Cleaning House with Mother Nature A Spring Cleaning Guide

Spring creates feelings of freshness and renewal. With the beautiful changes of nature, a new motivation stirs in us to create that same feeling inside our homes. It is time for spring-cleaning! But where do we begin?

Imagine you are a realtor looking to sell your home. Take a pencil and tablet with you to the road and proceed up the drive or walkway. You may not use your front door as your daily entrance, but it is the first impression that individuals have of your home. Write down anything that needs cleaned up or improved as you “visit” your winter-worn residence with a fresh perspective. Did some of those ice storms rip shingles off your roof that now need to be replaced? Can you see leaves popping out of your gutters? Are old dead potted plants on the porch? Are there cobwebs in the porch ceiling? Could the house itself use a fresh coat of paint?

As you proceed into your house, go room by room and look closely at what has been ignored all winter. Your list may seem extensive, and the trick is to not take on too much at one time. You have a lot of spring days so break the list down and set a time to complete each project.

A few things will help to get the spring-cleaning done. First, get the windows clean inside and out. Something about the sparkling glass and the light flowing through them that creates an instant spring feeling. Make it a quick job by using one of the new window cleaners that you pop right on the end of your hose. A glass cleaner and squeegee will work wonders on the inside windows. This is a great start because it is a quick and easy job that has such a large impact.

Keep in mind that spring-cleaning is a deep cleaning, not your routine maintenance cleaning. There is, of course, the professional cleaning route using someone like our friends over at to do your house cleaning for you.

However, if you’re anything like me you probably want to take care of it yourself. Here’s how you can start using my basic spring-cleaning list:

  • Repaint mailbox and post
  • Clean stains off driveway, walkway and garage floor.
  • Put new flowers in beds, pots, or window boxes
  • Prune shrubs and bushes
  • Replace missing shingles
  • Clean out gutters
  • Replace storm windows with screens
  • Wash window (after cleaning out gutters)
  • Living room
  • Steam clean rugs and/or carpets
  • Deep clean upholstered furniture
  • Clean the ceiling fan and blades
  • Clean draperies
  • Clean out fireplace
  • Change filters and vacuum the vents Wash windows (use a squeegee to save time)
  • Kitchen
  • Clear countertops of anything not used daily
  • Donate any appliances/gadgets not used
  • Rid yourself of any expired food products
  • Clean out the cupboards and replace shelf and drawer liners
  • Vacuum refrigerator coils (sometimes under and sometimes in the back)
  • Clean under the stove and inside the oven
  • Wash out your garbage can
  • Out back
  • Wash down deck and re-stain if necessary
  • Scrub and refill birdfeeders
  • Replace dead plants or flowers in pots on porch with new plants
  • Clean and replace needed BBQ equipment
  • Uncover, clean, stain or paint porch furniture
  • Bathrooms

Check dates on all prescription bottles and toss the old. Sort bath products and store by category i.e. hair care, cosmetics, first aid, prescriptions. You get the idea. Now, create lists for any other rooms in your home and set up times to complete the projects. It is essential to actively put the projects on your family calendar before other obligations make their way into that space of time. Get the entire family involved in spring-cleaning activities. There are many jobs that children can do. Be sure to reward the efforts with a family night out, maybe a movie or pizza!

As a Professional Organizer I cannot go without including the idea of clearing clutter as part of your spring-cleaning goal. Again, this project can take place in smaller pieces of time. What are you doing after you read this article? I challenge you to find 10 items within the room you are in that you no longer need or love. If they are still in usable condition then donate them, if not, throw them out. Continue collecting items to donate in a bag or box and when it is full, take it to your local charity. Challenge your family members to do the same.

How about the size six clothes in the closet? You have been a size ten for nine years! Face it, as we get older our bodies settle in and it is highly unlikely that we will ever be a size six again! Every time you see those clothes in the closet how do you feel? – Guilty!

Removing clutter from your life is also good spring-cleaning for your head.

It seems the most difficult part of spring-cleaning for anyone is finding the time. Take a look at your calendar today and make appointments for your spring-cleaning projects. Clear the clutter and feel the instant renewal of spring! Spring-cleaning can be very therapeutic and the rewards tremendous.

Now you’ve finished this article – take a look around and find ten items to eliminate from your life and you have started your spring-cleaning!

