Tuesday, June 30, 2015

From the Hamster Wheel to the Roulette Wheel

As a child I was always finding ways to make money. Lemonade stands, a neighborhood newspaper, a cleaning business... As soon as I was old enough, I started a paper route and detasseled over the summers. On my 16th birthday I went down to the nearby grocery store and submitted a job application.

Owning my own business was always at the top of my bucket list. It was always something I would do "someday." 

Climbing the corporate ladder was never something that completely clicked with me. I knew that I wanted to be successful, but no matter how high up in a company I was, I would still want to own my own business someday.

8 months ago that "someday" finally came. I made the decision that I was going to go for it and I did.

In today's blog, I'll share 8 things I've discovered so far on this journey.

1. It's Going to Be Scary
Starting your own business is scary, but in order to have opportunity you have to feel the fear and do it anyway. At first, I would lie awake at night and think "am I really doing this? Am I crazy?"

A few of my favorite quotes are:

"Everything you want is on the other side of fear."
"Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone."
"You have to jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down."

2. Building from the Ground Up
So far, the journey has been like building a house. First, there is the design of the business plan and vision. Then, you start with the foundation and build from the ground up. There are many different components that require different expertise. You decide which parts in the process you need to hire an expert for and which you can figure out yourself. It takes time and patience to build a solid structure.

3. Your Priorities vs. Your Boss' Priorities
When you're running on the corporate hamster wheel, you can find that you are a prisoner to the company objectives or your boss' priorities. When you are a business owner, you make your own priorities and the rest is negotiable. There are no reports that need to be completed that no one looks at anyway. Your time is spent on your mission and you are able to be more productive in less time.

4. It's a Lifestyle
Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle. Your professional life overlaps greatly with your home life. You work nights and you work weekends. When you work for someone else, you have scheduled hours and are working on their timeline. When you are an entrepreneur, you get to determine what works best for you and how your day should flow. Will you wake up early or burn the midnight oil? When will you fit in exercise? I still haven't quite decided what the most productive schedule for me is.

5. Paying Yourself Isn't As Fun As You'd Think
I always thought that when I paid myself it would be so exciting. But... it's not. When you own a business, you want to invest in the business and build up as much capital as you can. A paycheck for yourself is an expense for your business. It's exciting to be profitable, but payday doesn't have the same appeal.

6. Some Will Be Supportive, Some Will Be Standoffish
I have been blessed to have support from many wonderful people. Former colleagues or clients have went out of their way to send me encouraging messages. Friends have complimented me for taking the plunge. Acquaintances are genuinely interested in how the business is going and "jealous" that they would love to own a business someday.

But, some people who you thought might be supportive may be standoffish. Rather than being unsupportive or skeptical, some will not even acknowledge your endeavor. Some advice from some other entrepreneurs has helped me to not be so sensitive about this behavior. Some people may feel uncomfortable about your endeavor or be dealing with their own personal issues. Surround yourself with supporters.

7. So. Many. Coffee. Shops.
When you work from home, your conference room is a coffee shop. I never thought I'd get tired of meeting for lunch or coffee. Of coarse, I still love coffee, but I had to start getting into tea. Sometimes I have coffee shop meetings and I get a water. Sometimes I feel like I live at Panera Bread.
8. The Entrepreneur Community
When you're out and about during the day, you realize how many other people in the community have flexible schedules. I was amazed when I realized how many networking and community events there are. It was a huge boost for me to get involved in some local entrepreneurial groups. I've made some very meaningful relationships and formed some beneficial partnerships.

The entrepreneurial journey so far has felt... right. More and more, I feel like I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing. I look forward to seeing what the next months and year will bring.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Why a Messy House is NOT a Happy House

This blog post may be one that some will disagree with. I am sure that it will offend some people based on other articles that I have seen circulating of an opposite nature.

But, I feel that it's important to give an alternative opinion.

There are many popular quotes that have to do with having a messy house:
  • "A messy house is a happy house."
  • "Good moms have sticky floors, messy kitchens, laundry piles, dirty ovens & happy kids."
  • "A clean house is a sign of a wasted life."
There was an article that I read recently about what a "normal" house looks like. Now, while I understand that  "normal" house is a lived in house, I felt that it glorified having a messy house as though it was a badge of honor.

