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Emily Morrow Home | NWFA and FCW | Adapting to Changing Demands

Adapting to changing demands as featured in Floor Covering Weekly
Monday, May 4, 2020
By Morgan Bulman

[Chesterfield, Mo.] The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t the only disruptive challenge the hardwood floor industry has faced. For the second day of the NWFA’s first-ever virtual Expo, a session tag-teamed by Emily Morrow Home CEO Emily Morrow Finkell and Anderson Tuftex’s director of brand strategy Katie Ford outlined how to stay steady with wood in an unpredictable marketplace.

Define your business
“Our industry is continually being disrupted,” shared Morrow Finkell during the online webinar. “We have to accept that change is constant and that it really is up to us to adapt and evolve.”

Some of the biggest complaints listed by Morrow Finkell included internet sales, fake wood, cheap imports and the uncertainty of a post-coronavirus retail market.

“Ask yourself some tough questions: What is unique to your business? Who are you hoping will buy your products? Do you know how others see you? What types of products best fit your business and your customers?” she posed, while offering listeners to review and define their value disposition.

Elevate wood’s qualities
Authenticity as a business is key, especially in order to sell an authentic product. Morrow Finkell revealed one of the most important qualities of wood is its natural authenticity, especially considering the current wellness culture consumers are living in, particularly in light of COVID-19.

And although industry professionals have a tendency to get hung up on who to sell to, whether its Baby Boomers or Millennials, “the wellness initiative is huge for every one of these demographics and will continue to expand,” she said.

In fact, Morrow Finkell referred to the Global Wellness Institute, which reported “health and wellness” is now a 4.5 trillion-dollar market and that 134 billion of that amount is devoted to holistic-oriented real estate. This can include anything from available exercise equipment to sustainable building materials like flooring.

“Designers almost always advise their clients to go with natural materials, nine times out of 10,” she noted. Wood has always been the top, coveted flooring visual, but as the market becomes oversaturated with lookalikes, Morrow Finkell believes there’s untapped potential in offering premium, high quality products consumers are starved for.

“Wood is synonymous with wellness,” she stressed.

“Hardwood is truly timeless,” but a great way to stay on top of changing market demands is to keep tabs on what customers are looking for. And, right now, there are three aspects to keep tabs on:

1. Light and neutral colors: Plaster, jute, wool, linen and muslin – this is what has inspired the light and ultra-matte colors of Emily Morrow Home. “Organic is a huge buzz word,” shared Morrow Finkell. Natural, organic and plaster-inspired color palettes are trending.
2. Dark statement stains: Interiors in general are trending light – white cabinetry, light fixtures, fabrics. For these home choices, dark woods offer a great deal of contrast, revealed Morrow Finkell.
3. Premium cuts and graining: When it comes to wood, quality sells well. “If you have a premium brand, you need to have a premium sample experience,”. To receive free samples of Emily Morrow Home Hardwood, simply text EMILY2 to 900900.

 

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Emily Morrow Finkell for NWFA | WOMEN INSPIRING OTHERS 

Emily Morrow Finkell for Hardwood Floors Magazine NWFA | WOMEN INSPIRING OTHERS 

The February March 2020 issue of Hardwood Floors celebrates the talented and dynamic women in our industry who have gone before us and worked amongst us. They smoothed the path, opened doors, and showed other women the way forward. I am so inspired by these women and would not be where I am today without their wisdom and guidance. Looking back on the lessons I’ve learned, and taking stock of how many influential and passionate women have inspired me never to stop growing, I hope what I do today will inspire others in the same way. While my career has gone through a series of changes, I know my journey would not have been possible with the support given to me by women in the industry.

