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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!

Finding the Extraordinary in my Ordinary Day: Starting Over

Main Street tree 003

The Main Street renovation project continues and today saw the first of many trees being removed to allow space for new, safer sidewalks. The Maple in our front yard was one of the first on the chopping block.

Throughout the day I watch the process with mixed emotions. It was like saying goodbye to an old friend. Our family photos hold countless pictures of our family raking her vibrant golden leaves during the many Autumns we have lived in our home. For the past 34 years we have lived on historic Main Street, our trusty and reliable Maple provided us with shade, beauty, and a connection to the history of our quaint little town.

But now it’s gone. Out with the old. In with the new as I’m sure that when the project is complete, new trees will be planted.

Life is like that too. We must let go of what was in order to open ourselves to the possibility of what may be. It’s not always easy but often necessary. In towns, organizations, and even in our personal lives, we must have the faith and courage to tear things down in order to build something even better.

And so today, I dwell in hope and possibility of what’s to come.

Finding the Extraordinary in my Ordinary Life: Scented Pleasures

Today seemed like a good day to reconnect with my mission of finding the extraordinary in my ordinary life. Making the commitment to share these moments through my blog provides me with the gentle nudging I need to make it happen. Nothing like being accountable in a very public forum to make you good on your word.

I played all day yesterday. That’s what weekends are for, right? But the coming week is a very busy one which required that I put in office time today on probably the most beautiful day of the year, so far.

Needless to say I was feeling a tad sorry for myself. In spite of the fact that the window next to my desk provided me with the perfect appetizer for the spring buffet to come, I was still having a bit of a pity party.

During one of my breaks I decided to invite Spring into my office.

Can you smell them?

Oh Hyacinth, how I love your sweet, intoxicating perfume.

I’m a happy girl again. Simply extraordinary!

hyacinth

Re-fueled and Re-fired! Tips for Filling Your Emotional Tank.

soulI’m a big advocate of self-care. I preach it, train it, coach it, and wholeheartedly believe in it. But I don’t always follow it. I’m human!

Recently, an accumulation of events found me running on empty.I was getting tired, cranky, and Friday, I was even called out for not smiling. Apparently I normally smile a lot and people have become accustomed to it. :)

And so this weekend I devoted my time to self-care. If we are expected to run at full-throttle, we must keep fuel in our tank. If we let our tank get too low, we find ourselves running on (emotional) fumes. And so I applied my 4-F formula to help me get back on track.

Family: Saturday morning my oldest son, Craig, wanted to hang out and go furniture shopping. We didn’t end up buying any furniture but we talked about just about everything. What an amazing young man we raised. I felt proud and renewed of spirit.

Friends: Saturday evening was the 5th Annual Clutch the Future Purse Auction to benefit the Woman to Woman Mentoring Program in Frederick. Objective: Fill a gymnasium full of sassy, super-fun women and let them bid on purse packages and hang out with their friends. Done! A night with my gal pals is always the best medicine!

Clutch2

Faith: I went to church! I’ve been AWOL from my church family this winter. Today, it felt like coming home. Our pastor’s sermon felt like it was created just for me. (Doesn’t everyone feel that way?) I could feel my tank filling with every word of encouragement and every song played.

Fresh Air: Today was the official first day of yard work. While that might not be considered putting fuel in the tank for some, for me, it was heaven! There is something about the fresh air, the sun on my face, the dirt on my hands, and the physicality of just walking my property, dreaming of new ideas for my gardens that left my tank overflowing.

I’m re-fueled! Re-fired! I’m ready to face another busy week!

Finding Inspiration

St. Patrick's Day Cardinal

It’s Monday, March 17th. St. Patrick’s Day. A gentle snow is falling and has been all night long. I awoke this morning with a sense of calm instead of my usual-of-late “Oh my GOD! It’s snowing AGAIN!” I’m not sure why. I guess on some level I know that Mother Nature is sending me this one last gift to savor the slow. And so I abide her wishes.

I rescheduled my gym workout until later in the week, brewed a cup of peach flavored hot tea and retreated back in bed with a stack of books, a notebook, a pen, and my trusty iPad (of course).

