Website: Children's Harnesses by Elaine, Inc.
and my other blogs about weight loss: Weight Loss Made Simple
and parenting my 2 boys: My Boys Can...

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Hello from Elaine

My goodness, the dust was so thick on this blog that I had trouble dusting it off. I barely remember how to do a posting, it's been so long. Almost a year in fact. Where does the time go? And why the long silence from someone who is incapable of leaving a voice message less than a minute long? (windbag that I am...).

Business has been great. Most of my day is spent corresponding with customers, sending invoices and sewing up their orders. I love it. Sometimes I have a slow period, and I use that time to sew up extra Child Harnesses or chair straps to save time later. The summer can be crazy busy and the more prepared I am, the less hectic it is. Though I'm usually caught off guard and don't have enough sewn up beforehand to see me through. That's not a complaint!!

A few days ago I had a very touching email from a Mom who started her message by saying 'Elaine, I'm writing you in shock'. She'd had her daughter's Child-to-Adult Harness for a week and she was stunned by all the things she was able to do with her, all the places they were able to go, all the plans she was able to make now that she had the harness. I cried, it was so wonderful to read. 

One customer at a time, that's how I run my business. Sometimes I get stumped thinking about how to take my business 'to the next level', how to become more 'corporate' like other businesses that grow and reach more people, provide jobs and generate more income for myself so I can pay off my mortgage before I'm 80. I sit like Winnie the Pooh tapping my temple saying 'think think think' but nothing comes. Then I get an email like that one last week and I'm reminded that I'm 100% in the right place at the right time right the way I am and one customer at a time is the perfect way for me to run my business. I'm not a 'corporate' kind of girl and I'd be terrified of losing that personal touch that's so integral to me and what I do.

So, I'll sign off for now. And if I don't make it back until next year, it's because I'm taking time to talk to a Mom or a Dad or a Grandparent or a School about a customer. 

One customer at a time, one customer loved by many.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Support a local store in your community and support people with mental illness

Today I made time to visit a local second hand store that I've been meaning to get to before I finished the book I was reading. And since I finished my book last night, today was the day.

The second hand store has soft cover novels for 25 cents each. Every time I scan the shelves I see books I've donated. Today I found 3 to bring home and when I paid I told the ladies that since I treat their shop like a library, I'd likely be bringing these back when I finished.

This particular store employs people with mental illness. It's a small shop with limited wall and floor space but they display very nicely a variety of clothes, kitchen items, bedding, knickknacks, etc. and in the back they have their book section with a few chairs to encourage lingering or for those who want to try on some shoes. The staff are warm and welcoming and quickly assisted by one supervisor if they happen to have difficulty helping a customer.

Chances are good there is a similar store in your community. You may have to search it out; places like this spend their donations and sales revenue supporting people with mental illness and not on things like advertising. If and when you have time, wander into some second hand shops you haven't visited before. Take your donations with you; clothes the kids have outgrown, books you've finished, sweaters you don't like any more. If you spend a few minutes looking around, chances are good you'll find some new treasures to take home. And the money you leave behind may end up helping someone in ways you didn't expect. 

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Price increase coming for my Child-to-Adult Harnesses

Well crap, this is not the sort of announcement I enjoy but it's inevitable I suppose. My prices have remained the same for the past 5 years but surprise surprise, my expenses have not and now I'm really feeling it. An adjustment is LONG overdue so in the next few weeks, maybe by mid-April, I'll be changing my prices.

My Child-to-Adult Harness for chest measurements of 26 inches or less will be $70 ($65 for the harness + $5 (at cost) for snap hook for the lead), up from $55 ($50 for the harness + $5 (at cost) for the snap hook for the lead).

My Child-to-Adult Harness for chest measurements over 26 inches will be $90 ($85 for the harness + $5 (at cost) for the snap hook for the lead), up from $80 ($75 + $5 (at cost) for snap hook for the lead).

My Child Harness price will remain unchanged at $35 for the harness + $2.50 (at cost) if you order a detachable lead.

As always, when dealing with me you are getting exceptional customer service to match an exceptional product made for exceptional children.

So that's it for the bad news. Don't shoot the messenger. If you or someone you know was thinking of ordering one of my Child-to-Adult Harnesses, please encourage them to do so during the next 3 weeks before my new prices take effect.

Thanks so much. Elaine

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Double lock buckles coming soon for my Child-to-Adult Harnesses

I" double lock rock lockster buckle
It's silly the things I get excited about but this little baby right here has become my new gold.

Think I've lost my marbles? Maybe, but since this buckle was incredibly difficult to find and took lots of phone calls and emails to track down, when I finally located a company that could order them for me, I felt like I'd hit paydirt.