I told my 9 year old son about this blog post and read him the quotations. When he heard the quotation, "A messy is a happy house" he said "That should be a fact that a messy house is not a happy house. When you're done cleaning, you can still hang out with your kids. Plus, you don't have to clean every second."

I have had friends in my life make comments similar to these quotations. They have said things like, "I would rather spend time with my kids and have a messy house than spend time cleaning."

I disagree. I would rather be a good Mom and spend time with my kids AND have a clean house.

Now, this is not to say that my house is always clean. In fact, it gets messy every single day and is a constant battle to keep clean. Laundry piles up and floors get sticky.

But, I don't think a messy house is a "happy" house. And, I don't think that having sticky floors, messy kitchens and laundry piles is what makes you have happy kids and makes you a good Mom.

In a way, I think it is insulting to insinuate that spending time cleaning your house takes away from being a good parent.

Before I was a parent, I was quite a slob. Growing up, I lived in a tiny house that was over 100 years old. My Mom was a single parent for several years and myself and my siblings always had friends over filling up the house. My Mom even let those who needed a place to stay live with us, and so we usually had at least one extra person living at our place.

By the time I was in elementary school, we had a house full of teenagers that were dirtying dishes, leaving their clothes and junk everywhere and were too busy having fun to do chores. Along with that, our house was very small.

Growing up, I did have friends over, but I was a bit embarrassed of our house. I went to other friends houses that had stay at home Mom's and clean, orderly newer houses. Those were the kinds of homes where the kids were used to homemade bread when they got home from school and making their bed in the morning.

I had a fantastic childhood and I would not trade my family for the world. But, when I became a parent, it became more important to me to have a nice, clean place for my son to grow up in. I never wanted him to be embarrassed to have friends over.

I'll admit, that when I was in college, I was still a pretty big slob. Messiness didn't really bother me that much and I was too busy with other things to stress about cleaning. I liked the beauty of a clean space, but had not discovered the mental health benefits.

Over time, I have moved to the other side of the spectrum. Though I am still lazy at times, messiness stresses me out. I appreciate the zen, therapeutic feeling of a clean and organized space. I take pride in my home and in having a space that my son can feel comfortable in and enjoy his childhood in.

I also strive to teach him about organizing and cleaning so that he carries on good habits when he grows up and has a place of his own.

I understand that what is important is our children and the relationships that we have with them. My Mother was a fantastic Mother who baked cookies, sang to us and taught us so many great life principles that we have carried on to share with our children.

But, to me, a messy house does not make a happy home. You can have a clean house and have an unhappy home and you can have a clean house and have a happy home. Working towards having a home that I can be proud of and feel relaxed in is part of what I do to be a good parent.

Some parents don't prioritize cleanliness or order as an attribute that makes a happy home and that's okay. To each their own. But, children don't have the option of the house that they grow up in. 

And, I don't agree that a clean house is a sign of a wasted or unhappy life.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Epic Blanket Fort Party

It started with a dream. For the past several years, my husband Brian and I had joked about having a party and building the blanket fort of all blanket forts. We'd brushed it off as a childish notion that would never become a reality. It sounded like a lot of work.

Until now. We had planned on having a New Year's Eve party. A typical party where you dress up and have hors d'oeuvres. But, we ended up having to cancel. Brian's birthday was coming up in January and so I asked him if we should throw a blanket fort party. We wondered, "If we had one, would any of our friends actually come?"
It started off as a joke, but the more we talked about it the more we thought we should do it. And, once we get a crazy idea, it usually just snowballs from there.
Brian started contemplating the fort construction. We did not want it to be a traditional low lying fort. It had to be epic. It also had to be sturdy. I started talking about what types of food and games we should have at the party.

First, we went to the fabric store. We knew that we wouldn't be able to pull it off with blankets and so we decided to get a ton of fabric that was $1 or less a yard. On the first trip, we got around 50 yards, but he had to go back to the store after we did a trial run to get 25 more yards.
Brian came up with the system for assembling the fort by anchoring it into the studs in the wall and using clothesline. He had to modify it a few times during our trial run to reduce drooping and also anchored it to the ceiling.
We did a "trial run" the weekend before to make sure that the method for assembly worked.

