Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Judy Vilmain's Pocket Charm Ensembles

Love, Hope, Health & Peace
Best Seller
At 1185 sold, I'd venture to say that Judy Vilmain's pocket charm ensembles are within the top three best selling items at La Muse.  Why?  They are affordable & adorable.  There's one for nearly every occasion.  They are easy to pop in the mail.  They say an awful lot in a little package.  And they are the type of gift that someone will find in a treasure box 20 years from now and say - "Oh yea, I remember when Julie sent this for my 35th birthday."

Bag of Symbols
The latest addition to Judy's collection is an inspirational Bag of Symbols which represent balance, eternity, yin/yang, ohm and the Trinity.  Chances are, if your friend is into yoga, meditation, the Dalai Lama or hugging a tree this gift will be received with a smile of delight!  The charms are on sale for 15% off through the end of this week.  Feel free to contact me about volume discounts if you'd like to purchase a bunch as wedding giveaways, corporate gifts or the like. 

 In other La Muse news ... just yesterday my husband, Darryel, and I bought a work van.  He found a wonderful deal on one of those conversion vans from the 90's.  Darryel runs a triathlon club here in town and he was looking for something to be able to bring to events for gear transport and team support.  We hope to have it painted and all decaled up with logos by late spring (if you've got connections in that area let me know!).  La Muse will be using it for trips to shopping events (setting those up are on the 'to do' list).  I've posted a before picture for recollections sake.  Can't wait to see what it will look like in a few months!

Make it a great day everyone!   -debra


Sunday, February 27, 2011

A little hiatus...

Kilimanjaro Safari - Disney's
Animal Kingdon
I guess you could say I've been taking a hiatus from social networking the last three weeks - or maybe I was hiding :).  Yep, I was definitely hiding.  Other than posting pictures from my fabulous birthday week at Disney World I only entered Facebook when it called upon me to answer someone's email.  The last couple of weeks have been filled with many hours of opening boxes, organizing inventory and moving stuff OUT of my home and into the La Muse warehouse.  Kudos to Darryel for making rows and rows of shelving for me.  I'm about 80% there - and I know my biceps have gotten at least a little bit stronger.  Other than that I've been cooking like the Tazmanian Devil to accomodate my husband's increased appetite due to Ironman training - always making extra to vac in the Foodsaver to bring to NY for dad.  Btw, I just discovered the wonders of the Foodsaver 6 weeks ago - where have you been all my life??

Last weekend was officially the very first 'free to be me, no place to be, no plans Stan' weekend off in 4.5 years!  And you know what?  It was fantabulous!  It started off with a stay at home, order in, movie marathon and progressed to long walks to nowhere.  Today Darryel and I both got in a good dose of morning exercise then we walked to brunch, walked to a matinee and enjoyed the increased daylight on the walk home.  After we got home he gave me a big hug and said "I had a great day, I really missed my wife."  And so I know I'm on the right road toward fulfilling my New Year's resolution - to invest more in relationships.  I think my husband is a pretty good place to start and I'm grateful to be able to spend more time with him.

In La Muse news I have finally begun to update the website.  If you check it out you'll notice this really cool shopping cart that pops up when you add in merchandise.  I'm playing like the big boys now! (let me know what you think).

New Curly Girl Card
Leigh Standley and her Curly Girl Designs have unveiled 5 new cards for 2011 and we've got them in stock!  My very favorite one is "You have found a place in my heart.."   When I originally read this card a few weeks ago I first thought of it as a romantic love card - but when I read it again this evening I saw it in a whole new light.  I thought of a few of my long time girlfriends and the love, loyalty, fun and joy in those relationships - and how my life is so much better because of them.  They too deserve little hearts and festive parades ... and will have a place in my heart forever.

Happy Sunday everyone - Make it a great week!  And, in the words of Ellen Degeneres, "Be kind to one another." (I've got to find my own 'sign off' quote :)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

And we're off to the Big Mouse House!

