Thursday, January 28, 2010

January 25 to January 27

Jan 27 - Share "The Responsibility Project"

Jan 26 - Be there in a pinch - My cousin Ken moved from NY several years ago and, as luck would have it, he and his family now only live 12 blocks away from me.  His wife, Colleen, is pregnant with baby number two and Darryel and I have been on baby watch for the last couple of weeks.  We were the ones to be called, day or night.  When they needed to head to the hospital we were on babysitting detail.  We got the call tonight and dropped everything to head to their house.  I have to admit, Colleen couldn't have started contractions at a more convenient time - just after dinner on a Tuesday evening and their daughter was already sleeping, does it get any better?  We fully expected to receive a phone call sometime in the middle of the night.  As they headed out the door they kept thanking us for coming to help them out.  Truth be told, it is a pleasure and an honor to be the person to help those you love when they need a hand. 

Jan 25 - Get your employer involved in charitable giving - Ok, for me this is an easy one.  After all, I'm the boss.  In 2009 La Muse donated 26 gift certificates to charity.  I'm sure we'll surpass that in 2010 as I've already donated 10 this month alone, including the three I've sent today. It was no different for me when I was in corporate.  I was always taking up one cause or another - if I was still in an office I'm sure I would be right smack in the middle of a donation drive for Haiti right now. Get behind a cause that you are passionate about and think about how your employer's resources might be able to help.  The best ideas are those that are a win/win for the employer and the charity such as those that include PR exposure or bringing your employer face to face with potential customers.

January 8 to January 24

Jan 24 - Give a company a second chance - In October 2009 I was supposed to walk in the Philadelphia 3 Day with 7 other women.  It was freezing cold that weekend and there were torrential downpours so the Susan G Komen organization abbreviated the event from 3 days to 1 and from 60 miles to 14.  The real shame of it was that not only did they make this call at the eleventh hour after we had all arrived in Philly (and the weather forecast was the same since the previous Monday) but they couldn't formulate a plan for the out of towners before we were due to check out of our hotel on Friday.  The situation was handled poorly and the 3 Day hasn't been willing to make it up to us by allowing us to move our fees and fund raising efforts so that we may participate in a 2010 event.  Up until now I had decided to disassociate myself from the Susan G Komen organization.  I have held my tongue but have felt overall discontent for the organization.  This month is the big recruitment month for the 3 Day and their commercials have bombarded the airwaves.  In watching these commercials I remembered what a fabulous time we all had in 2008.  I also thought about the founder, Nancy Brinker, who spoke to us at camp in 2008.  Her passion seemed genuine and her heart in the right place - and I'm sure our plight has not been brought to her attention. Over the last two weeks I've gathered information from my fellow walkers and have developed a letter that we will be sending to Mrs. Brinker. The letter has taken a lot of time for me and my teammates to write and I look forward to her response.

Note:  Because of the speech Nancy Brinker gave to us at camp in 2008 I realize how emotionally attached she is to this cause and how extremely passionate she is about her organization.  I can liken it in many ways to my feelings about my own store, La Muse.  If someone were to have a bad experience in my store I hope they would talk to me about it so that I might have an opportunity to make things right.  This is the consideration I am offering Mrs. Brinker.

Jan 23 - Plan a group outing - How wonderful does it feel to spend an evening with friends?  Wine, conversation, a nice meal, a little entertainment - doesn't it always make you happy?  A few weeks ago I received a solicitation email from Medieval Times.  It's a hokey dinner theater featuring paper crowns, knights, jousting and half broiled chickens with no utensils.  Although I had never been before I did hear it was a bit corny, but who could resist half priced tickets?  So I sent out an email and to my surprise we ended up with a party of nine.  What fun to act like big kids with our paper crowns.  We've now decided to make this a monthly dinner club and February will feature belly dancers!

Jan 22 - Share the wealth - This afternoon I received an email from a woman in New Jersey who owns a wellness center and is interested in selling some of the jewelry I sell.  I have found that sometimes when I ask other business owners, out of my own selling territory of course, for information on products they sell I do not receive a response.  I'm not really sure why they want to hold on to this information.  I guess I can understand if they sell items online and are concerned about competition.  In any case my outlook on sharing information such as this, as long as the retailer is not in my zip code, is that it's the right thing to do.  As far as selling things online I am confident that I offer excellent products at a very fair price and my customer service cannot be touched by any retailer - bring on the competition! 