This is the first run when Brian decided that we needed to anchor it to the ceiling also to make it higher.
He built a wood piece to go around the chandelier in the dining room and lowered the chandelier so that it would hang down into the fort. Awesome idea.
Our son Evan had fun during the assembly process and got to sleep in a test fort with his friend.
Once we had the method down, it was all about the final execution. We'd already thought about all of the details for the food, games and setup. The party was on Saturday and we assembled the fort on Thursday. It took about 5 hours to get it setup.

This is our living room after the fort is setup. The middle was over 6 feet so you could stand in it.
We had planned to extend the fort in our hallway and part of the kitchen. But, with two full rooms, we ran out of fabric and had to improvise with sheets, tablecloths and pillowcases to extend the fort down the sides. We decided to scratch the idea of extending the fort out into the other areas to be able to have enough pillows and blankets to make the existing fort as awesome as possible.
I was most excited about setting up the inside of the fort with pillows and blankets. We added Christmas lights for ambiance and planned to have a fire in the fireplace. The dining room was completely covered with pillows.
The menu for the party included a selection of favorite "kid's" foods: Kraft mac & cheese, pigs in a blanket, dinosaur chicken nuggets, pizza rolls, smily face fries, goldfish crackers, pb & j with the crusts cut off, teddy grahams, pudding snack packs, funfetti cake and an assortment of sugary candy. We tried to make jello jigglers, but they didn't turn out.
We made a "koolaid" type punch with fruit punch and rum and drank out of cups with bendy straws.
We chose some classic childhood games and a 64 pack of crayons and coloring books.
Of coarse, at a blanket fort party, everyone must wear pajamas. There were some pretty awesome pajamas sported at the party that I neglected to get good pictures of. From, footie pajamas, to zombie slippers to Batman legging type pants that were extremely small (on one of our guy friends).
The "pillow room" was the gaming area. We setup our friend's Super Nintendo and played Mario and other games.
The living room was the spot for activities like coloring, playing games and girl's gossiping about going to second base. We planned to play the movie "Big" on the TV, but had trouble with the Roku.
Later in the night, the games got more grown-up as we played Cards Against Humanity.
Our friend Tony brought a classic game, "Double Dare."
It was definitely a party to remember. I'm glad we have friends who are kids at heart and could enjoy the fun.

One of my favorite parts was seeing everyone's surprise and reactions when they arrived and stepped inside the fort. Some of them seemed to have a childlike gleam in their eyes when they saw the fort.

It was fun to get to relax in our pajamas and go back to our childhood for the night.

After all of the work of assembling it, I'm not ready to take it down immediately. I'm taking bets on how long it stays up before we take it down. It's assembled in the two rooms we don't really use much as we have another family room.

Last night, Brian and I slept in the fort in the pillow room. It was around 2:30 a.m. when we finally went to bed. We were so tired, we didn't even make it to second base. It was the perfect end to the night.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

10 Ideas to Beat the Winter Blahs

Most everyone suffers from some form of the "winter blahs."

From feeling like going into full hibernation, to having a decrease in energy, the winter blahs are very real.

As someone who thrives during the sunny, summer months, I dread winter. I love to be outdoors and I am not a fan of the cold.

The holidays are fun, and the fluffy snow stuff is pretty. But, once the holidays are over, I am ready for spring.

So, this blog post is dedicated to helping beat the winter blahs. Here are ten ideas for surviving winter and making the best of it.

1. Savor the Simple "Winter" Things

Yes, winter sucks. But, there are some things that are kind of nice about it. Try to focus on enjoying some of the things you like about it. Comfy pajamas, hot tea/coffee, snuggling up with a book or movie, skiing and sledding, not having to be so worried about pedicures or shaving your legs everyday... One of my favorite "winter" things is sitting outside in a hot tub when it's cold out.

2. Something to Look Forward to

One of the best ways to help beat the winter blahs is to have something to look forward to. Plan a vacation or a party. Whatever it might be, it's a pick me up to anticipate the good things coming. We often take vacation in the spring. Fantasizing about lying on the beach helps winter not suck so much.

