Fortune cookie wisdom #8

Begin…the rest is easy.

I find this fortune cookie to be very inspiring.

Beginning is the hardest part, right?

Remember starting a blog? How terrifying was that??

Now it seems so natural, so easy, so ingrained…like I’ve been doing this forever.

Every decision to begin something new is fraught with worry. Or at least it is that way for me. Getting married, starting a family, starting a blog, running a marathon, getting on the stage of a community theater, sailing, going to college, moving to a new community, doing a Half Ironman, traveling, etc…insert dream here..

Beginning a new adventure can be terrifying. Fear can prevent someone with great potential from even starting.

I remember my first 10k. I was horrified. I was so afraid I wanted to run in the opposite direction. This summer, I’m going to run my 4th marathon. A lot of people find that inspiring, motivating, or downright crazy. It is all of those things. If I can do it, anybody can. It started with taking the first step. I started running about 5 years before I ever signed up for my first race. People don’t see everything I do when they hear about everything I’ve done.

Running can be very intimidating if you haven’t yet learned to crawl.

I am very motivated to achieve. I can’t sit still. My brain never quiets.

I am also a very competitive person. This has been harder to overcome. I want to be the best runner. I want to be the best blogger. I am secretly (well, not anymore) jealous of people who have thousands of followers after a few months of blogging. I am jealous of people great enough to qualify for the Boston marathon.

I have to get over comparing myself to others and learn to enjoy my own journey…

Sometimes people ask…How can you be a marathon runner? How do you run a successful business working with your husband? How can you blog regularly year after year?

I’ll tell you how I do it. Begin…that is the first step. Keep going. Keep doing your best even if you aren’t the best. Seek the advice of others who are successful. Maybe I’m not as good of a runner as ______ or as good of a blogger as ________. Who cares? I really love it and that is what matters.

Fortune cookie wisdom #7

You will travel far and wide, both for pleasure and business.

I really love this one!

I have a dream to see the world, near and far…

I’m never going to stop until I reach the end of the path.

As of right now, I visited 32 out of 50 states. Of these states, I visited California, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Tennessee for business. Next month I am planning on crossing Nevada off of my list.

It isn’t on my bucket list to visit all of the United States, although it would be nice. My plans are far more grandiose than that. I want to visit all of the continents. So far, I’ve crossed off North America and Asia. I plan to cross off South America and Europe within the next 5 years. I even warmed up to the idea of visiting Antarctica.

A couple of days ago, I visited my friend Jen. She recently found out that she has an aggressive type of terminal cancer. The prognosis is not good. Next month will be Jen and her husband’s 25th anniversary. They booked a trip to Hawaii to celebrate. It doesn’t look like they will be going. They wanted to go to Alaska for their 20th anniversary, but never did. Now it is too late.

I don’t want to travel for special occasions anymore. I want to travel because I want to travel. I told myself that after we got back from visiting Thailand for our 20th anniversary. Time is too short.

We couldn’t travel far when we first started out. We didn’t have the extra money. We were tied down to the business. More importantly, we didn’t have anyone to help with the kids. We were lucky if we were able to get away alone one weekend a year for many years.

My husband was 40 before he stepped foot on a plane for the first time. But once he did, we both decided that we would like to travel more.

We never went anywhere as kids, but our kids went to many places already.

We took the kids to Disney World, their first time on a plane.

We showed them a world of wonder that we never got to see growing up.

I guess the moral of the story is not to wait until it is too late to cross things off your bucket list.

It doesn’t have to be a trip to Asia. When the kids were in their middle childhood years, we traveled extensively around the state. We went tent camping to over a dozen different places, mainly state parks. We braved a couple ferocious storms. We biked many trails, went to nature programs, swam in many lakes, picnicked on gorgeous beaches, hiked through the woods, fished, and watched sunsets while the crickets chirped.

After Paul got into sailing, we started similar adventures on water.

 

It doesn’t have to be expensive to be fun. Take what you have and work with it..

I have a dream to see the world, near and far…

I’m never going to stop until I reach the end of the path.

 

Fortune cookie wisdom #1

The price of greatness is responsibility.

My husband received this fortune cookie last week when he was touring our state on a public speaking route. It was meant for him.

My husband is a great man. That being said, he carries a lot of weight on his shoulders.

My husband is a great leader of our house. It is no easy task raising 3 teenagers. It requires the perfect balance of love and discipline. All this he has done without having a father to show him.