It's 9:20am on Saturday, Feb 5th.  Darryel and I are supposed to be at the airport waiting to board our flight to Orlando but he was caught in Chicago last night coming home from a work trip.  This is actually a good thing because we're now going to catch a 5pm flight and it gives me some much needed extra hours to wrap up last minute items before we leave - like coloring my hair (grays be gone) and packing a bag!  Yay!  I'm thrilled to once again be spending my birthday in the happiest place on earth.

I just had to leave this behind!
The last day La Muse was open was Jan 23rd ...but it already feels like months ago.  Thanks to everyone who came out and shopped that last weekend, it was our biggest sales weekend in almost two years!  We got lots of inventory moved and had a wonderful opportunity to chat with the best customers on the planet.  

Yay Barbara!
We (or I should say Darryel) moved everything the weekend of January 29th.  It started out organized and peacefully enough but around 4pm on Sunday, after being at it for 21 hours, we cracked open a beer and threw organization to the wind  "Let's just get this stuff out of here!"  Luckily by that time most of the inventory was properly labeled and brought to storage - everything else got piled in our house until we have time to tackle it.  We finished about 10pm on Sunday.  Barbara, who is our friend and neighbor, came to help with the final move and the final beers!   

I do not miss this!  Boo!
At 6am on Monday I dropped Darryel off at the airport and the dogs and I were on our way to NY.  I spent 4 days with dad cooking, organizing, shopping and picking at the massive amounts of ice that had accumulated on his driveway.  At least I got my cardio in!  Back home on Thursday and I've been working feverishly at shipping out the website orders and checking in new inventory.  I can't wait to show you what fun new things will be available at http://www.shoplamuse.com/ - but that's going to have to wait until my return from Orlando.  Right now I am going to ignore the mass of clutter in my living room and move my brain into vacation mode.  Much needed, much deserved - I am going to sleep in tomorrow if it kills me! 

Much love   -debra
*Love Everybody*
Home sweet home!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Remembering 9/11

I was born in Brooklyn and my parents moved to Long Island when I was three.  I lived there until I was 35 and relocated here to the DC area.  When I go 'home' I go to New York.  It's where my mom and dad are.  It's where the other half of 20 year friendships live.  It's a significant and fabulous part of my story.

On Tuesday September 11, 2001 I lived on Long Island, NY in a nice little town near the south shore called Wantagh. It's about 30 miles east of Manhattan.  I was married to my first husband, we had two dogs and I worked at an employment firm where I routinely arrived for work around 10:30am.  At 8:00am I climbed on the treadmill and watched the second half of Pretty Woman (for the millionth time) to keep my mind occupied.  It was just before 9:00am when Julia Robert's rescued Richard Gere "right back."  I still had another 20 minutes of treadmill time ahead of me so I shut off the VCR (yep, was still using one of those then) and turned on the news.   The first thing I saw was a shot of the north tower on fire.  As I was trying to process exactly what was going on I noticed a plane approaching the towers.  I said to myself "This must be a water tanker coming to douse the flames."  Aviation expert I am not.  As soon as I saw it hit the south tower the words 'terrorist attack' flashed in my head like a neon sign. 

I have this uncanny ability to emotionally detach from situations by controlling my thoughts.  And if I have to lie to myself as well, so be it.  So as I watched the two buildings burn I kept thinking "Everything will be ok."  "Everyone will get out."  "They will put out these fires and everything will be ok."   

For the next hour I continued walking on the treadmill while my eyes were glued to the television. I prayed for everyone's safety and I was still convincing myself that everything would be ok.  With all the resources we have at our disposal in this great country - everything just had to be ok.  I don't remember much about this hour.  Nine years later it seems like I was suspended, floating in time.  The south tower collapsed at 9:59am.  I held on to hope for the survivors and our remaining tower.  "The north tower will hold, the people will get out, the south tower will be rebuilt and everything will be ok." 

With the collapse of the north tower at 10:28 reality came rushing in and there was nothing I could do to stop it.  I will never forget the feeling...of my heart being ripped out of my chest and thrown on the floor, shattered.  I screamed.  I collapsed.  I sobbed uncontrollably.  It was a feeling of grief that I mercifully had never felt before and have not felt since.  During this time my friend Dawn called and all I can remember screaming into the phone was "They took our towers, they took our towers."

