I live in a house filled with four boys, three of them teenagers and the other the biggest kid of all (although old enough to be my husband)! I talk a lot about my boys in my book Berried in Chocolate and I want to brag just a little bit more about these amazing guys.
It’s an appropriate time to brag, because today April 11th is our Twentieth Wedding Anniversary. (Clay said “Hmm, feels like 30” – the brat!)
We can’t officially celebrate it though. We were going to go out the Saturday before I left on my mission trip but I didn’t feel well, so we decided we would celebrate it on the actual day – but Clay got sick. I had a little pity party until Clay decided it could be our ‘Anniversary Month’ just like I seem to milk my ‘Birthday Month’ every September!
Clay is always coming up with some new hobby or hidden talent. He’s really a man’s man even though he loves to laze in his recliner with Max and watch the cooking channel. Last summer we were at a fair and I had the latest craze of feather extensions put in my hair. It only cost $20 for one long strand. Clay was quick to announce that ‘he could do that! – he even had the correct feathers at home in his fly tying kit.’ He watched closely as the girl put them in my hair and then bought some of the little round trinkets they used.
After we got home he asked me to buy him his own box of silicone hair extension beads (I got them at Sally’s Beauty Supply) then later at a church youth party at our house he had a long line of all the girls and their moms and even some of the guys waiting for their extensions to be put in! His lucky recipients chose from a wide variety of colors – green, pink, red, black, grey, yellow -- and length and size of feathers – long, short, wide, or skinny. Check us out having fun!
Above: Clay putting feathers in Gena's hair. Read more about Gena, the funniest person I know, on page 111 of my book!
Above: Clay putting feathers in Mike's hair. We were on our way out for a special dinner. Too fun!
Above: Gena and Rick showing off their new doo's at Fitzpatrick's Winery!
A few nights ago we were in the emergency room with Max. While he was up to bat at his baseball game, the ball hit Max in the chin, splitting it open. Blood began pouring out the bottom of his face. Oh no, I thought, not the teeth! We took him to the hospital right away, and when we walked into the ER the receptionist asked me if I’d been there before. I had to laugh. I’d been there too many times to count – broken arms, poison oak outbreaks – I had boys, after all!
As we waited for the Doctor to come and sew him upm Clay said, “I don’t want a chair, I want to stand behind the doctor and learn how to do stitches. I’m always out with the guys hunting or camping and someone is always getting hurt. I really should know how.” When the doctor came in and offered Clay a chair I opened my big mouth to announce that he didn’t want one and why. So there I was curled up in a ball, peeking out between my fingers as the doctor explained in detail what he was doing with Clay’s head was right next to his. “See this blood vessel coming out here, we’ll work to stitch it back up inside…” Then just as the doctor was getting ready to finish, he said to Clay, “If you’re serious get scrubbed up!” Clay couldn’t get to the sink fast enough! The doctor told him how to properly put on his sterile surgical gloves – what a hoot! So there is my husband stitching up my son in the ER. Afterwards he told Max, “That was great! Made it all worth it!” Max responded, “Wow Dad, now you know how to do feathers and stitches!”
I told you he was amazing.
Above: Photo of Clay in the ER scrubbing up and getting his gloves ready!
(I airbrushed out the face of the doctor as I promised him we wouldn't share his idenity)
About a year ago my two oldest sons Paxton and Hogan went on their first mission trip with our church, Pioneer Bible Church. They went to San Felipe, Mexico to do construction work for the missionaries our church supported.
They worked on a Serenity House called 99plus1 that is being built and expanded to house poor, homeless, and often ill men. They also worked at two orphanage sites, one called Case de Fe (House of Faith) and Sonshine Hacienda Orphanage. This was how they spent their spring break.
Before they left, I was anxious. I didn’t want them to go because I was concerned for their safety, both in Mexico and on the long 16-hour freeway drive there and back. Then I remembered the truth – that as much as I love my boys, God loves them even more! So I gave them back to God, a sacrifice for Him to use as he wished.
They had a great trip and were delivered safely back to me a week later!
In January 2012 Paxton went on his second trip to San Felipe with a group of college-age kids. Then in the early spring of 2011, Paxton and Hogan planned to return to San Felipe on another spring break trip. But as this mission trip developed I saw that it might be a problem. You see, I was hoping that our whole family, all five of us, would go on a wonderful vacation to celebrate our upcoming Twenty-Year Wedding Anniversary (!) on April 11th. But in church one Sunday we heard that the upcoming mission trip would be a “family themed” trip to once again work on the construction and orphanage efforts in San Felipe.
As soon as it was announced I vividly remember thinking, “Oh-oh, there go my plans.” Of course I did want to be in Mexico with my family over spring break – but on a luxurious cruise ship, being pampered and waited on in the middle of the ocean! “Dang it!” I thought. “I’m not going on this mission trip – I’m not going, period.”