My husband is a great business leader. He started a successful business out of an idea. He had no clue what he was doing, but was willing to learn. He earned his MBA. Over time and hard work, he became the expert in our state. Running a business is a heavy weight to carry. The responsibility is enormous, but so is the reward.

Over the years, he has been involved in many boards and committee chairs. He volunteered to get the finances in order for several organizations. If there are conflicts or issues, his phone is the first that is ringing for advice, problem solving, and resolution.

He gives, and gives, and gives..Someday he said he might retire from it all. But I’m not so sure that will ever happen.

I don’t say it often enough, but I am proud of how great Paul is and everything he does to help others. So often I am guilty of heaping more problems on him instead of showering him with appreciation.

I would thank him personally, but he is at a meeting right now.

 

 

 

 

Moving on, part 1

Last time I shared how my feet swept the ocean floor. It was pretty raw, but not at all pretty. Today the pendulum is going to swing in the opposite direction.

Both the deepest lows and the highest highs are hard to talk about. People just don’t do it, unless they are writing a novel about the life of someone else. It somehow seems too personal.

But to talk of everyday life is boring. It is like a flat line on a bell curve. Today I did a load of laundry, ran the dishwasher, and went to work…blah, blah, blah…Nobody wants to be flat lining!

I learned a long time ago not to care what others thought of me. Having a severely mentally ill brother and an obese father that is known to walk out to get the mail in his underwear would do that to you.

Seriously, I would’ve been soooo screwed if I was sensitive enough to care what people thought of me. Instead, I do what I want whether people like it or not.

This thinking opened the door to new adventures. Literally!

In two months, I will be moving into my dream house.

Who could’ve guessed that the business my husband started and I helped him build would be such a success? We struggled to make ends meet for so many of our early years. We almost bit the dust with the recession. Then we slowly earned enough money to start remodeling our modest little house. And now after selling the business (but still working there) we are starting our life over.

He is having an identity crisis now, my husband. What happens when you accomplish more than you set out to achieve? Should he start another business? Would we, as workaholics, end up destroying ourselves when there is nothing left to build? Should we retire early? How could we sit still and do nothing? Should we start new careers?

My husband always thought of himself as the underdog, scraping and scrapping to get by. Who is he now??

People are stopping by our new house just out of curiosity and showing pictures to all of their friends. Remember that boy who didn’t have a dad that we thought wouldn’t amount to much?? People are talking. Rumors are spreading like wildfire. People are asking…How much are the taxes?…Are you going to clean your own house?…Why would you want such a big house when your kids are ready to leave??…They swarm around us with a buzz of questions like busy bees.

I’ve always wanted a swimming pool. When I left home, my parents bought an outdoor swimming pool for Matt’s therapy. What??!? When I begged them for one, they always said ‘no’. I could swim in the lake up north. It always made me feel a little hurt. But in our climate, we can only use an outdoor pool for about 2 to 3 months of the year. It doesn’t seem worth it. My parents haven’t even used their pool in years.

My dream house has an indoor pool in a room that is probably the size of my current house. It is an older house, but full of character and charm. It has hardwood floors, wood burning fireplaces, and a big yard for my dog to run around in. My kids will each have their own bedrooms.

At least people cannot say that I married my husband for his money. He didn’t even have the proverbial pot to piss in when I met him.

I married a boy that spent his earliest year growing up in the projects in the inner city of Chicago. When I met him, he didn’t own a house. He didn’t have any money in the bank. He owned a rusty old Chevrolet. That’s about it. He had a mediocre dead end job. He wasn’t going to have an inheritance. He didn’t have a father and had no clue how to be one. He didn’t have any siblings. He didn’t know how a husband should act. His mother wasn’t the type to offer help.

He had nothing and knew nothing about family life. But he had this dream to start a business. It was a big risk, but it paid off.

I am really excited to start this new adventure.

I’m ready to move on…

 

 

 

 

Paul’s journey, part 10

I’m going to conclude Paul’s journey today.

Wow, that came across as a little harsh. Almost like I will be waiting at the door for him with an arsenic cocktail.

What I meant to say is that I will finish telling the story today. The story isn’t over, in fact some might say it is just beginning..

I just wanted to get the point across that Paul grew up poor starting his life in the inner city of Chicago without a father born to a teenage mother that dropped out of high school.

He had a dream of starting a business. After working very hard for almost 2 decades he saw his hard work come to fruition.

