Monday, August 30, 2010

29 Gifts

     I usually don't review books until I am finished but I feel that this one needs to be shared immediately.  I was stocking shelves with a new shipment of bargain books for our newly revamped "trade section" and when I went to put this on the shelves I immediately set aside a copy for myself.  Something about it just spoke to me and as I work my way through it- it continues to pull at me both mentally and emotionally.  It's funny because if you look at my bookshelves the selection is very eclectic but the majority is fiction.  This non-fiction account will hold a special place- right next to Eat, Pray, Love

To synopsize- the author, Cami Walker, was in a deep downward spiral as she battled Mulitple Sclerosis.  Barely able to get out of bed, Cami's every thought was gripped by negativity.  Caught in a web of "I'll never be able to..." and "Why did this happen to me" our author was to the point that she just wanted to die.  Until she received an unusual prescription from her friend and spiritual advisor Mbali Creazzo. 

"Give away 29 gifts in 29 days. 

Healing doesn't happen in a vacuum, but through interactions with other people.  By giving you are focused on what you have to offer others.  Inviting more abundance into your life.  Giving of any kind is taking a positive action that begins the process of change.  It will shift your energy for life." 
At first, Cami thought Mbali was crazy.  What did she have to give?  They were broke and she felt broken but eventually Cami gave in and began to try this way of life.  What happened next would change the course of her life.  Cami learned that the gifts she gave did not have to be material; only heartfelt and with mindfulness.  The more she gave, the stronger she became.  The stronger she became, the more she wanted to give.  And so, her life was changed forever.  Living from a positive place, Cami is now thriving and living with her MS as opposed to suffering from it. 

As someone who has been working on this premise for several years now, I am inspired by Cami's success in her mission and delighted to find a direct way to add positivity to my life.  I am only on the chapter entitled "The 8th Gift" and yet I am already thinking of who I want to give to and how.  I invite everyone to read this book or check out the website (linked in the title of the post) and let this challenge into your heart.  Part of the prescription is to journal about the journey.  As soon as I complete the book and begin the challenge- I will be sharing it here with you and on the 29 Gifts website blog as well.

Check out the bargain books at your local Barnes and Noble or you can order it using the following information:

29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change your Life
Cami Walker
ISBN: 9780738213569
De Capo Press

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Another cup of coffee then away we go-

Good Morning all-  I am having a cup of coffee and watching the weather and it looks like it will be another gorgeous day in Kenuckiana- we love to see those numbers in the high 80's during the day and then finally- finally heading into the 60's for sleeping.  Considering that yesterday was the first day of classes at our University-it truely looks like Fall. 

One of the things that I receive in my email on a regular basis is a newsletter from "The Secret".  Last week- just in time for the craziness that is our rush I received this: 

You deserve to have whatever you want, because you are meant to have an amazing life! You are not meant to suffer or struggle. What would be the point of your life? You are meant to be, do, and have everything you want - no exceptions, no limits!

Decide right now that you are going to have an amazing life. Decide right now that you will not accept anything less. And know that the entire universe and all creation want to give you an amazing life!
The timing on this was impeccable.  I was sitting in my car, flipping through emails on my Crackberry on a small break at work.  I was agitated because we were not where I would like to be in terms of being ready for the semester and I was beating myself up over it when I opened this. Normally I just remove most of my newsletters from my mobile and read them at home but this time I accidentally hit the wrong button and there it was- I think it was karma giving me a much needed nudge in the right direction.  I read it, read it again and then saved it.  I have gone back to that email time and again since I got it and it never fails to make me stop to realize that I DO have an amazing life.  I have a life filled with blessings both great and small.  Each time I read this- I stop and automatically take a moment to give thanks for all of the people (and puppies) and things that make my life wonderful.  It puts me right back on track, it elevates my mood, and changes my attitude at least for the moment.  Once things settle down- I think I am going to print it out and put with the things I am collecting to put on my vision boards.  Heck- by October I may even have the time to finish those visions boards!

Speaking of vision boards- I have a "wall panel" that I purchased for as part of the fundraiser for the Arthritis Walk in September.  I need to "decorate" it in some way.  It can be about the walk, it can be about what gets us through the day with RA- it can be anything it wants as long as it's motivational in some way.  I am at a loss as to where to start.  It needs to be complete by September 18th- so I need to get going on it.  I need to think about what I want to see as I am walking around and around for that 5k.  I want something inspirational I think.  I guess I will start working on that project this weekend.  So here is my question for you- what inspires you to keep going in the face of adversity? 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Work, work and more work

Whew- it has been a very, very long week in my world.  I have been burning the candle at both ends and now I am starting to run on fumes.  Unfortunately- it's not over yet.  I am *almost* looking forward to my infusion next week so that I can get some rest.  This has most assuredly been my toughest semester in the 7 years of doing this job and it's running me ragged.

