angel 1….as we acknowledge International Women’s Day I thought I’d like to do so by way of sharing a rendition of a letter I originally sent to a long list of my “angels”, back in 2008.

HERE I serve to acknowledge, that which has grown exponentially for me, since that first writing in 08, the great value that I’ve been Gifted by MY Beautiful Women, and for which I am truly grateful. You all ROCK!

Some of you I call my family….my mother and mother in law, sisters, daughters, nieces, aunts and cousins.

ruth and girls


Some of you are old friends from lives gone by… school chums from Kitchener and Winnipeg and from my years living overseas in Haiti, Thailand and Taiwan…and also from the 4 years in Ontario with my young and growing family.
Some of you are my “Maine” friends, where you’ve contributed to making it my home for 13 years….before my move to Maryland just over 3 years ago.

ruth and the gals 2


Some of you are my new “Eastern Shore” friends that I’ve met through church choir, the gym, or the Chesapeake Women’s Network.
Some of you are customers that have become more than that as we both took the chance and got personal.

Some of you are business owners, like myself, that I have met as a result of being out there doing my business.

Some of you I came to know through the business of raising and selling our golden retrievers.

ruth and gal pals good karma

asid hpdc
Some of you I’ve met through my membership with WITHIT and High Point Design Center.

Some of you I have been blessed to have as partners/support in my business at ZAAR.


Some of you are people that have simply come across my path and we have “connected”….be it by way of a blog, twitter, instagram and/or facebook.

ALL of you are women of substance.
ALL of you have touched my life in a way that you cannot know.
ALL of you have shared with me a part of you that I now call my own.

All of you have a Story.

All of you are Beautiful.
And ALL of you have given of yourself to me, and I now would like to give back, by, letting you know….

My life has been enriched by the force that comes from sharing with other women…..  And,what I know for sure is that the presence of each and every woman that has come into  my life has contributed towards my life moving forward.

And so, just this moment to say thank you…light poster

Thank you for being there.
Thank you for being who you are.
Thank you for the ear.
Thank you for your caring.
Thank you for your understanding.

Thank you for your encouragement and support..
Thank you for your gift of friendship.

Thank you for your sharing.

Thank you for your example.

Thank you for adding to my “light”.

Thank you for opening my world to this wonderful “sisterhood” and becoming part of my Circle of Angels. I am so blessed.

ruth fb profileRuth


..because there is no better Gift I could give myself AND my business. End of Story. How’s that for a testimonial eh?

withit ruthThis is not the first time I have written about the value of attending a WITHIT event…  and in fact over the past 4 years I have in one form or another included a reflection, where I have been effusive about what I have garnered from attending a WITHIT sponsored event. Why? Because I get so juiced up about it and can’t stand other people not knowing about it/missing the opportunity.  

Seriously, aside from having High Point Market dates set in stone I also have the annual WITHIT leadership withit bannerconference, which takes place each August, and the WITHIT sponsored New York City inside design tour, which takes place each May, as solid don’t mess with my schedule dates, as they are booked!

Why? Well, I already stated that succinctly above, but more so, as my years in WITHIT grow in number so do the benefits that I reap as I embrace all that membership in this vital networking group has to offer, and there is no better way to get sold on the benefits of being a WITHIT member then by attending their leadership conferences. Talk about bang for your buck!

withit gals 2As with every WITHIT sponsored event it is done first class. Great venues. Inspiring speakers. Breakout sessions, round tables (of which I had the honor of moderating one a couple of years back), and loads of opportunities to start and foster friendships that simply grow organically as you take this time to be with what feels like a curated group of women that are your peers and subsequently your friend once you say hello.

Jena Hall, one of the founding members of WITHIT, implanted an image in my mind, during her presentation a couple of years back, that epitomizes my association with what  I’ve coined as my #withitgalpals….and that is of a string of women, on a stairwell if you will, each with her arms outstretched. Each is reaching up with her right arm as someone is there grasping it/ elevating her and with her other arm each is reaching down as she is elevating another. THAT in a nutshell is  what I feel about my experience at each and every gathering. We each have something to get and we each have something to give. Perfection! Need to create that actual image at next conference, don’t you think?