The American dream is alive and well. If Paul can do it, anyone can. The odds were against him. He is a self-made man.

It has been a huge adjustment. I don’t think the fear of not being able to make ends meet will ever go away for Paul. Being poor is so ingrained into who he is. It is a bit of an identity crisis.

I wrote a couple of series on this blog before. This was by far the hardest. If I wanted to do an adequate job of it, it would probably take me at least 6 months of writing his story everyday. I’m not going to do that here. I get bored of hearing broken records (if that is a thing anymore). I like changing things up.

So I will share with you my life. The joys, the heartaches, the journey. All of it..

I want to write a book someday about Paul’s life. It is very inspirational and remarkable story. I may just write it to leave behind for future generations. I would have to get a lot more detailed information. I told Paul that I would be writing a series about him. One day I grilled him for information while we went cross country skiing. He asked me if I would stop asking him questions about the dark days that past and we could focus on the beauty of nature on the trail instead.

Paul doesn’t spend as much time in the past like I do. He focuses more on the future.

I also found it challenging because the story isn’t over yet. I wrote a series previously about eccentric family members that passed away. I found it easier because that story is over now. There are certain things that I can grab onto and remember, but there will never be any more stories.

I have been with Paul over 20 years now. A lot has happened since we met. There was a lot that happened before we met that I couldn’t share from personal experience. I worried that my information might not be accurate enough for my liking. Also, how do you narrow down 23 years together into 10 series? To do an adequate job I would have to do a lot of thinking, note writing, and question asking. I would need an outline of sorts. Sounds like a lot of work for a hobby and I’m a marathon runner.

Plus another thing I wasn’t expecting was how my feelings got in the way. For example, if I was planning on writing a post that was positive and encouraging about Paul but we just got into a fight…how do I brush that aside?? It seems fake. He is the best thing that ever happened to me…but I want to conclude his story right now with arsenic just doesn’t give the right feel. Seriously, all is well.

All I can say was that it’s been a wild ride. I wasn’t really expecting that.

Paul’s journey, part 9

The earliest years of building the business were rough.

Whatever little money he made, he invested back into the business.

He felt like he couldn’t get away. But the business was new and exciting in those days. It was later that we started to feel burnt out. There is so much stress and pressure from the responsibility of owning a business. I don’t even know where to begin. But all of the hard work paid off over the long haul.

Paul went into work on the day our last baby was born. He dragged himself into work with strep. He drove in during major snowstorms. He even went to work after major surgery.

He had a cancer scare. He was having a lot of back pain. He went to the doctor for an x-ray. We didn’t have great insurance, so he didn’t want to spend the extra money on expensive tests. The x-ray showed a mass. They were simply going to drain and remove the mass, but the ultrasound was showing something scary. They thought it could be cancerous. They didn’t want to puncture this mass and have it spread to all of the nearby organs.

Instead they scheduled a major surgery that included the removal of several ribs. Paul spent a week in the hospital. I remember the evening of the surgery well. I sat alone in the waiting area watching the snow fall. I felt empty. This is going to sound funny, but I didn’t feel worried. You all know I am a big time worrier. Maybe I was in denial, I don’t know. He was so young then, too young to have cancer I told myself.

To tell you the truth, I am terrified that he is going to get cancer now. Last year his mother passed away from cancer. She had 3 different types of cancer and battled it twice. The year before last, his uncle died from cancer. His grandma had cancer. Currently, he has an uncle in the last stages of cancer. If I wasn’t worried before, I certainly am now.

They removed a benign cyst that was the size of a football from Paul’s adrenal gland. After surgery, he lost a lot of weight. He was pale and gaunt. I’ve never seen him so thin before or since. He was supposed to take a couple of weeks off of work. This was before the time that working out of the house was remotely possible. He was also taking a 4 credit accounting class for his MBA.

I drove Paul into the office after surgery. I helped him walk down the steps to his office wincing in pain. I left him there and picked him up at the end of the day.

Things got easier as the business grew and with technology. I joined him after a couple years. We have been able to get away. We have staff that can help keep an eye on things now. But there is always a strong sense of responsibility that comes with having your name on the door. There are times that we have to drop everything to respond to work issues. Going on vacation always meant checking emails and working.

I am excited that for the first time now, we will be able to take a vacation without working. I wonder how we will respond without the constant pressure.

 

Paul’s journey, part 8

When you decide to take the first step, you never know where it will lead you.