This may sound silly but one of the times I feel most creative is in bed….during that twilight pause between sound slumber and the start of the day when I dream of infinite possibilities for my life and work. Today I’m going to harness that feeling by working with my pillows propped high, my grandmother’s quilt pulled high over my lap and the blinds wide open to remind me of this stolen opportunity.

The week ahead promises to be a busy one filled with trainings and meetings. But first on my agenda is to produce a description, outline and learning objectives for a presentation I’m giving in June.

I’ll let you in on a little secret, I struggle to define a presentation I won’t give until June so definitively this early in the game but I must. The organization needs to apply for the needed credits for their participants. It is not uncommon, in fact most often the norm, that my best work also comes during the twilight before a presentation… the week before… the night before even. I have on many occasions during my career rewritten an entire speech after waking up in the middle of the night before the big event only to find the new speech to be EXACTLY what I had been hoping for. (And yielded just the right reaction from the audience it was intended for!) But it needed time to arrive, to percolate, to enter my conscious during that creative twilight phase when I’m not trying to force it, rather let the words come to me, unplanned.

But at this moment, surrounded by warmth, seclusion, comfort, snow, tea, and all the things that seduce my creative spirit into awakening, I begin the process. And as I glanced out my window in search of just the right word, I spied a ruby against Nature’s pearl. A Cardinal! My inspiration!

It’s time for work!

The REAL “Shop Around the Corner”

Julie and Lucas
“She was not just selling books. She was helping people become whoever they were going to turn out to be. When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity.”

You’ve Got Mail

One of my all-time favorite movies is “You’ve Got Mail.” Not because I LOVE Meg Ryan (although I do). Not because I LOVE Tom Hanks and the chemistry those two have together.(Think “Sleepless in Seattle.) I LOVE “You’ve Got Mail” because I LOVED the Shop Around the Corner.

I have many “fantasy careers” and one of them is to own Kathleen Kelly’s (aka Meg Ryan’s) Shop Around the Corner. A quaint, cozy little book store with lots of vintage appeal,filled with books, gifts & accessories, and all things literary. A shop with a charming store front window with white Christmas lights, decorated in a way that says “Come and stay awhile. Explore. We’re so happy you’re here.” The UN-big-box-store filled with discounts and short on service.

Enter Julie Cade.

Julie and her husband, Lucas, (her real-life Tom Hanks) own a lovely version of my “Shop Around the Corner” in Gettysburg, PA. It’s called Pages of the Past and it’s right around the corner in the center of town at 13 Baltimore Street.

When you meet Julie you’ll agree that she is the real life version of Kathleen Kelly. Blonde, classic, beautiful in a non-threatening way that makes you wish you were already best friends. And she has the personality to match my fictional movie crush!

Must Love Shoes is proud to present a fun “girl’s night out” at Pages of the Past on Thursday night, February 6th from 6-9 pm. Julie is graciously offering refreshments and free foot massages in exchange for your donation of a pair (or several) of new children’s shoes to be donated locally. In addition, I’ll be firing up the stories in my speech called “These Boots Were Made for Walking” and we promise you a fun night of laughter, connection, and fellowship.

You simply MUST come see my REAL “Shop Around the Corner!” RSVP to attend before February 1st because seating will be limited. Contact Julie Cade at (717) 334-0572 or infopagesofpast@centurylink.net.

Hope to see you there!

The Sound of Silence: Learning the Art of Meditation

Winter wonderland 2013 017“We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence.  We need silence to be able to touch souls.”   Mother Teresa

The new year seems like the perfect time to discover silence. Outside, the world slumbers. It is quiet. Introspective. Contemplative.

Inside, my body and soul yearn for the same….peace, solitude, rest. They cry for respite from the busy, frenetic pace my life seems to favor.

My friend, Julie, came to my house yesterday morning to teach our mutual friend, Ann, and I about the fundamentals of meditation.

Silence. Conscious breathing. Appreciation for the intangible force that creates and sustains my life.

“We need silence to be able to touch souls.” 

And so, with eyes shut, hands on my belly to occasionally monitor my lifeline as it entered and exited my body, I savored the silence and offered prayers of gratitude for the sacredness of life.

“I’m breathing in.”