When I talked to Paxton about the idea of skipping the mission trip in order to spend it “properly” – celebrating his Mom and Dad’s marriage – he looked at me like I was nuts. He said, “I can’t imagine notgoing on this San Felipe mission trip.”
Oh no. And then even worse – Paxton, who never asks for anything ever, started pressuring me to go on the mission trip with him and Hogan. Max couldn’t go because he had baseball obligations, and Clay couldn’t go because it was his busy time of year and he needed to stay home with Max. So Paxton thought it was important that I go with them – it was a “family themed” mission trip, after all.
Even though I didn’t want to go (I wanted my cruise!) I told Paxton I would pray about it. And through lots of prayer it became clear to me that … I was going on a mission trip.
So we went. I’ll be writing more about this trip in a later post – because it was a life-changing experience for me. God sure does know what He’s doing. There’s nothing like helping those with little to realize just how much we have. Here’s a preview: a photo of me holding a little orphaned girl. I would have done about anything to bring her home!
Below: Paxton and Hogan on the beach. Click here to watch a video of their group building a roof on an old abandoned church. Precious.
Below: Singing worship songs on a cliff looking out over the ocean at sunrise on Good Friday. Awesome!
As my book Berried in Chocolate says, the heart of any business is the product you offer. I want my heart in the best condition it can be, so the products I offer are the best I can make them. It has always been that way since I started in business – my strawberries were the freshest, the firmest, the most perfect size; and the chocolate I dipped them in – by hand –was rich and delicious and the best texture I could find. It wasn’t only the products that were the best, either. My obsession with quality covered the packaging, the shipping, the merchandising, the advertising, and … well you get the idea.
Offering a high quality product or service means that you care about your customers. They are the reason you are in business – to make them feel special. Yes, I like to make money, and I deserve the money I make from my excellent products – but money is not the highest priority for me. I don’t think it should be for anyone.
In my book I wrote: “One of the philosophies of my business is that people do business with people. Customers want to know there’s a real person behind a catalog or website. A “real Shari” behind my brand is another form of quality assurance.”
This is why it kills me that products sold under the brand I worked so hard to build – Shari’s Berries (SB) – are not up to my quality standards. People assume these berries are from me! They are NOT. I no longer have anything to do with SB, who was bought by Provide Commerce.
Provide Commerce advertises that their strawberries are fresh hand-dipped berries in a premium chocolate coating shipped overnight in a beautiful classy gift box. Well, that used to be true when I ran the company, it’s what I insisted on, but now no longer is. Now what customers receive is hulled berries (no green tops) that are machine dipped into an inferior waxy coating and most sent out second-day, not overnight!
I’ve read online customer feedback comments about this new SB, some of them complete with photos that would make you sick! It breaks my heart. “Look at this mess!” one says. “Ruined my Easter experience!” says another. “I received unripe berries – completely white,” from another. “Mushy, with brown spots of rot and smelled of formaldehyde,” yet another. “Hey! Where’s the top of my berry?” and on and on.
I’m writing this because I want my customers who have purchased sub-par berries from SB to know that although they have my name on them, they are not from me. I don’t work that way.
When my new products are available, you can be sure they will be high quality in every way. They will be the best, from the Real Shari.
I found the below picture online. It's how SB's are being received today. Nothing like the hand dipped berries that are pictured on their website.
Did you know that you are able to buy my book Berried in Chocolate literally berried in chocolate? Yes, it’s true. For an extra $10 my book is available dipped in rich dark chocolate, just like my strawberries are!
The first time I held my printed book in my hands I thought, “It’s so beautiful, but too bad my publisher couldn’t do the cover as a “scratch ‘n’ sniff” – or better yet, make it taste like chocolate, just like the lickable wallpaper in my favorite movie Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory!”
Well, my publisher Pelican Publishing does a great job, but that was beyond them. But it’s not beyond me! I double shrink-wrap the book for protection and then hand dip it in a thick layer of real dark chocolate that is extra cocoa-ey. The chocolate leaves the book title and giant berry somewhat exposed, but the rest of the book front and the entire back is covered with chocolate. What a great gift idea! The recipient can read my book and eat my chocolate at the same time.
Isn’t it cute?
All chocolate-dipped books are pre-autographed in gold pen. You can buy them here on my website. Or you can come and hear me speak at one of my speaking events and buy one there – but beware, they often sell out fast!
I’m pretty sure you’ve never seen a chocolate-dipped book before. People thought my chocolate-dipped wine was strange at first too, but it was a big hit with my customers, and I think the chocolate-dipped book will be too. Who cares if people think I’m strange, as long as they like what I provide?
If you’ve read my book or heard me speak, you know that I am open and vocal about my Christian faith. I know that this may make some people feel uncomfortable, but my faith is a huge part of who I am and I’m eager to share God’s good news! If you bought my book or came to hear me speak, you expect to get the real me, don’t you?
And judging from the responses I get from readers of my book and people who have heard me speak, the thing that most inspires them is what I share about my faith.
Here are just a few of the many comments I've received: