and what his must be, on friendly ground and deployed if he’s seen action.  I thought about the high school classmates who joined the military after graduation – growing up in a small, Midwestern town high school is a pretty prevalent feeder for the military.

As we both inched closer to the register, I all of a sudden had the urge to reach out to him – project gratitude was on my mind.  I’ve done similar things in the past a few times – I remember clearly being on a plane a few months after September 11 when a troupe of service men and women boarded the plane.  A few applauses here and there turned into a standing ovation with high fives and thank yous as they passed our aisles.  I’ve bought coffee or lunch for police officers who I also respect a great deal (you never know when one of them might be ticketing you too…).

As the gentlemen in front of me reached into his pocket for his wallet, I found myself tapping him on the shoulder.  I told him it would be my pleasure to buy him lunch as a gesture of thanks for the sacrifice and service he makes daily.  He refused at first, very graciously, but I convinced him, which led to a few minutes of conversation about the service, the few friends I’ve had in the military and generally  connecting as two people who really appreciated each other.  So Brett, thank you – $5 for a sandwich is a long ways away from a proper thanks in my opinion.

Now another update – back at Tiny Prints, we continue to churn out crazy, new and great ideas.  We’re excited about our current talent search where we will not only give away great prizes for several lucky families, we’ll be featuring real life customers and friends of Tiny Prints in our next ad campaign in 2010!  So be sure to enter and show off how beautiful your family is.

Last, we launched our highly anticipated celebrity holiday card collectionGwyneth Paltrow, Angie Harmon, Cindy Crawford, Marcia Cross, Alison Sweeney and Molly Sims – wow!

Happy holidays!

What?…

Okay, so I used to be one of those grumpy people walking into Target asking why there are Christmas ornaments in the aisles before Halloween.  But now that I’m in retail, I’ve had to change my tune.

It’s about awareness – consciously or subliminally occupying that little space in people’s brains, even in October, that is free and ready to be filled with holiday messages.  And some folks even go beyond filing that message away – they actually shop and prepare this far in advance.  God bless you.  It may seem silly, but let’s face it, when we’re standing in line at Wal-Mart at 11:59 PM on Christmas Eve with the last Christmas item, we’re jealous of these early birds.

So, if I’m changing my tune, I might as well go all the way.  And yes, the holidays are here at Tiny Prints!  We get excited every year because our business spikes (hopefully this year too…) in a few weeks, but also it’s a time to show off everything we’ve worked 9 months to make happen – it’s for pride.  And this year is no exception, in fact, we have more to show this year than ever before.

First, we have our collections – 5 in all.  Where we had mostly a single “look” in the past, we now offer 5 different “looks” all still maintaining the Tiny Prints Style.  Check out this amazing design in our Vintage collection:

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Next up, we have a ton of new products – pop-up cards, photo montage cards, tri-folds, thermography cards designed by William Arthur, some super unique photo gifts, photo books and calendars and even an entire collection designed by celebrities for their charitable causes.  Lots of really cool new designer as usual, and this year some really fun ones like  Hello Kitty :).

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One of the biggest news for the year is the launch of our Studio Basics – our solution to the economic mess!

Finally, lots of very cool new features – our address book and mailing service allow you to have your holiday cards sent directly to your recipients!  How COOL is that?!  C’mon – that’s pretty cool.  And our personal shopper service – now that is seriously da bomb.

So consider yourselves informed – in October…

Staycation Garden Update

Remember that garden we planted during staycation?  Witnessing life in real time always is pretty special…
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Day 21 – Made It!

It’s been roughly 3 weeks of thinking of being grateful, doing nice things, appreciating people, saying thank you – whew is that tiring…  J/K!

As I said in an earlier post, as more and more blessed my life became over the years, I learned to be really tuned into being thankful – but the Challenge made me hyper-aware, and I have to say, I found myself in a different state over the course of the 3 weeks.

At times, I felt as if there was unfinished business if I didn’t express my gratitude so explicitly.  I make it a habit to send a personal thank you card after a business meeting – but these past 3 weeks, I found myself weighed down more heavily if I was a day late in sending them out.

At the same time, I also found myself much less tolerant of ungrateful behavior.  Why couldn’t everyone be so tuned into their blessings and making others feel appreciated?  Paradoxically, while in a heightened sense of gratitude, I found myself equally in tune with how harsh the world really is and the superficial nature of so many every actions that are counter to being grateful.  So many blessings in life go unnoticed because we take them for granted over time – it’s human nature I guess to focus on the everyday matters that in the end are so trivial.