I write this on the cusp of the Spring 2014 High Point Furniture Market . I’ve been participating in the furniture market since 2004. My, how my Market experience has changed since those early days of coming here alone and working alone….

Here in 2014  am looking forward to sharing a house with 5 other women, all of whom I am honored to call my friends…or my withitgalpals, as we all indeed share membership in this group and how I met them all.  🙂

I look forward to attending the WITHIT sponsored events, including pre market kick off, Sunday breakfast and Competitive Intelligence,  where I can foster those budding relationships and spark new ones….and also be educated/inspired!


I look forward to hosting my own Lunch n Learn on Sunday, where John Lusher will be speaking on Social Media for Interior Designers….John, who I initially “met” on twitter back in 2009 via fellow WITHIT members. I look forward to having, as I have had the pleasure of experiencing in Market’s past,  a bevy of WITHIT supporters attend said event. And I look forward to using this event as a platform to promote WITHIT to my guests. 

I similarly  look forward to supporting the many WITHIT members that have showrooms, are hosting events, seminars/lunches/parties and/or are launching product lines in various showrooms.  The list here is impressive and way too long to include here.

CRLaine_Logo_2012xxxI look forward to spending a fair bit of time in the CR Laine Showroom, where my Chinese antiques are working hand in hand to showcase the wonderful products put out by this NC based company. Their VP of merchandising, a WITHIT connection initially sparked on facebook and then fostered at Market breakfasts, has grown into a mutually satisfying trade partnership and friendship…simultaneously.

We are an impressive lot, if I do say so myself, and we are entrenched in the High Point Market at so many levels….to the point where High Point Market practically serves as another WITHIT sponsored event.

So, yes, quite abit to look forward to. What a great back drop with which to do business all the while, wouldn’t you say?

And you know where I will be May 16-19 and Aug 11-13.  Hope to  have the pleasure of seeing you in New York and Atlanta GA respectively as well.

In the meanwhile, a successful High Point Market to all.





….DRINKS With Libby, and, and, and….

withit logo squareWITHIT,  is first and foremost a networking group for, just as it’s acronym says, Women in The Home Furnishings Industry Today…but what you possibly don’t count on, is the Gift of hard and fast friendship that you receive from so many of the women that you meet as you frequent the events planned by the organization. It’s like a pool of people have been handpicked for you and all you need to do is show up and fuel the connection that has been ignited by shared membership in this group. How cool is that?

I first joined WITHIT in 2008, and by the nature of the person who introduced me to the organization, the ever so lovely Kathleen Holterman, I knew I would be in good company. However, it would take me until 2010 to FINALLY NYTourmanage it into my schedule  to attend their annual NYC  Inside Design Tour, blog on most recent tour here….of which I now plan as part of my April each year, followed by attending  the Leadership Conference that same year, held each August…ditto there. NOT to be missed.

What I didn’t anticipate this year was a 2nd Design Tour to follow in June. How lucky could I be???  Yes, it would be my good fortune to be included on what I have quipped as the Long Island Inside Design Tour as organized by Deborah Klein, of DK Inside Designer…who I met on that very first NYC tour, and have been friends with since.

The ever generous Deborah pulled together a fabulous weekend that was delicious on so many fronts that I hardly IMG_0103know where to start.  She seamlessly brought together a group of people that knew each other, Betty Lyn Eller, Alicia Connolly, herself and yours truly (yes, all WITHIT members/who spent the weekend together….TOO much to write about/include here)  and merged us on Sunday with NY based Designers that she does business with ,each that just knew Deborah, and toured us around Sag Harbor, orchestrated lunch in the park, a visit to English Country Antiques and then to the inaugural Hampton Holiday House before heading to the home of Libby Langdon for cocktails, photo opps and more time to mingle/get to know each other.

IMG_0208She used the Holiday House as the anchor,  to gather us all together, and created a day of it.