3. Light Therapy

One of the main reasons for the winter blahs is lack of sunlight. Light therapy is said to help seasonal depression and increase energy. I recently ordered a "Happy Light" which is a desk light that emits a brighter light. Get as much light as you can. Even driving or sitting by the window when the sun is shining is a mood booster.

4. Get Some Fresh Air

Get outside and get some fresh air when you can. Even if it is just for a few minutes. I try to find whatever excuses I can to go outside, even just to check the mail and take the garbage out. On the not so cold days of winter, take your pets for a walk or take advantage of the mild temperatures.

5. Force Yourself to Get Out of the House and Socialize

Force yourself to get out of the house and socialize, even if you don't feel like it. Plan to go for coffee or a drink with a friend. Go to a movie. Attend a networking group activity. Once you get out, you'll feel better.

6. Take a Class or Practice a Hobby

The winter is a great time to take a class or work on a hobby or other projects. Take up pottery or painting. Always wanted to learn how to knit? Bake? Learn a new language? Spend time working on it during the slower winter months. You'll make your way into the warmer months with a new skill.

7. Break Out of a Rut

Brighten up your day by switching it up. Wear bright lipstick or bright clothes. Paint an accent wall in your living room. Try a new food or restaurant. Find some fun amid the dreary days of winter.

8. Focus On Your Goal-Setting

The winter months are a great time to evaluate your goals and do planning for your personal development. Take the time to examine yourself and work towards a better you.

9. Organize Your Space

Get ahead of the "spring cleaning" and organize your space during the winter months. Take on a project, or take on several. Organize your basement. Who wants to be down in your basement on a warm, sunny day? Organize your file cabinet or kitchen drawers. Clean out your closets. One of my favorite "feel good" activities is purging my closet. Once you get rid of a bunch of stuff, it will feel really good.

10. Hibernate

I often suffer from "I feel like I have to be productive all the time and can't relax" syndrome. Allow yourself to take it easy. Read a book or watch a movie. Don't beat yourself up feeling guilty for not doing enough. Winter is meant for a little bit of hibernation.

Happy Winter!

Monday, January 5, 2015

"If Winter Comes, Can Spring Be Far Behind?"

January has arrived. For much of the country, the brutal cold has as well. It feels like winter is officially here.

The holidays have passed and we have entered the coldest months of the year.

Temperatures plunging below zero and blowing snow are parts of winter that the majority of us share a blatant hatred for. 

Here in the Midwest, winter can be brutal.

As I write this post, the snow is starting to pile up outside and temperatures are forecasted to remain below zero throughout the majority of the week.

It is times like these that I think about a certain quotation, "If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome." - Anne Bradstreet

Winter is what makes summer so great. All of those days lying in the backyard on the hammock... bare toes touching the fresh, green grass... the sun on your skin.

But, here we are today in the middle of winter. Little or no sunshine... stuck inside the house... dry, itchy skin...

It is a good time to remind yourself that before you know it, winter will come to an end.

Adversity in all parts of our lives is much like winter. Though hard times are unpleasant, they are opportunities for growth that enable us to truly appreciate and recognize the blessings in our lives.

At the time, it is often difficult and almost impossible to see the positive to an undesirable situation. But, it's the hard and bad times that helps make the good times that much better.

An example is within relationships. You may not truly appreciate a healthy and positive relationship if you have never experienced an unhealthy and negative one.

Or, with your job. You may recognize that you are blessed with a great team or great benefits after previously being in a situation with a bad environment working for little pay.

I like to think of summer as our reward for enduring the winter.

It's much like the feeling after working hard all day and then getting to finally take your shoes off. Or, the feeling after putting in a full week of workouts and finding that you have come closer to your goal weight.

How great will it feel when the first spring-like day arrives? When the snow thaws and the smell of spring permeates in the air? When the birds start chirping and in their songs is a little bit of hope?

Soon, we'll be basking in the sunshine again... driving with the windows down... sipping drinks on the porch.

Until then, I'll end with another quote, "No winter lasts forever; no spring skips it's turn."- Hal Borland.