It’s Faux Real! Have the Home You’ve Always Dreamed About

We may call North Carolina home and love it, but there are those among us who have dreamed of living in a gilded French chateau (sans children, of course—sticky fingers and gold just don’t mix) or perhaps preparing a meal in an authentic Italian kitchen replete with frescos and crumbling mortar.

Sound out of reach without a lotto win and eight weeks off work? Think again.

Able to faux “anything except the human body,” Greensboro-based faux artisan Debbie Hayes—and others like her—create exclusive faux finishes for kitchen cabinets, walls, furniture, accessories, custom art commissions, fireplace mantels, range hoods, and more.

High-end faux finishes are still something of an unknown around these parts. Say the word “faux” in North Carolina and people either think you’re saying “for” and wait for you to finish your sentence or their minds immediately leap to the bad sponge painting that ran rampant through our homes in the late 80s. (Admit it—you’ve attempted at least one sponge-painted room in your life. Likely it’s now the room the dog sleeps in.)

High-end faux finishing is a different game altogether. First comes the training. Faux finishers typically spend thousands of dollars each year in training and the environmentally safe, water-based materials required for a high-end faux finish may often only be ordered by a certified faux finisher.

Refinished Museum Lions
Faux finishers are also sought after by companies and establishments looking to create a specific look or to recreate the look of an older, damaged piece. Hayes, for example, was called on to refinish the 150-year-old solid cast iron lions outside the Greensboro Historical Museum that O’Henry played on as a boy. She’s also assisted with faux renovations on a 12th century church in France.

But barring cast-iron lions in your home that need a touch-up, what might you use a faux finisher for? “Almost anything,” says Hayes, whose inspiration for the custom finishes she creates comes from whatever clients walk in the door with—including magazines, pictures, wood samples, or even a plate or fabric swatch they’re hoping to match.

Hayes has fauxed a plain window to recreate an Italian design, wooden outdoor columns to appear as marble, and yes, kitchen cabinets to resemble an authentic Italian kitchen.

“Kitchens are my favorite,” says Hayes. “There so much oak out there that has the potential to be so much more.”

She mentions one couple that sought her help when the outdated kitchen cabinets in their upscale dwelling prevented the home from selling. Hayes set about renovating the cabinets and the clients were so thrilled with the final result they decided not to sell after all.

“That’s not uncommon,” says Hayes. “People have no idea what can be accomplished with faux finishes and don’t want to leave once they see the transformation.”

Before and After

To custom faux a cabinet or countertop requires anywhere from five to eight layers of treatment.

And anything in your home is open for transformation. Change a garage sale desk to a leather-finish looking wonder. A concrete patio becomes an aged-patina fresco. Or—another of Hayes favorite—instead of paint, opt for custom faux wallpaper. That’s seamless custom-designed wallpaper Hayes creates to model any high-end texture, surface, look, or mood you want to capture. “The wallpaper creates more moments where people say, ‘I’m never leaving my home now that this is here,’” laughs Hayes.

Before and After

When interviewing designers, make sure they are certified, visit their showroom if possible to see samples of their work, and don’t hesitate to ask for references. And remember, ladies—we may live in the mountains or the foothills of the glorious state of North Carolina, but there’s no harm in slipping away to our Parisian café dining rooms for tea. Ready to enter a whole new world when you step through your front door? Faux finishing provides instant ambiance to any home.

Six Communication Mistakes Business Owners Make

1. Calling a number listed on your caller ID. In business, you should never just automatically call a number just because it came up on your caller ID, even if you know the number listed. Since you weren’t able to answer your business line (cell phones included) doesn’t mean you should just call right back. Always listen to the message first or if they didn’t leave a message it doesn’t necessarily mean to call right back. In business, communicate accordingly and respect the communication process.

2. Calling someone back before listening to your voice mails. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve left detailed short messages and the person calls me back and says, “Hey Sherese, I see you called.” And I say, “Yes I did; what do you think?” And of course they say, “Oh, I just saw that you called; did you leave a message?” I know that sometimes this is warranted, but it’s a waste of time to have voice mail if you’re not going to use it. Be cautious of doing this. Make sure to listen to your voice mails on a regular basis, take down the information, and then proceed to make your call back calls.