Paul had a dream. He was at a dead end job. He used up his vacation time to cut back his hours at his job so he could start a business on the side. He worked after work. He rented a small office nearby so he could work over his lunch hour.

Eventually Paul ran out of vacation days. They gave him an ultimatum. Either you come back full time or you leave. Sink or swim Paul.

For awhile, he stood at the edge of the precipice. What am I going to do? Should I start climbing even though I can’t see anything at the top? What if I fall? What if I fall further than I am right now? What if I fail? How will I provide for my family?

“Should I climb?”, he asked. Climb, I said.

Taking that first step on his own was the scariest. It was risky. There was a mortgage to pay and little mouths to feed. We were already living on one income.

Paul immersed himself into building a start up business. He was working towards a Master’s degree in his field of study. He took a couple of sales training classes. He knocked on many doors.

Over the years, he attained every accreditation, certification, license, and joined every industry association that he could. He started working on his MBA one class at a time while running his business. He oftentimes would start his day at 5AM doing homework before work. Then he worked until the work was done. He earned his MBA. He still grabbed at every opportunity to learn more. He worked hard and became an expert in our state.

It wasn’t something that happened overnight. It took decades and years of climbing not knowing what was at the top. When the recession hit, he thought he was going to lose his footing. He managed to hang on.

Over time, Paul got used to and became very good at climbing. He is always looking ahead, always striving for that next goal. Sometimes I wish he would take a glimpse back to see how far he climbed.

All it took was being brave enough to take that first step.

Pop the champagne

We sold our start up company today.

It wasn’t something that we were planning on doing. Not yet anyway.

We were approached by a huge private equity company and we turned them down…several times actually…until they gave us an offer that we couldn’t refuse.

We will be staying on for the next couple of years as employees. It will be a big change. Yet nothing will change at all. We will still go to work and do what we have always done.

Someday when we are able to walk away, I will tell you all about it. But not now. Although I think that you would find it rather interesting.

Today I feel like I won the lottery. Although luck had nothing to do with it. It seems surreal. I don’t think it really has sunk in yet.  How do we live this way?

The last several months have been a roller coaster ride of emotions. We weren’t expecting that. Surprisingly, a lot of the emotions were negative. We didn’t talk about it to anyone since we didn’t expect to receive much sympathy. Change is stressful, even if it is for the better.

There were arguments about money of all things.

There was fear…fear of failure. What if we fail now after we have succeeded? Will we be able to keep up our sales? Will we be able to impress our new employer? Will we mess it all up? Will we have to start at the bottom again scraping and scrapping to get by? Will we become spoiled and soft? Will we lose our grit from struggling for so long?

It has been a big shock.

Will our friends still like us if we have more money than they do? Will we attract new fake friends? Will we change? Regardless, it has now become a part of our journey. If we could do it, anyone can. All you have to do is take the first step…then run as hard and as fast as you can.

Today we are putting in an offer on our dream house.

We noticed lately how poor we have been living. A majority of our furniture is falling apart. Most of it came from long deceased relatives. We bought our kitchen table at a rummage sale and it looks like it. We never had a new table for our family to sit around. Most of our towels are torn around the edges.

We feel like the Beverly Hillbillies.

It is time to get rid of the old and start all over again.

We have worked so hard to get to where we are today. We earned it.

I never would have guessed all the sacrifices that we made would pay off.

It’s time to pop the champagne!

 

A glance back to look ahead

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. Instead I believe that every day we should strive to take steps to further our goals. I have a long bucket list and I hope you do too.

I am not looking forward to going to the gym on January 1st. I will probably have to forfeit ‘my‘ parking space in the third spot of the second row. Locker 16 will probably be full. The treadmill closest to the window on the left side will be taken and I will have to wait in line on a Saturday morning for one of the 50 machines like I did last January. The shower in the far left corner will belong to some other naked body.

Anyway, I am not here today to complain about other people’s resolutions…really, I am not. If you want to get healthy and go to the gym for 3 weeks..fine..I will cope.

This is a perfect time of year to reflect on 2017’s winding journey.

I was able to do a lot of traveling this year. We took a trip to Chicago to see the musical Hamilton. We went to Detroit where I ate Greek food for the first time. Opa! We visited Belle Isle. We went to Utah and dipped our feet in the Great Salt Lake. We listened to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing. We took a trip to Walt Disney World without the kids. We sailed for a week to Washington Island. On our 20th anniversary, Paul and I renewed our vows on Rock Island.

