The Entrepreneur

Owning your own business is a worthy goal. As autonomous humans, the desire to live independently is alluring. I’m a big picture, self-motivating person, who doesn’t do well with micro-management. Working independently makes sense for me and for the people and companies I serve. As a self-employed attorney, I’ve been “killing what I eat” for roughly 15 years now. I’ve also tried a few other ventures and these tips are based upon my personal experiences:

  1. Be prepared to do it all. You will wear many hats. You are now the tax accountant, the payroll manager, the buyer, the marketing manager, the secretary, the courier… you name it, that is now your hat to wear. A lot of people mistakenly believe owning their own business will provide them with more free time, and frankly the opposite is usually true. You may not need to punch a time clock, but you will often work around the clock, that is if success is your goal.
  2. Stay away from multi-level marketing (MLM) companies. I know this will ruffle some feathers and it is not intended to. These companies make broad promises of freedom and cash. It’s great marketing on their part. You might pick up a little extra side cash, but your chances of making it big with a MLM are about the same as you winning the lottery.
  3. Know your market. Who are you marketing your service/product to? Are they male or female or both? What age group will embrace your product? What are the demographics, area, household income, etc.?  I once had a friend who decided to do an MLM gig in order to support another friend. The company sold shampoo, among other things. I really wanted to support my friend in this new endeavor. I logged onto the company’s website all ready to order the product. I was stunned. The minimum price was $100… FOR SHAMPOO. I do not spend extravagantly on beauty supplies. Never have, never will. I do not have my nails done and I still buy my make up at the drug store. I would never spend $100 on a product I can buy for $8 at a local store. I wasn’t the right market. And, not making the purchase made me feel like a terrible friend.
  4. Know your weaknesses. If you are not good at sales you will need to hire someone who is. Sales and marketing skills are an absolute must in any business venture. I’m terrible at sales. I’m more of “if you like it you’ll buy it, if not, that’s cool,” kind of person. I have no desire to impose my will upon anyone else. I have a nephew, however, who is phenomenal at sales. I’d hire him in a heartbeat!
  5. Be reliable and keep your word. Integrity is important. If you say you open at 9:00 a.m. be there early and be prepared to open at 9:00 a.m. The consumer who showed up at 9:00 a.m. to find the doors locked will rarely come back and give you another chance.
  6. Read books and understand the value of being a quality leader. Yes, you are the boss but never ask anyone to do something you won’t do yourself. Lead by example not by word.
  7. Be decisive, be direct, and don’t take it personal. Your job is to get the job done. The buck really does stop with you. Gather the information needed and make the best decision possible based upon that information. Not everyone will like you or the decisions you make and that is perfectly okay. You are the one who has to answer for them in the end. There is a risk/reward ratio you need to clearly understand and be able to employ regularly. What are the risks? What are the rewards? Will the reward outweigh the inherent risk? And, never, never, never, never, never (Did I say NEVER?) sell your integrity, ever. Somethings are not for sale and the reward is NEVER that great. There will be times you may need to walk away from an opportunity (a deal, a venture, a relationship), and it may set you back temporarily, but you will win in the end.
  8. Do NOT borrow money. I hear this all the time. I’d start a business but I can’t get anyone to loan me the money. This is the worst financial trap ever. Business failures lead to personal bankruptcy more often than not. Don’t finance your business or borrow money for a start-up. Some ideas will work, some won’t. Some things you will like and excel at, and some you won’t. Experience is the greatest teacher. Test the waters before plunking down large sums of hard-earned cash. If you can’t invest your own, why would others want to invest theirs?
  9. Don’t base the decision to start a business on the support of your family and friends. What do I mean by that? Family and friends are supportive but they won’t pay the bills. I had an attorney once tell me; “No one will use you more than your family and friends.” In their defense, they don’t all mean to. Some do, of course, but not all. Family and friends will often expect free or discounted. However, you’re trying to run a business. Don’t fall into this trap. Never apologize for expecting a fair amount for your time and talents. The word “no” can be very liberating. Also, emotional support does not equate to cash. You’ve heard the saying; “One in the hand is better than two in the bush.” It’s true. No one is truly committed until the money exchanges hands. Thank them for their encouragement and support but never count on them for your success.