I know- I know- it's not great for me to be going like this- but it's part of the job.  I am not sure what happened this year but for some reason I feel like we have been behind since the beginning of "crunch time" and getting caught up has been near to impossible.  Our web sales are up quite a bit and that is where we are having trouble getting back on track.  They are coming in faster than we can process them.  In fact- as we were working all day on Thursday- 106 new orders came in.  I stayed until 11pm and we "only" got 95 processed- which means we actually got further behind.  That's pretty rough to wrap your head around.  What I need is about 48 hours of NO customers in store because that is when we get the most of it done- but that isn't happening.  Of course, we want our in-store customers too but it's hard to work on the web orders when you constantly get pulled away.  I enjoy working with the customers- especially the freshmen-in the aisle and helping them find what they need- but I walked out on the floor yesterday to check on a book and didn't get back to the order I was working on for literally 3 hours.

 The other issue is the phone- which rings constantly from 7am till 9:30 or so at night.  If we don't answer- people get mad- but if I would be willing to estimate that 60% of the phone calls are "what are your hours?" and if we let it go to voice mail- the hours are there.  The funny part is that when I check messages at the end of the day- a lot of them are "when are you open on X day?"- which means that even when the message comes on, people aren't necessarily listening.   It would be very-very difficult to justify payroll hours just to have someone answer the phones, especially since most of the information is there.  That is very frustrating.   

Now crunch time has devolved into "go-time".  I have no choice but to finish everything this weekend because classes start Monday.  That is why though it is only 5:45 and we don't open till 10- I am heading in as soon as I finish this cup of coffee and I will stay until.  I am not doing this alone- I have asked for any extra people to come in that can during our open hours- and I will have them concentrate solely on the web orders while those of us who are scheduled can work with the customers.  Hopefully at minimum we can get all of the orders pulled and as many processed as possible while I have people there with me.  Pulling and prepping them is equally as time consuming as the actual processing part and for me- that is where I need the most help.  While I do have to lift and move every order that I process- pulling and packing them is just added stress on my already tired joints and muscles so if I have my team of kids pull and pack- it helps in the long run. 

So what have I learned?  Well- since our web business is only going to continue to grow next semester I am going to take a cue from the bigger stores and change the web processing hours.  One of my fellow managers comes in when the store closes and works till midnight or later.  That may be where we are next semester.  I am also going to insist that every deadline that I establish be met- that was a real issue this semester- and if that means that I have to nag and remind and start coaching people who don't meet the deadlines, that is how it will have to be. 

I will have more time to deconstruct where we went wrong after Labor Day- until then, I will keep on going and make adjustments on the fly.  I am just grateful that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.    

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Great Pizza War of 2010- Part 2

Our own personal Great Pizza War is a mere two weeks behind us and already there is another one brewing.  This one is not on the homefront but over near our two faves and will include five local pizza places with a potential for more to join and will support a terrific cause. 

Tweeted this afternoon from her blog (again- I encourage you to both follow her on Twitter and read her blog) @Loueyville gave us a heads up about the coming Slice of the Highlands best pizza in Louisville competition.  This event offers the opportunity to test the different choices side by side (two of which we hadn't included in our rounds) and vote for the best and more importantly it supports Gilda's Club which offers resources for people living with cancer and their families.  Having lost both my favorite Gran and Jim's mom to cancer as well as knowing (and loving) several survivors, we can get behind this group in a big way.  I wish there had been a "Clubhouse" in Massachusetts when Jim's mom was going through her battle.  I think it could have helped everyone in the family even it if was just to give them more resources for dealing with it.  I also wish we had been aware that there was one in Louisville at that time.  I don't know where the finances will be at that moment but I have my eye on two of the silent auction items already.  Either way- we have added this event to our calendar and will be making every effort to attend. 

The Great Pizza War of 2010- Part 1

     Pizza- it's just one of those "go to" comfort foods that no matter what else is going on, I can sit down with a slice and let it go. When we moved to Kentuckiana- we left behind our favorite spots so the search was on for a new favorite.

     I should say right up front that while hubby is somewhat picky when it comes to many foods-pizza is not one of them. He is happy as long as his pepperoni is sliced not ground and the pizza is fully cooked. He has no problems falling back on the chains- Domino's, Papa John's, Pizza Hut, Little Ceasars- he can eat them all. That said- I cannot tell you how many different places we sampled. Most often we go for "plain old" cheese pizza as I am a veggie pizza gal and he is an all meat pizza guy. Cheese is a good way to test your pizza as it's very basic and lets the flavors of the components speak for themselves. We did the national chains (yuk!), we did the local chains, we did mom and pop shops- and I was SO disappointed. Part of it is the style of pizza. We are close enough to Chicago that most of the pizza out this way tends to be thick crust and with a pretty sweet sauce. That is too heavy for me. I am a fan of New York style pizza. The difference is extreme and it's funny how definite people are in their preferance- us included. 