We watched our daughter Angel take a lead in her first opera. We watched our son get a perfect score at state for music. All of our kids went to state this year for their theatrical/music performances. I took the community theater stage along with Arabella and Paul to perform in the musical Annie.

But the year was not all roses. There were a few thorns. This year we lost our first parent. Paul’s mother passed away in February after a long courageous battle with cancer. A few weeks later, I lost my last ‘great’ making my parents the oldest living generation. Time is precious in its ticking away.

My daughter Angel broke up with her boyfriend Mitch after 3 1/2 years. My son Alex broke up with his girlfriend Baylee after 1 1/2 years. I thought that they might be ‘the one’. But things didn’t work out that way..

I look on accomplishments of this past year. I did my first trail race (18 miles). I finished my 3rd marathon with a PR. I finished my first Olympic triathlon and my first Half Ironman. I want to add that I never was satisfied with my accomplishments..I never celebrated them until I finished my first Half Ironman. It was the greatest moment of accomplishment that I ever experienced in my life and I am happy that for once I allowed myself to feel the joy from the fruits of my labor.

I just signed up for my first trail marathon next summer on my birthday with my cousin. I will be spending the weekend sleeping in a tent. It will be a pretty hard core birthday celebration. I am thinking about getting a tattoo.

It has been a great year as small business owners. Paul and I received a special certification and hired two new employees.

I know this next year will hold some big and exciting changes…but until then, I want to take some time to glance back before looking ahead.

This year we laughed…

This year we cried…

This year we lived life to its fullest.

Ending, a new beginning

Paul and I are starting to think about retirement. Over the last several months, we received several generous offers for our business. Which, after much contemplation, we declined.

We were thinking of working for another 5 to 7 years, selling our business, and retiring. Then we had a day where we had absolutely nothing to do for 3 whole hours. We were bored. We just about went stir crazy. I was thinking of throwing food on the floor so I had something to clean…or braving into the dark realms of my teenagers’ rooms with a vacuum cleaner..

Then we asked each other how we would handle being retired with days to fill with nothing. So we decided that we would most likely work forever and just slowly cut back our hours until we were ready to sell…not a bad plan..

Then something happened…we had an auction as a fundraiser for our church. We put a 3 hour sunset sailboat ride on the auction block. It went for $400. After that, we had another bidder come up to us and ask if we would take them for a 3 hour ride if they offered $400 to the church. Really?? Seriously??

Then the idea started to trickle back into my brain…Let’s retire after the kids leave and start another business.

When our start up business was in its infancy, we could never leave it. For the first couple of years, Paul was a one man show. That meant the day our last baby was born, Paul had to leave the hospital and go to work.

In the beginning years, Paul had to have major surgery which required a week hospital stay. He was supposed to take at least a month off of work. He called clients from his hospital bed. Right after he got home, I drove him to the office everyday. I helped him walk up and down the steps one at a time wincing in pain. Then I came back and picked him up at the end of the day.

He went to the office with strep. Some nights he worked until 10 PM.

Finally his hard work paid off and he was able to hire an employee. After the first employee left and the kids were old enough for school, I joined him. Then we hired a few more people. We really didn’t know what we were doing. We didn’t even have an employee handbook.

This past week we had an employee oversleep her 1 PM shift. I’ve had to come back early from vacation to cover for people. Sometimes having employees is like parenting. They are great people, but managing creates a lot of stress and frustration in my life. It requires disciplining, hand holding, encouraging, instructing, and being the one who makes difficult decisions. That’s what you get when your name is one the door.

Maybe when I am done parenting, I would like to be done managing people too.

So it got me to thinking about retirement again. Paul and I always talked about starting a new business doing sailboat chartering. We could sell our business, pay off our debt, and start a new company. Apparently there is a market for it. Then we could get back to working together alone again.

Once the kids leave home, it is still on the table. We would buy a bigger sailboat. Paul would get his captain license. I could do all of the scheduling. I would take pictures and write about the experiences of the people sailing with us and make a scrapbook for them of their adventures. Paul is an excellent chef…he would do the cooking, I would do the cleaning. On days of bad weather, Paul and I are amateur actors. He also plays guitar while I sing. We like to laugh and tell stories. We like to listen and learn about the lives of others.

It wouldn’t be a big money making venture, but it would be fun.