On Competition: A Double Edged Sword

Participating in this event has me thinking a lot about the nature of competition.

Tour-de-Sock is well underway. Stage Two officially began on Wednesday at 10:00 am my local time. I completed my stage two socks in the wee hours of the morning today. Participating in this event has me thinking a lot about the nature of competition. I have always had a healthy dose of competitive spirit. Sometimes — a lot of times — that’s a really good thing. It can be an excellent motivator. Sometimes it can be a bit of a double edged sword; sometimes it can be downright destructive.

As a kid growing up in a German immigrant family, the expectation for excellence was a visceral thing. The desire and need to impress my parents and teachers was all consuming. Not measuring up was simply not an option. The trouble was that I never actually knew what I was trying to measure up to. So I learned to shake hands with my two best friends: Perfectionism and Competitiveness. Only what I didn’t realize was that they were actually, what is that word… frienemies?

As a card-carrying over-achiever, I pushed myself beyond anything sensible.

As a card-carrying over-achiever, I pushed myself beyond anything sensible. The drive to be best was encouraged without moderation. But it’s an empty quest. That set the stage for my whole life. Am I good at doing stuff? You bet! I’m very good at what I do. And there came a point in my life when I began to realize that this competitive drive was more than just a good “work ethic”. It became clear that it was a set up; it was a form of programming that kept me believing that no matter what, I would never be enough. I’d never be fast enough, thorough enough, efficient enough, skilled enough… or any number of other fill-in-the-blank enoughs too numerous to mention. Having that message running through your neuro-pathways in a never ending loop self deprecation. YUCK!

Many years ago I read a book called The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruis. One of the “agreements” that he speaks of is to always do your best. And it’s how he defines “best” that really helped me to re-frame this perfectionist subroutine in my psyche. Your best, is whatever your best is in that moment in time. For instance, if I had a great sleep and my perfect breakfast and I’m feeling fantastic, my best will be sparkly and impressive. However, if I have the flu, my best won’t compare very well.

When my kids were small, I wrestled with just how much I should encourage competition. A lot of the time, I’d simply avoid dealing with it because I simply didn’t know what constituted a healthy level.

Over the years of being an evolving work-in-progress

Over the years of being an evolving work-in-progress, I have come to understand that healthy competition is a great way to motivate growth and skill development. And IMHO, the best form of competition is when I deliberately compete with myself. I want to see how much I can improve my performance over the last time I checked it against a known benchmark. It’s with this attitude that I approach Tour-de-sock.

Each person competing has their own goal as to what they hope to get out of the TDS experience. I don’t know what all the other people’s goals are. Some, clearly want to be the fastest and take that first place spot. Some just want to knit socks and experience some camaraderie while they do. Others want to support the charity, Doctors Without Borders. Some want to use each stage of the competition to challenge their personal skill level, and in that perhaps learn some new techniques.

I am part of a team

I am part of a team; our team is pretty laid back and I like it that way. There is no expectation that we should all be super-knitters. The expectation is that we will each allow the TDS experience to be a good one: one that fills whatever it is we would like it to fill. So if that means that one of us would like to connect with other knitters who like to knit socks and don’t care whether they finish any of the socks within the cut-off period, that’s perfect. I want to be a team member who appreciates their presence for exactly what it is. This year, I want to push myself to see what I’m capable of (within reason). But I certainly don’t expect anyone else to share my specific goal. I just want us all to be able to feel the joy that knitting brings us.

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To Stock, or Not to Stock…

In small town retail, deciding what to stock (and how much of it) is an ongoing process and an inexact science.

  • Trends come and go;
  • supply lines change;
  • economies change.

Discerning what to keep or not can be challenging. One of the things I love about having a store is that I can decide what I want to buy to put on the shelves. A lot goes into that decision-making process.

The Base-Line Stuff

There are certain staples that I just have to have on hand.

  • Basic sewing notions;
  • knitting and crochet tools
  • and accessories;
  • a good cross-section of elastic;
  • scissors…

you know, all those fundamental things that sewing and fibre arts enthusiasts need for their projects. These no-brainer items are easy to recognize and you simply have to have them… whatever your small business niche happens to be.

Direct customer requests

A lot of what I have on my shelves is there because a customer special ordered it.

Most of the time if one person asks for it, others will want it too. Often customers will ask me for something and it’s a product that should be a staple in my store… I just didn’t think of it before they asked.