     I was close to convinced that our only choice was to make our own. Then, one day after following a fellow New England transplant ( @Loueyville -follow her; she's funny, interesting and loves Louisville as much if not more than I do.) for a while on Twitter- I asked if she recalled my favorite chain from that area and if so- could she recommend some place in Louisville that was comparable. She sent us to Spinelli's Pizza and we were THRILLED.  It was, by far, the closest thing we had found to NY Style.  Spinelli's claims to be "Philly Style".  There is no small or large, it's an 18" pie and that's that.  It's got a nice crust- thin where it counts and thick enough on the sides to grab hold of and go for it.  A good balance between sweet and salty in the sauce and a healthy but not overwhelming amount of cheese.  Equally important in a two person family with an 18 inch pie- it held up overnight at room temp (our preference- neither of us will eat "cold pizza" that has been refridgerated) for a good "next day" pizza.  Chicago style just tends to get mushy overnight and a good NY Pizza gets slightly chewier and the flavors hold up.  We were so pleased that we were more than happy to "cross that bridge" (oh the horror!) and to make the drive into Kentucky when we wanted our pizza. We even took my folks there to introduce them to Spinelli's when they came to visit.  So we should have been content with that culinary hole in our lives filled, no?  We were- really!  Until.......

     We read THIS article.  Now- we had tried Wicks- neither of us particularly liked it.  We didn't out and out hate it- but we definitely did not LOVE it the way many of the people who suggested it do.  For us it just wasn't memorable.  At first glance we saw the pictures of Spinelli's and Wicks in the article and were firmly in Spinelli's corner, and then we saw Papalino's.  Papalino's claims full on New York Style pizza- with the ingredients kicked up a notch.  Our interest was piqued so the next time we had a hankering for pizza- I took a run to check them out.  Perfect thin crust, slightly saltier sauce and the addition of fresh basil as it came out of the oven and it also passed the overnight test-it was a home run in my opinion.  I felt that it was the absolute closest to our NE chain of choice.  While he also really enjoyed Papalino's -hubby did not agree- he was still leaning toward Spinelli's. 

     We came up with an easy compromise for enjoying both by switching back and forth each time we ordered but we had a running argument as to which one was "best".  We didn't think there would ever be a way to settle it until my dear friend came to visit.  As she and I have enjoyed many a pizza together- we enlisted her as an impartial judge.  We did warn her in advance so she didn't eat lunch on her way and on the way home from the airport, we stopped at both places to get a pie for a late lunch.  We did not tell her which of us preferred which pizza- we wanted no bias.  Both smelled wonderful, both were well cooked and had plenty of "bubbles" (we LOVE those-lol) and visually the only immediate difference was the basil on Papalino's.  Her first reaction after tasting both was to go with Spinelli's.  I was ready to concede defeat to the man- but then she said that she was changing her opinion- she kept going back to the Papalino's because there was just "something" about it.  In the end- the next day after we did the overnight test- Papalino's was declared the winner by a very small margin. 

So what does all of this have to do with gratitude and positivity?  I am grateful that my friend came to visit and that she was able to settle this difference of opinions for us.  I am also positive that I won ;-) (HA!) Actually- sometimes it only takes the little things in life to make you happy- and a good pizza is one of mine.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A short video that made me smile

First- I just love TJ Thyne (of "Bones" fame)- I just think he is adorable, but the whole video just made me smile. 

It's fifteen minutes long so if you have the time- give it a go. 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Every once in a while, lightening strikes

I may have mentioned that after my wonderful vacation, I went back to work and it was not a good scene.  We are at the point in our year where things are really ramping up and the next few weeks will be crucial to our success for the year.  I took stock and allowed myself to be overwhelmed and forgot the old adage "Never let them see you sweat."  It is not unusual for me to work extremely long hours during this period and it is such old hat that I don't even need to wrap my head around it- that said- it doesn't normally start until NEXT week.  I was not ready for it and it threw me.  Needless to say- it has been a really rough week.  6am starts and some days as late as 9:30 pm.  I would have stayed later but I was a walking zombie. 

Yesterday I had to admit to my boss that I was not where I wanted to be at this point.  Based on my own timeline- I would say I am about two weeks behind.  That was demoralizing.  If I were not getting ready for a training class for my new staff- I would have just put my head down on my desk and let it get to me.  Timing didn't allow that and that's okay.

While I was doing the training my mind was racing as it has been for days and boom, it hit me.  I know how I am going to make a big dent in my backlog today.  I don't want to say how so that I don't jinx myself- but if this works- I might actually be able to take a day off this weekend.  When the idea hit- I smiled from ear to ear and then a sense of peace stole over my body.  I was actually able to fall asleep last night within an hour of laying down- and that is a bit of a miracle. 

