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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!

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.

Soles of Love in the Garden: It’s a Wrap!

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“More grows in the garden than the gardener sows.”…Old Spanish Proverb

Sometimes the words just don’t flow. When I was a new speaker and writer, this frustrated me. But now, I understand it and find myself more accepting of the pause. Sometimes there are no words because the heart wants the savor the moment and celebrate in silence. Or maybe the words just need to percolate before coming to the surface.

It’s been a week and a half since 158 beautiful souls gathered in my garden for an evening of charity. It was a night of smiles, hugs, laughter, the beginning of new friendships and the renewal of old ones as hors d’oeuvres were passed and smooth jazz floated in the air.

At the time of this writing, our third annual event collected 525 pairs of shoes for local children in need and the shoes continue to appear on my doorstep.

It’s easy sometimes to get caught up in the negativity of life. Relationships drain and strain us; work demands threaten our desire for a joy-filled life; we turn on the news and the headlines of the day wrap its arms around us and squeeze so tightly we cannot breathe.

But hidden in our minds live seeds ofhope…. that silent prayer that goodness will prevail and that things will magically fall into place and provide us with a truer understanding of why we are here.

I love this event because each year I am reminded that “more grows in the garden than the gardener sows.” They are the seeds of kindness, generosity, humility, authenticity, and love. The true essence of “soles” revealed itself as donations appeared on my doorstep from friends who could not attend but were there in spirit. And with each donation, there were notes, and stories, and letters of love and support. Letters from women who wanted to pay it forward because life had been good to them. Bags of shoes from friends who remembered what it felt like to begin a new school year as the only child without a new pair of back-to-school shoes. Women who have lived colorful, successful, grace-filled lives who chose to share this moment because they wanted to be part of something bigger than themselves. Retail stores who showed the true meaning of corporate soul by donating inventory for the cause.

Sometimes there are no words to adequately describe what happened that night among the flowers and candlelight.

But tonight I choose to call it grace.

******

A special thanks to: John Kuhn Photography, BJ Ostrum of Enhanced Printing & Promotions, Bobbi Prescott-ReMax Results, Kelly Beach – Vicarious Travel, Jullie Caniford- Fourish..Simply Wealth, Beth and Julia Schillaci of Little J Creations, Heather Bodner of Three Old Souls, Cheri Thompson of The Savory Spoon, Charlie Doherty and his musicians, and my friends and family who helped the evening of the event. I love you all. My heart is full.

Soles of Love in the Garden: A Letter that Will Touch Your Heart

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Today, three pairs of beautiful shoes arrived in the mail. I was expecting them because a few days ago I received a note from a friend that not only touched my heart, but made me cry. Her note captured the spirit behind the “Soles of Love in the Garden” charity effort.

It is about paying it forward. Not looking to do well, rather to do good in this world.

Here is what she wrote:

When I was a little girl, we didn’t have much of anything. I remember getting maybe one or two new outfits for school with my mom’s welfare back-to-school money. I remember Nike’s had come out and everyone was wearing Nikes. I remembered just wishing I could have a pair of Nikes and be like everyone else. I remember always feeling less than because I never had what the other kids had.

Today I have a mild addiction to dresses. I have a huge collection of dresses and today it brings me great joy to loan one out to my girlfriends so they can look beautiful for whatever occasion. It really is amazing what a beautiful dress or a nice new pair of shoes can do to brighten someone’s existence and make them feel worthy.

Most importantly I think, it pushes forward the belief in humanity as good and that even a simple act of love can transform. Thank you for doing such a great benefit. I can’t make it but I have a pair of shoes I’d like to send you from that little girl who wants another girl to not have to feel that way on her first day of school. I want her to know that somewhere a girl she doesn’t even know is caring for her and wants her to feel loved and special and worthy. Please send me your address!

*******

Soles of Love in the Garden: Meet “Kitten” Sponsor Three Old Souls

heather and me2

It’s only fitting that Heather Bodner of Three Old Souls Graphic Design firm would be a corporate sponsor for “Soles of Love in the Garden.” She understands soul, regardless of how it is spelled.

She is a little woman with the heartiest laugh, and I knew not only that we would be friends upon meeting her, but that she was the right and only choice to be my partner in creating the “Must Love Shoes” brand. While I am the words of Must Love Shoes, Heather is the look. Her creative artistic spirit helped me transform my vision for this journey into a reality, so much that the publishing arm of my business, Ruby Slippers Publishing, was named after her sweet little daughter Ruby, whom she delivered just weeks before my first book was published.

When I think of the professional women in my life who have supported me honestly, consistently, and unconditionally, Heather is one of those people who always come to mind. Like the couple who has been married so long they complete each other’s sentences, Heather knows what “look” is in my head, even when I can’t articulate it. She never fails to deliver.

As you pass through the white lighted boxwood entrance next Friday night, I hope you will pause for a moment and notice yet another example of the work of Heather Bodner….the banner she designed to thank those who supported and believed in the spirit of “Soles of Love in the Garden.” And look for Heather, while you’re at it.

Just listen for her laugh!

Soles of Love in the Garden- Meet “Wedge” Sponsor: Little J Creations

Julie and Julia

She may be only 4 ft. 6 inches tall, weighing in at sixty pounds, but nine year old Julia Schillaci already embodies the spirit of a “Must Love Shoes” woman. She’s smart, feisty, creative, and driven. You don’t often hear people describe nine-year-olds as driven, but while other kids her age were watching the Cartoon Network, Julia was watching Shark Tank and dreaming of starting a”business.”