Sometimes they introduce me to new products that I didn’t even know existed.

Minimums

With many products, suppliers require that you purchase a minimum number.

Each colour of yarn comes in bags of either 5, 6 or 10, for instance. Other products have different prices depending on how many you buy. If you buy singles, you pay more; yet hey, in a small town, I can’t say that I need to buy 1,000 or 10,000 of anything! So the higher singles price it often must be. With a lot of the little items, (like sewing notions) they give you a small break if you order multiples of either 3 or 5. It may not be a lot, (often it’s only pennies difference) but it all helps. This can make a difference as to whether I decide to order it or not.

Colour Choices

With yarn in particular, each line has a variety of colourways.

Although some only have 6 or 8 colours available, some of them can have between 60 and 70 different colours each. It’s unrealistic for me to carry every colour of every yarn I have in the shop.

Choosing the colours can be both fun and frustrating.

I would love to have them all. Shortlisting from 60 to 8 can be tough! When I bring in a new line of yarn, I usually go through what is available and start with neutrals and basics. I might start with 6 or 8 colours to begin with. Once I get some feedback from customers I can then decide whether to continue carrying that yarn and to expand the colour selection, or to sell it off and focus on something different. Then, if I’m placing an order and I don’t have quite enough to make the minimum order, I may look to see what new colour I’d like to carry in an established line to top up the order.

Supplier Rapport

Each supplier has its own personality.

Their energy can range from feeling like family to quite formal to downright frenetic. If a company is going through changes (like implementing a new computer system; or was just bought out) there can be a lot of chaos going on for them. Orders can be mixed up or lost. Ordering from a company that is chaotic can be stressful… and can make the difference between deciding not to bother with their product and just ordering from someone else.

  • If the people who answer the phone are extremely difficult to understand, orders can end up incorrect.
  • If the staff is constantly changing it can be difficult to sustain a good rapport with the company. If a company makes promises it can’t keep, it affects me. Especially if those promises involve special orders.
  • Websites that are not maintained can create unrealistic expectations regarding product availability.

All these factors come into play. If ordering from one company is stressful and I can get what I want from a different company with whom ordering is friendly and easy, I’ll go where the least stress is. Over time, you build relationships with your suppliers. They get to know what your business needs and they can often make helpful suggestions regarding new products or programs that they offer.

The Cool Stuff

And yeah, there’s just some stuff that is so cool, you gotta have it on hand.

It may be a funky take on something from the basic tools category. It may be a more luxurious version of something basic. Sometimes I just really like something and I can’t resist ordering it.

Shifting Times and Trends

Once you have a bunch of stock on the shelves there comes a point when you also have to decide whether you enough of it moves to justify the real estate it takes up.

As a trend starts to inch toward its end it can be hard to know when to sign off on it. I have made the mistake of reordering when I should have cleared off the shelf. And that can be tough to discern. You win some, you lose some.

Cash Flow

And isn’t that the biggest determining factor for most things?

At the end of the day, you have to be able to pay your bills. It’s easy to get carried away buying stuff. I don’t know any small business owner who hasn’t had that moment when the feeling in the pit of their stomach makes them pray that their buying choices will pay off. It usually works itself out though.

At the end of the day, choosing the stuff to sell in my store is the best part of my job. And when the parcels arrive, it’s like Christmas! What’s not to love?

Happy Mother’s Day

From the time we are born and through all the stages of our lives,

our perspective on what “mother” means evolves and changes.

Our understanding of the role of mother changes along with our relationships with those people who fill that role in our lives.

As a child, my mom was the one who baked the bread, stoked the fire (we didn’t have electricity for some time), tucked us in and determined which transgressions warranted the dreaded,

“wait until your father comes home!”

As I got older, and wrestled with the concept that my mom was actually just a person, my perspective shifted. How dare she not be supernatural, after all? How dare she not know all the answers? How dare she not be perfect? How dare she not be, well, a Goddess?

My grandmothers lived in Germany.

I didn’t get to see them very often. I envied the kids who had local grandmothers who spoiled them and regularly did fun things with them. (Although, I always thought I had them beat that my Oma and I got to see a family of skunks walk within a couple feet of us one day when we were peeling potatoes outdoors under a big tree. Baby skunks are the cutest!)

I loved my grandmothers in a way that was very different from the way I loved my mom.