Two stories as parting thoughts.  Before the Challenge, I was driving home one day and must have accidentally cut someone off switching lanes.  The couple behind me were livid, coming up next to me at the next light and gesturing obsenities.  In the heat of the moment and knowing whatever I did was completely unintentional, I rolled down my window and gave them a piece of MY mind.  The rest of the drive home, I felt totally embarrassed – for both parties.  If my kids had seen that kind of behavior – yikes.  Why couldn’t I have given a simple wave once I realized what I had done, perhaps that would have prevented such fury from the other car.  Even if it hadn’t, why couldn’t I have been the bigger person, rolled down my window and instead of shouting what a jerk the other party was, simply say that I was sorry – how foolish would they have felt then?  Why couldn’t we both simply be grateful that as unfortunate as being cut off is, no accident occurred with much more serious consequences…

So this past Wednesday, just a few days before the final curtain on the Challenge was coming down, I was once again driving home from work.  The same street I’ve driven for years at this point.  I get to a major intersection and turn into the right hand turn-out lane.  First car to get to the light, I stop since my light still was red.  All of a sudden, WHAM – I was rear-ended back in high school but the same state of disbelief/shock came back suddenly.  The next 2-3 seconds are blank, they were never there I don’t think.

But immediately after those couple of seconds, I look up into my rear view mirror and see the same car still coming into my car, pushing as hard as it could to send me further into oncoming traffic.  Luckily, the 1990 Corolla was no match for my 03 Accord, and we both came to a stop as our engines died.  I collected my thoughts for another few brief seconds and then turned into a gas station with the rear-ender right behind.

Back in high school, I came out of my car like a charging bull and gave the elderly lady an earful (again, how embarrassing on many fronts).  This time around, I got out of the car and in an almost deja vu moment, I find myself watching another elderly woman climb out of her car.  She clearly is in a state of shock/distress – saying she couldn’t believe what she did, mumbling that maybe the sun go into her eyes, hoping dearly she wouldn’t have to get a new car.  My first words out of my mouth this time?  “Are you okay, do you need help?”  She then collects herself a bit and tells me yes, she is shaken but doesn’t seem to be hurt.

She looks at the back of my car for the first time and sees the baby on board sign.  We both look at each other and I think we connected – how much worse could this have been, how lucky was this accident, thoughts you normally wouldn’t associate with first emotions after a car wreck.  We proceeded to trade information, and not more than 5 minutes after we pulled over, I was headed home.

As soon as I got home, I felt a wave of emotions – semi-life flashing before your eyes type of moment.  The thing I took for granted every single day for years – a safe journey to and fro work – it took a rear-ending to remind me that life is precious, it can be taken away in a fleeting moment.  Overly dramatic for what my accident turned out to be, but as I looked at my family at the dinner table, I couldn’t help such thoughts.  Then I started to feel guilty – in my somewhat distressed state and desire to get home, I drove off without seeing Elaine drive off.  I remembered the sense of familiarity I felt as I was copying down her driver’s license information – born in 1934, same year as my Dad.  She could have been my Dad, would I have wanted some younger driver to drive off after the accident if it had been my Dad who hit him?

That evening, I wrote 2 emails, an email to Elaine – are you okay, you appeared visibly shaken, I only want to make sure you got home safely.  Second email was to my insurance agent telling her what happened and in the end, essentially pressing charges on Elaine to get my car fixed.

Elaine wrote back immediately the very next day, again saying that she couldn’t believe what she did and thanking me for checking on her, and yes, she did get home fine.

Another day passes, something doesn’t feel right.  I talk to my wife about it late that night.  I write another email to Elaine the next day – are you planning to fix anything on your car through your insurance policy?  She writes back another nice note saying that she doesn’t plan to but will cooperate with my adjuster who left her a voicemail.  I struggle again that night – another conversation with Polly.  I don’t know anything about this woman, she could be someone who chases little kids off her lawn and yells at the newspaper boy.

But by the weekend, my mind is made up.  I write one final email to Elaine – “We’ve both been through enough on this ordeal, we both should be glad no one was hurt.  And given there was no major damage, I’m happy to cover my own repairs – I’ll be dropping my claim against your insurance policy, have a wonderful weekend.”

Reply a couple of hours later with a heartfelt, somewhat religious message of gratitude.  My worry this entire time – that I was being a sucker.  In the end, perhaps I was but it doesn’t matter.  I’ll be out some $’s and the inconvenience of repairing a car, but the Challenge had come full circle for me and I felt great about the decision.

Almost There!

Most of the last week’s Challenge have been “offline” – looking forward to the pinnacle of this experiment coming up shortly.

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