3. Answering your cell phone if you’re in a meeting or at an event. I recently met someone for breakfast and we were discussing an upcoming project. In the middle of our conversation, she got a call and answered it (it was not her kids)! This is a rude action—just don’t do it. I understand about children and making sure you’re available, but if you look at the phone and you know it’s not your kids, don’t answer it. And if you have to leave your phone on, put it on vibrate and let the person you’re meeting with know—before your meeting starts—that if it’s your kids, you have to take the call.

If you’re in a meeting and someone calls you, don’t answer the phone. Last week I had three people answer the phone and all three told me to call back because they were in a meeting. I thought, “Then why did you answer the phone?”

Also, if you’re at an event or a seminar or other group gathering, make it a habit to put your phone on vibrate, and if you get a call, leave the room and then answer.

4. Giving out an e-mail address you don’t use or check on a daily basis. This is pretty simple. If you give me an e-mail address but you don’t check that particular e-mail very often, that tells me one of two things:

a. You don’t want to communicate with me (If so, don’t give me your e-mail address) and/or
b. You’re not a professional.
If you give out an e-mail address for business but you never check it, why give it out?

5. Not reading your business e-mails/correspondence fully. If I send you an e-mail with details, instructions, or answers to specific questions, I expect you to read the e-mail fully, just as you should expect the same from me. I get e-mails all the time with half answers or that have been half read based on the response. We then end up playing e-mail tag, which is a waste of everyone’s time. Read your e-mails fully and start enforcing this on your end as well. I make it a habit to not regurgitate; I always respond with, “Please read the original e-mail once more. It has all the details and I’ll await your response.” Now, those I do business with respect me even more because it’s allowed them to do business the way they should do business.

6. Leaving a message on all phone numbers you have, or calling and leaving several voice mails on the same number. I know, I know; sometimes it’s just an emergency. Just don’t make this a habit for every call you make. I have several colleagues that have to leave the same message on every phone number I have and they also send an e-mail (technology can be very bad sometimes). Also, don’t call the same number three or four times with the same message that is only 5–10 minutes apart. (I’m laughing as I write this one … it’s just funny when I hear a series of messages separated by five-minute increments. It just makes me not want to call that person back!) A single message on one phone number is sufficient. If you don’t hear a response in a timely manner (give them at least a few hours) then do a follow-up.

The bottom line: If you’re in business, you have to communicate effectively and appropriately.

Bring Harmony to Your Business with Marketing Communications

When it comes to implementing marketing communications into your business model, think of your favorite song.

Is it a concerto that relaxes you after a stressful day, a tune that motivates you when you are exercising, or perhaps a song that makes you want to jump up and dance whenever you hear it?

Just like a song includes many musical components ranging from various instruments and tones to vocals and lyrics that can affect your mood or feelings, marketing communications are composed of all of the different ways a company touches their customers. Just like there are a wide variety of songs, marketing communications are different ways to inform, educate, and sell to the customer. Just like in composing music or writing a song, in marketing communications all the components should all work together. In other words, you cannot have one without the other in order to create a masterpiece.

So, why do you need the mix of these different marketing communication elements working together? Because it ensures a consistent message that helps build brand equity—the value associated with the brand by the consumer. Branding is who you are and what you stand for. A brand is not just a promise, but a promise kept. It is what makes your company and product memorable.

Therefore, marketing communications should do the following: show your customer what your company stands for; what you sell; how you produce what you sell; how you deliver what you sell; and how they benefit from all of this.

The following are key elements of marketing communications. While they require a financial investment, they can be music to your ears by helping keep your business in successful harmony.

Communicate with Masses
In order to help get your company and product in front of a wide audience, consider advertising which is a paid form of promotion including: print—magazines, newspapers and brochures; online; broadcast such as radio and television; and outdoor advertising, such as billboards and transit systems. With a wide variety of advertising options, it is important to pick medium(s) that best maximize your outreach and budget goals.

Connect with Customers
One of the best ways to communicate directly with your customers is through direct marketing, which can range from mailings—postcards, brochures—and catalogs, to telemarketing and e-mails.

Sponsor an Event
Consider company-sponsored events to help link your brand to your product in your customer’s mind. Maybe it is sponsoring an event of your favorite charity or one that matches well with the mission of your company, hosting a workshop, or providing site tours of your business. Or perhaps, it is just a general entertainment event that you hold for your clients, potential customers, and key industry and business leaders.

Make Personal Contacts
Even with the advancements in and convenience of technology, face-to-face interaction with customers is essential. Opportunities include giving and attending sales presentations and meetings, exhibiting at trade shows, and performing product demonstrations. Always follow up with contacts you made by sending a note with a brochure or making a phone call. Make sure you leave the door open for further communication to build and maintain a relationship.

Promote Your Image
Implement a public relations plan to help promote your company’s image to the community and current and potential customers. Public speaking, sponsorships, community relations, and being mentioned in the media all help drive public relations.

Be Creative
Another way to uphold your brand and make a lasting impression with your customers is to promote your business by giving away specialty items and gifts with your business name and logo; holding contests, games, or sweepstakes; or offering coupons and rebates for your products and services.

Lett’s Sett a Spell: Computer Crash Reflects Need to Upgrade Me

Like most writers I must honor my calling, and I have a preferred way of getting those words on the page. Recently my favorite tool for creative expression came to a halt when my 1995 Macintosh computer crashed. The monitor started flashing a question mark, and the driving force of my career would not respond to my commands. I called an expert who said the machine’s computing system was no longer talking to my software, so probably my hard drive had died.

When taking my Mac to a repair shop, I learned the hard drive containing a lot of intellectual property could not be revived, but I purchased a newer Central Processing Unit (CPU) featuring a hard drive and memory plus a CD-ROM port that would allow me to update my software. Arriving home I connected the new with the old and discovered my outdated Microsoft Word program could not be installed, so therefore I could not access the information stored on diskettes. After more computer advice I picked up a CD-ROM version of my Word program, but didn’t have enough memory on my new CPU to install it.

First my hardware crash showed me that I must upgrade my technology and now the software problem revealed that I need to advance my computer equipment even more. Was this computer crisis a metaphor for my life?

This frustrating and exhausting challenge reminded me that we have our own hardware— our body and its operating system—that we must maintain and update to assure proper functioning. Just as my computer has software programs that allow it to process information, we have minds that need the body to be healthy and productive. A computer and a human being must have another component to rise to its potential: our brains. Each time I come to the computer to write, I bring a deep desire to express my creativity and to serve others through my expression. Computers need hardware, software, and human beings. People need the body, the mind, and the spirit.

Perhaps I had to sacrifice the hardware on my computer to know that it is time to release the cocoon that stifles my growth as a person and as a writer. God has been nudging me to write a new book focused on spirituality and I have been resisting because I didn’t want to work more hours. After being away from the creative process for several days now I am excited about accepting this new mission. With my computer I accept the challenge of writing that new book about the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly. Just as the old computer system has been thrown away my cocoon has been released, and I am ready to let go and let God, and soar to greater heights!

When No One Answers

Everyone has experienced it. Someone calls you prospecting for business. You get a message on your voicemail, you get a card or letter in the mail, and sometimes it is something you are interested in getting more information about. So you return the card, send an e-mail, or pick up the phone. Then you wait. And wait and wait.

Recently several business associations have been sending letters, e-mails, and making phone calls to get me to join. Several of these groups are ones from which I requested information or where I attended an event held for prospective members. I received their information packet and/or a phone call. I read the materials and wanted to talk to them. I called. I called. I left messages. I e-mailed. I waited … I have now moved on to something else. (This example applies equally to for-profits and not-for-profits.)

Business associations are just like regular for-profit businesses. They need “customers.” They may call us members, but make no mistake—we are customers. As business professionals, business owners, and business leaders, we don’t have time to deal with organizations that are lackadaisical. These organizations may be not-for-profit, but they aren’t non-profit. What’s the difference? Well, to my mind non-profit means that there is little intent to “run the business,” to apply the basic tenets of business to an organization created for a purpose other than making money for shareholders. Not-for-profits run the business and pay attention to the details.

Not-for-profits realize that building the membership base requires follow-up on calls, messages, and e-mails. It means that if you are fortunate enough to get a prospective member (customer) to contact you, then you don’t want to do anything to lose the prospect BEFORE you talk to them.

It’s not just the business associations. Businesses experience “No One Answers (NOA)”almost daily.

NOA means time and money lost for your business. You have potentially lost a customer and a sale if your organization regularly delivers NOA. If your vendors are NOA, then it is costing you time, resources, and possibly business if their NOA ripples through your organization’s operations.

A client recently told me that the biggest NOA offenders are his CPA and his attorney. They seem to be competing to see who can go the longest without returning phone calls or responding to his e-mails.