“I’m breathing out.”

My mind eventually slowed to match the pace of my breath.

The grandfather’s clock reminded me that I was still part of  the physical world, but my mind became acutely aware that my spirit lives inside of me.

Strong.

Silent.

Restored.

Unencumbered by the noise and restlessness of the physical world, I travel lightly.

My heart is full.

 

 

 

 

Grace, Gratitude and the Gift:Finding the Extraordinary in my Ordinary Day

New Years thanks“One must know not just how to accept a gift but with what grace to share it.” Maya Angelou

My New Year’s ritual is always the same….. to enjoy the contents of my Memory Box . It allows me to savor the modest but most beautiful and extraordinary moments in my ordinary life from the year just ended.  As I reviewed the hundreds of notes, programs, ticket stubs, and photos that acknowledged my place in this world, I noticed a pattern.

 

The thank you-note.

The most beautiful gift one can receive.

Heart-felt. Hand written. Thank you-for-what-you-did—-for-being-you—-for-inspiring me—– gifts of the soul.

As I read each and every one as if for the first time, I fought back tears realizing I was worthy of the time it took for so many to give me such a gift.

“Thank you for your friendship.”

What you said in your speech touched me.”

“Thank you for your gift.”

Thank you for always making me laugh.”

Thank you notes are a gift of grace and gratitude but more importantly it is a tangible way of saying

“You are worthy.”

“You matter.”

And so as I begin a new year of opportunity, new faces and soul-filled moments, I once again resolve to do the same.

To take the time….. to send the note.

To not only accept the gift but to share it.

Happy New Year!

 

 

Living in the Season

Christmas 2013 First snow 029Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit,

and resign yourself to the influences of each.

Let them be your own diet, drink, and botanical medicines.”  

Henry David Thoreau

 

I’ve never been a big fan of Winter. Well…. I like parts of Winter. I love cozying up to the fire, sipping hot chocolate, scouring through garden magazines and catalogs, and dreaming of warmer weather. But Winter– blustery, bitter, toes-and-fingers-numbing, how many more hours of shoveling snow- Winter?  Not so much.

This year, I pledged to be different. This winter I resolved to “live in the season as it passes,” not merely bide time until my beloved Spring heralds Her return with her intoxicating Lilac, seductive Iris, stately Allium.

The past two days afforded me opportunity to practice this art of being present.  Ohhhhh I sipped some serious hot chocolate, and the piles of garden magazines are piled by my bedside waiting for a late night rendezvous. But today I resigned myself to the “influences of each.”

Late morning I ventured out with camera in tow. The newly fallen snow coated the ground like icing atop the most beautifully decorated wedding cake, teasing me to reach down for a taste of frosty sweetness. The tree branches and remnants of summer’s gardens were laden with glitter promising a exquisite show as I meandered along field and  woodland.  As I peered through my lens I saw beauty.

Spring will come soon enough. With it will come an overabundance of duties required to facilitate Nature’s magnificent masterpiece. But for now, I will choose to let Nature present her beauty unencumbered. And as She does I shall breathe the air. drink the drink and resign myself to the influence of this most special gift.

 

Winter wonderland 2013 022

Winter wonderland 2013 017

 

 

 

The Day After Thanksgiving – In it to Minute!

mashed potatoesYesterday was the Superbowl of Gluttony for me. To be quite blunt about it, if consumption of food were equated to sex, I was a  ‘ho.

“The morning after” is always filled with remorse for me. On some level I must have known I was going to be a food floozy so last week I scheduled a workout today with Trainer Rick of Achieve Fitness to work off the sins of the celebration.

None of the usual suspects showed up  for our typical 9:00 hour but I was joined by three new friends, Linda, Troy, and Lucia (who brought along her adorable daughter Sophia).

Today was Minute Day!  Between you and me, it’s my favorite of all Rick’s sadistic workout routines. Minute Day is basically a series of circuit training exercises that you perform for (you guessed it) only one minute. The way I look at it, I can survive ANYTHING for a minute, a philosophy which served me well during two labor and deliveries.  Each of us performed a different exercise until we heard the timer go off and then switched so that eventually we each performed every maneuver in the series.