When I became a mother, my paradigm spun around, did a back flip and landed with a whole new outlook. Suddenly I was holding a tiny human being in my arms. That tiny human being looked up at me with absolute trust. In that moment, my whole world was rocked. I realized that this job, this role called “motherhood” was going to be the single most important thing I would ever do in my life. This little human’s whole world was going to be affected by every choice I made on her behalf, every word I whispered, spoke or yelled. It was the single most humbling moment of my life. It gave me pause to look back over my childhood and assess misconceptions I had toward my own mother. It made me wonder how she had managed raising five of us. The sheer responsibility of it all was a little overwhelming. And I resolved to channel my inner Mama Grizzly Bear on my little baby’s behalf.

As my kids got older and made their way through all their stages, I did my best to be there for them. I also did my best to make sure they knew that I was flying by the seat of my pants without a “User’s Manual”. And at the end of the day, I made sure to do everything in my power to make sure they knew that I loved them and that no matter what, I would have their backs.

And now that my kids are grown and have lives of their own, my role in their lives has changed… and yet it hasn’t.

I still maintain that at the end of the day I want them to know that I love them and that I have their backs. When they need desperately to vent about some frustration in their lives, or to celebrate a victory, I want them to know that I feel blessed to be their sounding board. They happily return the favour for me. These days, it isn’t just my kids. It’s also my partner’s “kids” and all their partners too. And I love that they are part of this circle.

mom-and-son-having-fun

My mother passed away a number of years ago.

I feel fortunate to have developed a wonderful relationship with my Mother-in-law. We are together every day, and it’s a fabulous thing. We are there for each other and have each other’s backs.

And so motherhood evolves into grandmotherhood.

My spell-check says that this is not a word; I vehemently disagree. And it’s a very interesting shift. There is a different kind of connection in this new role. The stress of just keeping those little buggers alive every day is not my stress any more. Now it’s just about the love. How cool is that?

To me, entering into grandmotherhood is like being honoured with a distinctive promotion into a revered position of trust. That’s just the best! Well, that and the hugs from wee little arms, the smiles from wee little lips and the video clips of  “I love you, Oma!” that melt my heart every time I replay them.

infant-on-shoulder

No one ever said that being a mother would be easy. And it isn’t. But man, it’s the most rewarding role I could ever imagine holding.

Here’s to celebrating all the people who have held the role of mother in our lives.

Happy Mother’s Day

 

 

 

 

pictures thanks to:  Samantha Hurley and Nicole De Khors from Burst

The Shop Cat

Last July, we had a fierce storm.

My husband came home from work and after commenting on the intensity of the rain and wind, he mentioned that he felt as if a ghost had slipped past him on his way in the door. Then he laughed and chalked it up to the crazy weather.

Later that night, he went down to the garage and heard a meow. He called me; when I got there, he had a cardboard box set up with some small pieces of beef jerky in it.

“There’s a cat in here.”He told me quietly. “I think it’s gone behind that stuff at the wall.”

We put a plate with more tempting morsels at one end of the hiding place. After a time, we decided to leave and give the critter a chance to relax.

We went out to see a movie that night. When we came back, we found him in a different hiding place. I reached in with my buttery fingers and he began licking them. I coaxed him out of the hiding place and then I sat down on the floor. He climbed into my lap and purred as he continued to lick the salty butter off my fingers.

“He’s too nice to not belong to someone. Better try and track down his family.”

My husband was right. This fluffy black cat was gentle and sweet tempered. So I spent the next few weeks doing everything I could think of to try and track down his family. But it got us nowhere.

No one came forward.

 

After enough time had passed and I was confident no one would claim him I made an appointment with the vet and arranged for his shots and neutering. When it was time to pick him up, I could hear him meowing a conversation with the clinic staff members. This cat was good at making friends!

We live above my store. At first, the thought of having a cat in the store, around all that yarn was kind of frightening. But the poor little fellow was so distraught being alone all day that his meowing was breaking my heart! We figured it would be worth giving him a chance in the store. I set up a basket for him on my work table. He claimed it before I even finished putting the blanket in. It wasn’t long before we had a cat tower set up for him at the back of the store so he had a spot from which he could see everything.

We called him Ricasso (we are big Forged in Fire fans). He has become a fixture in the store.

He recognizes the regulars and their children.