Everyone copes with stress differently and my coping mechanism was to go to work.  I got myself together, showered, dressed quickly and headed off to work.  I was in a complete daze as the radio reports droned on and on about the etrocities.  The newsmen spoke of the crash in Pennsylvania, the Pentagon and there were even reports of acts of terror at Camp David and in Washington DC (which later turned out to be false).  Mass evacuations were taking place in NY and DC.  It felt like Armageddon.  I was only a block away from my office when I felt an overwhelming need to go home and be with my husband.  I called him and he said he was leaving his job and would meet me at home.  I called my company and spoke with my co-worker Tom.  I told him I was only a block away but I wouldn't be coming in, I had to go home.  He was confused and asked me why and I said "Do you have any idea what is happening right now?"   As I sat at a traffic light and looked around at the other drivers I had a surreal moment.  "Doesn't everyone know the enormity of what is happening?"  I felt like I was the only person in that scene who understood the true scale and impact of the disasters that were unfolding.  I knew in that moment that September 11th was going to change many lives and our country forever.  This was the Pearl Harbor of our time. 

I got home and embraced my husband and we both cried.  We turned on the television and started calling around to our various friends who either worked in New York City or whose spouses did.  Has anyone heard from Rob? Russell? Ed? Pete? Phil?...and the list went on.  Friends on Long Island started to feel the need to be together as we waited for word on everyone.  We gathered at Rob & Stacy's where we watched television, talked, ate and drank wine to calm our nerves.  Slowly people started to call in.  All transporation in Manhattan was at a standstill and everyone was walking across the Brooklyn Bridge.  It would be a long time before anyone would get home. 

Ten hours after the first plane hit Rob, Russell and Ed walked through the door.  It had been a grueling day.  They were tired and hungry.  As we fed them they sat down to watch the television newscasts of the day for the very first time.  It was mind boggling and overwhelming. 

As the days went by we started to hear more of the days accounts from friends and friends of friends.  If you lived on Long Island you personally knew someone who was in NYC that day if you weren't there yourself.  God shined his light on our friend Phil that day.  His baby daughter had kept him awake most of the night so he was late for work.  He came out of the subway in between the first and second planes hitting - and he made a quick decision to grab a cab and take it straight home.  Everyone that was in his office that day perished.  Pete wasn't so lucky.  Pete worked for Cantor Fitzgerald and he was in the office when the plane hit.  We prayed and hoped for days but we'd never see his smiling face again.  Pete Siracuse left behind a young wife and baby son. 

I felt it was important for me to write this account of 9/11 today, 9 years later.  Although I seem to remember it like yesterday I am unsure of minor details and can't remember exact conversations like I used to - and I never, ever want to forget. 

Monday, August 2, 2010

...and oh so much gratitude.

"To thine own self be true"

"What lies behind us and what lies before us - are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."

These are the two most popular quotes at La Muse over the last six months

Please tell me why?

Monday, July 19, 2010

The power of a well written letter

Early last November I lost my latest Canon PowerShot camera while I was on vacation.  Shame on me!  My kind and wonderful husband purchased a new one for me as a Thanksgiving gift.  Although I know I drive him nuts sometimes with all the pictures I take - the fact remains that we both share a love of preserving memories through pictures and video.  Sometimes I'll catch him on the computer sitting with a glass of wine, and a content smile, sifting through the thousands of pictures we've taken over the years.

In mid June I was at a birthday party in New York and I dropped my gift.  The LCD screen went black and that was that.  Ugh, shame on me again.  But honestly, I've dropped many a Canon camera over the years and never has one malfunctioned so easily.  I mean if they can't take a little banging around what good are they?  (and if Apple only knew how many times I've dropped my iPhone!  Thanks for making a tough product Apple!)  There was no visible damage to the outside of the camera and the glass protecting the LCD was fine.