What does NOA signal to your clients, customers, colleagues, and strategic partners? Here are some possibilities:

Your business isn’t that important to me.
I have other priorities and can’t be bothered.
I have other clients who are a higher priority.
I’m disorganized.
My business can’t deliver, because I can’t even get information and call you back.
Just keep trying; you might get lucky…after all, someone eventually wins every lottery.
Certainly you get the point. When no one answers, opportunities are missed. It doesn’t mean you have to sit by the phone, invest in administrative support, or be at the beck and call (no pun intended) of your phone and your clients and prospects. It does mean that you need to be organized and conscientious in getting messages, returning calls, and responding to e-mails. It may mean setting aside an hour every morning and/or evening to make sure you return calls and answer e-mail. It may mean you look into temporary or virtual administrative support. What it has to mean is making operational changes to make sure you aren’t wasting your marketing efforts and losing business due to disorganization or inattention. If you are investing in getting customers to call (and who isn’t), then making sure you answer is a simple step to take.

Mark Madness

For twenty days each spring, 65 college basketball teams meet on courts across the nation, determined to dominate their opponents and declare themselves the champion. This is called March Madness. However, 365 days of the year, the same cutthroat level of competition is played out all over our house. Unlike the NCAA Tournament, you won’t find team players: No, in the Mark household it’s every man (or woman!) for himself. We call this “Mark Madness.”

While some sibling rivalry goes on in most families, our eight-year-old twin boys make face-offs like Duke vs. Carolina look like child’s play. Each one thinks that he has the home court advantage, and is out to beat his brother at just about everything. For my two little point guards, it’s not the game… it is simply about keeping score.

I think that their first “tip-off” happened at conception, and they’ve been squaring-up ever since. “I was the first twin, you know” I heard Jasper say trying to shoot down his identical womb-mate, “Your cells split off from me.” “Oh yeah,” Jared blocked, “well, I was born first.” “So what?” guarded Jasper, “I was bigger.” “But I’ll always be older,” Jared said, making a fast break.

You can be sure when there’s a home game, there will be plenty of personal fouls. When they’ve taken more than their fair share of free shots at each other, they’ll find themselves with timeouts on the sidelines for unsportsmanlike conduct. It is here where they explore the advantages of teamwork.

Just last week they came off the bench with some impressive double-teaming, as they tried to get out of trouble for double dribbling chocolate milk across our kitchen hardwoods.

These two can turn anything into a tournament. “My fever is higher then yours.” “Dude, I’ve got a fever AND a rash!” “Whatever. I got three stitches in my forehead.” “That’s nothin’; I had four stitches in my chin!” “My splinter is deeper than yours!” “Big deal, I can run faster than you!” “Who cares? I can run farther than you.” “Yeah, well I can catch a baseball better than you!” “Big Whoop—that’s only because I can throw one better than you.”

And one of my all time favorite shots: “I totally beat you in Monopoly last night” one bragged. “Well, I lost by more then you won, so I was actually the winner”… (Huh? Talk about a rebound!)

Occasionally I’ve been known to set up a self-serving scrimmage or two of my own. Putting on my best game face, I’ll goad, “You’re not gonna let your brother eat more broccoli than you, are you?” I’ll challenge, “Who can make their bed faster?” or “Who can rake up more leaves?” You’d think that they would have caught on to some of these plays from my game book by now.

But as the final buzzer sounds at the end of each day, I tuck my little MVPs into bed. After a night of hoop dreams, they’ll wake up ready to get back in the game. Once again I’’ll be their coach, their referee, and their head cheerleader, and they’ll always be my champions. Mark Madness indeed—Bring it on!

Meet Tammra Granger, Founder, Charlotte Citipass

As a child growing up in Toledo, Ohio, Tammra Granger never participated in a school fundraiser—never sold wrapping paper, candy, or magazines like most of her classmates. As the oldest child of a single mom working several jobs, Granger knew there was no extra money at home to buy the fundraising products, and no family members and friends that she could sell to. Consequently, Granger was never able attend field trips or activities that required her to raise or contribute money.

Today, Granger has found a way to help schools, churches, sports teams, and community groups to raise the funds they need to take trips, buy equipment, provide scholarships and build memories. As founder and president of Charlotte Citipass, a locally owned and operated dining and recreational membership, Granger helps merchants showcase their businesses and attract new customers, while helping the community by providing value to fundraising groups.