The other reason I love Minute Day is because it levels the playing field. You could work out with A-Rod (with or without magic juice) and STILL  feel mighty because he can’t finish hours before you and make you feel like a total loser because he’s only allowed a minute per exercise… just like you.

My new workout buddies were either totally clueless or they know something about Rick that I hadn’t quite figured out in the two years I’ve been with him. But when I heard his reaction, I realized it was the latter. Like a bunch of guilty Catholics, one by one they confessed yesterday’s eating sins….. out LOUD!  To RICK!  Keeping in mind that I’ve never worked out the day after Thanksgiving, I immediately assumed that they were obviously STILL hungover on tryptophan! I mean who in their right MIND would ADMIT that kind of thing?  Well…. I used to in the early stages of our fitness relationship. In fact, I was even MORE naive because I used to post it on FACEBOOK!  Now my eating habits are on a need-to-know basis, thank you very much!

As the confessions rolled in I exercised silently feeling somewhat smug in the knowledge that I knew better than to admit to these temptations out loud.  “What did YOU have?” he finally asked.

“Lettuce!!!!” I replied without hesitation.  I learned from thirty years of raising children that when a child responds with  “what?????”  to your direct question it usually means the response that follows will be cause for grounding.   Even saying the word “lettuce” sounded insincere so I quickly admitted to the Mashed Potatoes. OK.. I didn’t say how many ‘taters, but how sinful can a starch really be when it has both a song AND a dance named after it?  Don’t believe me?  Check out youtube.   I know my Mashed Potatoes!

Here’s what I learned about working out the day after a major holiday.

Even the Trainer cheats once in a while.

And for that piece of  humble pie, I’m thankful.

Could I have it with whipped cream?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Must Love Shoes: Thanksgiving Gifts

Thanksgiving 2013-1“I wish that life should not be cheap, but sacred….the days to be as centuries, loaded fragrant.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

The menu was the same. It’s always the same. The apples fragrantly baked in its antique-brown stoneware dish exactly as it has for the past 39 years I have spent Thanksgiving with my in-laws. The framed pictures that tell our extended family’s story still cover the piano, as well as every nook and cranny in the overstuffed house.  Favorite stories, expressions, memories, shared again and again, and laughter ensued as if it were the first time we had ever shared them.

Thanksgiving was the same as it has always been at the Gavers.

And yet it was different.

This past year has made me more aware of the sacredness of life.  And health.  And family. And having a safe place where you can just be yourself. No judgment. No criticism. Nothing to prove. Just people who love you, support you, know your history, care for and about you.

I savored the image of my 82 year old mother-in-law, Betty, as she relaxed in her wheelchair, timidly observing the festivities and conversing with her older sister, Lucille. It seemed like just a whisper of time since she solely orchestrated the annual performance with such authority and confidence. This year, our feast was a collaborative effort which afforded every generation an opportunity to spotlight their organizational, culinary, or domestic talent. It was the same, yet different.

Although the carving of the turkey remained in the hands of our family’s patriarch, the torch was passed to the fourth generation when heads were bowed and the blessing was given. Four-year-old Ava sang the family’s blessing with such sweetness that our family erupted in applause.

It has not been an easy year. But it has been a year which taught me many lessons…. to honor the sacred and fragrance of life. To surround myself with people who unconditionally provide for me a sense of belonging.

And so on this Thanksgiving Day, my heart is full.

 

 

 

Must Love Shoes: All we Need is Grace

grace2I needed to run a few errands this morning on my way out of town.

Errands!  On the day before Thanksgiving! On a hectic, busy, people-are-already-stressed-to-the-max- day-before- Thanksgiving! On the busiest travel day of the year!

I must admit, I had a bit of an edge about me as I walked into Home Depot. “This is going to be bad,” I muttered as a way of preparation so I could protect myself from the rudeness, apathy, or lack of civility surely I would encounter.

My mission was simple: procure new white lights and extension cords to replace the ones that surely would cause a fire should I dare to test fate just one more year. But somewhere on the path toward good and focused intentions, I happened upon the recent holiday flower shipment, seducing me to stray from the course. White poinsettias, white Christmas cactus, and white orchids beckoned me further into the aisle as if Serendipity already knew that my chosen holiday theme this year was White Christmas. Before long, with arms laden with treasures, I found myself in desperate need of a cart.