Jan 21 - Volunteer at a food bank - Every third Thursday of the month my husband and I volunteer at the Arlington Food Assistance Center.  It's an effort we've been committed to for the last three years and thoroughly enjoy the people we work with and serving our clients.  It's a win/win for everyone!

Jan 20 - Offer a prayer for a stranger - A gentleman walked into my store today.  He said that he was looking for a gift for a friend who had recently received a bad health diagnosis.  What he really wanted was to buy her music but he was having a hard time finding a music store in town.  Unfortunately our last independent music store went out of business about 18 months ago.  (hint, hint ... shop local independent stores please!)  I directed him to the Potomac Yard shopping center which is only 2 miles away and has a Best Buy and a Target.  After he left the store I took a moment to offer a prayer of healing for his friend.

Jan 19 - Write a heartfelt note to a friend.

Jan 18 - Share 'The Dash' - 

How Do You Live Your Dash
I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone from the beginning... to the end. 

He noted that first came her date of birth and spoke the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time that she spent alive on earth...
and now only those who loved her know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we won; the cars...the house...the cash,
what matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash. 

So think about this long and hard.. are there things you'd like to change?
For you never know how much time is left, that can still be rearranged. 

If we could just slow down enough to consider what's true and real,
and always try to understand the way other people feel. 

And be less quick to anger, and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives like we've never done before. 

If we treat each other with respect, and more often wear a smile.
Remembering that this special dash might only last a while. 

So, when your eulogy's being read with your life's actions to rehash...
would you be proud of the things they said about how you spent your dash?


Jan 17 -  Go shopping with a friend - So you might be wondering why this would be labeled under an act of kindness, especially from a woman.  I'll tell you why I feel it's justified.  A) I might be the only female in the world that doesn't enjoy clothes shopping and B) I went with a friend that spent 90 minutes trying on thirty different pairs of sneakers in one store.  I sat there with a smile on my face and with encouragement in my words and was non to happy to head out of that store and get home to watch football!

Jan 16 - Be a hostess - Today was our annual 'Christmas' party.  I don't need to elaborate as to why it was held in January, do I?  In any case our home was filled with lots of love, joy, food and about 40 people.  Our friends came from NY, OH, MD, DC and near our home.  I cooked for five days to prepare and loved every minute of it.  Kudos and thank you's from everyone notwithstanding, there is nothing more gratifying to me than opening up my home and having friends come to visit.  

Noted act of kindness - We do a 'white elephant' gift exchange at our annual parties.  Some items are totally useless, some are funny and some are sought after.  One particular item that was sought after this year was a coffee thermos.  It was hijacked more than once by various participants and finally ended up in the hands of our friend Velvet.  As she was walking out the door Debby, who was holding the thermos previously, approached Velvet to ask her if there was a manufacturer listed on the bottom as she wanted to purchase one for herself.  At that point Velvet handed her the thermos and said "Merry Christmas."  Debby's night was made!

Jan 15 - Run an errand for a friend - I've been watching my friend, Debby's, dog for the last two and a half weeks while she was in Thailand.  Her plane was landing in the morning today and sometime this afternoon she was going to come over to my house to get her dog.  Knowing what it feels like to travel from overseas I packed up the dog and all of her goodies and brought her over to Debby apartment so that she'd already be there when Debby came home.  Note - Debby dog sits for us as well and always stays at our house alleviating the need for us to shuttle our dogs back and forth.  This is such a great help and much appreciated!

Jan 14 - Send an unexpected thank you card - Over the Christmas holiday my cousin Jay took my husband and I out to lunch.  Jay is one heck of a great guy, he also happens to be quite frugal by nature.  So when he insisted on picking up the tab for lunch I recognized that it was kind of a big deal.  As we left I gave him a big hug and told him I appreciated our time together and him treating us to lunch. Today an email from him came across my desk and something told me to go the extra mile and send out a thank you card, that he would appreciate it.  Fast forward to Jan. 25 - Boy was I right, today I received a thank you card from Jay thanking me for my thank you card.  Haha - I guess one can never have too much gratitude, but I knew that already.