  10. You are the brand. Every time you interact with someone you are marketing your brand. How do you represent what you are selling by being the person you are? WARNING: Politically incorrect anecdote. I have known people who sell weight loss or other health and fitness type products and services, and, well… if you want the buy-in you have to represent that the product works. You are the brand. A few years back I studied and became a nutrition consultant and personal trainer. I looked into the viability of owning a gym. My goal was simple. I wanted to help people regain power over their health. I have a tendency to gravitate towards “helping fields.” The problem was the franchise I was looking at was very popular, in fact, too popular, trendy even. Trends burn bright and die off fast. Don’t waste your money. Also, after a year of study, I understood this company had a limited market and in order to hit a broader market I would have to market past it’s current brand. That is a very tall task. A task I didn’t have the time or desire to accomplish. So I scrapped the plan. It had no long-term viability. I still consult in the areas of health and nutrition, it’s personally rewarding, and for now, that’s all I need it to be.
  11. Understand the character of your company and reinforce it in every aspect of the company. I’m shocked at how many big businesses still do not understand this concept. Listen, people can buy a product or a service anywhere. Literally, they can buy it ANYWHERE!  There is rarely something (product or service) unique to be sold. You have to set yourself a part. The culture, the character of your company, this is something competitors can’t duplicate. Know it. Understand it. Employ it effectively. The desired culture must permeate every aspect of the company. You should be looking for shared core values and relationships.
  12. Know what sets you a part and market it, market it, market it! I can buy shampoo anywhere. I can buy lipstick just about anywhere. I can get a loan just about anywhere. I can buy trinkets for my house just about anywhere. Heck, I don’t even have to leave the comfort of my recliner and it will be delivered to my door. You must spend time and money on marketing. The places and avenues to reach your market are so varied these days some expertise in this area is imperative. People mistakenly believe they’ll hang out a shingle, open a store or restaurant, and wha-la… Business! It takes a lot of effort to get human beings to walk across that threshold. People are creatures of habit. You must be creative in your efforts to get them through the door, close the deal, and/or sign on the dotted line.
  13. Know the role of social media. Social media is a great add-on but unless you are truly paying for advertisements your organic growth will be extremely small and slow. A lot of people start a business and then try to market it through their family and friends on social media. We keep hearing what a great avenue these are to market, but it’s simply not true. Sure, you can get a free page but the owners and shareholders of these social media sites aren’t stupid. Your posts are not shared wide and far to your market unless you are paying for the advertisements. And then you have to deal with the trolls (and that is a full article all of its own for another day). People do expect social media for a business, but you can’t rely on it as your sole source of advertising. Also, the people who use twitter are vastly different from those who use Facebook and Pinterest. And those who use LinkedIn are very different than those using Instagram and Snapchat. Then you have the bloggers and vloggers, again, very different. Generic posting to every social media site is not the most productive usage of these sites. The key is in building relationships, conversing, responding, having fun, giving facts, and not just pushing sales. Social media advertising, when done right, is very time-consuming. But, then again, building and maintaining relationships always are.
  14. Pursue your passion but serve your market. We, myself included, often want to go into business because we have a passion for something particular.  Those who love what they do never labor, or so the saying goes. If you buy product you buy for your market, not what you like. That’s a difficult concept for some. The question isn’t; “Do I love it?” The question is; “Will they love it enough to buy it?”
  15. Never stop learning. Read. Google. Watch YouTube. Watch TedTalks. The internet makes learning available to all. If you want to know about something you can almost always find it on the internet. And, if all else fails watch Shark Tank. Seriously, their panel asks entrepreneurs great probing questions. It will give a very clear idea of what works and what doesn’t.
  16. Numbers don’t lie. I often ask two questions; “What do the numbers say?” and “What evidence do you have to support what you are saying?” Theories are great. Dreams are wonderful. Ideas are invigorating. Creative pursuits are fun. But, the numbers tell the real story. If it is true there will be evidence to support your position. Data mining in business should not be overlooked. What product or service are they buying? Whose buying it (sex, age, location)? Use this information to tweak your model and advertising goals. The numbers don’t lie.
  17. Know when to quit. I always test an idea before sinking myself into it. I’m a creative type. I enjoy harnessing an idea and blossoming it into a reality, but I also know my weaknesses. Test the water with your toe before jumping in naked and screaming for help because the water is cold! Starting a business is a big pursuit. Don’t throw good money after bad. Never let your ego or fear of failure get in the way of good economic sense. Learn. Adjust. Try Again. The process of elimination is a great learning tool. We often uncover what works by uncovering what does not.

I love entrepreneurs. I encourage creative spirits. I love those with big dreams and fierce attitudes. This post is not intended to discourage or ever dissuade anyone from taking the next step. The purpose is to share some truths and realties behind the shiny and alluring lights of business ownership. May your business pursuits always lead to gateways of success.

The Price of Friendship

The price of my friendship is loyalty. Plain and simple. Loyalty that is derived from the heart. Loyalty that is real and tangible. Not fake or pretend. I give it and I fully and unequivocally expect it in return.

Don’t disrespect me. Don’t lie to me. Don’t try to manipulate me. Don’t use me. Don’t play passive-aggressive games. Don’t make me guess. Don’t talk about me negatively behind my back. Stand up for me if I am not present. Lend me an ear for listening, and occasionally, a tissue for tears.

This does not mean I expect others to tell me I’m right all the time. Nor do I expect others to give me praise or compliments, which I have not earned. To the contrary. I expect real. I expect my friends to be direct and honest with me in a respectful manner. It means me never questioning your motives. Never. It is an absolute.

I currently find myself in the F stage of life.  And, I am embracing it to its fullest. This is the stage where you start to view other people’s drama and judgment differently. Where you stop worrying about what others think. When you no longer need to hang on to others and find it is much more freeing and empowering when you let go. When the back biting doesn’t sting as much, you simply just cut the tie and move on. It’s the stage where you realize what you will and will not compromise.

I’ve seen enough train wrecks in my lifetime. I have no desire to be a bystander in viewing any further derailments. I sold my season tickets to the ringside boxing matches. I cancelled my subscription to the drama of others. I didn’t renew for another season of fakers and pretenders.

There are things I choose not to compromise on. The price of loyalty is one of those things. Loyalty, it is expensive, but the costs associated with losing it are far greater. This position may appear harsh and unrelenting, and it took me years to uncover this deeply personal truth, but it is my truth nonetheless.

My time is as precious as diamonds and gold. I don’t mind putting forth the investment it takes for mining. Sometimes I am lucky and hit a goldmine and sometimes I am left with a lump of coal. My goal is to ensure I invest my limited resources wisely.

The Stranger at the Movie

Last night was date night. Dinner and movie. I asked Kev to watch Wonder Woman with me the night before. He’s not a fan of superhero movies, but he indulged me anyway.  Last night, of course, he repaid the favor by taking me to see the Darkest Hour. A story of Winston Churchill. I’m not a fan of war movies. They ring too true for me. In fact, I try to steer clear of anything that causes much emotional involvement.

We ate dinner at a restaurant close to the theatre. Utilizing one of our Christmas gift cards. The place was packed as expected. But, even with the heavy 7:00 p.m. date night crowd, we were served fairly quickly. Leaving Kev and I with extra time on our hands.

We decided to vacate the table and head over to the theatre. There is no need to cheat the server of a good night’s wage by lingering too long. The theatre is a massive complex with 17 showing rooms. In addition, it houses a diner, game room, bar and restaurant. Some of the showing rooms have plush reclining, heated seats and wait staff who will bring you the food and drinks of your choosing. And, everyone gets there very own arm rests. No sharing required. It’s lovely. Last night we had tickets to one of the Screening Rooms. Reclining seats but no waitstaff. It’s a very spoiled experience nonetheless.

Upon our arrival, we walked upstairs and headed to the bar. We took the seats at the left end, received our drink order, and was making our usual  small talk when a woman walked over and sat in the chair to my right. There was a gap of four chairs between me and the next party, which meant she could have left one between us, but alas she did not. I don’t usually talk to strangers. Some might say I’m rude, I say it’s just me, label what you want.

The stranger, this woman sitting to my right, was a talker. A loud, engage as many people as possible, kind of talker. She had long blonde hair and wore little make up. Her eyelids were puffy and she carried a little extra weight. She had a tattoo of a blue balloon and the word “Ryan” written on the inside of her right wrist.

