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Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Big Apple

We are back from four days in NYC.

When we arrived on Saturday, it was FREEZING. I mean, can't-feel-your-fingers-and-toes-wind-take-your-breath-away freezing. After walking around playing the tourist for several hours, we were exhausted. Unfortunately, our hotel would not let us check in even a few minutes early. Check in time is officially 3:00. We tried at 1:00 - "your room is not ready". We tried again at 2:30 - "your room is still not ready". Okay, the maid has got 30 minutes and she better get her groove on. At 3:05 we returned with arms full of groceries to sustain us for a few days and thankfully, we were finally let in.

Because this was a budget trip, we checked out a website www.clubfreetimenyc.com to find lots of free or thrifty things to do in the city.

Saturday night's plan was a comedy club in Greenwich Village. A $10 cab fare from the hotel and viola, we were transported to a small bar with a basement and a stage. It was actually a lot of fun, and one of the comics even picked on my hubby a bit.

Sunday brought a visit to a church in the Upper West Side, and we took the subway to get there. The contrast in scenery from when you leave midtown and then ascend the stairs in the Upper West Side is startling. You leave the noise and chaos of the city behind you, and arrive in a place where there are neat brownstones stacked together, with trees and birds singing, kind of like the outside shot of the home on the Cosby show. It's amazing, and makes one understand why someone might want to move there. Anyway, after an uninspiring service we hopped a cab back to the East Side and hit up 2 Little Red Hens, a bakery. Now, the reason for this was all the hoopla about the Magnolia Bakery. The rumor is they supposively have the BEST cupcakes in NYC and that people would wait in line outside to buy them. We checked online, and the local word was Magnolia was tasteless and used buttercream frosting (YUK to me) and wasn't worth the wait. More positive comments were made about 2LRH with their cream cheese frosting. So, we sloshed in the POURING rain to try these wonderful cupcakes, and I must say I wasn't disappointed. Such beautiful cakes and other pastries in the display cases made me want to import them right back home. We also saw 'The Blind Side' movie that afternoon, and stopped for wings and beer on the way back. Other than being soaking wet we had a great time.

On Monday the weather finally cleared and was mild, so we walked the streets all day taking in the sights, eating at the famous Katz deli, going to the top of the Empire State Building, and shopping. Monday night we splurged on a nice dinner (and dessert!) at the Red Eye Grill and then walked over to Rockefeller Center to see the big Christmas tree lit up at night. It was eight years ago on December 6 that hubby proposed in a horse-drawn carriage in front of the tree at Rockefeller Center, so this was somewhat of an anniversary trip for us. Special memories!

Most of the day Tuesday was spent in airports and in the air. We were finally home by 7:30 p.m. Oh, the joy of connecting flights.

All in all, I would say we had a great time. It took us away from the stress of home and work, and allowed us to focus on each other for a few days. The only change I would make or suggest to anyone wanting to visit there is to not go in the wintertime. The weather is too unpredictable, and springtime in NY is worth the wait!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

What if?

I'm 47 and 9/12ths and I just took a pregnancy test.

It was negative.

I can't say that I would have been devastated had it been positive. My tubes have been tied for 10 years, but stranger things have happened. Who is to say something that strange couldn't happen to ME?

My doctor suggested I take the test. Ever since I started my new magic pill, Prometrium (a natural progesterone supplement) let's just say mother nature hasn't visited, and she had been with amazing regularity before. Taking this wasn't supposed to throw me into full-blown menopause, but I think that's where I am at this point. I go to see the doc on Tuesday and the list of questions is long.

So, back to the real world...

On another note, we have some visitors arriving from Canada on Monday to tour our Center. These are representatives of an investment group that is looking to buy the company of which we are a franchise. What this means for us is this is a chance for them to make us a corporate center, which means maybe they would buy us out? I'm not sure how that works but I am hopeful something good will come of the visit. We spent most of the day cleaning and just making sure everything is in order. If nothing comes of this, we have several clients who have already expressed interest in talking with us.

We are praying for patience as we await resolution to this chapter of our lives.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Changes

We've gone public.

Our business is officially for sale. It has been privately for some time now, but we felt it was time to announce it to everyone at our Center.

We had a staff meeting today and let our employees know, and also let some clients know who were interested in the franchise at one point, that we are available to purchase.

My hubby is kind of wound up today about it and is ready to drop the price since we haven't had any serious 'tire kickers' in the months it has been officially listed. We have such visions of being free from this and how our lives will improve, but we must wait until we know in our hearts that the time is right.

Our employees were very receptive. A couple of them were very nice and said no one could replace us, that we've been the best 'bosses'. We really appreciate hearing this as we've worked very hard to build good relationships with our girls. In turn they also know that we are burned out, and some new blood in the place could create better opportunities for some of them who are ready to move up.

I think this can be a good opportunity for someone who is willing to step in full time and run the place the way we've not been able to.

We also gave out Christmas gifts today, and all of the girls had a large box filled with cheese, breads, crackers and all kinds of treats for us. It was a very good meeting filled with good cheer and not at all as I had feared once we announced the news of the impending sale.

I am hopeful, and I am ready to move on.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Holiday afterthoughts

I feel sad today.

Is it day-after-holiday let down? I don't know.

I think I woke up hopeful this morning but then my mother-in-law, who had only been with us a day and a half, was up at 7:00 and already getting ready to leave. I should expect this, but it still hurts my feelings. Any time she has ever come to visit, once the reason she is here is over she is ready to go home - IMMEDIATELY. My hubby said he was surprised she didn't go home last night. Oh well.

Then, when we go to visit her, she is so ready to kick us out as soon as we are done with whatever we were visiting for. If we go to church on Sunday, after lunch she sits and looks at us and talks about how much she has to do and that the cat will sure be happy once we are gone. Cue to leave? I think so.

Ah, family.

Our holiday celebration was here and it was very nice. There were eight of us, so everyone fit around the table which was great. We laughed and told stories and everyone had a great time. Everyone being here also means lots of leftovers in my fridge. My parents did not eat with us yesterday but came to visit later, and my mom brought a whole pan of her mouth-watering cornbread dressing to eat with the leftovers. This alone will be breakfast, lunch and dinner for me for a few days! (I think the ingredients fit in all the food groups for all meals). I told the kids there will be no cooking today outside of the microwave. (They are 18 and 20 so I think they will survive.) Tomorrow we will celebrate Tara's 21st birthday and will cook shrimp and steak on the grill, so we will be somewhat back to normal.

I'm not a fan of Black Friday and have not gone shopping today (gasp!). Ashley called with stories about what she encountered at midnight madness at the outlets and then at Walmart, so I know I was right to stay home. To me, the money I would save is not worth the frustration. Oh my, am I getting old or what?

I will be going through Christmas decorations this evening so hopefully will get in the spirit. Wish me luck! For now, I'm off to the fridge for a glass of my beverage of choice.

Cheers!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Holiday prelude

I've been excited this week about the upcoming holiday. I just seem to be feeling a lot more lighthearted lately, likely due to some help from natural progesterone that I started last month. I had been so down in the recent past, and I am grateful for the feelings of joy that sneak in here and there.

I needed to go into the Center today to finalize next week's schedule and hand out pay stubs and came in right when my normally calm and patient hubby was in the middle of a financial meltdown. Now, I know the Center is not in the best of situations right now, but for the most part he'd been telling me not to worry and I'd been trying not to. Seeing him upset and scrambling a bit to find alternatives to actually pay our bills almost sent me over the edge. If he's scared, I'm terrified.

In true form, I immediately start questioning why, if we are doing what we are supposed to and living the life God wants from us, are we being allowed to struggle in this way? We have always felt all along that God paved the way for us to open this business. We have catered to a lot of ladies who prayed for a place like ours to come along, and we feel that we've been blessed with an opportunity to make a difference in our community. I want to believe that He wants this business to succeed, but maybe we aren't the ones that are going to make it happen.

We've never expected to live off income from the Center, but it would be nice to have something extra to help us, our church and our families. We do have other jobs that keep our household running but the income from both has been cut back a good bit in the past year.

From the very start though, all I've ever truly hoped is that we are able to cover our expenses every month. For the most part for the past year and a half we've been able to do this. We've had some tough months in which we've scraped by with a little extra money stashed away, but October was the first month that we actually had to borrow money just to make it through. Now, at the end of November, we are having to do this again. This has caused us to reevaluate everything, and maybe we should have done this a long time ago, but I don't think we ever thought it would get as bad as it is.

I now understand what it is like when big companies have to take away benefits and lay off employees. It really all comes down to whether or not you can afford to pay the ones that are supposed to be helping you build your business.

To put things into perspective, this time last year we were handing out $100 bonuses and small gifts to each of our employees. This year it will be homemade salsa and a t-shirt. Kind of drives home as to where we really are. I think for the most part our girls are happy to have a job and I hope we are able to continue to provide this for them.

We are a business for sale and I have to remember we DO have a valuable asset to sell. There is someone out there who can do this better than we can and I pray that this person will materialize soon. We have started something that we hope is meant for someone else to carry on and be successful with.