Jan 13 - Donate in support of the victims of the Haiti earthquake - A massive earthquake hit Haiti yesterday.  Today I donated to the American Red Cross toward their efforts to help the victims there - and I offered my prayers.

Jan 12 -  Support another person's goals - For the last 3 years the Flying Pig Half Marathon in Cincinnati has been on my to-do list, and each year something has prevented me from being able to get there.  2010 is the year.  I called our friends in Dayton to make sure they'd be around and I added it to our calendar.  I received an email a few days ago from our friend Gina that she is going to participate in her very first half marathon on Long Island on (you guessed it) the very same day as the Flying Pig - "Are you going to come?" She asked.  Ugh - I told her I would love to but I am finally going to get to Cincinnati this year.  Later that night I was in bed telling my husband, Darryel, about my guilt for sticking to my guns.  "Well," he said "the easiest way to remedy that is to change your plans and we'll go to LI to support Gina's first half marathon, she's only going to have one 'first."  "Cincinnati will be there next year and you know you're going to feel like crap for not being there for Gina."  Yep, he knows me well.  Here we come Cincinnati, in 2011.

Jan 11 - Introduce someone to a volunteer opportunity - For the last four years I've been a 'representative payee' for a disabled person in the community.  I am responsible for collecting his social security check, paying his bills and reconciling the bank account.  It's only about a 20 minute commitment each month but the initial setup requires a trip to social security, a trip to the bank and some additional legwork - I'd say it takes about 10 hours.  I was called on today by a social worker and asked if I would take on a second client.  I've been feeling a little overwhelmed lately and need to keep my focus on the store - it was time to stop myself before I volunteered yet again for something.  Rather than saying no I thought about whom I could pass this opportunity on to and thought of the perfect candidate, my friend John.  Yippee, he's ready and willing to help - and accounting is his specialty!  I proceeded to put him in touch with the social worker.

I think it's worth pointing out the kindness that is passed on by avoiding the word 'no' whenever possible.  If you can't do something try to find someone who will - if you can't provide something attempt to think of someone who can.  It feels so much better than just saying 'no.' 

Jan 10 - Help a friend build a basement (or send your husband to do it ;) - This evening I drove to Baltimore airport to pick up Darryel after he spent the weekend on Long Island. Our friends, Mike and Gina, bought a big old house there last year.  It's a beautiful house but as is the case with many older homes it needs a good amount of updating.  Darryel happens to be extremely handy (he once built a fence and a deck at our home in one weekend, by himself!) and I suggested that he might want to head up to NY to help Mike.  He would get to spend a weekend with a good friend, work with his hands and do a good deed.  He liked the idea too and I was able to book him an inexpensive flight on Southwest.  On the ride home from the airport Darryel was in such a fantastic mood.  He had thoroughly enjoyed the weekend.  He talked about all they had gotten accomplished and how he taught Mike how to cut and hang sheet rock.  It was very fulfilling to him to be able to pass on some of his skills.  I said to Darryel "So you taught him how to fish?"  He looked at me for a moment and then the light bulb went off in his head - "Yes, I guess I did." 

Jan 9 - Meet a friend for coffee - Nurturing relationships is so incredibly important.  I'm not one for New Year's resolutions but this is one I'm investing in for 2010.  To do my best to go that extra step in reaching out to friends and family.  Whether it's a phone call, greeting card, email or face to face time.  On this particular day I met a friend for coffee and we spent a delightful two hours chatting away.  I think she put it best when she said "Warmth, good conversation and coffee - what could be better?"

Jan 8 - Pass on a great deal - A friend of mine is heading to NY in a few weeks to spend a weekend there with her daughter.  Since I had just spent time there over Christmas I told her about two great websites where super deals could be had; for shows and for all sorts of half priced goodies.  I received an email from her later today after she checked out the websites.  She was so excited because she had found out from the TKTS website that since she is a teacher that lives more than 150 miles from NYC she is able to buy a membership for only $12 that enables her to purchase all sorts of show tickets at fantastic savings.  She went on to say that I should start a 'deals' section on my website.  Add it to the list!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