He even anticipates some of the children; he waits inside the door for them when he hears them get out of their car. When they come in, he escorts them to the play area and sometimes keeps them company while they play. He’ll greet some of the littler children and then make a subtle exit when he has had as much of their attention as he wants. He is always gentle with the little ones. He figured out how to open the door into the exit air-lock. He goes in and out of the air-lock as he pleases and spends a lot of time watching the parking lot through the glass exit doors. He happily greets customers… unless he’s sleeping, that is.

ricasso-sleeping

And Ricasso knows what time it is.

He comes to work with me in the morning and when it’s time for my lunch break, he blatantly interrupts my work to make certain that I know it’s time to stop. When it’s time for my husband to get home, he watches for him and enthusiastically greets him when he comes in. And if I’m late locking up, Ricasso doesn’t hesitate to chastise me for it. He meows loudly and twitches his ears until I close shop.

If I’m having a tough day, he places himself where I have no choice but to interact with him and does what he can to cheer me up.

He has definitely made himself part of the family.

I never imagined I would want or have a shop cat. Now, thanks to Ricasso, I can’t imagine my store without him.

 

Being Family Friendly

When I was a kid, my parents were self employed. They ran a retail business and dad traveled a lot, picking up merchandise to sell in the store. My siblings and I took turns traveling with him on those business trips. I loved going with him; but sometimes, the waiting was long and boring.

Some of the places we would go to had some toys, puzzles and books for kids. You know, I always wondered whether they had caught someone on the way to the dump and said,

“I’ll take those worn out and broken toys you were going to throw away; I’ll put them in my store for kids to play with.”

Brilliant! Boring, broken, worn out toys. Yay! … not.

As my store was getting established and I started selling yarn, I found that

I was seeing a lot of young moms with small children.

It took me back to when my kids were little and how frustrated I felt trying to keep track of them and still do my shopping. Especially in stores where I was hoping to find some project inspiration. As the moms were shopping in my store, I found that my thread cabinet and zipper racks were irresistible temptations for toddlers. You can’t blame a kid for wanting to entertain themselves. And it broke my heart to hear the mom’s refrains of “No, don’t touch that!” and “Put that back, please!” If I were their age I would have wanted to play with the colourful things too!

I wanted to have a place for the kids, in my store, where they could just be kids.

I wanted them to have a safe fun place that would keep their attention so their moms could relax and shop without worry. I wanted a space that they would be excited to hang out and play in. I made a list of the types of things I would have loved to play with when I was a kid. I set out to make a play area that my inner child would want for herself. I wanted a place to colour; and nice colouring books and crayons. Lots of colours to choose from and both pencil crayons and wax crayons. I wanted a table and chairs that were kid sized, and not scruffy or worn out. I wanted toys that got my imagination going. New toys. And as the mother of two animators, I wanted some toys that were straight out of “Saturday morning cartoons”. I wanted a place to hide away (safely), and a place to build a town with all the toys. A train track and some cars. Yup. Back when I was a kid, I had to make do with what the adults set up. But now, I could make it the way I wanted it. I wanted it to feel like a home, not just a corner in a store with some toys. The shopping trip that followed my planning was a blast!

I felt like a kid in a candy store!

I was so excited to set it all up. I blended it with our Social Saturday corner, which I had tried to set up to feel like a living room with chairs and love seats and coffee tables. And then I waited for the first little kids to come to the store so I could see their reactions. It was actually funny, because normally I saw little kids regularly, but after setting it all up it was a couple weeks before any came in.

And when they did, I told the moms about the play area and invited them to make use of it.

I knew I had done it right when the kids didn’t want to leave!

The first time each of them came, it was a bit of a spectacle as their moms explained that they could come back another day but they really did have to go home. Once they had been here a few times and realized that the toys would be here waiting next time, they didn’t mind to leave. I thought that I had received the very best compliment when a mom called to ask whether she and her daughter could just come and hang out so the daughter could play. I was delighted!

Well, today I was thrilled to be visited by a representative of the Revelstoke Early Childhood Development Committee. She brought with her a plaque and a letter to say that I was the 2018 recipient of their annual “Family Friendly Business Award”. What a lovely honour! She took a photograph and congratulated me. I have to say that it was a wonderful surprise. That wee little girl inside of me busted out her happy dance to celebrate!

I’m so happy that my customers appreciate the efforts I made to create a family friendly space for their shopping.

