Monday, August 26, 2013

Musings on Emily Dickinson

Every year, in late August, I am struck by the changes in light.  The shorter days and new angles of sun spur the leaves to change, and it happens whether or not temperatures drop, or school has started.
So that is why, during the hottest week of summer 2013, it’s time to dream of autumn.  From the chill of air conditioning, out any window, I no longer see summer.  Gold is creeping in, and squirrels we have not noticed for months are in the yard, doing their squirrel work.
Emily Dickinson wrote a poem called, “The Name of It is “Autumn”, which is one of my favorites.  Emily was born to a prominent family in Amherst, Massachusetts, lived a remarkably sequestered life, and died in 1886 at the age of 56.   Taken at face value, this work is a beautiful depiction of fall landscape.  However, given that it was written in 1862, it is clear that the dark reality of the Civil War did not escape her.  She read the daily newspaper from the safety of her family home in the Northeast, and came up with this Haiku-esque beauty.
The name – of it- is “Autumn” -
The hue – of it – is Blood –
An artery – upon the Hill –
A vein – along the Road –

Great Globules – in the Alleys –
And Oh, the Shower of Stain –
When Winds, upset the Basin –
And spill the Scarlet Rain –

It sprinkles Bonnets - far below –
It gathers ruddy Pools –
Then – Eddies like a rose – Away
Upon Vermillion Wheels –

Now, since Emily never married, and by all accounts scarcely left her parent’s home or even her own room, I leave you with the following poem to ponder.  She did not tend to title her work, just assign it a number.  This one is 506.  I find fascinating the fact that such a proper and reclusive lady had a rich, inner life.  But in this case, it sure sounds like somebody was getting some action…  Just sayin’.
He touched me, so I live to know
That such a day, permitted so
I groped upon his breast
It was a boundless place to me
And silenced, as the awful sea
Puts minor streams to rest

And now, I'm different from before
As if I breathed superior air
Or brushed a Royal Gown
My feet, too, that had wandered so
My Gypsy face—transfigured now
To tenderer Renown
Into this Port, if I might come
Rebecca, to Jerusalem
Would not so ravished turn
Nor Persian, baffled at her shrine
Lift such a Crucifixial sign
To her imperial Sun

Well, how about that?  The last stanza is a bit convoluted - but the first two?  Come on! 
My habit of irreverence aside, today I invite you to take a few minutes and ponder this woman’s rich inner life and written legacy, coming to you from a far away Autumn.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Gratuities - Think Before You Thank

Most of us don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the custom of tipping.  It seems like standard procedure to do so, when receiving a service.  These days, with “tip” jars on every coffee shop counter, and services like Massage Therapy gaining in popularity, it bears review. 
The practice of leaving a gratuity for service seems to have begun in 16th century England.  Houseguests would leave something for the “help”, since they had extra duties while they visited.  It was a way to compensate underpaid workers, and this is why it can be considered faux pas to tip the owner of a business.  The general custom of tipping did not begin in the US until after the Civil War, when travel abroad exposed us to that culture, and we brought it back.
Since it’s opening in September 2008, Mindful Massage has had a zero gratuities policy.  There is a little sign in my studio that reflects this fact, and I am very comfortable with the decision.  Regular clients have grown accustomed.  I do, however, get asked about it quite frequently – even by colleagues.  Here are my top reasons, and darned good ones if I do say so myself.
1.       As the business owner, as mentioned above, gratuities should not be accepted.  Many people still tip their hair stylists, even if they own the salon.  Salons have much higher overhead than I do, and different atmosphere, so a case could be made.   Massage Therapists working within a salon/spa setting depend on tips, since they only make a fraction of the fee charged. 
2.       I see Massage Therapy as a necessity of good health for many.  As I have said, “you do not tip your physical therapist, personal trainer or dental hygienist, do you?”  It is a way that I bring the healthcare element to my industry.
3.       As a Massage Therapy client myself, I know that I spend the last minutes of the massage at a new place wondering how much I should leave.  The very idea that anyone on my table would spend one second calculating a tip is cringe-worthy!  Add to this the fact that many clients know each other and may wonder how they compare as a “tipper”.  Ugh!
4.       I intensely dislike the implication of a bigger tip yielding better future service. 
5.       When you buy a massage as a gift, wouldn’t it be nice not to require the recipient to pay for gratuity out of pocket?
6.       It’s simply a better value and easier to budget monthly when the price is just the price.
What I hope to accomplish with all of this is to spur more thought on this gratuity thing, which should be commensurate with quality of service.   It is meant as a “thank you”.  We all work hard for our money, and it should not be a perfunctory duty to leave extra every time you turn around.  Reward the good ones generously, but do not feel compelled to give 20% extra for passionless work!
And next time you see “tip jar” on the cashier’s counter, put a scrap of paper in that says “don’t smoke in bed”. 
I dare you.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Your Own Small Business - An Interview With Nick Sotos

