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Welcome Friends!

I’m thrilled you’ve decided to visit the “Must Love Shoes” blog—our little corner of the world filled with articles created especially for you! I love sharing with my friends, but the real fun begins when the conversation flows!

Meaningful discussion involves an exchange of ideas. Is your story inspirational for women? Do you have advice for women that you’ve found helpful? Don’t be bashful! Add your comments to any of the articles below, because, after all ladies, this is our private place to share!

Meet Platform Sponsor: Meadow Branch Farm

 

Meadow-Branch-Farm“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made in the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

It is with a full heart that I write this blog post acknowledging my husband, Dan, for his generous contribution to this year’s Soles of Love in the Garden.

Meadow Branch Farm was the land that his late parents, Maynard and Betty Gaver, called home. Located just eight miles from our current residence, it will become our new forever home by the end of this year and the site for future Soles of Love in the Garden parties and other philanthropic efforts.

The Cape Cod-style house was built in the early 1950’s after Dan’s maternal grandfather sold the farm across the road where his mother, Betty, was born. His parents then moved into the home in the late 1970’s. It was a place filled with love, laughter, meals, and memories until their passing a few years ago. For many years, all of Betty and Maynard’s grandchildren (and great grandchildren) experienced life “on the farm.”

Meadow Branch farm CreekAs the renovations to Meadow Branch Farm continue, it is our heartfelt wish that we are able to honor their legacy, while creating a space that captures our vision for the future. We hope to build a place that is filled with the character of Main Street but different. We look forward to sharing the results of this transformation with you in years to come.

Meadow Branch farm sheep

What gift does Dan hope our Soles of Love children recieve?

 

 Never lose the exploration and inquisitiveness of a child. Be a lifetime learner/doer and you will never be bored!

I know we won’t.

 

Meet Platform Sponsor: Middletown Valley Bank

Middletown Valley Bank logo

If ever there was a company who supported the cause, it’s Middletown Valley Bank. In addition to being a corporate sponsor for several years, last year they were our first test case “Shoebox Sponsor.” So it should be no surprise that I have a sweet spot in my heart for this amazing group of professionals.

MVB is truly a community bank. They are currently awaiting shareholder approval for a merger of equals with Woodsboro Bank (another Community Bank and  2016 Soles Shoebox Sponsor). This means great things are happening in Frederick and Washington Counties! The firm will soon be celebrating their one year anniversary in Hagerstown, so that you can have an absolutely exceptional experience in six offices within Frederick and Washington County

resized-RandomMusings-FrederickLaunch-147Our community has a friend in Middletown Valley Bank. Their staff log in countless hours volunteering and participating in local fundraising and nonprofit events. As a matter of fact, they even volunteered as cashiers at a certain book launch party for an author I know.  :)

With what gift would they like to fill our children’s shoes?

Honest Self Reflection.

That sounds like an absolutely exceptional quality to have!

 

 

Meet Platform Sponsor: Lancaster Craftsmen Builders

Lancaster Homes logoFor Judy Lancaster, the decision to sign on as a Platform Sponsor was a personal one. But I would be doing her a disservice if I didn’t also honor Lancaster Craftsmen Builders, the company she and husband, Mark Lancaster own and manage.

Lancaster Craftsmen Builders is a premier designer and builder of environmentally sensitive custom homes in Frederick & Washington counties. They are a locally owned business employing local trades for over thirty years.  Supporting and active in many non-profit organizations in the surrounding community, they give generously of their time and talent to Boys & Girls Club of Frederick County, Interfaith Housing Alliance, Inc., Rotary’s Rebuilding Together, and the Alzheimer’s Association with a common goal of making a positive impact on our community.

Judy LancasterMy relationship with Judy, though, is also a personal one. Several years ago, when I was one of the featured dancers tasked with raising funds for the Frederick County Alzheimer’s Association Memory Ball, I had no idea that I would grow to consider the Chair of this amazing event as a dear and valued friend. I continue to admire her for her grace, poise, leadership, and most importantly for the kindness she always shows my husband, Dan, and me.