THE VITAL ROLE OF WOMEN IN FLOOR COVERING

I’m fortunate to have a unique perspective on the power of women in flooring history, starting at a very early age. Growing up in Dalton, Georgia, I’ve witnessed generation after generation of women entrepreneurs acting as trailblazers and role models. If you’re familiar with the history of carpet, you’ll know it all started in Dalton along “Peacock Alley” with the crafting of hand-tufted chenille bedspreads, an industry started by extraordinary women like Dicksie Bradley Bandy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During the great depression, Dicksie and her husband’s country store had given credit to their customers who had no money to pay for the goods they needed, only their possessions, what they could make or grow themselves. The country store eventually became indebted to their suppliers and although there was no way to recoup the money from their customers, Dicksie and her husband were determined to repay every dollar. Determined to find a way to raise the funds, she boarded a train to Washington, D.C., carrying a suitcase filled with hand-tufted chenille bedspreads to sell to large department stores. She came home with enough money to repay her suppliers AND with enough orders to give several families an income for their craft. That simple cottage industry grew and evolved to the point where Dalton is now known not just the “carpet capital” but as the “floor covering capital of the world”. 

In this industry, not only are many of my peers women, but the majority of our customers are as well. We speak of “Ms. Consumer” as making more than 91% of the purchasing decisions for the home. With the purchasing power of women in the United States ranging from $5 trillion annually, we certainly MUST consider “her” in our business decisions, and we certainly MUST consult women on what goes into a new product launch. 

WOMEN INSPIRING OTHERS

As I look back on my career path, I am grateful to the incredible women who so generously opened doors and encouraged me to go further and do do better. One such women was Evelyn Myers. In 2001 I had moved back to my hometown of Dalton from Carrollton, Georgia where I’d practiced interior design for 12 years. Although I was known in Dalton as Emily Kiker, I was not known by most as Emily Morrow, the interior designer. I did however know Mrs. Myers through my own mother and in some of our exchanges, she shared some of her upcoming “design-related” endeavors. It was that same year, 2001, Evelyn Myers invited me to be a guest designer in her “Judd House Designer Showhouse”, which would provide valuable networking opportunities with our local community, other designers and architects. If not for her invitation, I might not have had the change to meet the many contacts who later became my colleagues and bosses at Shaw Industries. 

Emily Morrow Featured in Atlanta Magazine November 2001 The Judd House owned by Evelyn Myers and the Myers Family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LESSONS IN RESILIENCE AND PAYING DUES

Looking back, some of my early jobs were excruciating. One example was working for a family-owned women’s wear manufacturer whose owners would inadvertently exhale their cigarette smoke into my eyes causing me to leave work many days in tears. At the same time, they also gave me the chance to work with fabrics, color-ways, and the people that would be selling the apparel across the U.S. That experience was priceless. Soon I found myself training sales persons about the designs and colors of the coming collections.

Along the way, I learned about perseverance, resilience and the importance of hard work – even when it it seemed at the time like I was being pulled in the wrong direction. Balancing competing priorities had been modeled by my mother, a fantastic entrepreneur in her own right. As I began my own journey into motherhood as an interior designer, I carried with me the power of the examples and lessons that only magnified in importance over time. 

While I loved the work I was doing, after the arrival of my firstborn William, I was inspired to take a huge leap. The result was that my own interior design business was born. It was the culmination of all that I had learned and experienced up until then – and just when I thought I had it all “balanced” along comes Mary. Juggling motherhood to two small children with an interior design business taught me how to put first things first. My first design business operated in the West Georgia area for nearly 12 years, doing both commercial and residential design projects. 

Those years allowed me the experience of putting family first. It’s a lesson I’ve tried to live by since. I learned to be a mother first and foremost, and I had the flexibility and freedom to schedule design appointments around the schedules of babysitters, mothers’ mornings out, and my children’s own evolving schedules. 

ANSWERING THE OPPORTUNITY

The women in my life have taught me so many powerful lessons that I try to pass on to those who I have had the good fortune of knowing. One of the most important things I was taught is that like doors, opportunities can open and close quickly. Recognizing the opportunities requires a certain kind of “sixth sense” to know when to take them. Unfortunately, too often opportunities can seem daunting and present themselves as “risk”.

This lesson became a huge blessing as I faced a professional crossroads in 2002. Having just become a single mother, and after operating my own interior design business for many years, I was encouraged to move into the corporate world to provide the benefits my children and I would need. While there was some risk involved (would I be able to work the corporate hours? What if my kids needed me? How could I juggle my children’s activities with my travel schedule?…and much more) it was a leap that I was well-prepared to take for my family. 