Founded in April 2001 in Charlotte, North Carolina, and also published through licensing agreements in Raleigh, Nashville, Memphis, and Boston, Charlotte Citipass is a labor of love for Tammra and her husband and business partner, Brian. But it’s taken a recipe of marketing savvy and financial expertise, commitment, and work/life balance to make it a success.

Granger is no stranger to hard work. Growing up in a big family, she often cared for her younger siblings and cousins—great experience for her work as a nanny in exchange for room and board during college. While at the University of Toledo, Granger earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree while waiting tables to cover tuition and expenses.

An opportunity to sell coupon books in 1992 introduced Granger to fundraising. For the next decade, Granger worked in the industry, selling ads to restaurants and other merchants, fundraising with non-profits—and learning much about what worked well and what didn’t. For example, one book Granger sold signed up advertisers for a two-year commitment. Some merchants became unhappy with the arrangement and as a result, failed to honor coupons from customers.

In 2001, the company that Granger was working for filed bankruptcy. It was then she decided to leave the corporate grind and start her own coupon book business, giving her more time with her son, Alec, then age 2, and more control of her life. But she didn’t imagine that within a year, business would be booming, she’d be expecting her second child, and she’d be in desperate need of another employee. And she certainly didn’t factor in the impact of a successful banker husband who was spending more than half his nights away from home.

Tammra Granger and husband Brian Granger unload boxes of Charlotte Citipass books for a local fundraiser.
The Grangers’ relationship took a 180-degree turn in 2002. It was then Brian Granger decided to leave his lucrative job as a senior vice president at Bank of America and join Tammra in running Charlotte Citipass. “It was both the toughest and best business decision I made,” said Granger. “Brian was doing very well, but we had no time together as a family, and I needed help with the business.”

There’s a division of responsibilities—Tammra is tenacious and quality-focused, making her the best fit to handle sales and marketing. Brian maintains the finances, provides for customer and client service, and cares for the couple’s children during the afternoon. They share major decisions, but generally defer to the one with more knowledge of a particular area when conflicts arise.

What they enjoy most is helping nonprofits meet their fundraising goals. Groups keep a percentage of sales, earning $10–$12.50 of each $25 book sold, and there’s no minimum. While most groups sell several hundred books, some groups have sold as few as ten. Any unsold books are simply returned. For most organizations, Charlotte Citipass is an easy sell to customers who see value in stretching their dining and entertainment dollars.

“Citipass was so easy to sell and the deals are great. If you use it once or twice, you’ve recouped the $25 cost,” said Marci Mroz, fundraising chairperson for Metrolina Regional Scholars’ Academy, a charter school for highly gifted K–8 students in Charlotte. The school raised more than $15,000 selling Citipass in 2005 and 2006.

A large majority of the 250 restaurants, attractions, and retail establishments included in the book are independent, local businesses. “It’s very satisfying to know that you have helped locally owned merchants successfully market themselves to the community. We are very fortunate to work with most of our non-profits and merchants year after year,” said Granger.

Some of the most valuable experience has Granger gained in the coupon book fundraising industry is that relationships are important. “Many book companies don’t take the time to cultivate relationships. They just sign up a merchant, or drop off books for a group to sell, and that’s it. We structured Citipass differently. We give merchants flexibility in their offers and the ability to showcase their business in a high-quality book. We seek out family-friendly businesses willing to extend desirable offers to attract new customers. And we personally support our merchants by patronizing their businesses (not using Citipass coupons),” said Granger.

The Grangers take the same personal interest in their fundraising groups. “Each group is unique, and we work with them to maximize what will work best for their particular situation. We take a very active role to insure the best results possible,” said Granger. For example, they hold a book “pick up” party each year, sponsored by Salsarita’s restaurant, to build a joint commitment and sense of teamwork with their fundraising groups.

While Charlotte Citipass has exceeded expectations, Granger doesn’t measure her success by numbers of books sold or how much money is in the bank account. “I use a personal happiness meter. At the end of a year, I ask myself: Did I enjoy my year? Was I able to spend quality time with the kids and other passions? Are we poised to be able to maintain that for the future?” said Granger.

The desire for work/life balance that inspired Charlotte Citipass remains a priority today. The Grangers work in their basement office and leave work downstairs when the day is done. The business phone doesn’t get answered in the evenings. The couple makes time for date nights, tennis, travel and “hanging out” with their children, Alec, 7, and Jackie, 4.