I love her response to our “Soles” question– what gift from the heart would you add to our children’s shoes?

Optimism – every day brings an opportunity for self-improvement.

That reminds me…. another thing I admire about Judy Lancaster. I always feel good when I’m around her.

Meet Platform Sponsor Stauffer Funeral Homes

Stauffer logoMost of us have closets full of shoes. We forget that, for many, owning a pair of shoes meets a basic need. Owning a pair of new shoes, puts the heart into our Soles project. It is what sets us apart from similar charity efforts.

What an honor to, once again, feature the companies and individuals who contribute financially to this event. Without them, Soles of Love in the Garden would not be possible.  This year I’m adding a unique twist to my honor roll blog posts by sharing three things:  What you should know about this amazing organization; What I love about the person who made this donation possible; and how they responded to the following question:

“If you could fill these shoes with one more more gift– a gift from the heart–something that would serve them well in their lives–what would it be?”

Their answers warmed my heart and brought even more soul to my belief that “It’s not about the shoes but about the life you lead while you’re in them.”

Today, I honor Stauffer Funeral Homes.

Stauffer Funeral Homes is a second generation, family-owned funeral home focused on providing outstanding service to local families. They are deeply committed to helping families create the most personal type of funeral service– one that is a true reflection of the life that has been lived. When faced with making funeral arrangements for a loved one, it helps to have someone you know and trust to take care of the details.

soles maryCourtney Stauffer is a true giver in every sense of the word. Her heart is as warm as her southern-charm smile and she has the admirable ability to make things happen. A top level Soles sponsor for the past several years, Courtney also signed on as an additional “Shoebox Sponsor” and houses a donation drop box at their beautiful location on Oppossumtown Pike. Thanks Courtney!

What gift would Courtney most love for our children to have?

Confidence.

There’s nothing like a new pair of shoes to give our kids that confidence on their first day of school.

Meet Emily: Must Love Shoes’ New Intern

Emily Nelson blog introductionHello I’m Emily Nelson and Julie has hired me to be her intern for the summer!

I am going into my senior year of college at Frostburg State University, studying Art & Design with a focus in Graphic Design and Sculpture.

After working for the Arc of Frederick County, a non-profit company that supports people with disabilities, I knew that I wanted to work for a person who shared a love of charity, and helping and empowering others. After meeting and being interviewed by Julie, I knew she was a truly amazing woman who had everything I was looking for in both an employer and mentor!

And now after reading all of her books and stalking her on social media (with consent) 😛  I’m so very honored to be working under such a talented, inspiring woman! I’m excited to bring my talents to the Must Love Shoes community and to Julie’s business.

Just some fun facts about me: I am in love with the color red and all of its variations.

I’m a terrible speller.

A coffee addict.

I want to teach high school art classes.

I make jewelry out of bronze and copper, and

I’m the oldest of seven siblings.

So thank you Julie and hello world!

 

Who Influenced You?

Woman to Woman logoJanuary is Mentor Recognition Month and Woman to Woman Mentoring, an organization very near and dear to my heart, is celebrating in a very big way. Next Thursday, January 21st they are hosting an Honor Your Mentor evening at Nido’s Restaurant, downtown Frederick.

I was one of the individuals interviewed to talk about who mentored me in an inspiring video series. To be truthful, I strugged with the label of ‘mentor.”  Unlike today, mentoring in the past was not as formal as it is today and it is organizations like the Woman to Woman Mentoring Organization who have put this important relationship front and center.

The reality is that although I did not have one person who met with me on a regular basis, who served as a champion for my long career, I did have many people in my life who influenced me greatly. They are people who did not necessarily teach me how to be a business owner, a dynamic keynote presenter, trainer, or facilitator, rather people who taught me how to be a good person, an involved parent, an overcomer, a continual student, a blessing to others. To me, that’s the heart and soul of what mentoring is about.

In honor and recognition to some of those people, view my video as I present my responses to the all-important question, “who mentored you?”

