Themes, Templates, Coloring Books and Christmas Trees

The thought came to me the other day that customizing a pre-made CMS theme is like coloring in a coloring book! You can take a page in a coloring book and color it any way you want to. There’s no law that says you have to make polka dots on a clown costume, you can make stripes if you want to. Who said the child’s smiling face on page 10 has to be colored in peachy flesh tones? A child with an active imagination might color a face lavender or bright green. Maybe he sees the child in the picture as being an alien from outer space.

I can remember correcting my children if they colored a face in what *I* considered to be an inappropriate color. Shame on me! Looking back I now realize that was a horrible thing to do to my children. Lucky for me I don’t have to carry that guilt too heavily … apparently I didn’t stunt their creativity because I do have some very creative kids. Some of the things they come up with now that they’re adults amazes me sometimes.

In fact, there is one event in my young motherhood life that I for some reason cannot forget. I went through a divorce when my children were quite young. My X was not helping out with child support payments, I got raked over the coals financially in divorce court because he had the money to hire a sleazy fast-talking lawyer and I didn’t. I worked two jobs and as much overtime at each one that I could get in order to keep our house while we desperately tried to sell it, feed and cloth my kids and try to pay the bills. It was not a good time in my life and to top it off, I was going through a period of severe depression. When Christmas came, I had a decision to make … buy a Christmas tree or put some more groceries on the table. Back then $20.00 for a Christmas tree was a ton of money for me, especially when I had kids to provide for. I opted to put food in the kitchen and my guilt was eating me alive because my kids really deserved a Christmas tree.

After delivering the sad news to my kids that there would be no Christmas tree, feeling like a total failure as a Mother … it was off to the bedroom to have a serious cry.

Knock Knock – Surprise!

After awhile there came a knock on the bedroom door and a little voice said “Mommy come see!” The last thing I wanted at that point was to have to look at the three sad faces of my beautiful girls. I opened the door and was blindfolded then taken by the hand and walked into the living room. When my daughter removed the blindfold I started to cry all over again. There in the corner was a laundry basket that had been tipped upside down. It was wrapped in green Christmas wrapping paper with a crooked cone shape scrunched at the top and a string of lights had been wrapped around it several times, a few ornaments had been poked into the paper and the top to what would have sat on a real Christmas tree was teetering on the top. It looked absolutely pathetic but it was the most beautiful Christmas tree I’d ever seen and thirty years later I still cry when I think about it. There were no sad faces! Instead my girls were literally beaming with pride over their artsy Christmas tree project and well they should be! I was so proud of them!

Today I use my children’s creativity in designing a web site using a pre-made CMS theme or template. The template may be as ugly as ugly gets but have most or all the functionality I need for a particular client, it just may not look like I or they want it to. No problem! I can make a beautiful Christmas tree out of a plain old laundry basket just by coloring that theme the way we want it to be colored. I can make the theme green where it’s purple, orange where it’s pink … change the pictures and images, heck I can even color outside the lines if I want to! In most cases, as long as I give credit to the original theme-maker, I can edit to my own and my client’s desire and give them what they want their web site to look like thanks to the original theme-maker’s coloring book and three very special, creative little girls.

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