The Grangers also talk about how major life decisions—such a buying a new home—would affect how much additional time they would need to devote to the business and take away from their family.

Currently the Grangers are focusing on building the Charlotte market while helping their licensees to do the same. Someday, they’d like to build Citipass to a point where they could sell the business—perhaps to another enterprising young couple—and use their time and money to give back to the community and travel with their children to broaden their exposure to new cultures.

Alec Granger is already learning the importance of fundraising and giving back. He “helps” his mom with the business by sorting receipts and counting books. Shortly before Christmas, he asked his parents if he could forego presents and sell Charlotte Citipass books to raise money for children in Africa who didn’t have enough to eat. Family and friends quickly rallied to support Alec’s cause and made a generous donation in his honor.

It’s those kinds of lessons that Charlotte Citipass had allowed Tammra Granger to learn, and teach her children.

“We work smart, over-deliver on what we promise, and follow the Golden Rule. Charlotte Citipass has allowed us to do something we enjoy, while keeping our personal commitments in the right perspective,” said Granger.

For more information, call 704-553-0890 or visit

Home Comforts

“A house is a home when it comforts the soul.”
Phillip Moffitt

This is my favorite quote. Yet too often do we come home from the chaos of our workday and step into the chaos in our homes. I, for one, find no comfort in dirty dishes, piles of laundry, or stacks of magazines and bills.

Busy women can be just too busy to create a home that truly nourishes their spirit. And it’s hard to know where to start, with kids whining, dogs barking, and husbands calling! Yet making the time to fully acknowledge all your senses in a positive way will rejuvenate you and prepare you for the stresses of the world.

Some tips in addressing your senses at home:


Decorate with items that are simple, natural, and real. An inexpensive houseplant not only brings life to an empty corner; it also cleanses the air of toxins. In the 1970s NASA researchers needed to find ways to cleanse the air in the Skylab III of hazardous fumes from space-age materials used to build the space station. They discovered that plants give off compounds called phytochemicals that suppress mold spores and bacteria in the air. In addition, they absorb toxic chemicals and break them down into compounds that plants can then re-absorb as food or draw into the soil where they’re rendered harmless by bacteria. Some of the best air cleansers include Boston ferns, peace lilies, corn plants, rubber plants, spider plants, golden pothos, and bamboo palms.
Declutter your house. It’s the most commonly touted cure, but often the most difficult to achieve! Start with one room (preferably the one you enter first when you come home each day) and gradually move throughout the house. Don’t worry about the kids’ rooms…just close the door! Give each member of your family a laundry basket and insist that they collect their own items from around the house each night. Clear your own clutter, as well. Take a “ruthless pill,” as my friend says! Throw away, sell, or donate anything you don’t love. If you can’t get rid of that pile of magazines, put it in a decorative box with a lid. Be creative…try ottomans with lids that lift (and double as seating), or go to the flea market instead of the office supply store to find neat storage boxes. Look for whimsy or beauty, and be creative about the function of the piece.

Use color to lift your spirits. My house is primarily white; I chose one wall to paint in a pale jade green to match my large, laughing Buddha. I then lit the corner with an oriental lantern, and the room came to life! No matter what your style, don’t be afraid to use color. Even if you like neutrals, choose a rich tan or taupe. You’ll be amazed at the depth and character it brings to a room. If you’re looking for relaxation rather than energy, stick with monochromatic rooms (various shades of a single color you choose, for example, warm tan walls with ivory sheers and chocolate brown throw pillows). The less contrast you have, the more soothing the space will be.

The sound of a television is one of the least comforting elements in our homes. It’s not easy, but with a little training, I promise that you can limit your children’s television viewing. Get your own news updates on NPR during your morning commute, then come home to the sound of quiet background music, a trickling fountain, or CDs of nature (particularly if you live in the city and miss out on the real thing!). I have a favorite CD that I listen to at a very low volume while going to sleep each night. I take it with me when I travel or have a stressful day ahead. My body is so well trained to relax to this music that my heart rate immediately slows and my mind stops racing!