Oh sure, a number of companies have 1 inch locking buckles on their websites but contact them to order some and you quickly find out that they don't carry that buckle, they don't make that buckle, they don't have that buckle and furthermore, they can't get that buckle. "Then why the heck is it on your website!!!???" "Oh well, it is available as a special order and you'd have to pay for a gazillion of them before we would ask the factory to make them for you but sorry, we can't send you a sample first to make sure you like them."

But I digress. The point is, I've succeeded and fingers crossed within the month I'll have these buckles listed as an ordering option on my website.

The buckle is called a double lock rock lockster and it takes 2 hands to open. You squeeze the sides with one hand and press the tab with the other to pop the buckle open. For those parents who know they need locks on the Child-to-Adult Harness they order for their child, this locking buckle will be perfect. Since the buckles on the harness are at the child's back, odds are good that the child won't be able to figure out (sight unseen) the two-handed process needed to open the buckle. Anyway, that's the plan. 

Right now I offer my customers locking carabiners as an option for their Child-to-Adult Harness. The locking carabiners have been wonderful and have done the job beautifully over the past 3 years but a few months ago when my supply was running low and I placed another order, I ran into difficulties. Essentially, I wouldn't be able to get any more of the small locking carabiners I use now.

But as with all things related to this business run by God, along comes a lovely lady by the name of Leanna who tells me about cop-lock buckles that need 2 hands to open. And the hunt was on. 99% of the industry uses 2 inch cop-lock buckles, hence the difficulty in locating 1 inch buckles that I need for my harnesses. But that's all water under the bridge now and I've nailed a supplier and placed my order. I've opted for the more expensive buckles made in the USA rather than the cheaper ones made overseas because I really like the quality of the American buckle and I want to support a company south of the border. I'm so thrilled that later this week I'm going to make a YouTube video to show off my sample buckle to the masses.

Have I lost my marbles? Maybe. But when I find something that I think will be GREAT for my customers, that's great quality, that's made by a company on this side of the pond, that's a reason to celebrate. Heck, it's even a reason to make a video.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Migraine management

If you didn't choose your parents carefully, you likely inherited their tendency for migraines. Even a history on one side of your family will tip the odds against you.

If you suffer from migraines, this won't be news to you. When you've been stricken with illness you've likely taken an inventory of your parents, aunts, uncles, even grandparents and in your mind pointed a shaking finger in their direction and thought "This is your doing".

Whereas a family history of migraines will increase your likelihood of experiencing them, it's the triggers that we sufferers need to identify. Prevention is key.
  • pay attention to what your body is telling you. Your body likely gives you a number of signals before a migraine begins. You may have that particular 'sick' feeling, you may see flashing lights (even hours or the day before). Be attentive. It's likely too late to prevent the migraine but at least you'll have time to get yourself set up to deal with it. 
  • if a migraine takes you by surprise, look at the previous few days. Did you over-exert yourself? Are you particularly tired? Did you eat something unusual? Did you not eat when you needed to? Be critical and try to think of anything and everything that was out of your normal pattern. Your latest episode was caused by something and it's important to figure out what. 
  • triggers can change over time. For me, this was indeed an upsetting and unexpected revelation. One thing the doctors fail to mention to new Moms is that along with a new baby, the mother may also get a new body. Sure you look the same on the outside, but all your inner workings that were turned upside down to make the baby may not reset to The Normal You. All sorts of inconveniences like depression, psychosis, suicide and infanticide may bubble up thanks to hormone levels that neglected to reset to Default post delivery. Sleep disruption and foods that never caused migraines in the past may now be triggers so no, you're not losing your mind, you just need to learn your triggers all over again.
  • along the same theme, fluctuating hormone levels can also be the culprit. Changing hormone levels may never have caused you grief in the past but now you may find yourself with a migraine in the middle of your month AND when your cycle starts. There are specific medications for migraine sufferers to combat one type of hormone spike but not both so if you get migraines twice a month, you're on your own. But once through menopause, you should be in the clear. 
  • watch for chemicals, bacteria and hormones in your food. Yogurt that you've been eating for years may now have you bedridden if you chance a spoonful. Preservatives in store-bought cookies that give them a shelf life of 10 years may now have you reaching for your pills. Remember that migraines are caused by something so if you don't know what that something is, put your food diary and your migraine diary together and think that Anything could be the culprit. It took me months to figure out the yogurt I was eating was causing the problem because the company had changed their recipe when they changed their packaging. But since I'd been eating that yogurt for years, it never occurred to me that it would be a problem now. 
  • migraines DO occur in children! Keep a close eye on your kids if they tell you they have a headache and don't feel well. If you have first-hand experience with migraines, one look and you'll know if they are experiencing the same. Tell your child's doctor about the episode next time you're in. Don't let the doctor blow you off and tell you you're wrong "because migraines are extremely rare in children". Make sure the incident is recorded in your child's medical chart, it's important to have a history.
Every day without a headache is a blessing, a reason to celebrate that right here right now I don't have pain in my head or nausea in my stomach. In the meantime, keep your supply of Advil gel caps extra strength liquid migraine pills, 400mg, handy. It takes 20 minutes for the medication to get into your system and take the edge off that crack in your head. Tomorrow will hopefully be better.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Charitable donations. Who gets my money