Speaking of miracles- one of our dearest friends gave birth to a beautiful baby boy this week.  Unfortunately- he is 40 days early and his lungs are underdeveloped.  We are thankful that other than that he is healthy and know that they already have a plan to move him to Boston Children's if necessary. 

So if you of the praying sort, if you could send up prayers for our new little guy, and a good thoughts that I get caught up and make it through the next few weeks without opening the door to a major flare.  We would really appreciate it. 

Have a great week!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A lovely vacation comes to an end

Well, the three of us had a wonderful week.  None of the places that we went to disappointed.  I love that Louisville is adding Glacier Run to the Zoo.  The seal and sea lion habitat are already up and "swimming" and the polar bear house will be ready in the spring.  Though I really enjoy small zoos- seeing them expand and bring in new animals to care for is the reason that I like to buy my membership card each year.  So many of the zookeepers do such a terrific and hard job.  I don't think they are given the thanks that they deserve.     

The Coca-Cola museum was facinating!  We were blown away at how extensive this private collection is.  It spans over a hundred years.  Best of all, my friend was completely surprised and thrilled.  That made it all the more special. 

  I had to put my friend on her plane back home yesterday.  I was so very sad to see her go.   Here's a "secret".  Though I am pretty outgoing- I am also very reserved when it comes to making friends.  Don't get me wrong- I have a lot of....aquaintances- but true friends, I tend to hold myself back.  That's a leftover from being a military brat.  What that means is that when I DO consider people friends- I tend to hold them most dear.    I am very fortunate that I have the friends in my life that I do.  Some of them I have never even set eyes on outside the computer- but I have known them for years and they are as important to me as the few with whom I have spent many, many hours.  What I love about my true friends is that geography does not make a difference.  We can be apart days, months, even years and when we get together- it's as if no time has passed.  You can't quantify how special that is, and it is something for which eternally grateful.

To deal with the sadness (and so as to not take out my crankiness on my honey) I headed back to work yesterday.  Today I will be spending a lot of hours catching up.  So effectively I am back to the grind.  I am heading into our Fall Rush period and between now and Labor Day I will be working till I drop and going back for more.  The good thing is- already there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  The bad thing is- I need to figure out how to fit my training for the Louisville Arthrtis Walk in there somehow.  At the end- I am giving myself a reward if possible.  If the classes are available, I am joining the Y and going to take their Arthritis Aquatic classes and possibly Yoga as well.  That's the best reward I can think of for making it through this craziness. 

Have a wonderful week!  

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Pure Joy

The last few days have been wonderful.  My friend flew in on Saturday and we got her settled in and relaxed with a couple of movies. Sunday we walked a few miles at the zoo and enjoyed the tram at the Mega Cavern before a lovely dinner. Monday was also a relaxing day with nothing exciting going on- I love those days. 

Yesterday we drove to the Coca-Cola Museum in Elizabethtown, KY.  It is the largest privately held collection in the world.  It was facinating.  Last night, we went on a dinner cruise on the Spirit of Jefferson.  You can cruise without the dinner part- but then you are shuttled upstairs and at 100 degrees, we were thankful for having chosen dinner.  The cruise had a DJ and after dinner there was "dancing".  The DJ started with the "dance along" music- The Cotton Eye-d Joe, The Hokey Pokey, the Chicken Dance, the Macarena, the Electric Slide- what I think of as Wedding Songs-lol. 

There was a young man on the cruise who was about 12 years old.  He and his grandparents were traveling from Pennsylvania and decided to take this cruise.  This young man danced every single number.  He was definitely the life of the party.  We really enjoyed watching HIM as much as the rest of the evening.  We went out to watch the river for a while but we were continually drawn back to watch him dance.  Whether he was alone or had others on the floor as well- he was just going at it.  We were not alone- there was a family of 8 at the next table who- when they were not dancing with him- were taking video of him just dancing the night away.  As a group- we cheered him on and just really took joy in HIS joy.  He was most assuredly the star of the show.  At the end of the cruise- there was a "game" based on theme songs from TV shows (I rocked that sadly enough) and the points were too close to call but the family flat out told the DJ that the boy should get a prize.  We hung around to make sure it happened and as he walked out of there and off the boat with his blow up saxaphone- his grin was from ear to ear.  He was "playing" with it as we all walked past him and we all congratulated him on the terrific job he did.  His grandfather was laughing and told us that he was going to be impossible to live with for the rest of their trip.  What his grandfather doesn't realize is- not only will he remember this for the rest of his life, the rest of us will remember him too.  And we will smile every time we think of him. 

So thank you dancing boy.  I hope you have a safe trip back to Pennsylvania.  You touched a whole lot of adult's lives last night.  You reminded us just how much fun it can be a kid.  You also epitomized the saying "Dance like no one is watching"- and that is a great thing.