Want to get involved in mentoring or recognize the special people who were your influencers? Check us out and join us Thursday, January 21st.  I promise you will be inspired.

 

 

Newest Book “Random Musings” Available for the Holidays

Random Musings coverI’m working hard to finish my latest book “Random Musings” just in time for your holiday gift giving. If you follow me on Facebook, you most likely have chuckled, teared up, or simply been entertained by my random accountings of a day in the life!

Stay tuned and keep checking back to learn when you can pick up your copies for your favorite teachers, friends, or family members.

And who knows?  There may even be a party!

Julie

 

Meet In-Kind Sponsor Digital Bard

Whitney HahnYou have to admit, when a company describes themselves as “zesty” it makes one a wee bit curious.  My final blog post recognizing a very gracious in-kind Sponsor from our summer Soles of Love in the Garden project explores what it’s like to work with a zesty video marketing firm.

Meet Digital Bard!

Whitney, Araminta, Angela, Rick, Chris, Owen, and Stacey. (I haven’t met Stacey yet but I have every reason to believe she’s just as zesty as the rest of this amazing team.)

They are fun, funny, sassy, energetic, extremely detail oriented, and so very creative!

OK, if I must be totally honest, I’m a little bit obsessed with them right now. Not stalker-ish “camp-outside-of-their-office-and-follow-them-down-the-street” obsessed but I’m already dreaming of other projects I want to work on with them next year.

My first experience with this zesty firm was a video project for Must Love Shoes called Truly Beautiful. I wanted to find a way to more efficiently present a series of photos capturing women feeling joyful and passionate into a keynote presentation I offer to women audiences. In my mind I pictured a simple series of photos with accompanying descriptions in a video format. What I got was more.

So. Much. More!

Angela was my point person on this project. She was in constant communication with me throughout the entire project to assure that I knew what was going on throughout the duration. She invited me to preview the video as it began to take shape to confirm that we both had the same vision. Chris worked with our “beautiful” subjects capturing the audio portion of the work, and new employee Owen demonstrated quickly he was a zesty-worthy member of the team.  It’s a video I’m proud to show and has become a popular addition to my keynote repertoire. Check out the final project here!

Enter Soles of Love in the Garden!

Whitney, Rick, and Heather worked collaboratively to produce my most recent video highlighting the good work the women of this community have accomplished through our Soles project. From our initial brainstorming meeting, to gathering B-roll footage, to attending the event, they covered every angle possible to tell my story.

And kudos to Rick for having the zesties to attend an event with over 170 women in attendance. And not once did I see him cry!   :)  What I loved most about the night of the party was that you barely knew they were there. No big lighting structures to intimidate attendees. No awkward questions to stump interviewees. Just two fun professionals hanging at my party who just happened to be also carrying a camera and a microphone. Who knew videotaping an event could be so low-maintenance?

I think I love them!

You might be wondering what Heather had to do with this project. Heather is the arranger. The fixer. The appointment setter. The copy-Julie-on-emails-to-her-clients-and-contacts-so-she-stays-in-the-loop kind of gal. I bet her office is even neat! Seriously folks, if attention to detail were an Olympic sport, Ms. Heather would be a gold medalist.

What can I say about what it was like to work with the Digital Bard team?

They are the real deal.

They do what they say they will do and then they do more.

With spirit.

Enthusiasm.

Laughter and great wit.

And that’s zesty!

Thank you, Whitney, for your very generous in-kind discount. Stay tuned tomorrow when we reveal the final product.

Julie

 

 

 

 

The Walk

OC 2014-4

It’s been almost a week since I returned from our beach vacation and I miss my walks already.  While at home, I walk around town almost every day, but it’s different, you know?

There are so many different kinds of walks.

The Power Walk.

The Cat Walk.

The John Travolta-I-just-gotta-Strut-Walk.

 

And the Beach Walk.

But I I call it the Soul Walk!

When I’m on my beach walk, I can’t hide from myself. Or other people.

Or agendas. Motives. Demands.

Appearances.

It’s just me and my thoughts.