The camera was still under warranty and I sent it in for repair.  Several days later I received a form email stating that the repair would cost me $130.00 because the camera has suffered 'impact' damage.  The email also stated that I could call customer service and receive credit toward a Canon upgrade.  I did call customer service and the woman offered me a 20% discount on the repair.  Since the camera now sells for $160 online I couldn't see the sense in spending over $100 for my old one to be fixed.  I asked about the upgrade.  After much searching the rep said that she couldn't offer me an upgrade because my model wasn't 'in the matrix.'  Really?

Now here is where most people would really start to get their dander up.  Blood pressure elevating, stress level rising, adrenaline kicking in ... they might ask "Can I speak with a manager?"   Here's the best piece of advice I can ever give to someone trying to solve a customer service issue - give the phone ONE chance.  Only one.  Don't drive yourself crazy with customer service people reading from scripts and managers who don't have any real authority.  If you can't get it resolved in one call politely thank the person for their time and hang up.  Then look up the name of the CEO and the HQ address.  Write a clear and concise letter describing the issue at hand and exactly what they can do to resolve the situation to your satisfaction.

Throughout the years that I've subscribed to this method of handling customer service there has only been one time where my issue was not resolved swiftly and to my satisfaction.  At times I've been surprised and delighted with a company's desire to not only resolve my situation but to go above and beyond and create a raving fan in the process.  **Honable mention here to Kevin Cassidy, Patron Services, Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts who recently made me a raving fan!

I am happy to say that when I arrived at work today there was a phone message along with two email messages stating that my camera would be fixed free of charge and they hope to have it back in my hands by the end of the week.

A hearty 'Thank You' to the staff in Mr. Joe Adachi's office!  I appreciate your response and willingness to stand behind your product!


Saturday, July 10, 2010

An excellent day ... or a few months

It's been a while since I've written anything - but we can chalk that up to life or writers block.

Today I feel compelled to write.  Well, I've actually felt compelled for a little while but time hasn't agreed with me.

I've learned several things over the last few months:

"Decisions made in frustration or anger end in catastrophe."  (Laurence Fishburne - from the movie "Bobby")

"Happiness is when what you say, what you do and what you think are in perfect harmony." (Gandhi)

And my own personal mantras still hold strong:  Do what you say you will do, Be the best person you can be - & - Live with Gratitude.

Over the last several months I've realized how important it is to keep your key quotes front and center.

My husband asked me an interesting question last evening,  He asked "What drives you to be the person you are?"

After a little internal debate I realized that it is my solid belief that what we do today propels us forward.  In this life and in the next.

When we love each other and care for each other - when we relieve stress and despair from our brothers and sisters.  In our support and kindness for every person that we encounter ... it is there.  It is in a smiling face or an opened door or a kind ear. 

I would like to share with you a quote that my friend John DeAmicis has put into art:

"Ancient Egyptians believed that upon death they would be asked two questions and their answers would determine whether they could continue their journey in the afterlife... The first question was Did you bring joy? The second was Did you find joy?"

Do you bring joy?  Do you find joy?

I truly hope that you did.    -debra

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Creating Good Karma - AKA 'Why I love my job'

Kathy found La Muse on eBay as she was looking for Island Cowgirl merchandise. She contacted me in the middle of March to ask if I would ship eBay orders to Canada and if I had any other pieces that weren't on eBay. I introduced her to my website and we corresponded about what Island Cowgirl merchandise I could special order for her. After a couple of weeks I received the items she ordered, I packed them with lots of love and off they went to Edmonton. I could tell by our email correspondence that she was very excited to receive her treasures.

I always imagine that every package I send puts a smile on the recipient's face - most of the time I don't know for sure - but every so often I get a glimpse...

With work 'to-do' lists swirling around in my head I got up at some ungodly hour on Thursday morning. As I waited for the coffee to finish brewing I started going through my emails and came across this one from Kathy:

"Hello Debra,
Today was a great day!! My beautiful jewelry arrived from you. Thank you sooooooo much. I love each piece. I am a big fan of Island Cowgirl. The "Happy Heart" is perfect. I wear a lot of silver heart jewelry. The initial / heart charms pendant is very, very cute!!! I put it on with the pieces I was already wearing and it looked awesome, the layered look. It's still too cold here to wear an anklet, but I can hardly wait to wear it this summer or sooner!! :)

I love your personal touches and superb customer service. You have been wonderful to work with!! I must tell you that the inspirational "rock"...Life is Good...couldn't have arrived at a more perfect time. My life is hectic and complicated right now, due to my younger brother's passing last July. Sometimes when a family member passes on there is chaos and division amongst people and that happens to be going on in my life. So thank you for the reminder that Life is Good. I shall carry it with me as a reminder!

Until next time....take care.

P.S. Love all the inspiring words written on the outside of the package! Keep smiling and making people happy!!!!!"

Yes, Kathy - today IS a great day. Thank you for creating even more gratitude in my life. Namaste

Sunday, April 18, 2010

New at La Muse - Lolablue

About six weeks ago a woman came into my store, her name is Deidre.  She is a certified Washington DC tour operator who, until recently, lived in Florida.  Most of her business came from Florida and she would travel from there to here with each tour of students that she was leading.  She decided to move to the area since it would open up a lot more avenues of business for her.  Just last week she started as a tour director of our infamous Ghost Tours here in Old Town. 

As we chatted she mentioned a friend of hers named Jamie.  Born out of a realization of the amount of toxins used in commercial candles she set out on a journey to create an organic formula of high-quality soy and botanical candles.  Lolablue started out as a candle company and now offers natural sugar scrubs and hand-crafted soaps as well.

Deidre told me that Jaime was interested in expanding her reach beyond the Florida market and asked me if I'd be interested in sampling Jaime's products.  Since I have so many customers that have asked me to carry candles I readily agreed.

A few weeks later Deidre came in with some of Jaime's samples.  OMG!  Is all I can say.  From the yummy vanilla in the Angel Kiss candle to the earthy scent of her Amber Sandlewood soap - I was in heaven.  The final straw was when Deidre gave me a sample of Lolablue's Lavender/Vanilla SkyClad sugar scrub to take home.  Not only did the body scrub feel fantastic but the combination of the two scents is amazing - and it lingered all day long.

La Muse received its first shipment of Lolablue last week and we know it will fast become a favorite of our customers.  Lolablue is now available online at ShopLaMuse.com.  Take an additional 10% through May 31st with coupon code 'may10.'  If you are not completely satisfied feel free to return it for a full refund - I am confident you will love it just as much as I do!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

It's a brand new day!

Spring is here.  The sun is shining, the birds are chirping (I know this because they woke me up at 2:30 this morning with their enthusiasm) and this blog is once again taking a new direction.  I started this blog on January 1 with the sole purpose of documenting random acts of kindness for 365 consecutive days.

I was doing pretty well until the beginning of March when my store really started to feel the effects of an unusually mean winter.  The DC area had it's snowiest and coldest winter on record and business at La Muse was suffering badly.  No time for the luxuries of writing, I needed to sell some inventory - and fast.  Hmmm, what to do, what to do?  Enter eBay. For the last month I have worked on learning a new profession - selling on eBay.  Equipped with The Idiot's Guide to Selling on eBay and all the knowledge of the world wide web at my disposal I got to work.  Who knew there was so much to learn?  I am still an eBay infant but I have managed to streamline some inventory thanks to the tremendous exposure the website offers.  Most things I've sold to this point have been at a loss but I'd much rather cash in old inventory and use the money toward spring merchandise than have it sit around for months to come.  I am optimistic eBay can become a revenue producing venue for La Muse so I'll continue to learn and keep forging ahead!