First of all, regardless of who makes the charitable donation, apply the tax receipts against the person in your household with the largest income. For example, if the receipts are in your name but your spouse has the larger income, your spouse would claim the charitable donation deduction to reduce their taxable income.

Here ends my income tax advice.

I have 3 charities that I support. The first is the school that my boys attend. Last year when my oldest was in Grade 1 he would come home and talk endlessly about the PASS Room where he would go each recess to sign out a shovel or some other play equipment. He LOVED the PASS Room. I made some enquiries and learned that the PASS Room was actually a safe haven where children with behavioural issues could go during the day to calm down if they were having difficulty coping in the classroom. These children do not have a diagnosis, they are just kids who are not valued by their parents and their behaviour and social development reflects this. The PASS Room was created by the school to address behaviour problems and is supervised by 2 Special Ed qualified teachers. It has desks and cubicles so students who have been removed from their classroom can sit quietly without distraction and complete their work. They also stock healthy snacks for children who are sent to school with little or no food. I donate to the PASS Room at the beginning of each school year and ask that my funds be used to buy books, play equipment, food or anything the children may need.

My church receives a monthly donation. The congregation is small but mighty in it's community outreach. It runs 3 breakfast clubs in 3 large primary schools where 100s of children who would not have breakfast otherwise benefit from a healthy meal served by church volunteers. The Visitation Committee visits shut-ins or people who are too ill to attend church and twice a year they organize a special luncheon at the church and haul everyone in for socializing, a service and a hot meal. Other committees provide support to people in hospital or families in difficult circumstances. When my sister died another committee whipped up sandwiches and had the hall decked out for everyone who attended her service - we didn't have to do a thing. The church committees seem endless and when I think about community impact return for my buck, the men and women who steer these committees stretch my dollars like only church people can.

The third organization I support is Special Olympics - Aurora, Ontario. I wanted to find an organization close to home that worked with people with Down Syndrome who will forever hold a special place in my heart due to my incredible years with my sister. Last year I attended their annual general meeting and I was overwhelmingly impressed by the volunteers, their activities and their community involvement. I know my funds go directly to the athletes and that's very rewarding and reassuring to me.

Chances are good you and everyone you know donates to charity. Some people with a lot of money may donate to the most popular organizations because their donation is more about easing their conscience and getting the tax write off than following the impact of their dollars. But for those of us with only a little extra to spread around, taking a few minutes to shop for a charity that will get the most out of our money is an exercise worth doing. After all, helping as many people as possible should be the priority rather than sending in our hard earned bucks to go toward inflated salaries for executives and catered Christmas parties for staff.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Charitable donations. Make your money count

The vast majority of us donate a portion of our hard-earned money to charity. But unlike sending your taxes off to the government and hearing later that it was used illegally for a partisan advertising campaign, you can pick and choose your charity and thereby have some control over how your donation is spent.

My husband used to support a well-know children's hospital. That was until he heard that the CEO of the hospital was paid a bonus of $500,000 last year on top of his regular salary of $400,000+. When I was in graduate school, we were told the operating budget of the Canadian Cancer Society was larger than the federal cancer research budget. Somehow I think the Canadian Cancer Society will persevere without my $50.

A few years ago a friend of mine told me that her newly retired father thought he might do some volunteer work for The United Way. One of his friends was already involved in the organization and invited him to a lunch meeting. My friend's father went and when the meeting was called to order, all the executives started taking their lunches out of their briefcases. He had not taken his lunch, thinking that sandwiches would be provided but nope, only some coffee and no styrofoam cups either because everyone had their own mugs. Now that's an organization after my own heart. No spending my hard-earned harness dollars on catered lunches.

I don't have much cash to spread around but I feel very strongly that my business is God's work and therefore some of my earnings will always support my charities of choice. Stay tuned to hear more about them.