And before going any further, if you haven’t had a chance to visit the Holiday House, you still have until Monday July 21st to do so….it is worth it and it supports the cause of Breast Cancer Research.


Everyone tours these homes with their unique perspective, but the takeaway is the same…of being visually  and creatively delighted and inspired.

Personally for me it was my delight to see two of my Antiques by Zaar customers presenting rooms at the house. Thom design house group picFilicia, AbyZaar customer since 2002 and WITHIT Supporter,  happen chanced by for a visit and took the time for a photo with our group, and Design House of the Hamptons, customer since 2011,which positioned an Antiques by Zaar Chinese Greek Key Console  in their “ladies room”.


And of course a pleasure to support the work of fellow WITHIT member Libby Langdon, who took on the project of the hallway to showcase her new line of peelable wall paper, skills as a photographer and her carpet line.

After said inspiring visit it was off to Libby’s Long Island home for a cozy evening of cocktails. As we took over her living room, the energy and fervor was audible as the air filled with the dance of words as women that had only met that day became friends.

We were a group of 11, 4 of which held membership in WITHIT…. one of us being the 2013 president. Somewhere in the course of the chatter a natural opening came for Betty Lynn to espouse the benefits of joining WITHIT and participating in our events. IE, you want more of “this” then come on along and you will NOT be disappointed….and she had 4 in the peanut gallery supporting this, including our 2 hosts.

End of the evening we all left giving each other hugs and saying how great it was to get to know you/promises to stay connected…and with social media, an easy promise to keep.


Yes, we all had in common the bond that we work in some part of the Home Furnishings Industry. A more salient bond is  that most of us also share the common denominator of working solo…be it in home office or studio, and although dealing with people and product daily, we work in a bubble. On a day like this the bubble was broken for many of us as we joined with others that experience a similar working environment.

007Deborah, you did good. Thank you so much for joining us all together and orchestrating all…taking us out of our respective bubbles and leading us through an inspirational day…and for some of us weekend.

And Libby, thank you for your kind hospitality in opening up your home to us.

I for one left the weekend feeling like I was on a cloud, with immense gratitude  for how my world continues to be enriched by the gift of friendship from my growing bevy of “gal pals”…and not to forget all the Design Inspiration.

For pix of the Design Tour Day, click here, and for pix of the entire weekend click here.


P.S. My walk on a cloud continued for yet another two days as I extended my time in Long Island to visit Antiques by IMG_0276Zaar customer, since 2002,  come friend, Sylvia Muller, proprietor of the Mill House Inn in East Hampton….THE place to stay in the Hamptons…and, per new AbyZaar customer/old friend of the Mullers suggested, it  could also be touted as the Antiques by Zaar Showroom of the Hamptons for all the AbyZaar merchandise that has found a home at Mill House.

….we are here to Lift Up and to Be Lifted Up.  

I LOVE the image this evokes, don’t you? Thank you Jenna Hall for implanting this in my brain, during your address to withit logo squarethe WITHIT Conference attendees what is now 2 years ago. Will need to capture that image in real life…next WITHIT event 🙂

Seriously, we ALL have something to offer each other. Nobody has nothing to give. But we are all at different places in our lives, and it only takes a spark of a conversation for the door to open for such a beautiful transaction to occur where you either find yourself Giving or Getting….the real beauty in that you Get when you Give…this is not new news eh?.

withiti inside design

And what a beautiful thing to experience this first hand, full out, with a group of women, Gifting this to each other. This is what has been my experience this past 3 days in New York, as a participant of WITHIT’s Annual NYC Inside Design Tour….and it can be yours too. Yes, a plug for WITHIT’s Annual Conference right here.

It is my 4th year on the tour, and each tour I come away with the self same feeling of exuberance ,of being fully withit ruthrecharged/energized and just plain excited for the camaraderie that has been felt throughout the entire event, and this year is no different….why should it be?  All the ingredients for a fantastic experience are there.

The Venue/The  Planning Team

NYC as the “venue”. How can you go wrong there?