In this month hiatus from blogging I've learned a few things.  A)  Try as I might, I am never going to blog every day.  B)  Although practicing or documenting a different 'random act of kindness' each day is an admirable goal the stress I put on myself trying to achieve this daily is not well spent.  Sharing kindness should be natural, never stressful.  C)  There's other things I'd like to write about...and so I will.  In the not too distant future (maybe after I reach the eBay toddler stage, become YouTube proficient and learn something about the Twittersphere) I will end up purchasing Blogging for Dummies and see what I can do about upping the ante and wowing my wonderful La Muse customers.  Until then, if I can write something that makes you smile...they are words (or pictures) well spent. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

March 1-3

March 3 - Give a neighbor a ride

March 2 - Either pick up your dog's poop ... or train them to do it 

March 1 - Share your lunch - Who knew a 6" Subway sandwich and a diet coke could bring such a smile!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

February 26 - February 28

 February 28 - Share 29 Ways to Carry Out Random Acts of Kindness Every Day and a super fun blog Secret Agent L in Pittsburgh. - Many thanks to Arvind Devalia for sharing his thoughts on ways to practice random acts of kindness...in fact, have I used one today:

Purchase a lottery ticket for a stranger - Darryel and I were in 7-11 this morning and I walked over to the ATM.  The machine is right next to the table where you can fill out lottery tickets and a gentleman moved to the side and said "Don't mind me, I'm just trying to win some money."  Ding, the alarm in my head went off,  I remembered #3 of Arvind's 29 Acts.  As my husband paid for my water I said to the cashier "Can you please add three lottery scratch-off tickets to that?" (notice how I did that by the way ... 'as my husband was paying' hehe)  I proceeded to give one of them to the gentleman that was just ahead of us and the other two to the gentleman near the ATM machine.

I got in the car and Darryel followed after he had finished paying.  He said the gentleman in front of him looked at him quizzically to which Darryel responded "She's always doing stuff like that."  "That's why God's always looking out for her" the man said.  Indeed he does sir, indeed he does.  :)

February 27 - Ok, just one more note - So, I said I went note happy this weekend.  I found heart-shaped Post It notes, how cool is that?  So I wrote on a bunch of them and left them on restroom mirrors around town and at Grace's Mandarin at National Harbor and the Cheesecake Factory at Baltimore's Inner Harbor.  I am definitely going to make a habit of leaving these in all sorts of places.  Getting lots of Good Karma mileage out of the Post Its!

February 26 - Leave a love note - I admit that I got the note idea from Operation Beautiful.  My entire weekend was one note leaving extravaganza.  My husband has been having a rough time at work lately and I thought this note would be a nice little picker upper in his day so I put it at the bottom of his lunch bag.  I was right!  I received a phone call in the late afternoon telling how fabulous the lunch was that I made and that he especially loved my note - he said it was 'right on time!'

Thursday, February 25, 2010

February 18-25

February 25 - Make a difference, one post-it note at a time - From the editor, Caitlin:
 "I began Operation Beautiful by leaving positive messages on the mirrors of public restrooms — at work, at the gym, at the grocery store.  I scribble down whatever comes to mind — "You are beautiful!" or "You are amazing just the way you are!"  My personal goal is to leave as many Operation Beautiful notes as I can. Maybe some people read them and just smile, but I bet some people are truly touched by the effort of a random stranger."

 February 24 - Be an organ donor - I'm not sure if there is an organ donor awareness day, but there certainly should be.  A few years ago my husband's niece died in a car accident.  It was a very sad tragedy to have a 24 year old girl killed during what should be the prime of her life - sadder still that she wasn't an organ donor.  Since her family didn't know her wishes and they didn't have any prior views on what it means to be an organ donor they opted not to donate.  As I watched the medical staff unplug all of the machines that were keeping her alive I wept not only for her but for the life giving organs that she possessed that were dying at that moment as well.  If you have not checked off the 'organ donor' box on your drivers license or made family members aware of your wishes, please do so today.

