“It’s okay to go now.”

Kindness Love Teamwork

The Universe can be a funny thing sometimes.  Things happen that hit you with a jolt you just never saw coming. This story is about marble stones but maybe just a bit more…

You may recall a while back Brenda shared the story of the marble energy stones and why we were discontinuing them in her post called It’s hard to say goodbye.  We had been selling out of them pretty steadily but still had three words left:  Love, Kindness, and Teamwork.  We were mystified that Love and Kindness had not sold out earlier, as they tend to be among our most popular words and we knew a corporation or school would scoop up those Teamwork any day.

We have found that sometimes our stones or tokens just need a little extra energy to make things happen.  It is a weird phenomenon around here but if some items haven’t sold in a long time and we talk about them or move the items around in the warehouse, they start to sell in the next few days.  Keeping this in mind, last week I moved the marble stone storage bins around, gave them a few extra pats and said “Alright guys, it’s okay for you to go now.”

This phrasing “It’s okay to go now” has really powerful meaning to me.  Nine years ago, I lost my mother to pancreatic cancer and near the end of her battle, hospice care was called in.  The hospice workers were like angels who knew exactly what my mother needed, but also what myself and my brothers needed in that terrible time.  In Mom’s last few days, one of the hospice nurses advised me to tell my mom it was “okay to go now” so she could be at peace and not worry about us kids.  It was absolutely the hardest thing I have ever done, but also one of the most freeing for both her and me.

So you see when I told the marble stones it was “okay to go now” I truly meant that it was their time to go out into the world and touch someone’s life, if even for a moment.

The next day we received an online order for 200 each of the Love and Kindness marble stones.  I did a quick count and called the customer to let her know that we only had 175 left of those two words and she was happy to take them all and substitute glass stones to make up the difference.  I finished the phone call and whooped with joy that we had sold out of two more marble words and were down to just one.

About 15 minutes later it dawned on me that I had given the marble stones my special little speech the previous day.  Isn’t it amazing that someone out there heard me?  Brenda asked if the customer had said what they planned to use the stones for.  Suddenly, the hair on my arms stood on end as I remembered the customer saying “We are a hospice care center and plan to give these out at our upcoming event to remember all our patients who have passed in the last year.”

Oh my Universe, I hear you loud and clear.

Now, about that Teamwork

teamwork
Our last few marble energy stones…

~Suzi

I might just need a hug…

We sell the word ‘Hugs’ in our glass engraved spirit stone line.  The word has been offered for a while now, and when we first carried it we sold them with pink ink instead of our standard black or gold.  It was the only stone we sold in pink ink – the color just seemed to fit the sentiment and the stones were very popular.  Ultimately, however, we decided to switch the ‘Hugs’ back to the standard ink colors to give the whole line a more uniform feel.

Recently a customer called and asked if we had any ‘Hugs’ left with pink ink.  She needed 5, but specifically only in clear glass with pink ink.  We had just gotten in a new shipment of stones, but I was pretty sure we had a few pink ones left on the very bottom of the bin.  I told the customer I would look for the stones, but couldn’t make any promises.

Trust me, unloading and sorting through 2000+ stones is not a daily occurrence around here, but I was sure there were some pink ones, and for whatever reason felt compelled to dig.

After pulling out all the stones, out came 7 clear stones with pink ink!  I called the customer and told her what I had found.  She was thrilled and said she’d take all 7.  Woo hoo…what a salesperson I am!  And while the sale wasn’t huge, she sounded so happy it was definitely worth the effort.

She then went on to explain to me why the stones were so important.  Having just lost her husband to cancer, she attended a meeting at the hospice for grieving spouses.  At the end of the meeting, the counselor had set out a bowl of our glass engraved spirit stones, so that each attendee could pick a stone to take with them.  Most of the stones were dark in color and as she looked through the bowl, none of the words seemed right for her.  She initially chose a blue stone with the word ‘Remember’ on it, and was getting ready to walk away when she swirled the bowl of stones one last time.  This time she saw some pink ink peeking out from the bottom of the bowl.  She pulled it out to reveal the ‘Hugs’ stone and started to cry.  She explained that she had gotten in the habit of talking out loud to her husband, knowing he could hear her wherever he was.  Just the day before the meeting, she had said to him “I wish I could have just one more hug from you.”  Finding the ‘Hugs’ stone made her feel that he was watching over her.  She immediately felt compelled to figure out where the counselor had gotten the stones and to buy some for her children as a remembrance of their father.