I know all of this will happen in God's time and not ours. When I stop to think, I know this process is meant to teach me. Patience? Maybe. To trust God when the going gets tough? Definitely. I know I've made progress because my weak moments are just that...moments. They don't last for days and weeks on end like they used to. As impulsive as I might be at times to say and feel things I know are not true, I do know in my heart that God loves us and wants the best for us. Whatever we go through now is meant to make us better people for whatever lies ahead.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Life lesson

My day started unexpectedly early at 6:15 with a phone call from one of my employees calling in sick.

Oh, the joys of business ownership.

We are a business in which every position scheduled is necessary at every shift so when someone calls in, there needs to be someone else who can step in. Most of the time that person is me.

I suppose these moments are meant to help me grow because I have never been someone who takes the unexpected in stride. Instead, I bitch and moan about the circumstances that cause the intrusions into my life.

As it turns out, I obviously needed that time at the Center because I walked away happy with how the morning had turned out. I connected with the ladies and felt like I made a difference in some of their lives. I am ashamed of my attitude sometimes when I grumble and gripe about what I should consider a blessing.

Okay Lord, lesson learned.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Okay, let's start over

Yes, I know it's been three months since I've posted anything, not that anyone is paying attention anyway! I read my daughter's blog daily (kindredly) and she inspires me to write, but then it all spills out wrong. I will throw caution to the wind once again and attempt to publish this one.

Things haven't changed too much. The main focus of our lives is still the Center and the need to sell it. We just keep praying for the right person to materialize and until then, we just keep plugging away daily (with a few tears over wine or margaritas on my part!)

I hired a new girl a few weeks ago as more of a utility person and she normally only works one to two shifts a week. Already I had some complaints from other employees about her and so I decided to have a chat with her about how things were going. That conversation went well, and after watching her for an hour or so during her shift I was convinced that she just needs more time to get to know the clients and become more comfortable in the position. Only working a day or two here and there didn't give her the time to develop the relationships yet that the other employee's had. Since I worked late this past Friday, it gave me the opportunity to see her at work during her entire shift. I was completely pleased with her ability to relate to the ladies and felt great until toward the end of her shift when I nicely corrected her on something, and she snapped back at me as if I wasn't HER BOSS. (Hair on back of neck stood up). Oh, what to do? I think one of the things I've learned throughout this entrepreneurial experience is not to react so quickly, to marinate the words before I speak, so I just kept quiet for the time. Before we closed she ended up coming up to me and apologizing, so for now I'm just letting it lie. Other than cutting her two days back to one, I am not sure how I will move forward on this one. Suggestions?

One of my insecurities in life is my ability to relate to people, and having employees has been a tough one for me. My husband says I'm too nice and that I talk with them like they are my friends instead of employees, but I don't know any other way to do it in our small business environment. What I do know is we have many employees that have been with us for more than a year and I feel blessed by that, and so maybe being nice isn't a bad thing...although being disrespected is.

On a lighter note, I have been running around our house like a madwoman fixing things up for the holidays. Walls that have too many picture holes in them are being repainted. White ceiling fans are being replaced with more appropriate bronze-black fans. I'm spray painting antique gold trim on mirrors and frames to a darker, more rubbed bronze look (a great budget-friendly way to modernize accessories). Also, Ross has become one of my favorite places lately. I am finding some great pictures, rugs and throws at great prices. Things are coming together.

And YAY! Three weeks from this next Saturday we are New York City bound! Can't wait!



Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Service and overexertion

It's been a busy couple of weeks. Our church, which has been meeting in a movie theater (yes, I know, interesting concept but it worked) finally found a "permanent" home (until we grow out of it, that is), and we have been working our fingers to the bone to fix it up. Every night last week my husband and I were there, as well as a marathon day on Saturday - the day before our first service. I was feeling some pain when I got up on Saturday but did my best to deal with it because I knew my help was needed. I finally showed up at the church about 11 and worked so hard all day that I was able to ignore it until about 9 pm. About that time I completely crashed but still had drapes to put up and pushed through the throbbing pain in my head. The next day we got up and went to the service, and everyone who had volunteered for so long was practically catatonic, as expected. The service went well though, and my hubby and I went home and crashed on our respective couches. After a couple of hours he got up, but I stayed put. I literally could not move. Every time I did, my head would pound with a vengeance. I was beginning to wonder if I was going to have a stroke, the pressure and pain was so intense. By Monday morning I was ready to go to the dr. Thankfully they were able to see me and gave me two shots and a prescription with advice to call if the pain has not subsided within two days. It's now Tuesday morning and I am upright. The constant pain is gone but the shooting pain in my temples and when I move too quickly remains. I continue to take my pain meds and will take it somewhat easier, but do need to work today. We will see how it goes...