One of my favorite smells is that of bread baking. Pumpkin pie is a pretty good one, too. I even love the smell of Ivory soap! (It brings back memories of my childhood, when my father taught me to carve with his pocketknife and a bar of ivory soap.) Aromas create very powerful physical and emotional responses, and can be one of the easiest ways to inspire relaxation. If you love your morning coffee, buy a special blend and put it in a coffee pot with a timer set for 15 minutes before you normally wake. I’m not a coffee drinker, but I do love to use essential oils in clay rings that sit on the light bulbs in my lamps. For energy, I choose citrus, eucalyptus, or mint oils. For relaxation, the aromas of chamomile, lavender fields, or wooded paths lined with honeysuckle are magical.

I don’t want to overlook one of my favorite senses! While taste may not directly affect your first response when you walk through the door, it can still have a large impact on your sense of well-being. Try buying organic foods when they are in season (at surprisingly small price differences), and you’ll not only be eating foods with more intense flavors, but you’ll be feeding your body more vitamins and fewer chemicals. When your health improves over time, so will your well being. In addition, you can decorate with these foods. Colorful oranges and apples in bowls add to your décor and provide the temptation to munch on these healthy snacks rather than the cookies in the cupboard!

Items that have “visual texture” provide both comfort and interest. Sea grass, shells, beach glass, rough-hewn wood…all are evocative of nature and can be reminiscent of special times in our lives. Also use luxurious fabrics that invite you to relax: plush towels; 100% cotton, silk, or linen sheets that breathe (synthetics don’t breathe well, making for a damp, clammy sleep on these hot summer nights!); a chenille chair or chaise that you can sink into at the end of the day; even pillows or blankets of cashmere, fleece; and faux fur!
With some direction in how to address your senses in your home, I hope you’ll make the time to create for yourself a “nest” that calms the worries and heals the wounds of your days.

Do More Without Spending More Money

Here are a few ideas to help you get more value from the investment you’ve already made in the technology you have before you buy even more.

Learn New Features

People only use about 10% of the features of their software. So, the easiest way to do more without additional expense is to learn to use those features. It may take some time, but, hey, you’re already spending that time doing things the hard way. Why not spend some of that time up front learning a new feature every once in a while?

Strategies to Learn Those Features

The most important thing is to know what to computerize. There’s no point spending hours learning how to do something that will save you time only once. So, Tricia’s rule #1 is if you’re going to do something more than three times, computerize it. It can be big or small, just make sure you’re going to do it more than three times to make the effort worth while.

You can also look at things that you can’t do now or that you have only limited capacity to do. For example, keeping up with clients is a lot easier if you use a database or contact manager to remember the details, remind you to call, and send form letters.

Finally, look at your interests. Make it fun. Find something you want to do (not just those unpleasant administrative tasks – although it is nice to have the computer do those for you!).

That takes care of the first thing about learning – being motivated.

Make Sure It Makes Sense…to You!

The second thing about learning is making sure the way the material is presented makes sense – to you. There are different learning styles and skill levels. Just because it works for someone else doesn’t mean it will make sense to you. Some people like to read about it, some like to see it demonstrated, some like to be walked through the keystrokes themselves. There are books (reference manuals, step-by-step guides, workbooks, etc.), CD-ROM disks (some of these are very good – they show you how to do it and some include a workbook), newsletters, videos, and more. You could take a class (this is good for the extroverts) or get one-on-one instruction.

You should understand where your ego comes in (no one wants to look stupid and computers can do that in a hurry) and accommodate that. If you don’t want to look ignorant in front of people, a class may not be your best choice, except in my class where we are only allowed to laugh WITH each other. The main point is to find a learning method that won’t beat you up – find one that makes sense to you.

Besides the presentation method, the level of information must match where you are. You will be frustrated (and/or feel stupid) if what is being presented is too easy (or too difficult) for you. Build on what you already know. It also helps if you focus on one area at a time. Learn some related features in one program before learning something in another program. Break things up into byte-size pieces.

Don’t confuse yourself with too much information all at once.

I do not do all day training for that reason – what people learn in the morning is usually lost when they try to cram even more in during the afternoon. I find 2-4 hour training sessions the most helpful. If you’re using a book, CD-ROM disk, or some other self-study method, you can easily break it up into 15-30 minute blocks. Now, use it – as soon as you can, as often as you can, so it really sticks.

One last tip on a frequently asked question. What are the best books? First, learn a little about the program. Then, find a book and read instructions on a feature you already know. If it doesn’t make sense, move on to another book. If it does make sense, read on a feature you don’t know and try to visualize it. Keep looking until you find one that makes sense. Because if it doesn’t make sense in the store, it probably won’t while you are sitting at your computer either.