Hearing her story gave me chills and everyone I’ve told feels the same way.  I am so glad I took the time and little bit of extra effort to look through the stones and find those hugs for her.  I interact with our products everyday and continue to be astonished by all the different ways each item can touch someone’s life.

~Suzi

Finding the Key

Success is not the key to happiness.  Happiness is the key to success.  If you love what you are doing you will be successful.  ~ Albert Schweitzer

From my point of view, truer words could not be said.  I came across this quote yesterday as I updated our Desktop Gem collection and was astonished that I had never seen it before.  But then I thought, maybe I had seen it but at the time was just not willing to accept the words into my head and my heart.  Now I am ready. 

I have noted before that I love working here; I enjoy helping people, I get to bring my dog to work and we laugh at least a little every day.  What is not to love?  Before this job I was a full time stay at home mom and before that a real estate appraiser for 10 years.   Loved both of these jobs and both were right for my life at that time.  But was I truly successful or happy? 

As a real estate appraiser I thought of myself as ‘adequate’.  I am not sure rock star real estate appraisers exist.  I worked for a medium sized company and I was liked by the homeowners I visited. Then again, they were hoping for good news on their appraisal so maybe they just didn’t want to piss me off.  Anyway, it was an interesting job and it helped me grow my self confidence.  But I was not really sad to see it end.  

As a mom, I like to think I am pretty successful.  My kids are well adjusted, polite, and still speak to me.  I count that as a success!  I liked being a stay at home mom but when the kids both entered school full time I knew I would not be happy just being at home and decided it was time for a new adventure.

This job came into my life at just that moment, when I wasn’t even really looking.  The Big Boss Lady wasn’t really looking for me either, so maybe that is why it worked out so well.  I can honestly say that I am happy to come to work every day.  Sadly, I know a lot of people who can’t say that about their jobs and that bums me out.  I think I have found the elusive ‘key’.  Hopefully I can help turn that happiness into future success and growth for the business.  If not, I will still be happy…& successful! 

~Suzi

Hugs available here!

'Hugs' all around!

I recently started helping to answer the phones here at CourageInStone.com.  I had already heard a number of stories about memorable phone calls; some moving, some funny and some just plain weird and I’d think to myself, “Who are these people?”

My first phone order was a lovely lady calling from a farm in Georgia. In her thick southern drawl she told me how she’d been unsuccessful in seeking a stone with the word ‘Hugs’ on it that was small enough to fit in a pocket.  I told her about our ‘Hugs’ Glass Spirit Stone and her emotional response was very touching.

She told me how a family member had passed away and was buried with a ‘Hugs’ stone in his pocket. She wanted to give that man’s son a similar stone in memory of his father. The stone was purchased years ago and she hadn’t been able to find anything like it.  I could hear the relief and triumph in her voice as she told me “Natalie, you and I are going to make this happen together!”

As I took her order information she told me about the tiny town she lives in, her inability to use the internet and how the credit card she used was fifteen years old and she got it when she lived in Kentucky.  Even though this information was unnecessary I felt a bond form between us and knew this order would be memorable to me.

At the last minute she decided to order a second stone for herself. Woo-hoo! I doubled the order!  I knew the order was small but it felt huge since it was my very first one.  At the end of the call she told me she’d be checking her mailbox for it anxiously.

Later, when I was packing the order I thought about how much the small stone was going to mean to someone and I felt proud to be a part of it.

~Natalie

Packin’ and Shippin’ One Treasure at a Time

Natalie with her packing assistants.

When I tell people about my new job, the first thing I explain is, I work with two inspiring women and two adorable dogs. The choice to leave my previous job of twelve years was a momentous decision for me, and after two months at www.CourageInStone.com I know it was meant to be.

