Saturday, April 30, 2011

Like many young girls, my daughter used to dream of dating Prince William. Now it seems that wasn't too far-fetched after all. She tells me that if we had just sent her to the right school, who knows what might have happened. This is my daughter, photo-shopped into this photo with William (thanks to our son-in-law). While I can laugh, I secretly realize I would never want this for her. Is Kate's mother feeling the same for Kate?

I'll admit it: I watched 'the' wedding; just as I watched his mother and father's wedding 30 years ago (except that I could tape this one to watch it on my time - yeah to progress). In 1981, I got my 4 year old daughter up to watch it, feeling history was in the making. The importance of the event never did hit her but she joked that she was going to get her 3 year old daughter up to watch this one in the spirit of what mothers do with their daughters.

As I watched Diana's wedding, I was creating advice for her in my head. I felt at the time that the similarities in our lives were astonishing (okay - maybe they were more in my head, too). I also married young; to a man just a few years older but we had different tastes in music and other things, just as Charles and Diana experienced. It was a stretch, I recognize now with the benefit of maturity. I really can't think how I imagined my life paralleled Diana's beyond that.

Watching this wedding, I was thinking more of Kate's mother than Kate. How strange to sit across the aisle from your daughter's new family and realize her new grandmother is the Queen of England. All I could think of is 'My God, she'll never be able to talk to her friends again." You know how we talk as women (at least to our most intimate friends); we share the trials and tribulations of our children; our difficulties with our spouses ... We talk to feel better. We say things we don't really mean in the process of figuring life out for ourselves. Kate's mother's intimate circle just become much smaller.

I was also struck by how overwhelming all of this must be for her mother and father. Successful entrepreneurs they may be but what could have prepared them for this immersion into royalty? I wouldn't be surprised if the 'princess classes' that Kate is taking extend to protocol classes for her entire family.

While each of us may think of our daughters as princesses, there's will actually become a Queen. They will have to curtsy to their daughter one day. At least they get to ease in to it while Kate wears the role of Duchess first.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My Next Step

Three months now since I closed my business. Three months of waiting for official word of what my next steps will be. Not exactly clear on who is going to send me the message but I'm certainly waiting for the curtain to part and all to become known. After all, the shop was brought to me in much this way so I'm sure it's going to happen again.

Funny thing is, I am well aware that life doesn't happen to us behind closed doors. It's through chance encounters; arranged meetings; fun social events; and any number of other ways that we interact with people, that opportunities present themselves to us.

Trouble is, I have been behind closed doors for these three months. Small annoying things kept getting in my way of getting out. Slipping on the ice put me out for three weeks or so; a sore heel of the sort that athletes suffer from (how on earth I got it I do not know) has been ongoing; sinus infection ... After a while I began to suspect that the universe was sending me a message - "Sit back. We're not ready for you yet."

Finally went for my walk to the lake this morning. It just feels like time for me to take control again. Besides, the sun was shining.

OK Universe. I've taken the first steps. I await your next instructions.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Having it All

Just watched 'Eat, Pray, Love'. I was the only person I knew who found the book to be a story of extreme self-absorption of the type that not many of us can indulge in. Watching the movie, though, made me realize how similar our quests actually were. While I'm not recovering from a lost love, I AM seeking to understand what my next step in life will be.

In January, I closed my business of four years; an elegant little shop that allowed me to immerse myself in all things beautiful; challenge myself with what I am capable of; and to meet some wonderful women doing so. It was a labour of love and one I feel blessed to have been able to pursue. But, for many reasons, I decided to close.

I'm doing my best not to stress over what I should now be doing. My husband is encouraging me to take my time in this - to enjoy the transition. Certainly I'm enjoying our ability to spend time together again. Running a business, while personally rewarding, was a large impediment to our relationship. How could someone working six or seven days a week and out many evenings (and who talked about the business incessantly) be fully engaged in anything other than the business?

The joys I experienced as a business owner were all MY joys. The new friends I've made through the business are MY friends. All of it was MY experience; not ours.

So, how is it that we are told we can 'have it all'? We can be wives, mothers, career women, attentive friends ... And we can be good at all of it, too. This was the message of my youth, the generation that followed the ground-breaking feminists.

Well, I now get it. No one, male or female, can have it all. At least not all at one time. Our lives are journeys with emphasis on different things throughout.

When our children are young, the family is healthier when at least one parent is fully engaged in their daily lives. In our family, it was primarily my role while my husband traveled for his career. I was excited when my children reached an age that I could return to school. The business was a natural next step in this exploration of 'having it all'.

What I didn't realize during the combined years of school and entrepreneurship was that I was developing me but diminishing my relationships. Everyone around me; my husband; my children and grandchildren; my parents; my friends; seemed to compromise their needs while I was busy pursuing my wants. Of course, they didn't voice this - they were all proud of what I was doing.

Having to schedule time (around events in the shop) for the birth of my twin grandsons helped me to see how difficult life was getting.

How, then, is it possible to explore our capabilities without jeopardizing the most important facets of our lives - the people we love? This question deserves discussion. I plan to bring it up often to hear the experiences and perspectives of others.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tell me Twice

A friend and I were chatting this morning and she asked what the sex of my daughter's expected twins is. After telling her, she said, "you probably told me before but I forget. Anyway, doesn't matter. I get to enjoy the news all over again."

I have never thought about that aspect of this short term memory haywire thing that happens to me. It's so true. I get to relive a great deal of what I hear.

Sometimes this may not be so good; when a friend shares sad news, for instance, that I had forgotten about. But I do get an opportunity for a "do-over", hearing it the second time, to share some empathy with her and perhaps help her feel a little better.