For more information on organ donation here are some websites:  LifeSharers.org
OrganDonor.gov   Alliance for Paired Donation (living kidney donations)

February 23 - Share Dr. Wayne Dyer -  I was 16 years old when I broke up with my first boyfriend.  The world was coming to an end (isn't it always when you're in high school?).  I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep and I didn't want to engage in life.  I wonder if my parents thought they were going to have to put me into therapy for depression.  Not to worry, help was on the way!  As luck would have it I was enrolled in a psychology class with a wonderful and dynamic teacher, Mr. O'Neal.  He had us read Dr. Dyer's book called 'Your Erroneous Zones' and it changed my life for the better.  I learned how to not let my thoughts and emotions run away from me and how to create positive mind shifts and thought patterns.  Dr. Dyer's writing has matured over the years, as have I, and I continue to use his writing and teachings as a source of inspiration in my life.  He is truly one in a million.

February 21 - Let someone jump the queue - Whenever I see an opportunity I am more than happy to give up my place in line and let someone go ahead of me.  What a nice surprise it was today when I found myself with a handful of frames at Micheal's Arts & Crafts store and the lady in front of me invited me to go ahead of her in line.  I, and my strained arm muscles, thank her. 

February 20 - Fill out that survey - We all get tons of surveys in the mail, on the phone, via internet or email.  If I only had a dime for every person that has tried to extract information from me!  But, if we take the time to think about it, company's are using these surveys to help serve us better.  I haven't yet done a formal survey for La Muse but when I do it will be to help fine tune the products and services I offer so that I can do a better job of making my customers happy.  Admittedly we can't take the time to fill out every survey that comes across our desk but if we view providing our opinion as an act of kindness we might take the time out to share information with the companies we support and trust.  I received a survey from Intuit today.  I happen to love Intuit products and services.  What has sold me most about them is their customer service, it's hands-down the best I've ever experienced.  So when a 'very brief' survey from them arrived in my email today I happily took the time to fill it out and ad my comments.

February 19 - Pick up street trash -  Lord knows there is no shortage of trash on the streets, we could spend every waking hour on this good karma activity.  Instead of driving yourself crazy perhaps you'd like to try this strategy instead.  Pick a trash can you walk by each day and make it a point to throw something in it.  I walk to get coffee at Misha's most every day.  As I walk over I pick up one or two pieces of trash that is lying on the street and dump it in the trash can I pass.  No my neighborhood is not a dump, it's actually very nice, but I can always find a scrap of paper or a cigarette butt that can be put in it's proper place.

February 18 - Brighten up your neighborhood - This was a great one and I wish I had my camera with me to take a picture of it.  On Valentine's Day morning my husband and I were walking around town.  We came up to King St., which is the main shopping street, and as we turned the corner we began to notice printed hearts on 8.5" x 11" pieces of paper taped to the store windows.  At first I thought it was a promotion by one of the stores but as we walked block after block and kept seeing the hearts I realized that it was a random act of kindness.  Someone, or a few someones, printed out all of these hearts and got up bright and early Valentine's Day morning and taped them to all the business windows on King St.  What fun!  It made me smile and was a perfect way to start the morning.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

February 13 - February 17

February 17 - Support our Team USA Olympic Athletes -  Today was an amazing day in USA Olympic history.  6 medals in one day, 3 of them were gold.  In the days leading up to the events I joined the Facebook pages of a few of the athletes and wrote them words of encouragement and support - followed by lots of kudos this evening.  Aside from the athlete, it takes scores of people to help them bring home the gold.  Their friends, family, coaches and fans push them along each step of the way - don't underestimate what a few kind words from the heart can do.  If you're in a position to donate to Team USA please do so, there is a link on the website.  We have an amazing team in Vancouver and our Country should be swelling with pride.  Go Team USA - you are an inspiration!

February 16 - Participate in Random Acts of Kindness Week - Which just so happens to be this week:
February 15 - Bring someone a NY Pizza - Oh man, do I love NY pizza. I've lived in the DC area for 5 years now and I still can't force myself to like the pizza here (ditto on the diners). I have found 2 places that have decent pizza but they are both at least 30 minutes away (it seems you actually can make a good NY pizza elsewhere if you ship your provisions in from Brooklyn).  Oh boy, what I happy camper I was when my Uncle Kenny from Staten Island came to visit my cousin and stopped by the store Friday to bring me a no imitation, straight from NY, real live pizza!!  Woo Hoo!  That was one great Karma creating act.  Thanks Uncle Ken!

February 14 - Send a Valentine's Day Card - We often think of Valentine's Day celebrations being amongst those that are romantically involved but what about friends and family?  I have more than a few girlfriends who profess to 'hate' Valentine's Day (hate is a rather strong word, don't ya think?).  It doesn't strike me as odd that these are my single girlfriends.  Personally, I don't buy into the Valentine's day hoopla simply on principle.  I have decided that I won't let Hallmark dictate the day when I need to celebrate my marriage by buying chocolate, flowers and dinner all at exorbitant prices.  I'm just stubborn that way.  So, instead I've decided to send a few of those girlfriends a nice, heart adorned, 'You Are Fabulous' card in hopes that they take the focus away from hating Valentine's Day and remember that love comes in oh so many forms.

February 13 - Give away hugs, lots of them! - Jeff Ondash, nicknamed Teddy McHuggin, hugs a tourist on the The Strip on his way to setting the Guinness World Record for hugs in a 24 hour period on in Las Vegas on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2009. Ondash succeeded in giving 7,777 hugs - and just as many smiles!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

February 9 - February 12

February 12 - Send a note of gratitude to a complete stranger - The other day I received a website order for 10 Curly Girl greeting cards.  I took a look at my inventory and had 7 of them on hand, the rest were due to be delivered by today but given Mother Nature's recent snow storms I figured it might take another week to get them in.  I emailed the customer, Mary Pat, back and asked if she'd like me to get the 7 out now or the 10 when I have them all on hand.

"Thanks Debra- I am ordering these to send as cheer up notes to my daughter who left two weeks ago to work with a woman's organization in Nicaragua and is feeling overwhelmed. Whenever you can overcome Mother Nature is fine... I just wanted to cheer her up as soon as possible. Thanks, Mary Pat"

It seems that her daughter, Mariah, is working with Collectiva des Mujeres, a women's rights organization.  Kudos to Mariah for undertaking such important work and kudos to Mary Pat for raising such an outstanding human being.

I asked for Mariah's address and sent this note of gratitude.  I'm sure she would appreciate happy notes from anyone - if you have a moment to send one please do:  

Mariah Underhill
C/O Rodriguez Chavarrilla
Siete Esquinas
1/2 Cuadra al Sur, Masaya


February 11 - Share an inspiring quote - I love to share inspiring quotes.  If you've ever been to La Muse you'll see that inspiring quotes adorn our chalkboard outside and every wall inside.  Every customer package leaves the store with hand written quotes, affirmations and good wishes.  In fact about 85% of our business relies on positive, amusing or intriguing messages of one sort or another.  I often find that certain quotes prevail from year to year.  Given the state of our recent economy it doesn't surprise me that this was the most sought after quote of 2009.

February 10 - Share your skills - I devote about 20 minutes each month to manage the funds of a person with a disability.  I deposit his social security check, pay his bills and balance his checkbook.  It's an easy job to do and one that is vital to this person.  Many communities have opportunities for residents to volunteer using basic skills like reading, cooking, language, etc.  If you'd like to volunteer some time in this capacity but don't know where to start check your local city or town website and look under general, community, human or mental health services.

February 9 - Share Pictures - My next door neighbor came into the store, "Deb, what's your email address?  I took some pictures during the snowstorm and wanted to share them with you."  Here's one of the picture's he sent me.    I thought it was really nice of John to not only take this picture but then take the time to email it to me.

People who know me have experienced first hand my passion for pictures.  I have a camera at most every outing and now that I have an iPhone the sky is the limit!  My most treasured possession isn't a house or car, it's my collection of pictures.  What I have noticed is that since the dawn of digital pictures, although we all take tons more of them, we don't print as many out.  I try to make it a point to print out pictures for friends and family.  Sometimes I give them in a nice frame as a gift and sometimes I just put them in an envelope and send them through the mail.  When it comes down to it, is there a nice gift than a memory?