I made eye contact with this stranger and gave her a polite smile and that is all it took. Full throttle engagement. My date was going to have to wait. It didn’t take a genius to figure out the woman sitting next to me was heavily intoxicated.

In less than a minute this stranger was telling me about the turbulent relationship she is currently having with her pre-teen daughter. She told me about her “old man,” how they’ve been together since she was 13 years old, and in passing, some of the terrible, awful words her “old man” says to her. As her story unfolded it became more deep and grew more dark. Her phone buzzed twice during our conversation. The word “Mom” flashed on its screen. She was quick to dismiss the call. Clicked the button and never answered. She described her mom’s addiction to pills. She told me about her sister’s violence against her own child, her sister’s addiction and numerous failed relationships. She teared up as she described her 19-year-old nephew, how close she was to him, and how depressed she has been since the devastating act of his recent suicide.

She was excited to show me a picture of him. He was tall and slender with brown hair. He stood smiling in his red cap and gown. His high school graduation picture. His youth ever-present in his features. Our hearts were in unison in that moment. I could feel the depth of her sadness. Such a terrible and incredible loss.

The irony in all of this is she wasn’t complaining. She was just telling me about her life. Her story. Unabashedly open. She wasn’t complaining at all, this woman, this stranger sitting next to me, she was just surviving. All I could do was listen. Give her a few moments of my time. Hear her sorrow and acknowledge her pain. Acknowledge the struggle that is often life, and do my best to leave her words to encourage her to fight another day.

I felt a nudge on my left arm. My date. The time had come for us to head to our movie. I uttered my apologies for needing to step away, thanked her for the conversation, and told her “to keep her chin up, you got this.” She smiled, shook my hand, and thanked me back. Her demeanor was calmer now. A little more subdued.

Kev and I made our way down the stairs and past the ticket taker. As we walked down the corridor to theatre number 9 Kev said; “You made yourself a new friend.” “Yes, I seem to have a knack for that. She is hurting, really, really hurting,” I replied.

This morning I am not sure the stranger will even remember me or any of our conversation, yet I can’t forget her. She weighs on my heart and mind today. The stranger at the movie, may God see to it to heal her heart, remove her sorrow and depression, heal her family, and bless her life.

Untied, Untethered, Unbound

Toxic family is a reality. We don’t discuss it much because it is not a socially acceptable concept. We have to honor our Mother and Father. This is assigned as one of the fundamental religious rules to Christians.  There is even a holiday that reminds us annually least we forget. There is a lot of pressure in religion and society to bind to family, no mater what. We grow up with these concepts that blood is thicker than water. Family first. Family above all else. You must overlook the offense. You must welcome them into your home. You must attend that family function. You must help them. You must take that call. It is your lot in life. It is your duty. That’s just how it is.  But, what happens when your family is toxic? What happens when it is your family that threatens your sense of peace and personal security? What then?

I have fought this battle for years. The guilt endured by those who go against the grain, the “social norms,” is sometimes unbearable. I ride the joyless teeter-totter between what is required and what makes me feel safe and happy. As if my happiness is a sin or some type of selfish desire of which I should be ashamed. As if forgiveness is some type of prize I should covet and attain. A medal that proves my strength and valor. Pish Posh Applesauce!

This requirement to forgive haunts me, no doubt. But, why should it? What do I need to prove? Frankly, dare I say, there are some acts that are simply unforgivable, at least in my human capacity. That’s the whole-hearted honest truth, albeit not a truth we want to recognize or ever openly express. It’s not a truth we want to speak because we are taught something entirely different. What do we do instead? We water the concept down to make it more palatable, to make it achievable.

Forgiveness, for example, has turned into nothing more than this concept of release. Popular theory provides forgiveness is me setting myself free of the offense. It simply doesn’t make any sense, except if intended to bolster my personal need, my ego, a concept that I am better than I actually am. The raw truth is forgiveness is an act intended to pardon the offender of the offense, not an act to free the offended, the victim, from the act. I differ from popular theory, this I know, but I just can’t buy into this watered-down concept. Releasing ourselves from the chains of anger and pain related to a wrong that has been thrust upon us is not forgiveness at all. This is a process of release from personal bondage. That is a great! That is a worthy goal! That is what you should obtain, release. But, let’s call it what it is.