So when asked if I could direct a large group of corporate professionals and juggle continually changing business priorities, I actually laughed out loud. That had become second nature to me. For years, at any given time, I had teams of painters, carpenters, flooring installers or other tradespeople going in and out of the businesses and homes of my clients, on time and budget, all while being a mother of two. Speaking of juggling priorities, one very important project, a medical arts building was being installed the very day I was in labor with the birth of my daughter. Needless to say, both “projects” demanded my attention that day but in the end, my family was only thing that truly mattered.

THE IMPORTANCE OF FAMILY

I hope that my experience demonstrates to other women – and men – in the industry that you can prioritize family and still have an enriching and successful career. That is perhaps the most important lesson of all, and one I hope to be remembered for, the same way I remember all of the incredible wisdom and support that was shared with me.

I encourage all of us to prioritize family and to allow everything else to fall into place. Following my own advice, I opted to leave a life of constant travel while working for a massive company, to instead revel in family. I chose to instead take a moment to savor my time being a new wife, a mother, and an empty nester.

When the time was right, I again took another risk, following my instinct, and formed a new enterprise, one that would eventually become relevant to husband’s own company. Who encouraged me to take that step? It was the same woman who inspired me nearly thirty years prior, my mother.

 

 

 

 

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Unplugged: Powering Off Digital Allows Creative Inspiration to Flourish

Unplugged: Powering Off Digital Allows Creative Inspiration to Flourish

What Inspires You?

Inspiration. It’s at the heartbeat of the flooring industry and what keeps us all in the cycle of evolution. What inspires you? How are you inspired? When are you inspired?

Being a “creative” today is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that we are all constantly infiltrated with new perspectives, fresh ideas, more accessible travel, and, well, ideas. Within an instant, my newsfeed is taking me to an emerging high-rise project in Dubai; I’m in a train buzzing through wine country during harvest in an Instagram story; I’m watching a blogger’s design journey as she renovates a midcentury bungalow in San Francisco – while I am on Wi-Fi and in the air from LaGuardia to Paris. Information – too much information – is at my fingertips at breakneck speed.

Market Watch recently revealed that the average American adult spends 11 hours per day consuming digital media, which is up from 9 hours and 32 minutes only four years ago. But I did not need a study to tell me this news. My newest iPhone XS Max reveals my screen time usage, and the daily notification is staggering, to say the least. It leaves us all wondering, “Did I really look at my phone that much today?”

Do I Need Digital Detox?

While we’re consuming all of this media, how is our brain processing it? Studies show that the overconsumption of digital makes us feel differently, react differently, think differently, and sleep differently. According to a Mashable article from just a few years ago, some cognitive experts have found benefit in digital exposure and its effects on the human brain, whereas others worry that too many distractions have left our brains uncreative and impatient.

Digital has its place in the creative process; let’s be honest. After all, it’s 2019. Sites like Pinterest, Houzz, and the world of influencer marketing have made interior design and the floor shopping process engaging and attainable, and for that, the industry is grateful. But as “creative” professionals who are focused on pushing the design envelope ever forward on behalf of both the industry and our brands, how do we cut through the noise?

Slide to power off.

True creativity is not happening behind the screen. While the screen may reaffirm our ideas and give us a sense of belonging, the creative process does not begin or end on the screen. At the risk of sounding unapologetically cliché, the creative process is all around us in the most present and current sense. The creative process is sitting on the ground surrounded in paint swatches, white oak slices, frayed pieces of fabric, and a team of experienced professionals with sawdust in their eyes. It comes from digging deep in the parts of our minds, our hearts, and our souls, which technology cannot power up or power on.

Creativity is connectivity – with the human spirit, not a cable.

My most recent and prevalent example of unplugging for authentic creativity to prevail was during an African safari this past summer with my family. A once-in-a-lifetime experience, the journey allowed us to soak in the majesty of nature in all its raw splendor. From the journey, one of my newest collections was born.

Unplugging has become key to my creative process. And my wish is that it becomes key to yours as well. Keep that pen and notebook in your bag. Pull it out when an idea or inspiration strikes. Start up a conversation with the person in the plane seat next to you. Sit in a local coffee shop and people watch. Walk through a museum and read every exhibit marker. Laugh out loud with your chin up. It’s within all of this living and all of this connecting and the moments unplugged that creativity – true creativity – will flourish.