An employee stood close by. As our eyes met, he smiled and said, “may I get you a cart?”  Before long we were admiring my purchases and discussing the proper care of orchids.  I shared my confession that I’ve long adored orchids and yet had never owned one of these deliciously graceful and romantic beauties.  He smiled and wished me well.

With my cart now overflowing, I navigated my way to Checkout, only to find that the only counters available were self-serve. Having only used a self-serve occasionally (why would you choose to when you could interact with a live person and collect great speech material?) I hesitated, knowing that my inexperience would likely cause a major backup on one of the busiest days of the year.  I knew I would be the cause of additional stress for those unfortunate enough to come behind me.  Ironically, I both hate and love that about myself….the fact that I actually care whether I’m inconveniencing other people! 

Another employee voluntarily approach me and offered to help. She swiftly and expertly handled my sale and with a smile, handed me the receipt. She pointed to the required “interested in giving us feedback?” email notation at the bottom of my receipt should I care to respond from the comfort of my home. As I turned to leave, she made eye contact with me (on a busy-stressful-chaotic-day-before-a-holiday) and quietly said, “I’m Grace.”

And some days, all we need is a little grace.

May this Thanksgiving season find you filled with grace, kindness, and gratitude.

Julie

Dancing the Tide: A Mother’s Advice for Letting Go

Ocean City 2013 002

My husband and I just returned from a week at the beach. Since we are empty nesters we love the week leading up to Labor Day because school is in session and we practically have the beach all to ourselves.

Our vacation time is a bit slower and more relaxed than it was when we were raising our sons. For me it now includes daily morning walks on the beach. I savor the time to be alone with my thoughts as the sounds of the ocean lull me into a reflective and contemplative state of mind.

This past week I shared my beach walks with parents of toddlers who also have the luxury of vacation time not predetermined by a school calendar. I was fascinated with the sweetest little cherub who sported unruly curly locks and a pink ruffled bathing suit. She insisted on inching her way into the water at a rate much faster than Dad felt comfortable. “Not too far…. not too far,” he cautioned until ultimately he took her hand and pulled her back within his reach.

Further along the shore another parent had taken added precaution to ensure her children’s safety by adding life vests to their swimsuit attire. Surely this would help her keep them out of harm’s way should she lose her grip on their tiny hands.

As parents, it seems we spend so much time in the early years protecting, guarding, cautioning, only to find that long before we are ready, they let go of the hand that raised them and begin inching their way further and further into a new life, unencumbered by parental authority.

We panic because we fear that the waves of life will scoop them up, knock them down, toss them about, and we won’t be there to protect them. But if we have faith, we know that each time they venture further and further out into their own new world they, like the tide, will return, braver, stronger, and more resilient. As parents, that is what we must do. It is part of life’s plan. The rushing tide is what we as parents most fear and yet experience reminds us that it will also provide them with life’s most valuable lessons. And so we watch, sometimes sadly, fearfully, but often proudly as we are comforted by the knowledge that with independence comes great joy!

As I watched these young parents, I reminisced about the many times I struggled as my own sons wandered far beyond my reach…..the day my oldest announced that he was leaving a “safe” position with his employer to pursue a six-month opportunity to live and teach in a remote village in the south of Chile. My heart inwardly cried “not so far…. not so far” as my youngest traveled with his buddies to fulfill their dream of climbing Machu Picchu in Peru. There have been so many times that I wanted so badly to tighten my grip but instead waved goodbye and prayed as they inched further out into life’s tide.

And so, as I ceremoniously walked the beach I said a silent prayer for all my friends who this past week released the hands of their “babies” and watched them inch out into the seas of their new lives. For some, it was kindergarten. Others, college. Some parents are feeling the flood of conflicted emotions that come with facing that empty nest. I know from experience that as they released the hand they once protected, they smiled and said “I’m proud of you…..have fun” but their hearts whispered “hold tight.…not so far…. not so far.”

But as certain as the tide recedes, it will eventually return. And so will our children, exuberant from having danced the tide. And when that happens we too will celebrate because it means we did our job.