Why so insistent, here, Ms. Carol? Because there is another layer to this process that can be very harmful. I see it often. People who force themselves to associate with their offenders. Enduring their presence. Faking a relationship. Exposing themselves, time and time again, to those who are toxic to them. But, why? To prove the meme correct that only the strong can forgive? I forgive therefore I am strong, I am good. But, do you, do you really forgive? I would hedge that honesty bears more no’s than yeses to that question.

One of my friends, many years ago, had another very fast and loose friend, who she believed was regularly hitting on her husband. I would concur in her belief. It caused more than one heated discussion in their household. My question to her was simply; “Then why do you continue to invite her to your home if she is a threat to your marriage?” It was an innocent question, or so I thought. It was also a question she could never answer.

I have another friend who doesn’t have a close relationship with a sibling. In fact, they fight bitterly. Yet, she continues to host the holiday gatherings at her house and she still invites the agnostic sibling, because they’re family and it’s expected. However, their presence, together, creates tension and stress for all in attendance. My friend knows full well she is going to be a mass of stress and anger and at some point some sort of confrontation is bound to erupt. Yet, she does it anyway.

I see the struggles others have with this concept of forgiveness. This concept of family togetherness, no matter what. And, I see clearly the BS you must wade through in order to meet it. Forcing yourself to do what is expected, even when it is to your own detriment. Struggling with guilt when you can’t meet the standard. Forcing yourself to endure people who hurt you. Forcing yourself into situations when it is harmful to your metal, spiritual and emotional health. I want those people to know it is okay to be different. It’s okay not to accept the popular theory. It’s okay to go against the grain. It’s okay to not forgive the act. It’s okay to stop enduring and forcing yourself to deal with that family member. You don’t have to expose yourself to situations which cause you stress or threaten your personal safety. You don’t have to endure the gathering. You don’t have to associate based upon a label. You don’t have to open your home, your place of refuge, to the destroyer, to the plunderer. Even God has a prerequisite to forgiveness, it is called repentance. He doesn’t give one without the other and I doubt very seriously He calls upon me to do something which He won’t.

Forcing yourself into fake relationships or pretend forgiveness does not prove you to be a great Christian. Forcing yourself to endure and associate with offenders does not prove you are strong. I do not have to offer my offenders forgiveness and neither do you. It is not something they are entitled to. In fact, it’s pretty arrogant and hateful to make such a hideous demand. You don’t have to prove anything to anybody.

I’m not advocating hatred here. I am not advocating bitterness. What I am saying is let it go… Yes, let it ALL go. Release yourself from the act, the pain, the anger. Release yourself from the individual. Let go of the need to hold that person accountable (if justice is not forthcoming for you). End your subscription to the guilt when you say ‘NO!” Release yourself from society’s pressures. Don’t be vexed by society’s requirement to forgive, expose, and endure. Live the life you need to live for your health, safety, welfare, peace and happiness.

People are people. Some you like. Some you don’t. Some you get along with and some you won’t. Forcing people who really don’t like each other much to interact together out of some out-dated ridiculous concept seems to me to be nothing more than a recipe for disaster. If you are trying to avoid drama and discord, I’m sorry to tell you this, but I’m pretty sure this is the fastest route to get to the opposite.

I strive for a genuine life. There are people who exist who do not have my best interests at heart. I understand this truth. That is just part of life. It doesn’t matter how many times they smile at me, hug me, or say; “I’m sorry.” It doesn’t matter how hard we try to avoid the truth, or turn a blind eye to past events, or pretend that things haven’t been said or done.  So why on earth would I want to spend my day with any individual who fits within that category? Forced relationships are never successful. I am perfectly happy to co-exist. I know you are out there. I acknowledge, in some cases, we may share some genetic coding or familial line by blood or marriage. You do you. I’ll be over here doing me. We can live parallel but our lives don’t necessarily need to intersect or cross. I, personally, do not have a need to expose, associate, or endure, regardless of who you are, what your title may be, or what label you may bear.

Time is the only thing you can’t regenerate. Time is the most precious commodity you own. Yes, YOU. You own it. The great thing about being an adult is you get to decide how to spend your time. Take control of it and spend in wise ways.