Whether or not we unplug from digital, the world isn’t going to stop. But as the future of the flooring industry and as “creatives,” it’s up to us to quiet the noise – so that we can create and continue to propel the industry forward. So, when you see me in the airport chatting up a stranger, sketching in my journal, or soaking in a beautiful moment, you’ll know it’s intentional.

Let us power off and create.

Where do you go from here? How do you power off more often? Here are some simple tips from Digital Detox to help you unplug:

  • Start your day right: Get up, relax, and eat a healthy breakfast instead of reaching for the phone.
  • Go old school: Get an old-fashioned flip phone instead of a smartphone.
  • Do more: Pack your day full of person-to-person meetings where you commit to not reaching for the phone.
  • Bring a book: Pick up a good read.
  • Download an app: Get some tech help in monitoring the time you spend on the phone.
  • Go on a digital diet: Reduce your time online by 10 percent.
  • Take a mini break: Leave your phone at home for a day.
  • Streamline your work: Ask that people connect with you only through one medium.
  • Get active: Jog or bike to work, phone free.
  • Leave your work behind: Consider a work phone and personal phone and utilize out of office.
  • Involve your friends: Invite your friends to keep you accountable.
  • Lock up: Ask a friend or partner to take your phone for a bit.
  • Set a strict technology bedtime: Your technology needs a bedtime, too.
  • Schedule some free time: Schedule tech time and then turn it off.
  • Be more in the moment: Go for a walk and soak in your surroundings.
  • Just switch it off: Enough said.

Emily Morrow Finkell is an interior designer and CEO of Emily Morrow Home Hardwood,  a div. of EF Floors & Design LLC in Dalton, Georgia, a provider of hardwood floors and home furnishings, and an NWFA design contributor. She can be reached at emily@emilymorrowhome.com.

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#VoteEmily and Give Back at Surfaces 2019

Can you believe it? Surfaces is here!

Here at Emily Morrow Home, we’ve been busy putting the finishing touches on our beautiful new hardwood products and our theme this year is “Design Journey.” If you find yourself in Las Vegas this coming week, please plan to come visit us in Booth #925 at Surfaces 2019! You won’t be disappointed in our gorgeous new products, unmatched craftsmanship and designer-inspired color palette.

Also, we’re very proud to announce that Emily Morrow Home is nominated for three Floor Covering Weekly Dealers’ Choice Awards. Visit our Campaign Page for more information on how to post to our selfie “Snap and Give” campaign. For every selfie submitted Emily Morrow Home will be making a $3 donation to the Floor Covering Industry Foundation.
To find out more about what FCIF is doing for those in the flooring industry click here. Please #VoteEmily!

We’ll see you very soon!

Emily & Team

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Emily Finkell: A LIFE REIMAGINED: Chapter, Choices & Careers, Doing What You Love

NWFA Magazine’s 40 Under 40 December 2018 Issue

Collaboration, mentorship and remembering who opened doors for you are valuable life and work experiences that should compel you to pay it forward to those around you.
Photo courtesy of Emily Morrow Finkell.

While considering what to write for the “40 Under 40” issue of Hardwood Floors, I was reminded of some vital life lessons, ones that we all can learn at any age, and at any level of success. Typically, my articles focus on topics such as color, consumers, or design trends with titles like How to Use the Mega Trends or How to Design Your Interiors. This time, there’s a different insight I’d like to share, How to Design Your Life.

In my hometown of Dalton, Georgia, I am surrounded by some amazing success stories of industry icons. Known as the “Floor Covering Capital of the World,” Dalton is famous for entrepreneurial, hardworking, forward-thinking individuals. It’s also one of the most productive manufacturing areas in the U.S.; our hometown values emphasize “going to work and rolling up our sleeves,” according to the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce. There is an energy and a sense of community pride. Dalton is not unique in the number of individuals who are in their encore careers, but it is special because it’s the heart of the floor covering industry and our enterprises.

How many of you have wondered if your career path was the best direction? Or was your decision made out of necessity due to your circumstances? Regardless of your answer, my experience has taught me that each path you take always helps to build and prepare you for the next one. We all experience moments in our lives, either following graduation or a geographical move, when we accept a job where we don’t feel we are fully utilizing our skills, passions, or abilities, or the culture is not a good fit.