Thank you to the person who nominated me, and the people who voted for me to receive this award. 😀

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Photo by li tzuni on Unsplash

Merry Christmas!

 

Where does the time go?

How can it already be just days before Christmas?

Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, my sincere wish is that the remainder of this year is good to you… and that the new year provides you with hope, love and wonderful opportunities.

 

As much as this season is hyped up and coined as the

“season of peace, love and joy”,

for many people it is a deeply challenging time of year.

Getting together with family can be a wonderful thing, and it can also be stressful. Sometimes it can be filled with a mixture of anticipation, joy and conflict. For some people it is a sad reminder of the loved ones that are no longer with them. As the year comes to a close, may you find yourself surrounded by people who sincerely care about you. And if you are one of the many people who struggle at this time of year, know that you are not alone in your struggle. I offer you a heartfelt wish for all the very best.

At Judy’s Designs, we’ll be closed from December 24th to January 2nd so that we can spend some time with family. We look forward to serving you in the New Year.

As a fun little gift, I have made up a Yarn Lovers’ Crossword puzzle. It is a 2 page PDF file, with the puzzle on page 1 and the answers on page 2. No peeking! LOL I hope you enjoy it.

Here is the Crossword! 🙂

All the very best! See you in 2018.

 

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

 

Confrontation Sucks

Like most everyone I have ever met, I always strive to do the best I can given any situation. Some days my best is downright impressive and other days… well… not so much. When faced with confrontation it can be tough to stand your ground and draw a line in the sand where you need your boundaries to be. It takes a lot years of life to learn where the line needs to be drawn. It takes a lot of courage to hold steady when faced with someone who refuses to see or respect that line in the sand.

All of us at one time or another have to defend our personal boundaries.

And in my experience, most people only need to be told once, kindly and they are happy to respect the boundary you have set. Then you get the occasional person who has no regard for you; the sort that isn’t likely to respect a boundary no matter how kindly and firmly you set it.

I dislike confrontation. (Well, who doesn’t?) I always try my best to be fair with people. I do my best to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. After all, we all have bad days when our best is not so shiny. And then there’s that one person who consistently shows absolutely no courtesy or respect no matter what I do. (I’m sure you’ve met a person like that.) After several attempts at firm and kind boundary setting, nothing gets through to them. And the brick wall comes out. It has to. And no matter how much part of you might be shaking inside, you hold that brick wall firm and strong. And a person like that doesn’t like it. Nope, they don’t like it at all. So you hold that wall steady while they tell you all about how much they don’t like it. And finally, they leave.

And after they leave, the inner critic starts up. It needles you to doubt yourself. And you relive every encounter that led up to when you put your foot down. And you still come up with the same conclusion. “I was right to stand up for myself.” In spite of that, at 3:00am it needles you some more…

There will always be people that behave badly.

They drain the life out of the people around them. And you know, at 3:00am when I’m over thinking it all, I have to remember that I’m letting my energy continue to drain out to them. It’s important to have healthy boundaries. And it’s important that we each look after ourselves. So at 3:00 am today I made a choice that I wasn’t going to give any more of myself away to the person who was so disrespectful to me. I looked at my husband, sleeping soundly next to me and I let my mind travel through all the many beautiful moments when he has shown me through his actions how much he loves and appreciates me. I found myself filling up with so much love that there simply wasn’t room for any of the negativity that had been there. And then I thought about my many regular customers who come into my store and share great conversations with me; they make me smile, and laugh. I thought about the customers who show up with a cup of Chai for me, out of the blue; just because they wanted to do something nice for me. They appreciate the service I provide. I found myself feeling deeply grateful. I breathed a long heartfelt sigh and sleep pulled me into a lovely dream.

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There are very few people who are ever horrible to me. When someone is, it’s alarming how disruptive it is. But I am determined to really pay attention to the things and the circumstances when people’s actions bring me down. I figure if I can be really aware of those moments when something or someone has brought up disturbing feelings, then in that moment of awareness I can make a choice. I can deal with whatever the situation is and then I can choose to focus on thoughts that fill me with good feelings;

I can choose to fill myself up with love, joy and gratitude.

Because nothing silences the inner critic like love joy and gratitude!

And speaking of gratitude, this weekend is Thanksgiving. I’m looking forward to being surrounded by family and taking the time to savour the love we share for each other… and while I’m at it I’ll savour some great food too!

Happy Thanksgiving 🙂