Being Real

I can’t remember where it was, but sometime last week, I saw a challenge issued in a blog.  This author’s assertion is, those of us in business and with business blogs tend to blog almost exclusively about business.  He further challenged to take a day and write about yourself, opening yourself up and sharing parts of yourself that your public may never see.  This isn’t a bad challenge, and although he was proposing that Monday of this week be that day, I simply ran out of time before now.  So, I’m making this week’s blog post about the real me.

Technically speaking, the me in my blog posts is real.  I’ve blogged about vacations and vacation disappointments, soap production, recipes and day trips.  These are all me, all bits and pieces of my life and that of my family.  This week, I’ll open up a bit more to you, make it less business.

Not only do I run my own business, but I also homeschool my older daughter and am the family’s Minister of Finance.  That means I’m in charge of making sure what’s supposed to go out goes out when it’s supposed to, and holding people accountable for not spending recklessly.  Say my husband wants a brand new flat screen TV.  He can have a brand new flat screen TV – if he can show me how he’ll be able to afford it without compromising the household finances.  It’s up to me to keep things in balance, which I don’t like more often than not, because I feel like the bad guy, always saying, “No, that’s not in the budget.”  (Why don’t homeschool moms run the government?  We’d have the budget balanced and America out of this debt in under six months!)

I love to write, which presents a struggle with my math-lovin’ daughter, who can’t stand writing.  I have a few blogs besides my business one, and I enjoy writing stories with romance and passion – when the time allows for me to indulge my hobby.  It totally blows my mind that she can be my daughter and not LOVE to write.

So, I’m business owner and homeschoolin’ mama and baby wrangler and minister of finance.  My friend Donna Maria said the other evening, “You multi-task like nobody’s business!”  Another friend, Ginger, chimed in, “I want her to bottle that skill and send it to me.”  I only make it look easy.  Truth is, this level of multitasking is draining.  They might admire my multitasking skills, but they don’t see me in the wee, predawn hours of the morning, wide awake because my to-do list is running through my head.  They might see how well I finesse homeschooling and business, but not the heartbreak I feel when one of my girls wants to spend some quiet time with me as I’m scrambling to cook dinner, return emails and throw down just that one batch of soap.  The tension is how to do it all without staying up half the night.  I look at Saturdays and think, Woohoo!  A whole day with backup to get things done!  But then I think, A whole day of family time.  And, yes, there are days I work.  And then there are days – like a couple of weeks ago – when I say, “Let’s go to the beach!”

This coming Sunday, my baby turns two.  Since my older daughter doesn’t do so well with watching her sister getting all the attention, I’m toying with the idea of taking her to a movie on Saturday, just the two of us.  I don’t know.  I’ve got 175 bars of soap to make for an order and some experiments I want to try.  And a party to put together.  It’s hard sometimes.  OK, a lot of times.

As my older one gets older, we have to find new ways of getting along together.  I’ll send her outside to play just to ensure that she gets time to be outside playing with her friends.  This is the same girl who’ll ask me a hundred times a day if she can go outside to play with her friends.  This evening as we sat beside each other on the loveseat, she told me she doesn’t always want to go outside.  I told her that sometimes I want her to go outside so she’ll have a chance to play with her friends, and sometimes I just need a mommy time-out but have to get work done in the kitchen (meaning no hiding out in the bedroom for a bit).  We just have to keep the lines of communication open.

We had some good giggles today.  We decided that our language for this school year would be American sign language, something she’s interested in and something we can learn together.  We were going over hand lettering, and she was looking at her hands as she formed the letters.  I instructed her to turn her hand around; she was talking to herself.  This is fun so far, because it’s like translating English to English, and we both talk with our hands.  Besides, she could use this one day in church to minister to people, something she’s seen done in our church.

I’ve probably rambled enough.  If you could ask me anything, what would it be?  I’m fine with answering almost all questions.

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A Day at the Beach

Georgioupolis beachImage via WikipediaOne of the joys of being a small business owner is being able to take a full day off to play – go shopping, go to the beach or just bum around the house in my pajamas.  Last Thursday, despite the 100-degree temps, the girls and I headed down to the beach.  We love going to the one at Ft. Fisher – ample free parking and lifeguards, as well as showers and bathrooms.  Perfect, right?  And Thursday was topped off with just a little more perfection, as the risk warning was low, the water was the perfect temp and the waves were pretty mild.