Look inward and think about your journey. Mine, for instance, began with a bachelor’s degree in Interior Design with a concentration in textiles. After I graduated in December 1989, job openings for college graduates were down 13.3 percent, and the job market had become one of the most competitive times since the early 1980s. Lucky me, right?

It’s true that necessity is the mother of invention, and so I took a job with a womenswear company in West Georgia, where I did everything from emptying the trash cans, to answering the phones, to assisting at sales meetings, to helping choose fabrics, patterns, and accessories for the collection. The owners, a husband and wife team, were the second generation of a menswear manufacturing business, and they gave me an opportunity at a time when I needed it most. I was and will always be grateful for that year because those experiences enriched my resume and expanded my skill set, even though that job had nothing to do with interior design.

Next, I took another opportunity with a retail furniture company that was expanding to Carrollton, Georgia, from their base in Rome, Georgia. They needed a professional interior designer on staff to organize their resource room of fabrics and finishes, to put together vignettes for their store, and to sell well-designed rooms to their customers who expected a white-glove experience. The store owners, another second generation family business, were well-versed in how to treat their customers with the highest level of attention. I have adopted this white-glove service mindset as part of my work ethic and infused it into my daily approach.

In year three, I was finally able to start my own interior design business, doing both commercial and residential projects. It was hard work, and I did it while being a mother to two young children. Life has a way of throwing us curves, and I found my children and myself back in my hometown of Dalton, Georgia, as a single mother with a heavy responsibility. After a few design projects were completed, I realized I needed something much more reliable. So I transitioned from an interior design business to the corporate world for the much-needed stability and benefits.

Enter Shaw and PatCraft. From the entry-level Associate Colorist to Senior Stylist, and eventually Director of Color Style & Design for Carpet and Hard Surface, I consider this the fourth chapter in my journey. It was in this chapter that I could finally look back and appreciate each of the previous steps. Every step allowed me opportunities for exposure to new things, professional and personal growth, as well as platforms from which to fine-tune my strengths and passions. After 13 years working at Shaw, I found myself at a very happy crossroads with some hard decisions to make. I ultimately decided to wrap things up with a neat bow and say my farewells to my Shaw family, with a wink that I might want to return someday, and retired early.

No one told me how much our identities and self-esteem are wrapped up in our profession. I didn’t expect to find myself longing for work, but after a few months off, I created a grand plan to make my personal life and my professional life come together in a way that dovetailed all of my strengths and passions with my husband’s. I formed a corporation, EF Floors & Design in September 2015, which quickly evolved into a brand, and thus Emily Morrow Home was born, aka my fifth chapter. I have loved every step of this chapter, even the hard ones. There have certainly been unseen challenges that have come along, but they’re also some of the most significant opportunities I’ve had to learn and grow.

The best part is that I’ve found myself looking around seeing others who are in the fifth, sixth, or even 10th chapters, later-in-life career changes or altogether new pathways. Some close friends have gone from respiratory therapists or accountants to interior design. Others have gone from stay-at-home moms to heading up large foundations and executives in corporations. You may have been noticing articles and news stories on “encore or second act careers;” they’re fascinating. AARP is one of my new favorite magazines (don’t knock it till you try it). Two of the best headlines they’ve featured are 70 Is the New 65 and New Rules of Retirement. They are worth pausing to read.

One that I’ve had on my desk for a week is titled Really Ready to Retire? by Jeri Sadler and Rick Miners, co-authors of Don’t Retire, Rewire! They compiled a list of seven things to consider before retiring, and these same questions apply to all of us at any age. Some of them include:

  • What ambitions are you waiting to fulfill?
  • What will make you rise each day as excited as you were at the high points of your career?
  • To what extent will you be in service to other family members once you retire?

So many young and “less young” professionals change careers and ask themselves if they’re making the right decision.