Society is more than happy to call me unrelenting, unforgiving, and even bitter. Pish Posh Applesauce! I say I’m practical, very, very practical.  I refuse to live an incongruous life in response to society’s ridiculous demands. Being genuine and truthful with myself is far more important than meeting some out-dated, water-down concepts, of how others have decided who I should be. I’ll create my own identity, thank you. I have nothing to prove and everything to gain. Untied, untethered, unbound.

Project Update – The Finish Line

New carpet and mats

‘Ole Red is looking mighty spiffy these days. For those new to my site, ‘Ole Red is a 1981 Chevy C10 Long bed truck I bought from my neighbor this past summer. Why? Because this girl, with zero knowledge of auto restoration, thought it would be kind of cool to restore it. Thus, my art went from canvas and paint to wheels, motors, and metals, and ‘Ole Red became my latest art project.

The holidays slowed me down a bit. Every thing takes a back seat to Christmas and family time. It is the one holiday we over-celebrate. This year would be no different. ‘Ole Red was going to have to wait.

I had a few items in storage (my art room) waiting for the holidays to be complete so I could finish the interior of the truck. The carpet was waiting. The custom seat cover was ready. The new black seat belts were here. All were just waiting in boxes. Waiting to be installed.

It was worth the wait. Santa (i.e. my sweet husband) bought me a new stereo, speakers and black toolbox for my truck. He even threw in my very own remote controlled R2D2. I am the happiest nerd on the planet (I have my very own droid. Eeeek!).  I am still basking in the afterglow. I’m pretty sure he can do no wrong, at least for the month of January.

Once all hints of the festive holiday was packed up and stored, I promptly rolled my truck into our garage. I needed labor and my son, a high school senior, was on Christmas break. We work well as a team. I made him an offer (ala CASH) and he accepted the challenge.

We removed the old seat, seat belts, and stereo speakers. We also removed the remnants of that pesky fire extinguisher holder that was on the floor. Once the seat was removed it took some serious scrubbing power to remove the dirt and grit hidden underneath. And, whoever ate sunflower seeds in this truck… Why? Just why? The remnants of that habit are now gone as well.

After the mini-demo was complete, I set to wire the new speakers. I mean, how hard can it be, right? You hook new speaker wire up to the existing wire and BAM music. Not so much. If you have no electrical background, much like myself, there is this polarity issue… positive right back, negative right back, positive left back, negative left back (and if you have side door or front speakers, do it all over again), and then there is this thing called the ground wire and the one you hook to power. Geesh! Every line is color coded. What? As an artist I like color. As an ammeter do-it-yourselfer auto restoration idiot, I was a bit miffed by this elaborate strategy to induce sound in order to keep me from going insane during traffic delays. Ugh! (Why do bad things happen to good people?).

After a mini temper tantrum (I was on a self-imposed deadline) I gave into the fact I was not going to meet my deadline. So I called it a day, conjured up my mad Google research skills and became educated in stereo and speaker installation via YouTube (Thank you to all who post informative videos and schmetacis. I couldn’t have done it without you).

Armed with a little knowledge and my spirit restored, the next weekend we started again. I started by re-checking the lines. The new stereo couldn’t be installed because it required a custom plate. But I was able to reconnect the old stereo (A retro Pioneer that still works like a champ). I then reconnected the speakers. I turned the ignition to accessory and held my breath. No sound on the driver’s side. Same problem as before. Grrrr! Frustrated!

My brainiac son then educated me about series and parallel circuits. We could run parallel by tying into the same positive and negative lines, especially since the radio is old and the other two lines are most likely the ground and power (if the schmetaics hold true). After a lot of words were exchanged, questions asked, problems probed, and me scratching my head a lot, I thought; “Ain’t got nothing to lose.”

We ran the two lines going to the driver’s side, again. Put the key in the ignition, slowly turned it to accessory, held my breath, a-n-d…. MUSIC! Yes, MUSIC! From BOTH speakers! (And you doubted me. you should be ashamed of yourself). I understand. I was shocked too. Holy Moly!  I’m pretty sure I felt the exact same excitement Neil Armstrong felt when he planted his first foot on the moon.