I am a business student and this job excited me for two reasons. Firstly, because it is an online company, selling worldwide, and that is the direction business is heading.  Second, my employer is a female entrepreneur who I can respect and look up to.

Once I got into the routine of packing and shipping, I have fallen in love with the products.  Sending out a small, inexpensive item which will end up as a cherished treasure to somebody in Australia, Canada or Great Britain or even just up the road, moves me daily. Received in remembrance, hope or love, that token or rock is priceless to someone.

I am very happy to be part of the www.CourageInStone.com team…a company to be proud to work for!

~Natalie

Definitions

in·spire

in·spired, in·spir·ing, in·spires

1. To affect, guide, or arouse by divine influence.

2. To fill with enlivening or exalting emotion.

3. To stimulate to action; motivate.

4. To affect or touch.

5. To draw forth; elicit or arouse.

6. To be the cause or source of; bring about.

I love this word…Inspire. While it has many meanings, it is most certainly a verb, a call to action.   Whether you are inspired or you are inspiring someone else, the very sense of the word invokes emotion.

When I take orders here at CourageInStone.com, I often hear why people are inspired to buy our products.  We happily cover major events such as weddings, funerals, and birthdays. However, sometimes we get “just because” purchases.  A teacher buys her students tokens to build confidence for a big test.   A grandson wants to have a coin engraved with his grandmother’s favorite bible verse.   A mother needs a “God Bless America” token to send in her son’s Army duffel bag.   These are the moments when what they are buying and why they are buying it come together to inspire me,  and move me to tears (when I get off the phone, of course!) These moments leave me grateful to have been a tiny part of their plan.

Inspiration can come from so many directions, sometimes I don’t even see it coming…

~Suzi

Our new “Word Signs” – so cute and inspired…

Happy Autumn!  This time of year is always uplifting for me.  Oh, how I love the changing colors, cooler weather, the passing snow clouds followed by warm afternoons, and the delicious smells from the crock pot.  The earth’s transformation from one season to the next is amazing and inspiring.  We often times become stale and need a refreshing boost; the changing seasons brings a revival to our souls.  With this new point of view we feel motivated to complete tasks, set and achieve goals, chat with an old friend, do a good deed or two, whatever sparks the fire within.  Here at CourageInStone.com, we thrive on daily boosts.  Whether by receiving positive feedback from satisfied customers, sharing a laugh, enjoying a sweet afternoon treat, or just being surrounded by our products, we are feeling good!  With all this goodness new products are created…

 I am thrilled to announce the arrival of my latest project.  I have created a line of 5″x7″ signs designed to inspire and boost your day.  Small enough to hang anywhere and simply charming, these signs say what we often need to hear.  Check ’em out – let me know what you think 🙂

 Enjoy,

Danielle, in-house artist

Hello, it’s so nice to see you!

A couple of Sunday’s ago, CourageInStone.com took a big leap.  We got face to face with our customers!  I know that sounds ridiculous to be excited to ‘see’ our customer, but you have to remember that we are an online-only retailer, we work out of an office adjacent to our warehouse and Brenda has not had a storefront since 2006.   I answer the phones most of the time around here, so customer service is no big deal to me and when customers have questions about products I am always ready with the answer…but this face to face stuff is a whole new ballgame!

We went to the Celebrate Gaithersburg Festival and I am happy to report this is a lovely, well planned and well attended event.  We had organized ourselves very well and were completely setup and ready to sell by 10:40…the festival started at 12:00…okay we were anxious, what can I say!   When the floodgates opened at noon, Amy and I put our game faces on and were ready to sell, sell, sell!  Notice I don’t mention Brenda here…there is a reason she closed the storefront!  When Amy and I talked about showing at the festival, Brenda was super supportive but said in no uncertain terms that she would not be selling!  Our fearless leader likes to be the brains of the operation around here and face to face combat, I mean sales,  is not her thing.  She came for setup and cleanup and left the selling to the crew!