With the expert guidance of her parents, Beth and John, both successful entrepreneurs, Julia turned play time into pay time when she started Little J Creations. Her business consists of two product lines: Soap Prizes and Inner Child..

SoapPrizes makes fun soaps for kids and the young at heart. They focus on party favor soaps and soaps with toys inside. Think of them as the Cracker Jacks of the soap world! These darling treasures have adorned all my holiday gifts for my nieces the past few years.

Inner Child is a new line of home fragrances coming this fall and I know will be equally fun!

Little Ms. Julia is quite the celebrity as well. Honored as the 2012 Youth Entrepreneur of the Year by the Entrepreneurial Council of Frederick County, this budding businesswoman was also a featured interview on the Frederick County Chamber’s Chamber TV. Watch Julia in action!

Little J Creations is not only a proud sponsor of “Soles of Love in the Garden” but Little J just celebrated her birthday last week and instead of presents, she asked people to donate shoes for our cause.

Smart, feisty, creative, driven! Guess you’d better add philanthropic to that mix as well. Remember her name. We’ll most likely be working for her some day!

*****

Only one day left to register for Soles of Love in the Garden. Go to garden party to sign up for our August 2nd event.

Soles of Love in the Garden: Meet Platform Sponsor “Flourish…..Simply Wealth.”

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When you meet Jullie Caniford of Flourish…Simply Wealth the night of the Garden Party, you have my permission to call her “Double-L.” Once you meet her, you will know why her parents put TWO l’s in her name instead of just one because she is double the fun of an ordinary Julie. And so I call her “Double-L” because I simply love her…. and you will too.

Julie is a CPA and partner with Cushwa Wealth Managers, LLC, an independent locally owned investment advisory services firm located in Hagerstown, but she serves clients all over the United States. She had the brilliant foresight to create a division in her firm which makes her a perfect fit as a sponsor for our event and a poster child for what the Must Love Shoes community stands for.

Flourish….Simply Wealth is a boutique financial firm specializing in women in transition. Life can change in an instant and Jullie recognizes the many financial issues that can impact our lives when these changes occur. Retirement, career changes, divorce or death of a spouse are just a few of the situations that bring countless women to seek the financial advice and counsel of Jullie Caniford.

Jullie uses a “holistic approach” to help women plan the lifestyle they want to live by eliminating the fear, confusion, and stress associated with making financial and investment decisions. She knows her stuff and yet she won’t intimidate you with a Wall Street stockbrokerish language that makes your eyes glaze over. (I’m sorry… I mean makes MY eyes glaze over.) :)

Several years ago a mutual friend of ours arranged a lunch for the three of us so Jullie and I could meet. He had an inkling that we would, as he put it, “get along.” Without boring you with all the details, I’m not sure he even talked at all that day because he was right! There was instant chemistry which lead to an immediate friendship. That is why she is great at what she does! She believes in building relationships, not just building business.

And that is simply fabulous!

Haven’t registered yet for the third annual “Soles of Love in the Garden” garden party charity event? Click here to register and start collecting those children’s shoes. See you on August 2nd.

Julie

Summer Camp, Big-girl Style!

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I never went to summer camp as a child. At least, not that I can remember. I DID go to Camp Greentop as a fifth grader as part of the FCPS curriculum back in the late ’60s. That is where I unfortunately learned that I was highly allergic to bee stings and had to spend the night in the nurse’s cabin. I’ve successfully blocked most of the scary details from my memory but I DO remember my cabin-mates dropped off a change of clothes for me and smuggled the sweetest get well note in my underwear, an occurrence that has never happened since!

I sent my sons to many overnight summer camps during their childhood: chuch camp at Manidoken, numerous boy scout camps, and career camps at FCC. One year we registered so late for career camp that Craig couldn’t get any of his top choices in “careers.” The only thing still available was Automobile Repair. When I asked him what he learned that first day, he replied “how to hot-wire a car.” I was so proud.

In her soulful collection of writings “Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy,” Sarah Ban Breathnach writes about the importance of play if we adults are expected to continually function at full throttle. As a busy solopreneur, my life is definitely lived at full throttle. Luckily the month of July is slower since most of my clients are vacationing and resume training in early fall. So this July, I’ve created my OWN summer camp,big girl style!

In case you might be interested in attending, MY summer camp does NOT include:

— Rising before the 6 am hour or the use of irritating musical reverie to coerce your exile from bed;

— NO communal showers which will in ANY way perpetuate life-long insecurities about perceived physical inadequacies;

— No sharing bunks with snoring cabin-mates who sound like a Nor’easter is passing through, unless (of course) you want to; :)

— No holding hands & singing kum-ba-ya (which is what some teambuilding retreat participants use as smart ass comments when they hear their boss has hired me to help them improve their communication!)

MY summer camp DOES incorporate:

— Naps, and lots of them!

— Hammock sleeping merit badges

— Snacking after lights-out!

You MAY substitute:

— Martinis for milk;

— Day-long hikes with poison ivy and snakes for lunch with friends, meandering through garden centers, antique shops, and book stores;

— Lounging by the pool instead of jumping in fully clothed and disrobing underwater in the highly unlikely event you will be on a cruise ship that sinks and you will need to rescue others and swim to shore.

If any of this sounds appealing to you, let me know. My summer camp is already in session and I’d love for you to join me.

I may even slip a note in your underwear! “Get well soon!”