I read today that "If you completely give yourself physically, you become exhausted. But when you give yourself spiritually, you get more strength". I suppose over the next several weeks as we are finishing up the campus, my giving will be more spiritual than physical and this will have to be okay.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Willpower

We ran away to the beach for a couple of days and being in a bathing suit reminded me that I've put on a few pounds. Now that we are back, I've decided to take advantage of all the resources surrounding me and start taking better care of my body. For the past two days I've actually stuck to a 1200 calorie eating plan (not diet!), have taken my protein supplements, and have exercised.

I have never been a fitness fanatic and past attempts have fallen by the wayside. I would lose 10 lbs. and then go back to my poor eating habits, putting it all back on. This time, because my age is catching up with me and pounds will be harder to shed in the future, I am attempting to make it a true lifestyle change. One way to make this easier is I will allow myself one meal each week of something that I really want, such as a Five Guys burger. (YUM!) This will also allow my husband and I to go out at least once a week, which is what we are used to. Already I feel pumped that I've made it a couple of days and have not been hungry. My true problem is snacking especially between lunch and dinner so I've made sure I have the right things to snack on. The protein supplements really help as they provide the added nutrition as well as keep me from being so hungry between meals.

I have my annual checkup today with my family physician. Over the past year I've had some issues related to what I'm chalking up to aging and hope this is all it is. Wish me luck!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Epiphany

Yesterday's message at church taught us that sometimes God gives us less, or gives us just enough, or even gives us more than we ask for. This really hit home with me as especially when it comes to our business - I EXPECT God to always give us more. Why should I? How would I learn if I always get what I want and expect? By giving us less, or just enough, God shapes us into who He wants us to be. When He thinks we are ready, He will give us more.

I am trying so hard to be patient. This has never been an attribute of mine. But when God gives me little glimpses into how He works and reminds me that NOTHING is impossible, that God can do ANYTHING, I am fortified. He knows me better than anyone and knows what I need. If we just put our faith in Him, He will lead us to where we need to be. It might not be on our clock but on His, and that is what we have to learn and accept.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Too much death

There have been too many people dying lately. It all started with the adult son of my next door neighbors who died suddenly and unexpectedly from an infection about a week and a half ago. He was only in his 30s and had a wife and two young children. I've never seen my neighbors so devastated. It is difficult to see people you love in pain.

Now, this week it is Farrah, who I suppose we knew would pass soon since she had been so sick. But, Michael Jackson? What a shock. I can't say that I am devastated by the news, but I am a child of the 60s and 70s and have fond memories of him from the pre-scandal days. I know he was a tortured soul but still, it is tough to see anyone with children pass and leave them without a parent.

Now, this afternoon I saw on MSN that Billy Mays, the Oxy Clean pitchman, has also died. What is going on here? Now they are saying he hit his head on a bumpy flight yesterday and this may have something to do with his unexpected death. He was only 50! Now, you may ask, why does this affect me so? Well, I had really started to like him after watching his TV series on Discovery, 'Pitchmen'. He seemed like such a nice guy, and had such a wonderful close friendship with Anthony Sullivan, another pitch guy on the show. I can only imagine how devastated he must be at this moment.

I am torn on the subject of death. Yes, I am a Christian and believe that we are only here for a time - that our true home is in heaven. And I believe that those that pass on and do enter the Kingdom are truly at peace once they are there. It is those of us who are left behind that suffer. Do we suffer just because we miss their presence, or do we suffer because we agonize over where they might be and whether or not we will see them again? I suppose it depends, and I try not to judge because sometimes we don't know if someone has a relationship with God, especially if they are famous. You just don't see celebrities for the most part promoting their religious beliefs. It's not the cool thing to do.

Rest in peace Bill, Farrah, Michael, and Billy. May the glory you experience in heaven outshine the glory you knew here on earth.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Okay, I tried to do this before when I was mother of the bride. I thought if I documented everything that happened I would be able to look back on it and laugh, or cry, or maybe it would help someone else through the process. I think the process itself made me so crazy that I couldn't keep up with a blog and therefore...it never materialized. So, here I am at another crazy phase of life attempting to 'blog'. My grown daughter, Ashley (kindredly...) is my inspiration. Here we go...

So, to start out, let me tell you about myself:

I am 47 years old - Now, normally this would not bother me. I have always looked somewhat younger than I am and age has never been a factor. Lately tho, I find this changing. I am starting to see the age that I am and it is scary.