I must say everything really did go smoothly, we saw lots of smiling faces, heard some good music, and got some funnel cake!  (We can’t work every second you know!)  The customers were nice and were happy to scour through our items for that perfect stone or token.  We did have a few “What do I do with it?” type  questions.  This can be tricky but we managed to assure people our inspirational items are meant to be used in any way they see fit! 

A couple moments really stand out for me.  A gentleman walked up with his family and stuck out his hand and introduced himself.  My first thought…politician…it is election season you know.  He said he was with a local business club and would love to work with us to further our business.  This completely threw me for a loop because I was supposed to be the one doing the selling!  We exchanged cards, his kids bought something, and he parted with letting me know he would follow up with me the next day.  True to his word he did email and call me but he was selling his company way more than offering to promote mine, so I chalked that up to just plain odd!

The other strange moment was from a woman who wanted to barter with us for the stone prices.  We specifically didn’t do a flea market because these are not the types of sales we do.  She got annoyed we wouldn’t take her deal, was mad we didn’t accept credit cards (she was the only person who asked all day) and I had about thrown in the towel when she had me find her 4 different marble “Thankful” stones only to say that each one was “ugly”.    I walked to the opposite side of the table ready for her to go on her dissatisfied way, but much to my surprise she bought 2 stones and a token.  Victory!   Maybe it was the inspiration or maybe she found some motivation, but darned if our items didn’t speak for themselves after all!  

We are planning to attend another event in November and this time Brenda has promised to sell.  I’m sure we’ll have more curious stories and a few laughs along the way but I have to say physically seeing the reactions to our products is truly priceless!

My A-Z Collection of Custom Signs

As you can imagine, I’ve done quite a few unique custom signs over the years.  They have been funny, poignant, inspirational, informative, touching, silly and cute.  Here are some that come to mind in my A-Z collection…

As You Wish; Always Kiss Me Goodnight; …And They lived Happily Ever After

Beach Home Sweet Beach Home; Boys Can Sit Too

Carl’s & Caryl’s Cottage by the Sea

 Down the Shore Everything’s All Right

 Everyone Brings Happiness Here – Some By Coming – Some By Leaving

 Friends, Family & Laughter Welcome

Good Morning Beautiful

Hearts & Dragonflies Boutique

If You Needed Me, I Would Come To You

Jus’ Floppin’ Around

Klein’s Bed & Breakfast

Life is Good at the Beach; Life is Good at the Lake; Life is Good on the Canal; Life is Good at the Cottage; Life is Good on the Porch

Meme’s Cottage

Not Because I Have To, But Because I Want To

Open For Tasting

Please Use Porch Entrance on Other Side of House

Queen Debra’s Budoir

Rest Assured

Sempre Baciarlo Buona Notte E Dire Ti Amo

There is Love, and Then There are Trains!

Un Bon Rire Est Comme Le Soleil Dans Une Maison

No Visitors Today

Welcome to Pop-Pop’s Beach House

EXIT

You Can Never Go Down the Drain

No Butt Zone

I don’t always know exactly what’s behind the message – some are obvious, but others make me wonder.  Does ‘You Can Never Go Down the Drain’ mean ‘You’ll Always Be Around’?  At any rate, it makes for a good chuckle!  🙂 Others I do know the story behind, like the “No Visitors Today” sign which was for a small child’s room who was recovering from chemotherapy, to let guests know she was resting.  Either way, it is hugely satisfying to create each of these unique pieces for my customers. 

Now, what’s your sign?

Words on wood…an artist’s journey

Greetings from Santa Fe, NM! This is Danielle, the in-house artist for CourageInStone.com.  I’ve been with the Before & After Team since 2004.  Much has changed over the years, but the transformation has been very rewarding.  I started working for Brenda during the brick and mortar days on Maryland Ave.  During those days Brenda sold refinished furniture and when she invited me to paint an old dresser I was thrilled to take on the project.  I was super thrilled when it sold in the store!  We found many great pieces of furniture at auctions and second-hand stores and gave them each a unique, renewed makeover.  During that time the website was just being launched, so it was extra special when a piece sold out-of-state.  We built many one-of-a-kind boxes and I’m sure the delivery guys rolled their eyes at us when we scheduled pick-ups.  Our fine boxes assured the furniture always arrived in one piece.  I no longer paint furniture, but I have many fond memories of those days.