But happy news heard a second time must be good for my soul. I can only imagine that it's good for the giant checklist of experiences in my mind. Feel good moment; check. Belly laugh with friend; check.

Here's to enjoying old news!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lessons Learned from Paddywax

The success of new items in the shop, including a new line of fragrance diffusers and candles, started me thinking about successes I've had and lessons I've learned. This 'Library' series is proving to be a hit with customers but I wouldn't be honest if I didn't admit to having brought in a few less than popular products at times.

Popular wisdom tells us that we learn a great deal from our mistakes. I do believe this and can readily tell you which mistakes I've made and what I've learned from them.

As time marches on with this business of mine, I am serving a greater number of people in a greater number of ways. After four years, I am certainly a bedding specialist, having encountered a surprising number of unique beds and customer choices.

I know I've made two mistakes in bedskirts - when we make assumptions, we're often wrong. Assumptions with these two customers proved that their box springs were not standard height and the skirts were short. I now ask everyone to confirm box spring height. Lesson learned.

The thing is; I am learning a great deal more from my successes.

I've sold a great many skirts that were exactly right; even different than a customer may have thought of. The comments these customers make when they return to the shop tell me much more about what goes right. These "successes" encourage me to make like suggestions to other customers, who report back that they are pleased, and so on.

Every bit of feedback a customer shares with me is a lesson. I've been remarkably blessed with the positive remarks I hear. Each one inspires me and teaches me I'm on the right path.

Lessons come in many ways. A new line of products which sits on the shelf instead of going home in customer bags is a lesson learned.

But a new line of products that flies out the door teaches me so much more. This lesson teaches me about quantities to buy; varieties to introduce; prices to set; display to complement; and customer service to explain.

The lesson of products unsold tells me I missed the mark with that item. End of lesson. The lesson of successful buying also tells me I'm on the right track with what I like for my customers; encouraging me to trust my instincts and keep going with new and bigger ideas, which brings additional sales. Which encourages me to trust my instincts and keep going ...

Each and every Paddywax product sold teaches me that my judgment is fine. Popular wisdom may be right about learning from our mistakes but I believe I am far more successful because of the positive reinforcement I've received than I would be focusing on the errors I've made.

Not all that different from training my puppy!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What I did on my Summer Vacation

I spent a spectacular week in St. John’s, Newfoundland, discovering the oldest history in Canada; visiting museums, archeological sites, going underground into an iron ore mine, exploring the incredible scenery and having wonderful laughs with family.

With a big grin still on my face, remembering our visit, I came into the shop the day after returning, opened my computer case and discovered my USB drive was gone.

For those unfamiliar with USB drives, these are tiny little sticks that fit into your computer and hold a great deal of information. Mine had been with me since before opening the shop. Every file I’ve created is on it. My entire accounting system is on it. My history and my dreams for the future are on it.

So, you may be able to relate when I say that my stomach went “galump”. I didn’t panic (I’m actually quite proud of how I reacted; very maturely, I thought). I immediately searched for St. John’s airport phone number and called their Security department. No USB drive had been found in the airport. Then I called the hotel we had stayed in. No USB drive had been found at the hotel. Then I e-mailed my sister; whose family immediately jumped up and searched their entire home. No USB drive was found there!

I wasn’t worried about the accounting program because I routinely backed it up on my laptop and the last backup was a mere two weeks before the trip. I was, though, concerned about when I had last backed up my other files and couldn’t wait until the end of the day to find out. I closed the shop for a few minutes and went home to get my backup discs. I opened my backup disc folder and discovered a backup two months earlier. Not great - but pretty good. So I lost a newsletter and some incidental files. At least I hadn’t begun the great American novel and lost all.

The “galump” began to “giddy up” again just a little.

I then opened my accounting program, directing it to the backup folder and … nothing! It didn’t recognize the file. Giddy Up changed to outright panic. I was facing re-entering every receipt, every transaction, everything for the entire year. After a few sleepless nights, I called someone who knew someone who 'takes care of computers'. Two hours after placing the call, I was back in business with my recent backup.

Now I can remember my summer vacation for the great experiences I had instead of the foolish mistake I made. I'm so glad.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Memory is a Mysterious Thing

Some nights, as I put my head on my pillow, I feel that I've forgotten more in my day than remembered. With many demands on my time and mind, I seem unequal to the task of remembering everything and everyone.

I use the usual tools; notebooks and calendars primarily. But I know that, when my commitments become too many, a certain amount of information tends to go 'whoosh'; straight over my head instead of into my brain where it belongs.

As things come up that require my attention and I schedule them or do some preliminary action required, I check off the virtual to do list. Then I no longer think of the matter. Sales reps often show up in the shop with appointments I've made and then promptly forgotten about (because I've forgotten to look at my calendar that day).

I also seem to remember fewer of the small details people share with me. It's true, they usually return quickly once a discussion is continued but I often feel remiss in not being the one who brings up a previous point of importance to them.

Lately, I've begun to wish that my brain was more like a computer; able to store away and then pull up entire files of information at the push of a key. How convenient to be able to parcel out the minutes of our day, confident in the knowledge that what we need to remember will be there as and when we need it. No scrambling for the proper paperwork. No arriving after guests. No falling asleep with last minute thoughts of what didn't get done rambling about in our brains.

Of course I do realize that what has to get done always does. I have always believed that what doesn't get done was not as important or it would have had higher priority on the list and not been neglected. But I wonder - is the capacity of my mental 'list' shrinking over time?

Perhaps it's time that I develop some new and clearer habits for remembering than what has been working for me in the past. String on my finger is no longer doing the trick.