Hostesses Betty Lyn Eller, yes, our 2013 prez, and Jana Platina-Phipps (and committee of Deboarh Klein and Alicia Connolly)  care so  deeply about the experience they want the tour members to have and it shows. Each year simply builds on the year before.

The Doors We Were Welcomed Into

stiletto network bookThis year the weekend was launched with a cocktail party  in the to die for apartment of a client of Mary Knackstead, WITHIT member….and so much more,  topped off with a book signing of Stiletto Network by Pamela Rykman.

Other Doors?  Carpet Town, Baker, Crosby Street Hotel…all in Soho, Good Housekeeping Research Institute, Tinsel Trading, Global Views Showroom,  and Apartment Therapy …also a WITHIT member.

withit jana and betty lynThis is by no means a complete list…yes, we covered ALOT of ground…. of what we experienced this weekend…simply these are the places and people that hosted us,welcomed us, and fed us, ever so graciously….and on Sunday it was a group of drowned rats that came through each door….ending with a wonderful sit down dinner at the National Arts Club, thank you to WITHIT member/artist Barbara Krohn, for opening this door for us, topped off with a book signing by designer Celerie Kemble.

The Tour Members

As members of WITHIT, the one thing we all have in common is an affiliation to the Home Furnishings Industry. And under that umbrella there is a phenomenal  gambit of expertise, from all angles and spectrum s of the industry, which in and of itself is inspiring.

The other thing we all have in common is that we have each taken time out of our busy lives to come together for 3 days of “inspiration” as that is what we’ve been promised…ie, it better be worth it eh??? 🙂

withit good housekeeping

withit park gals

withit dinner

I don’t think I am out of line in saying that every single participant of the tour left NY with a glow…one that was garnered from a weekend that wasn’t only educational and inspirational from the well crafted and executed program, but was completed by the many exchanges that happened at the cocktail parties, lunches/dinners, and yes, walking from one event to the other.  We all left feeling like we had fed off of each other…feeling less alone, feeling understood,  supported, inspired and acknowledged….and more.

withit subway

stiletto network

Yes, WITHIT is definitely part of the “Stiletto Network”….and I am so thrilled to be part of what is a new and exciting movement that is sweeping the nation….of women, executed by women and not only for other women but for the world. As we join forces, helping each other UP, we are indeed changing the world.


P.S. Want more pix of the WITHIT weekend in NYC ?  Check out the Pinterest Board where all are invited to post our fave pix.  Also, HERE are my pix on my personal Facebook page.

Working my way back to sharing my voice by way of my blog, and have been wrestling with which of the many topics swirling around in my head I should put out there first. This posting appears to be necessary back drop for me to move forward,  for there is no lack of material to write about…

Recent High Point Market has provided enough food for thought, on the products, on the people and on the businesses of the people with the product, that I could simply, well, go on  forever.

Similarly October being  Breast Cancer Awareness Month offers me yet more. My affinity to support  Breast Cancer Research, but also cancer in general, personally, and through my business, and the stories behind those people that have been affected by  cancer, that are dear to me, gives me more to talk about.

On Moving….why you move to where you do and how you manage it. Yes, fresh on the brain as just moved from Maine to Maryland after 13 years….but with past experiences moving around the world…Canada, Haiti, Thailand, Taiwan, and finally the States….I do have some experiences to share. Overseas I was considered abit of an “expert” on living as an expat…mostly about attitude eh?

On Entrepreneurship….the role model of my parents, the role model I’d like to be for others, with experience of 2 businesses, growing into a 3rd  business.   The desire to support those that have taken on the not so secure, but oh so satisfying life of working for oneself….taking the risks and accepting the challenges that although unique to each business, are shared challenges faced by all entrepreneurs, embracing the attitude  “failure is not an option”.

On Building Relationships online…remembering the pioneer I was in being the first online only seller of Chinese Antiques, of doing “warm fuzzy” e blasts long before social media and online relationship building was a “trend”. Of the values of building trust and confidence in you as a person is the only way to promote your product and how Social Media has opened doors for all levels of businesses and is ours for the taking as we move on with Patience, Persistence and Presence!!!!

On the Power of Womankind …and what we mean to each other, lifting each other up, and the value in being open to the women in your world and how doing such can change your world…

On the Value of Collaboration….so  many many fine examples I have before me of companies and people that believe, as I do, that there is enough for everybody to go around. Share the resources! Everybody wins…which brings me to my new entity ZAAR Design Center, which is moving from being an infant stages to greater maturity/value….and the Gift this continues to be.

On the lessons of life learned by being a parent….what our kids can teach us. How parenting changes as our children grow and as we grow to know ourselves better, and as we learn to respond to, rather than react to what life throws us…sharing this with our children as they each evolve into their own persons.

On the challenges of the economy….and what that has meant to the lot of us. Again, how we respond to it. How it can open doors for us…doors that otherwise may not have opened.

On setting Goals, or setting a back drop for said Goals,  and the Power of that…

On being Grateful. For the Gift of Life. For the Gift of Family. For the Gift of Health.  For the Gift of People that Believe in You/Support You/Lift you….yes, for Friends.  For the Gift of 2nd Chances. For the Gift of Faith, Hope and Love.

Yes, I have LOTS and LOTS to write about and the blogs that will follow will touch any number of these themes….ALL of which are relevant to the essence of what is MY Voice.  Yes, I have “stuff” to share and for those fellow bloggers out there…I think you’d agree that blogging is as much an exercise in how to share your personal voice as it is to introduce people to you/your business.

I look forward to delving deeper into the blogs of my peers as I make my way deeper into the blogging world.

….and on that note I welcome myself back after what was an apparently needed hiatus.


…OR Change, Change, Change, OR Ending a Chapter/Starting a Chapter, OR to Uplifting and Being Uplifted, OR We Women Rock….or simply Thank YOU!

Yes, this blog has been mulling about in my head for weeks now….feeling the need to acknowledge not only what has been a very clear change in my life, central to this being the recent sale and move from what was our home in Maine for the past 13 years….to starting a new life in Maryland, address yet to be confirmed, but to also acknowledge the forces that have contributed to getting me from “there to here” and which I count on getting me from “here to there”

Yes, I am very well aware that it is all “up to me” but I cannot deny the “forces’ of which I speak of, which come in the form of  that growing bevy of womankind which have come into my Life, and which I can call my friends.

To my Maine based gals….

I thank you for sending me off so well. For those that attended my pre launch of yard sale party, to those that similarly attended the lovely soiree at Connemara Farm, by Anne, my neighbor and friend… to the  many that I was able to connect with for a farewell lunch or dinner.  I felt so incredibly embraced and loved.

For you, Nancy Morin, YOU were by my side for almost an entire year as we moved from one stage to another in making the move happen….moving forward when I felt stalled, assuring me of your calm presence and assistance right to the day the movers showed up.  You kept me from going over the edge, and I felt there often, and quite simply pressed on. I purged and you packed. You organized my barn into a full fledged Good Will Store for 2 two day yard sales and posted items on Craig’s List so I could do my part and sell sell sell.

To Nancy Strojny, my SCORE mentor and Carol Emerson of Custom House Business Services, I thank you for giving me latitude as I allowed this move to consume me emotionally, BUT did your jobs and brought me back, reminding me of the business that is mine/dependent on me to breathe life into it and spurring me to the next step knowing when this move was behind me that I would return to  nurture and grow this Gift I have in my business.

To my daughter Avery, who upon graduation from college, yup, last one!  and after being away at school for the last 4 years… spent a full 3 months with me. What a delight!

To my team in North Carolina, Jeff Moore and Sherry Mitchell, who, over the summer did a phenomenal job keeping all in a forward moving motion, initiating a complete revamp of the ZAAR Design Center, managing Designer Wednesdays and more. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You. check out pix of the fine work here…and plan to come have dessert with us 9/12/12 and see for yourself! I’ll be there.

These forces, these women, all helped get me from There to Here, and I know that they remain with me as I continue to move on.

Further to this I add as a collective, the fine Women I find myself connected to through my membership in Withit.