The good news is that we have generations of mentors surrounding us that we can look to for examples of how, in retrospect, each step is critical in building a career. Obviously, for those highlighted in the December/January issue of the magazine, you’re doing quite well and are to be commended for taking the initiative and learning all you can in your current chapter. If you are on the “Fabulous 40” list, you might consider taking on a mentoring role with someone less experienced or not as connected as you are as a way of paying it forward to those who have helped you. We all have so much to learn from one another; the 20 somethings can teach the 50 or 60 somethings a thing or two and vice versa.

I once had a handful of direct reports who were twice my age and possessed 10 times more experience than I did and yet each one of them was incredibly gracious and shared their knowledge when and where it was appropriate. Take some time to think of all those who walked before you to open a door, or worked shoulder to shoulder with you to teach and train you so that your journey was better. We should not only give them some credit, but we should also give ourselves some credit for having open minds, eyes, and ears to their wise counsel and example.

Emily Morrow Finkell is an interior designer and CEO of EF Floors & Design LLC in Dalton, Georgia, a provider of hardwood floors and home furnishings, and NWFA design contributor. She can be reached at emily@emilymorrowhome.com.

Featured Article in Atlanta Magazine November 2001 Issue
Dalton: Small Town, Big Business

 

Emily Morrow Featured in Atlanta Magazine November 2001 The Judd House owned by Evelyn Myers and the Myers Family.

Here are some compelling reports on the subject of careers and choices of work, income, culture and priorities:

Forbes: Job-Hopping Millennials Offer Benefits to Employers While Being “Selfish”

Job-hopping is in, and being stuck in a dead-end job is on its way out — and that’s good for everyone. Job-hopping millennials are more likely to earn a higher wage, develop their career on a faster track and find a better fit in work culture by changing jobs more frequently. The stigma is lessening as the positives are revealed. One CareerBuilder survey shared employers expect 45% of their newly hired college grads would remain with the company for under two years, and the study showed that by age 35, about 25% of young employees would have worked five jobs. Employers are aware they’re hiring job-hoppers as millennials find their footing in their career development, learning to make healthy choices rather than staying stuck and unmotivated in a job that’s not beneficial for either the employee or employer.

Generation X — not millennials — is changing the nature of work

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/11/generation-x–not-millennials–is-changing-the-nature-of-work.html

Demonstrating loyalty, a willingness to take on a heavy workload, and a powerful combination of digital and traditional leadership skills, Gen X is producing highly capable leaders that are in danger of being overlooked. Organizations that want to retain and develop their Gen X leaders should:

– Provide leaders with more external guidance. While Gen X leaders are loyal, they are craving insight and knowledge from mentors outside of their organization. In fact, 67 percent of leaders said that they would like more external coaching, and 57 percent wanted external development. Employers should invest in helping Gen X leaders participate in outside professional organizations, industry conferences and other groups to foster relationships with external peers and mentors who can provide coaching.

– Encourage leaders to challenge the status quo. Many organizations may look to millennials to lead innovative projects, particularly those that are tech-based. But Gen X leaders are likely to thrive when given the opportunity to experiment with new approaches and challenge existing methods. Ideally, a cross-generational team — perhaps led by a Gen Xer — may deliver the most innovative solutions.

– Leverage technology to support traditional development. Like those in other generations, Gen X leaders said they still want traditional learning methods, such as formal workshops, training courses and seminars. However, they also enjoy the personalization and convenience offered by technology-based tools. Blending traditional learning methods with tech-enabled tools to enhance and solidify learning will help them make the most of their development opportunities.

The oldest Gen X workers will likely still be in the workforce for at least 10 years, and the younger members of the generation may still be working for more than 30, meaning that Gen X will be forming the backbone of organizations’ leadership for quite some time. Those that overlook Gen X in favor of focusing only on the youngest generations entering the workforce will miss out on a deep and valuable source of leadership potential.

Now is the time to focus on strengthening the skills of Gen X and further developing their broad range of skills.

 

So many times colleagues have an opportunity to let others talents shine, and along the way we learn what makes these people “leaders” and “mentors” even when they might not have the “title” to accompany their leadership. Being able to share our color and design inspiration allowed my team the ability and opportunity to grow in ways we couldn’t have imagined.

 

Never underestimate the power of sending a handwritten note…I’ve kept so many notes sent from friends over the years and they serve as a reminder to never be too busy to pause and recognize a friend’s or colleagues (or competitor’s) accomplishments.