Together, my son and I, installed (and more often than not reinstalled) seat belts, carpet, and the new custom seat cover. My husband even got in on the act and bolted down my new toolbox. After the boys were done helping, I used my mad painting skills to polish off the brushed metal finishes and outline the instrument panel. As close to new without it actually being new. I topped it off by throwing down some floor mats (Don’t put your feet on my new carpet!). And I must say, the interior looks fabulous! Seriously, darling, F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S!

‘Ole Red is entering the finish line. I originally wanted to change the rims to black and red accents. But, I feel some nostalgia with its current rims. It retains just a hint of that old work truck look and feel. At this point, I think the only thing I have left, to complete the truck to my liking, is a $190 pair of slender black running boards. And then my first art project of 2018 is done!

My goal was to see if I could get a nice vehicle for $10,000 or less. Let’s crunch the numbers and see how I did:

  • $2,000 – Truck (I stole it. Sorry neighbor).
  • $118 – Registration & tag
  • $200 – Hauled off and mechanically checked
  • $400 – Muffler
  • $427 – Brakes, brake lines & lights
  • $2,654 – Custom two-tone paint
  • $473 – Spray-on bed liner
  • $208 – Tinted Windows
  • $393 – Custom seat cover
  • $199 – Molded carpet
  • $265 – Seat belts
  • $100 – Speakers
  • $289 – Toolbox
  • $84 – Visors
  • $16 – Coat hanger
  • $56 – Armrests
  • $20 – Rearview mirror
  • $10 – Mirror for the visor (‘Cause I’m a girl!)
  • $18 – Windshield wiper blades
  • $20 – Floor mats
  • $20 – Auto organzier for the seat (phone & drink)

DRUM ROLL, Please…. The total to date is: $7,970.00. Boo yah to the nay-sayers! (It’s the same as saying; “I told you so”).

New paint and tinted windows. Looks sharp!

The old grill

What ‘Ole Red looked like when I bought her

The old red seat and red seat belts

Before the interior was updated

The new custom seat cover. Shout out to Rick’s Custom Upholstery

Look at that instrument panel. Wow!

New toolbox is installed and looking great!

I can’t get enough of that seat cover and those new black seat belts

He’s a trooper! Big S/O to my son. He was a tremendous help!

Stepping-Stones

Life is full of ups and downs. Highlights we reminisce about enthusiastically and low times we never want to revisit again. Life can resemble a triple loop roller coaster at times. One that can make us scream with delight, and one that can turn us completely upside down, leaving us gripping in fear and screaming for our very lives. In reflection, I like to look at the tough times, the times when life has me hanging upside down, as stepping-stones.

Have you ever tried to cross a stream without getting wet? What do you do? First, you assess the stream. You look for stones strewn from one side of the stream to the other. Stones you can step on. Some stones are close together. Some stones are spread further apart. Some stones are smooth and easy. Some stones are jagged and treacherous. Some stones are there standing tall out of the water, beckoning you, giving you a safe place to land. Some stones, however, are there but lie just beneath a thin layer of water. You can land safely, but your feet will get a little wet. Once you’ve chartered your best path, you then reach out with your foot. Stretching and striving for a safe place to land. With every stone  you reach, you step, growing more confident as you go. Stepping, leaping, jumping, from one stone to the next, until eventually you cross over to the other side of the stream.

Such are the hard times in life. Stepping-stones. The other aspect of a stepping-stone is it’s under your feet. You step on it. You jump on it. You walk on it. You do not hang on to it. You do not cling to it. You do not pick it up, put it in your pocket, and carry it to the other side with you.

Like most people, I have crossed a lot of stepping-stones in my life. Situations which needed to be overcome in order to get to the other side. Sometimes I didn’t chart the course so well. Sometimes I slipped and fell in the water and had to start again. And, sometimes, I made it to the other side safe and dry on my first try.

Have you ever heard someone say; “I’m thankful for the hard times” or “I’m glad it (insert something tragic here) happened”? Me too. And you know what? Every time I hear someone say something like that I think to myself; “What in the hell is wrong with this person?”  Thankful? Seriously? Pish Posh Applesauce! 

Thankful you didn’t succumb maybe. Thankful you found strength to move on. Thankful someone heard your cries, possibly. Thankful the sun was able to shine again, but thankful for “the hard times?” Ummm… yeah… I’m not buying it (Unless, of course, you are completely psychotic, but then we have bigger fish to fry).