How great it was to attend the recent WITHIT conference which was themed Pathways to Success: Strategies, Connections & Meaning.  A conference I touted I knew I couldn’t afford to miss, and as I shared on Leslie Carouther’s facebook….

I went to the conference this year, as I have past 2 years, KNOWING what I was needing/expecting…not only from the exceptional speakers I knew would be lined up, but also from the opportunity to meet/get to know better, the wonderful array of professional women that run and attend this conference. I was not to be disappointed in the least. If there was to be a big takeaway it is that simple reminder that it is indeed all up to me and it is indeed possible…to do/be all that I vision for myself. The conference itself is such a great venue for exceptional giving and getting.

Nuts and bolts is that were it not for the exceptional women that I’ve allowed into my life, and I’ve just scratched the surface here, my life would be so “without”. What I love is that there is as much giving as getting that goes on….that as I have been uplifted I know I have uplifted others, that as I have been mentored, that I can also offer mentoring. There is no base line here. It is a kinship of Kindred Souls….each of us reaching, each of us relating, each of us caring and each of sharing.

It is by doing all of this that we can indeed get from there to here, and move from here to there…each finding our way to do what we can to Elevate ourselves,  Be our Best Selves, and Shine Shine Shine.

….and so onward we go, individually, yet collectively, to make a difference for ourselves and to those whose lives we touch and whose lives subsequently touch us.

Yes, thank you for Being a Friend.


Although I carry with me every day many wonderful  “takeaways” after attending each WITHIT conference, see blog posting from last year,  I would be remiss in  “moving forward” without an acknowledgement by way of a blog posting from last week’s conference….besides, this is kind of expected from me by now eh..sharing said takeaways.

So, between hurricane Irene, and thus a power outage, and heading to Ireland, with husband to mark our landmark 25th anniversary, I am going to shoot out a few words, joining my many fellow WITHIT members who are similarly posting on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

The “takeaways” are numerous….

A reconnection with friends.

New connections….and GREAT to see so many students with us!

New opportunities for my business. You can anticipate reading about this in future blogs/newsletters 🙂

New opportunities to help others with their business. Thank you for the honor of leading your blogging roundtable.

A renewed appreciation for how and why WITHIT came into being in the first place. Thank you Jena Hall for sharing

A true sense of this vision being just as strong today. Thank you to the leaders who remain so committed to the vision

Opportunity to applaud,see, hear and be touched by iconic women in our industry/role models each in their own right.

WOW awards…..

An awareness of the “new world” we are in and what that means for how we approach our business. Keynote Elm Street Economics.

A better understanding of all that I can do with my iphone, in addition to grabbing emails, texting and oh yeah, using as a phone. 🙂 Pre conference workshop.

BUT, it is the pervasive Spirit that I am enveloped with me that anchors me/serves as my “core” …

For all of above is couched in a Spirit of…









For the women of WITHIT share more than the commonality of being associated with the Home Furnishings Business, they are…

Professional….yet cuddly…I so know there are photos out of the snuggle bunnies on sofas at the bar.




Colorful….in personality and in how they dress….many loving a “splash” of color…so fun!

Connected…in all the right ways 🙂

Have a Voice and are not afraid to use it….whether in written, spoken word or in song.

Are willing and eager to share, listen, support, uplift, encourage, mentor and be mentored.

Knowingly a little “gushy” here but I simply can’t emphasize enough the value of being part of a community of supportive and like minded women. So, if you are part of the Home Furnishings Industry, do yourself a favor and join WITHIT. If you’re not, go out and find yourself a community…and don’t let geography deter you, many online groups offer same...but do it.

I am able to nurture and grow my business, because I have taken the time to nurture and grow myself….and with that I am “powered on” and you can too!

Soooo, get Withit and feel yourself grow and glow!


P.S. Am well aware of lack of photos in this missive and there are numerous reasons I am going against what I preached at my blogging roundtable re importance of having images help grab your reader. But I simply felt that this message needed be posted now…not a week from now, when I’d have a chance to get photos for this….gives me reason to “repurpose” and send with photos at a later date 🙂

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