It is during those walks I feel the most vulnerable.

Yet authentic.

And inspired.

I think about mistakes I’ve made. Words I wish I hadn’t spoken. Things I wish I had the courage to do. Say. Be.

I think about the many times I’ve fallen short of becoming the woman I aspire to be….

….all the while consciously aware of the tide rolling in, settling in like a cool puddle of encouragement around my feet.

Over and over again.

Its sycopated rhythm never missing a beat.

Forgiving.OC 2014 beach

Nonjudgmental about whether the waves were better or less than the ones before.

Reminding me that each day. Each hour.

Each moment is an opportunity to begin again.

And that acknowledgment almost moves me to tears with hope and optimism.

And joy!

During this morning’s read, I happened across the most beautiful words by Mary Oliver in her book Long Life.   It captured the essence of what I feel in my heart during my precious beach walks.

“Once, years ago, I emerged from my walk in the early morning — it was the most casual of moments–pouring down sunlight, I experienced a sudden impact, a seizure of happiness. It was not the drowning sort of happiness, rather the floating sort. I made no struggle toward it; it was given. Time seemed to vanish. Urgency vanished. Any important difference between myself and all other things vanished. I knew that I belonged to the world and felt comfortably my own containment in the totality.”

May today bring you that kind of joy.

Beach walk joy!

A “seizure of happiness.”

Julie

 

 

 

Meet In-kind Sponsor: John Kuhn Photography

Soles of Love 2015 crowd shotIt will soon be a month since over 160 women gathered in my back yard to collect a total of 529 pairs of new shoes for local children in need.  Summer’s over! (At least in my mind!)  The bittersweet process of discarding flower pots that are struggling to survive has begun. Summer flower beds are being trimmed and coiffed as a prelude to Autumn’s glorious appearance and school is back in session in most surrounding counties. All we have left of that beautiful night is the memories.    And the photos!

 

John photo shoot

My brother, John Kuhn, has been the “official” Must Love Shoes photographer since the launch of the book series and related community of women was first conceived.

Operating as John Kuhn Photography, my “little brother” has been by my side capturing the past five garden parties and two book launch gatherings. His contribution to all my premiere events is immeasurable, making him a much beloved In-Kind Sponsor.

 

IMG_1995-BorderJohn’s keen eye captured the magic of the evening, from garden vignettes to the laughter and camaraderie among friends, old and new. In addition, this year he captured every willing attendee at our first ever “Step & Repeat” banner as they entered the gardens.

A favorite fixture at the garden parties, John has a loyal following of women who seek him out to capture their special moment with friends.

IMG_2168

 

“John! Over here!”  

“John!  Please take our picture!”

 

 

He covers so much ground in the evening that it’s rare I see him until evening when the revelers depart and the gardens become quiet again for another year.

Days later, as my guests’ profile pictures change to reflect John’s beautiful work and his exquisite photos are shared, I am reminded that not only am I lucky to have John as my photographer, but as my family.

Because that’s the essence of the Soles project; looking out for each other as family. 

 

John and me at garden party

 

Thank you John. Love you to the moon and back!

 

 

IMG_2382

 

Meet In-Kind Sponsor: The Savory Spoon Catering Company

Soles of Love 2015 cheri

There are a few days each year when my kitchen comes alive!

Last Friday night was one of them!  Cheri Thompson, owner of The Savory Spoon Catering Company, was in the house and it never smelled better!

While my guests were mingling throughout the gardens, the official Soles of Love in the Garden caterer was holding court.

Surrounded by her team of fun wait staff and chef Jonathan, my little country kitchen was ‘a buzz!  Crabcakes were rolling out of the oven, the aroma of onion tarts filled the air, and the laughter and camaraderie in the room resembled a family gathering at the holidays.

Cheri and her team have catered my event for the past three years and each year she exceeds my expectations! Her elaborate menu and creative table decor always reflect the theme of the party. She approaches this event as if it were her own and to some degree, it is.