I am co-owner of a business: In 2007, my husband and I bravely entered the world of entrepreneurship, opening a business that was truly needed in our community. Why, you ask? To this day I still don't know. I think it was a mixture of pioneer spirit and wanting to please my husband. I thought I had something to prove, not only to him but to myself as well. You see, I used to be a professional. I was in the workplace for many years when I was raising my daughter alone, and I had a sense of pride and accomplishment in my financial services career. When I remarried in 2002, my husband and I felt I had paid my dues to the overstressed and commuting life and I decided to go to school to become a medical transcriptionist. This new career would allow me to work from home, as well as to take my work on the road so I could accompany my husband whenever he would travel (which at the time was often). The working from home part was wonderful, but it was also isolating. I started to feel somewhat worthless and doubted my ability to relate to others and communicate with anyone other than my husband. When the opportunity to actually interact with the public and be a part of the community came about, I thought at the time it would be a wonderful change.

I am still a medical transcriptionist and am now also transcribing seminars for a church organization: Can you say I've bitten off more than I can chew? Yes, at times it feels that way.

I have been married for seven years: And I love my husband.

I have a beautiful 27-year-old daughter: She has kept me feeling young all my adult life. We don't see each other much anymore (she is married, has a career and is busy with friends) but the connection we formed as 'we' grew up together is still there. I look forward to being a "Glamma" one day.

I have two stepchildren, a daughter in her junior year of college and a son who is starting his freshman year this fall. Can you say expensive? I think so. I love them dearly tho and their mother, as questionable as her ethics may have been at one point, has raised them well. They are wonderful kids.

I have two cats that I love like children: Okay, I'm not a crazy cat lady but I come close. What can I say? They just adore me, and that unconditional love is hard to turn away (even if it is based on getting their favorite snack). Plus, they are cute as they can be and make me laugh every day.

I am a Christian: Now, you wont hear me spouting off scripture or telling others how to live their lives, but I do attempt to live my life and run our business based on Christian principles. I am far from perfect - I have had to learn to accept that even at my age I am still a work in progress. I look to the Lord for guidance and peace every day and this is what I feel is right for me.

To start with the issue at hand, the main focus of my life for the past two years has been our business. We started this venture in June 2007, and by February 2008 the "Center" was open. After working 12-15 hours days for months, I was ready to close it down in March 2008 if that gives you any idea as to where my mind was and sometimes still is today. You see, our thought when we got into this was that we would be 'hands on' owners for about six months, and then after that we could turn over the day-to-day operations to our well trained employees. HA!

To alleviate my stress, after a few months in business my precious husband hired a Center Director. Once she was trained, this allowed me the time I needed to get back to transcribing and taking care of our home. Within months she was gone as her husband was transferred to another state.

Okay God, what's up??

After she left we hired whom we thought was her perfect replacement - a woman from our church who had recently moved here and desperately needed a stable job. Wow - thanks God, now we understand why employee #1 left - you really dropped that one in our laps! Though, within weeks she was gone, ruptured disks in her back and then she moved to another state.

Okay, now we're confused. We think we're doing all the right things but yet, all of these wonderful employees keep moving away. What is it that you want from us Lord? Oh, okay - you want ME to come back and be the Center Director. What was I, blinded by the obviousness of it all?

SO, putting all other things on the backburner, I went back to work at the Center. Then, on December 31, my husband fell off the roof and severely broke his left leg. An effort to slow HIM down, maybe? After all, he was carrying the burden of a full-time job that had already cut his pay 40%, a Center that was struggling, and a wife who was a loon most of the time. Two surgeries and months of recuperation later, the depression was overwhelming both of us. We had even turned away from the church. At the time we should have leaned on the Lord the most, we turned our backs. Let's face it - the responsibilities of our lives, our regular jobs and the Center were taking their toll and something had to break. We had to make a decision about how we would move forward and decided to put the Center up for sale. We thought my husband's main employer would be transfering us to another state and we mentally began readying ourselves for this.

It's months later and the Center is still for sale. Amazingly even in this poor economy it is doing well. We now have some wonderful employees who have stepped in and helped us tremendously, allowing me more time away to work on my two transcription jobs. My husband's employer wants him to relocate but they don't have the budget to help us move, so we are staying put for now. AND - we've gone back to our church. Even though we had turned our backs on God, He never turned His back on us. He stayed with us still guiding us and not allowing our desperation and depression to completely take over. We are blessed.

If the Center is meant to sell, God will allow it to sell. If we are meant to move away, He will facilitate the move. Because we couldn't handle things the way they were, we gave up and gave it to God. Since then, the blessings in our lives have overflowed. Even though the circumstances still aren't as we'd hoped or expected, there are so many wonderful things happening in our lives and we are being allowed a sense of peace that is sustaining us.

To be continued...