January 1-7

Jan 7 - Offer thoughtful conversation - Everyone who knows me knows that I am not one to talk on the phone.  I am sure it was all those years of being in corporate sales and having the phone to my ear 8 hours a day.  I hate to admit it but most of the time my friends call me and I am really bad about reciprocating - but I hope they know I'll be there when it counts.  Today one of my dearest friends left me a message and I could tell she needed to talk.  So I waited until a time later in the evening when I knew I could relax and wouldn't be interrupted and I called her back.  I thoughtfully listened and contemplated the advice I was going to give her.  By the time we were finished we'd been on the phone close to two hours and it was just about midnight.  The next day she called me in the afternoon to tell me that she had taken my advice and things were moving in the right direction.  What a nice feeling it was to know that I had taken the time to really listen to my friend and was able to offer some tidbits of advice that were helpful to her.  In a world where it seems everything is moving at the speed of light it's easy to miss those opportunities to give to others in the form of time and conversation - but sometimes that exactly what we need to do for each other.

Jan 6 - Make a birthday phone call - I called my dad for his birthday today, and Darryel called his mom as it's her birthday today too.  I think it's worth mentioning that above all the different forms of communication ... text, Facebook, emails, etc., for me there is just nothing more personal than hearing someone's voice singing a little happy birthday jingle in my ear.  There's lots of days when text messages will do - my birthday just isn't one of them.  Next time you feel the urge to send a Facebook birthday greeting consider moving away from the keyboard and grab your phone!

Jan 5 -  Encourage someone to follow their dreams - One of my artists, Armine, was in the store today and we were chatting about Paris.  It's a place she's dreamed of since she was a little girl but caring for her family has always come before pursuing her own dreams.  This summer her daughter will be traveling abroad for school and she has asked her mom to meet her in Paris.  Armine is hesitant as she believes it is selfish to leave her other two children to meet her daughter in Paris.  We spoke for a while about dreams and travel and giving yourself permission to pursue your own happiness.  At the end of the conversation she thanked me for my encouragement and promised to work on fulfilling her dream of going to Paris.  I sure hope she does! 

Jan 4 - Deliver Meals on Wheels - Meals on Wheels is a project I've been involved with for close to 5 years now.  No matter how my day has begun, at the end of each route I feel happy and fulfilled.  

Jan 3 - Group Inspiration -17 degrees, 22mph winds & 4 ladies walking 8 miles together!  Yep, we're crazy!  I had scheduled this walk with some women I met through the Susan G Komen 3-Day.  I must admit I was quite intimidated the day before as I felt the biting cold and knew it was only going to get worse.  I corresponded with the 8 ladies who had rsvp'd and offered to postpone.  A few of the ladies backed out but 3 of them were bound and determined to walk.  7 layers of clothes and 8 miles later we were all very proud to have encouraged each other to complete a task that few would even attempt.  Pats on the back everyone!  
Good Karma idea from Darryel - Do some heavy lifting for someone who can't do it themselves - The lady that lives above La Muse has had knee problems for the last year and has difficulty walking.  Hence she's not able to lift heavy items.  Darryel did a very nice thing by removing her window air conditioner for her and putting it into storage as well as hauling a living room chair and bringing it to the trash.

Jan 2 - Send a birthday card - Happy Birthday Dad!

Jan 1 - Give away a compliment.  My husband and I went to a local restaurant for dinner this evening and had a wonderful server named Pam.  She was attentive, efficient and pleasant.  She went above and beyond to make sure my husband and I were happy with our meal.  Hands down the best waitress I've had in a very long time.  Being a student of the fine art of customer service myself, at the end of the meal I felt compelled to tell her how much I appreciated her service - and did so!

Friday, January 8, 2010

So you want to write a book?

I've been thinking about writing a book for a long time. I've tossed around ideas on gratitude, providing exceptional customer service and practicing random acts of kindness. For the last year I've been toying with the idea of a book that would follow my journey of documenting at least one random act of kindness per day for one year ... and how ultimately doing that would add to the abundance and good karma in my life. I've tried at various time to do this but always end up getting sidetracked and not writing things down. Then I'd miss a few days and just give up. Enter iPhone - my husband got me this neat little gadget as a gift for Thanksgiving and now I am never without means to be able to capture my thoughts. Plus I can add pictures too. Yippee! So here I go. I started writing notes since January 1st and I will add them over the next few days...let the journey begin!