Since changes are afoot in my own Massage Therapy practice, it seems an appropriate time to reflect on the ins and outs of starting, operating and living the life of a small business owner.
It has not escaped notice that our children have had the somewhat unique experience of having two self-employed parents.  My husband Nick and I opened unrelated small businesses when our daughters were very young.  It all began for him with Carver Plastics in 2004, which got its name by taking the first 3 letters of each daughter’s name.  Carver focused on moving virgin and recycled plastics to various manufacturers.  In 2005, a separate company (iD Additives) was started, which deals in the colorants and agents added to the materials to change their properties.
While I have no aspirations of taking on employees or growing my clientele beyond what I can personally attend to, Nick has been doing just the opposite.  This is iD Additives’ 3rd year on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing U.S. small businesses, and currently he has 5 people that work with him in different capacities.
What prompted you to leave a stable job and jump into opening your own business in this field? 
A.       Believe it or not, it was something of an epiphany.  I was at a business meeting in Montreal, when an associate of the company I worked for asked in all earnestness, “So, as a salesman, every year your net sales and worth in the company go back to zero?”    I realized in that very moment that the way the company was structured, there was nowhere for me to go, no true security in that position.
Two weeks later I put in notice at the job, and began planning Carver Plastics, which was our first company.
What were the start up costs, and biggest challenges the first year or so?
A.       Start up costs were very minimal.  I didn’t take out a loan or anything.  I kept my same office rental and relationships I had with suppliers and customers afforded me credit to buy what I was selling. 
The biggest challenge of the first year, was the sheer volume of paperwork necessary to keep things moving.  Before hiring office support, things like payroll and invoicing ate up a huge chunk of time.  I was literally working all weekend just to be ready for Monday.
Is there something that surprised you, positively, or negatively, about being your own “boss?”
A.      I was surprised how very difficult it was for me to be alone in the work environment.  I enjoyed being part of a team, even though it had its frustrations.  I am quite sure that was one of the driving forces in growing this business.  Now I again have a team of my own making, and it is great fun.
What would you say to someone who has an idea they would like to take to the next level?  What are some traits they should possess?  Any advice?
A.       Remember that it is a job.  You have to love it enough to “work” every day.  There IS more time involved in working for yourself, so be sure you are 100% committed from day one.  Be sure to be a creative problem solver! 
Nick has told me that he subscribes to the old adage “love what you do, and you’ll never work a day in your life”.  I am proud to say, he does indeed walk the walk.   
Have a great day!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Cauliflower - It's What's For Dinner

If you had told 12 year old me I'd be craving what is in this photo, I would have laughed my roller skates clean off!  But that is just what happened today, and nothing else would do.  Nothing fancy or complicated, for sure.  But it is my own made up combo, and I thought you might like to try it.

1 head fresh cauliflower, cut into size you like.
1 lb. fresh brussels sprouts, outer leaves removed and cut in quarters if large ones, half for smaller ones.

Place prepared veggies on a single baking sheet.  Today I used about 1/4 cup of avacado oil, but olive oil is great too.  Pour it right on there, shimmy the baking sheet to distribute and add sea salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper and CURRY.  Omg curry is the magic ingredient.  The house smells divine!

Roast in preheated 400 degree oven for a good 15 - 20 mts.  Serve on top of whole wheat pasta, which gives it protein, for a complete meal!  Oh, sometimes I add a bit of feta or parmesan cheese if I'm feeling crazy like that.