 

‘No Man is an Island’

No man is an island entire of itself; every man 

is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; 

if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe 

is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as 

well as any manner of thy friends or of thine 

own were; any man’s death diminishes me, 

because I am involved in mankind. 

And therefore never send to know for whom 

the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. 

MEDITATION XVII

Devotions upon Emergent Occasions

John Donne

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Facing the Giants with Joy and Love As Your Weapons

The saying “Don’t sweat the small stuff” is one of my favorite sayings. In fact I used it just today and can’t help but smile each time the words pass my lips. Why you may ask, it’s because it serves as a reminder that there so many things most people “sweat” and stress over that really don’t phase me much. In 1997, a book was published using the quote as its title, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” written by Richard Carlson, and it was followed up with a sequel “What About the Big Stuff?” in 2002. In short, the books’ messages are: 1) don’t waste valuable mental energy worrying about things beyond your control that haven’t happened yet; and 2) there are some big things in life that one should worry about when it happens, the biggies, death, divorce, illness and other similar life-changing events. Suffice it to say, being the “over-achiever” that I am, I checked off a few of the “biggies” within one year of my life, and lived to tell the tale. One of the biggest that I faced was the big “C” word, cancer. When faced with the big stuff, the giants in life we don’t know if or how we’ll have the means to get through it–we don’t know what we’re made of until after our “mettle is tested”.

At age 35, while going through a major life-changing event, starting a career with a wonderful company, PatCraft, I found a lump in my breast which was ultimately diagnosed as “malignant”. My first thoughts were solely around my two children who were ages nine and five at the time…who would care for them if the worst happened to me…all the while stating emphatically “I’m going to be just fine”. The diagnosis and subsequent surgeries, treatments, experiences and expenses did not define me…they did however reveal to me the inner God-given strengths and blessings in my life. For starters, I already loved and cherished my family but never before had I realized that without them, my children could somehow suffer as a result of my medical condition. As a newly single mom, new to the corporate world, new to being head of household and new to having the entire weight of my children’s world on my shoulders, I surprisingly felt the load lightened without ever having to ask, a weight lifted by my family. We made it through that year and believe it or not, today we don’t look back with sadness. My children and I look back in awe at the joy we felt, at the happiness and peace we were given and at the indescribable feeling we experienced as a direct result of friends’ and families’ prayers and encouragement. Each morning before leaving our driveway for school and work, I’d say “What do we choose today?…We choose JOY!”. That year was our first Christmas as a family of three and I was in my final days of chemotherapy treatments. As you might imagine, treatments can leave your body feeling fatigued and I was also feeling mentally and emotionally drained by the weekends. My mother never failed to come and literally look at me “eyeball to eyeball” to see how I was doing. On one particular weekend she came to see what gifts I needed for my children’s Christmas. I had not done any shopping, this was before Amazon.com, and once she saw my defeated expression, she knew what had to be done. She said “put on your wig, we are going shopping”…and that is just what we did.

Each year since then, not only did I get stronger, but my children grew wiser and more mature…and the story of how “Grandmommy saved Christmas” became one of our Christmas morning traditions. What would have happened to us if my family hadn’t been there in our times of need? What happens to families who don’t have “Grandmommy” or a secure job with medical insurance like mine at PatCraft? These questions have haunted me over the years and it was not until my 50th birthday and my 15th Cancer-free Anniversary that I decided to do something meaningful about getting those questions answered. In July of 2017 The Kiker Morrow Finkell Foundation for Cancer Care was founded to be an integral part of the Emily Morrow Home. To me, each entity is as significant as the other…each entity serves a greater purpose. Emily Morrow Home was established in the fall of 2015 to merge my professional passions with my newly married life in a way that dove-tailed and complemented the two worlds. This past Christmas our foundation, with the guidance and help of another organization, was able to make Christmas happier and brighter for a family whose mommy was going through her own cancer diagnosis and treatments. Tying my enterprise to a cause that is so personally meaningful helps make it all the more of a challenge to see it succeed and grow, knowing first that there must be a thriving business before “proceeds” can go to a cause. The definition of what “success” is becomes a little more complicated but the end result, if and when the enterprise succeeds, is a blessing to many!