In addition to selling the furniture, Brenda’s shop offered many signs.  We were surrounded by positive and fun phrases all day long.  I found many of the phrases to be uplifting, inspiring, and pleasing to read over and over again. One day a woman came into the shop to inquire about having a custom sign made for her. She loved the signs hanging on the walls, but needed something specific.  She was very enthusiastic about the idea and I didn’t want to disappoint her, so I said ‘Of course this can be done!’  I immediately drew up sketches, made a trip to the good ‘ol Home Depot to buy a plank of wood and went to the craft store to buy paints and brushes.  I then sent the wood home with Brenda to have her husband cut it for the required measurement, and within a few days I painted my first custom sign – “Just did it running like a girl!” (it was to be used for an upcoming race).  This sign was the foundation for my sign-painting career. More customers started requesting custom signs!  There were requests for custom phrases, colors, font styles, sizes of the wood, and artwork. I gladly accommodated to their needs and created many gifts for weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, daily inspiration, to give direction, and just to fill in that empty space on the wall.

When Brenda decided to close the shop in 2006 to focus on the online store I came along too.  I helped pack orders, restocked merchandise, and painted more custom signs.  The website now included a custom signs info/ordering page and the orders were coming in.  It was so exciting to receive orders from all over the country. There were a few international orders too and the post office staff was usually baffled that I had the forms filed out before coming to the counter.  At this point, packing for Brenda had become second nature; the website was becoming a quick success and most office-time was spent preparing the orders for shipment. Let me tell you – packing and shipping signs is much easier then furniture, although there have been a few mishaps.  I guess sometimes the long 40″x7″ package looks like a good baseball bat. Also, not sure how something so large ends up lost, but I’d like to think the few that were declared missing found good walls somewhere! 🙂

Speaking of walls – I had a customer once who ordered about 10 signs over the course of 6 months.  She had a room in which was filled with dozens of inspirational quotes collected over 30+ years. She was so nice to work with – I think being in that room for many hours each day had a positive effect on her well-being.  When you need to work in a space for an extended period of time it should be comforting.

My studio space has been in many locations over the years.  With the aid of old wooden boxes, baskets, trinkets and some natural light I have been able to turn my work spaces into little havens. The first was located in the stockroom of Brenda’s shop.  The workbench was perfect and on nice days I could daydream with the back door open. When the shop closed I used a corner of my kitchen. The room was large and the lighting was nice; my space, however, was a table and a cabinet. No matter how hard I tried I could not keep paint off the kitchen table, the walls, or the floor!  During the same time, I also used a small space in a warehouse beside a bay door.  I found an old tea cart at an auction to use to store my supplies and tarps covered the floor.  Once the business relocated from the warehouse I set up a small work space in my backyard.  At the time, I lived in on old house in Annapolis, MD, that had been converted into apartments.  The yard was communal, but no one ever went back there. The yard was never maintained and was a jungle in the summer, but I made due with a picnic table, a few tarps, and some HUGE rubbermaid totes that barely fit through the alleyway that lead to the yard. 

I enjoyed the nature back there in my jungle – one day a crane flew by me and landed in a nearby tree and we watched each other for a while.  I also set up shop in a living room and two garages before landing my current studio. I now have lots of work space, a cabinet to store the wood, and a shed for distressing and applying the clear coat to the signs. Having the shed is a nice treat because over the years I’ve had to endure all the elements to meet deadlines – hurricane winds, lightning, rain, snow, sleet, being too hot, being too cold, and random flying debris.  I never miss a deadline!

A few years have passed and I no longer work with Brenda in the office.  I have since moved to Santa Fe, and we maintain contact via emails. I owe much of my success to Brenda and her flexibility.  Over the years she has been open-minded and filled with suggestions.  In addition to the custom signs, I now paint signs that have replaced a few of Brenda’s factory-made signs.

I am so excited to be painting these signs!!   And if you have a special saying in mind, or want to get a unique gift for a special friend…I’m your gal!