I was filled with pride each time I heard praise about the amazing spread of food. Cheri’s very gracious discount and the added time and effort she spends to make the food such a memorable part of the evening make her a valued In-Kind Sponsor. However, it is with a grateful heart I call her friend.

It’s been said that “love began in a garden.”  But last Friday night, there was love in that kitchen.

And all things taste better with love!

Julie

 

 

Meet In-Kind Sponsor: Kelly Beach of Vicarious Travel

IMG_2005Now that “Soles of Love in the Garden” is over for another year, I can finally relax. But before I do that, there are still three very important In-Kind Sponsors I need to publicly acknowledge.  The first one is Kelly Beach of Vicarious Travel.

As many of you know, Kelly is a top-rate event planner as well as host of Italian tours to the Tuscan countryside.  She orchestrated my first “Must Love Shoes Goes to Italy” retreat in 2014 and we are beginning registration for our Fall 2016 retreat within the week.  So now that I’ve distracted you with thoughts of sipping wine under the Tuscan sun, let me ask you to first to FOCUS on Soles of Love for just a few minutes.

Kelly’s role in the annual Soles event kicks in 48 hours before the party. Up until that point, I have things pretty well under control. I’m gardening, buying all the things I need to make it a special thematic evening, meeting with the caterer, arranging for the musicians, designing the program books, and all the other countless things that go into planning a party at my home.

But then the day before the event arrives and my stress kicks in in a BIG way! That is when my friend, event planner extraordinaire, and therapist springs into action!  To illustrate what I mean by this, let me give you a glimpse into the conversations that happen at Garden Party Central at 0:48 hours!

Julie:   (Seeing that the forecast looks dismal and rain is certain). “Noooooooooooo!  Ohhhhhhhhh noooooooo!”  “Whaaaaat am I going to dooooooooo with over 160 women???????”  “I don’t have roooooooom to put 160 women in my hooouuussse!  “Should I postpone it till Saaaaaaaturdaaaaay?” “What should I dooooooo Keeeeeeelllllly?”

Kelly:  (Speaking with authority and confidence).  “Julie, you need to be proactive, not reactive. Do not wait and let everyone start calling you.  Send all the participants a note NOW and tell them that you will decide no later than 5 pm if the event needs to be postponed until the next evening. Do it NOW!”

And so that’s what I do!

In the meantime, Kelly springs into action and assembles our two beautiful tents and strings lights inside so we can see under the tent after dark.

Julie:  (Now bringing her brand new Step & Repeat banner outside, removing it from the carrying case and seeing that (in her mind) MAJOR assembly is required).  “Ohhhhhhhhhh noooooooo.  It haaaaas DIRECTIONS????”  “YOU HAVE TO READ THE DIRECTIONS TO PUT IT TOGETHER????”   (sighs loudly)

Kelly:  (Calmly picks up directions and reads.)  “Ok, did you order an 8 x 8 banner or an 8 x 10?”

Julie:  “I donnnnnn’t knoooooow!  Whhhhhy  does it maaaaattttter?”

Kelly:  “Because you assemble it differently depending on the size.”

Julie:  (Not able to remember the size of a product she personally ordered a mere week ago, goes into the house and returns with a tape measure. Begins to measure the banner.)

Kelly:  (Within 5 minutes of learning the actual size of the banner, has it completely assembled.)

Julie:  (Slinks away and works on table decorations where she feels safe!)

The evening of the event, Kelly is like a conductor , tending to so many details without hesitation. Candles need lighting? Check!   White twinkly lights keep short circuiting?  Re-route some of the lights to a different plug!  Getting low on glasses?  Get glasses to the appropriate location!  Attendees leaving?  Make sure someone is out front to give them a program booklet.  Kelly’s presence the night of the party allows me to be present and enjoy my guests and the event that I have worked months preparing for.

Just imagine what she can do for your events!  Thank you Kelly!  Since you’ve become part of the Soles team, I have had nothing but fun at my own parties!

With love and gratitude,

Julie

PS – NOW…. go click on the link to her website and learn how you can experience a Tuscan countryside adventure!