Ft. Fisher tends to be a popular beach with locals, whether full-year or half-year locals, because there aren’t any hotels at Ft. Fisher, it’s way down the island and not many people know there’s a beach there.  Since it’s the preferred beach for locals, you also very seldom have to deal with those annoying tendencies that tourists display, like blasting music, getting drunk or feeding the seagulls on a crowded beach (for you readers who don’t do the beach regularly, flying isn’t the only thing seagulls do in the air – think about it).  We had gone to this same beach as a family the Saturday before, and there was a couple feeding the seagulls and taking pictures.  That might look cute in the vacation photos, but it’s darn annoying to other beachcombers.
Even with the majority of beachgoers being locals, the occasion family of tourists finds their way to this peaceful stretch of beach.  It makes for some interesting people watching, one of my favorite pasttimes.
The girls and I set up our towels and cooler and headed to the water.  The waves were maybe knee-high to my older daughter and the seashells were ample.  They found some fascinating ones, including some lovely, unusual brown ones.  I’m going to dig out a corner shelf we have buried in the garage, hang it in the powder room and start placing the girls’ beach finds in a squat glass jar on it (our powder room is done in shells).  And ya know, it doesn’t matter if the shells are partials or whole, if I think they’re beautiful or not, they think they’re treasures, so they’re special.
So… To the people watching…
There were your typical families, or typical 3/4 of families (figuring that those kids with only one parent with them probably have another parent working).  There were some military couples and families.  Way down the beach past the range of the lifeguard stations is a very open, not heavily populated section of beach where many of the dog fans hang out.  There’s lots of room here to let pets run wild on leashes and play in the water without disturbing other beachgoers.  To me, this is a nice compromise.  Some beaches don’t allow dogs on the beach during the tourist season; I’m glad this one does.  We saw quite a few attractive single guys with friendly dogs, and my youngest especially loved petting them – the dogs, not the guys.  I’m only adding this for any of you single folks who might be reading this.  If you want to pick up people at the beach, bring either a cute, friendly dog or a cute, friendly child.  No, I’m not renting out my youngest for this purpose.
There was one family that was remarkable because, well, they looked rather ridiculous.  Typical family – mom, dad, three kids.  The kids (the youngest older than my youngest and the oldest about the same age as my oldest) and the dad were all wearing life vests.  The mom was wearing a hat, as was the dad, and the dad was wearing his sunglasses.  People who go to the beach know, you don’t wear hats or sunglasses in the water unless you want to lose them.  Then dad pulls out his cell phone to take some pictures.  That’s not so unusual in this day and age.  Risky, and one I’ve taken myself, but not uncommon.  The girls and I played a bit more, then took a walk down the beach.  I was surprised that even my Wee One survived that hike on her little legs!  We came back to our section of beach for a little bit more play, and I noticed that this dad had his cell phone out again – and was talking on it while trying to hold on to his daughter in the increasingly rough water (tide change).  Seriously???  Is there anyone who’s so important that they have to field phone calls at the beach… in the water… and while trying to protect your child?
We soon rinsed off and left for home.  The firstborn stayed awake the whole trip home; the Wee One never even made it off the island before she was sooouuuuuund asleep.  It was an awesome day, and we were just sorry that our plans to enjoy it with friends fell through.
Tomorrow we start third grade in homeschool, and our mid-week trips to the beach will have to wait nine weeks.  Maybe.  
What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen at the beach?
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Not Just Soap in this Kitchen

My recent blogs have dealt with how to fail and succeed in business, and next week I’ll most likely swing back to serious, but I felt the need to post something a little bit lighter.  The third Saturday in June, I vended at the NC Blueberry Festival.  It started with this soap…

You simply can’t visit the Blueberry Festival without indulging in some delicious, locally grown blueberries.  Plump, juicy and sweet, these little blue bits of bliss freeze beautifully and since that very hot day have featured in cheesecake, muffins, pancakes and even barbeque sauce.

Peter’s birthday cake – homemade blueberry swirl cheesecake

Since his birthday fell on a Thursday and I wasn’t a hundred percent prepared to make him breakfast for his birthday (we let him sleep in), the weekend immediately following, I made muffins.  These are blueberry banana with shredded wheat topping (because I hate wasting that half cup of shredded wheat crumbs in the bottom of the box).

Blueberry and Banana Whole Wheat Muffins with Shredded Wheat Topping

We made some beautiful sand dollar cookies, too, but we gave those away before I could take pictures.  I’ll share those later, because those are truly beautiful and cleverly designed.  We’re going to make another batch, because my husband has a wonderful, kick-butt customer who deserves some.

Do you have a favorite berry dish?  Please share it.

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I’ve been looking at feet lately – namely, those of my girls.  (It’s crazy where I’ll find inspiration for blog posts sometimes!)  What I’ve observed has some good guiding principles for business.

Observation #1:  My baby likes to walk around in her big sister’s shoes and in my shoes – mainly her sis’s.  How can one apply this to business?  Have shoes in which those coming behind you want to walk.  In a literal sense, if you’re a shoe fashionista, you’re not going to want to put your feet into a pair of grungy, beat-up shoes from three seasons ago.  Likewise with business.  People don’t want to walk in the footsteps of business owners who are behind the times, irrelevant to the current market and treat their customers poorly.  They want to emulate businesses who change and grow with the times, who treat their customers like royalty and who are somewhat adventurous in how they approach business.

Observation #2:  When my baby and I go down the stairs, she’ll sometimes let her foot hover over the next step for a few seconds before stepping down.  She’ll let it hover, pull it back to the step, giggle, let it hover again and then finally step.  It reminds me of when I had to take my deep-water swim test in college to pass P.E.  I didn’t learn to swim until college, and as I stood on the edge of the pool down at the deep end, all I kept thinking was, “It’s over a one-story drop from here to the bottom of the pool.”  Never mind that I’m buoyant and would never have gone all the way to the bottom; all laws of physics were moot at that point.  Besides, the water never studied law or physics.  Well, my baby makes it down the stairs and I passed P.E. (and, therefore, college), but it takes a giant leap of faith.  She has to trust that I’m going to hold her hand, not let her fall down the steps.  I had to trust that the water would, in fact, hold me up.

Business often relies on these leaps of faith, too.  While there’s a lot to be said for planning and drafting ideas, creating a budget around those ideas and so forth, eventually you’ve got to stop planning and just do.  It’s scary.  What if the plan fails?  What if an unexpected expense pushes you over budget?  What if the plan succeeds?  What if you come in under budget with a perfect execution?  Sometimes, success can be just as scary as failure (but in a good way).

Observation #3:  Sometimes, my baby tries to go down the steps too fast and ends up falling.  She takes a step and almost without pausing, she takes another step with the other foot, feeling so successful that she wants to take a bunch more – more steps and faster than she’s ready for.  As it is with business, it can be easy to ride on a success and suddenly want to do more, faster than for which we’re prepared, with miserable results.  Then we need to fight the temptation and stop, proceeding through our next steps slowly and cautiously, being careful to make sure we are firmly stable on one step before going on to the next one.

What are some important steps you’d recommend for someone just starting out in business, taking those initial baby steps?

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