My point being… Why on earth would we give credit to people who set out to devour and destroy us? Why on earth would we give credit to anyone who took any affirmative act to inflict pain or harm upon us (even if that person is within ourselves)? Why on earth would we give the darkness credit for all the great and wonderful things that lie within us? It proves nothing to be thankful for the hard times. I’m sure a lot of us would have liked to live through life with just a little less character.

You didn’t grow in strength and wisdom because of them, but yet, you grew in strength and wisdom in spite of them. The instinct to survive is innate. Give credit where credit is due. The capacity for greatness was within you the entire time. In spite of the harmful person. In spite of the harmful act. In spite of the difficulties. In spite of the situation. In spite of those who wanted you to fail, you are still here. Ready and willing to stand tall and fight another day.

For those who need a reminder, remind yourself of this, daily if need be:

Not because of you, but in spite of you

I grew strong

I grew in wisdom

I became educated

I believe in myself

I learned to fight

I learned to love

I am passionate

I am compassionate

I look for the good in people

I trust myself

I am beautiful

I am worthy

I am happy

I am at peace

I am adventurous

I am successful

I can be all things I set my mind to

My heart is filled with joy

My future is bright

I persevered 

I am safe

I am not destroyed

I am alive

All of this I am, not because of you, but in spite of you. Stepping- stones. It is all just stepping-stones.

Let it be resolved that…

Happy New Year! Today you start fresh and anew. Today is a day many of us will see the last year as a closed-door and the new year as an open one. A gateway standing ready for us to  passover from the old to the new.

I am a resolution person. Yes, I make New Year Resolutions. I make them every year. I, personally, enjoy reflecting on the year that is coming to an end. I like to take stock of what worked in my life and what didn’t. I believe my growth, development, success and happiness are tied to these times of honest reflection and tweaking in direction.

I don’t see resolutions as just words on paper. I don’t see them as lofty goals that will never come to fruition. I’m a goal oriented individual. For me, resolutions are my over-arching annual goals. I then work every month, week, day with those goals (resolutions) in mind. To borrow from the words of Tony Horton (P90X); “I do my best and forget the rest.”

I break down my resolutions into categories. I make resolutions for these key areas of my life:

  1. Personal health
  2. Spiritual wellbeing
  3. Family
  4. Personal growth and development
  5. Relational
  6. Career
  7. Financial

My 2018 List of Resolutions looks something like this (This list is not all-inclusive. But, you get the gist):

  1. Complete three to four 90-minute workouts each week combining aerobics and weightlifting.
  2. Maintain current healthy weight.
  3. Eat clean and healthy and strive to eat as close to nature as possible.
  4. Start each day with quiet time. Give myself at least one hour each morning to stop and reflect (usually accompanied by two cups of coffee).
  5. Read through and study one book of the Bible each month.
  6. Daily prayer.
  7. Take two trips per year with my husband.
  8. Golf in Vegas (My husband enjoys this).
  9. Monthly date nights with my husband. Mix it up. Pick new restaurants and try new activities together.
  10. Visit my husband at work each month.
  11. Family game/snack or pizza night each month.
  12. Girl family days each quarter or more.
  13. Sell my car.
  14. Eliminate debt.
  15. Increase savings.
  16. Buy one piece of original art each year (Maybe two. Shhh! Don’t tell my husband).
  17. Take two college classes each semester.
  18. Learn to play the piano.
  19. Read a minimum of six books this year.
  20. Write a minimum of one blog post each week. Strive for more.
  21. Work to let others know they’ve been heard by listening more than speaking and staying engaged in the moment.
  22. Complete a minimum of two paintings this year. (Creativity breeds creativity. Inspiration comes through exposure).
  23. Always give a 100% to those who employ my services. Provide the best service attainable.
  24. Do more of the things I enjoy.
  25. Be free with compliments but never lie for the sake of feelings.
  26. Look forward more than I look back.
  27. Be cognizant of how I spend my time and with whom. Negativity grows quicker than cancer.
  28. My home is a safe zone for those who live in it. My ears and heart will be open. My words encouraging and up-lifting. Honesty, peace and integrity must reside here.

Whether you make resolutions or not, let it be resolved that 2018 be a dynamic year for you. Here’s to wishing you all the best life has to offer. Cheers & Happy New Year!