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Easter – A Throwback Version

crossI thought I would share a letter I wrote and actually mailed to my family back in April, 2001 as the Easter holiday approaches.

April 3, 2001

Dear Family and Friends,

Many days have passed since I last sat at my computer at a loss. Tonight I am. There are many things I should be doing right now . . . working on a graduate school assignment, writing a training manual for work, designing a web site, scanning pictures in, or doing research on the internet. Instead I find myself contemplating the upcoming holiday and what it means to me.

Growing up, it meant a wicker basket filled with plastic green grass and lots of candy (mostly that I didn’t care for, I never could stand those “candy eggs” and “marshmallow chicks”.) It meant a new dress and having to sit through mom fixing my hair and listening to a long boring sermon at church of a story I had heard a “million” times.

Later in the day, after hearing the same story every year in church, a neighborhood egg hunt. As I grew older, getting to hide the eggs rather than search for them. People laugh. They all look wonderful in their new clothes. There were no chores, no eating food I didn’t like (I could fill up with candy.) But that was it . . .

Now, I’m 26. There are no kids around to entertain with an egg hunt. There is no new outfit. And most years, I don’t even attend the church service because it will be too crowded. It’s just another day. Not even a special day or Sunday anymore.

As I see this, I am saddened. This day commemorates the . . . wow, I’m at a loss again. The Creator of this entire, complicated, beautiful, intimidating, and awe inspiring world sent his Son to live here, experience what we go through. I mean He went through it all. Having parents. Being teased by other kids. Pimples. Not being the most popular person in school. Puberty. Insecurity. Wondering how to make ends meet. Everything that we go through growing up and on.

He then allowed His Son to be killed, not just shot by a gun or electrocuted in seconds, but hung for hours in the sun (Matthew 27:45), dehydrated (Matthew 27:34), bleeding and covered in whip lashes and sores from being beaten (Matthew 27:28-30) until he died (Matthew 27:50). On a cross.

My dad (and mom) wouldn’t even let me fall down with out checking my knees and kissing my head. My dad would speak sternly to another child, teenager or adult if he/she did something remotely harmful to me (even to this day.) He would fly my mom at a day’s notice up to be with me when I am sick. There is no way he would allow me to be treated like that. My dad hurts when I cry and supports me in every way possible.

Can you imagine the pain, seeing your only Son . . . hanging from a cross, in more physical pain than is imaginable, abandoned and denied by those He called friend (Matthew 26:75), dying? Can you imagine having the power to put a stop to it and not (Matthew 51-54)? God did. I’m sure that it was so hard for Him that He turned His back on His Son and wept (Matthew 27:45), knowing that it was His creation that had done this.

In that moment, through those hours of His suffering, He took everything I have ever done wrong and He paid for it. He suffered for me. He suffered for you. And He gave up His son.

There’s no Christmas present worth that. There’s no basket filled with candy that can symbolize that kind of gift. There’s no personal sacrifice that could be the equivalent.

My God loves me. So much that He would be separated from His only son for me. He would have His only son, tortured and killed for me. Because He knew it was the only way to reconcile His relationship with me . . . I meant that much to Him, even before I was a twinkle in my parents’ eyes.

So what does this “holiday” mean . . . what should it mean? Easter symbolizes the final reconciliation of my relationship with my Heavenly Father. His son rose again, having paid for all my sins. He allowed me to be seen again as clean and pure in His eyes. Easter means that I have Hope again. Hope in my relationship with my Heavenly Father. Hope in me.

Yes, but what does that mean really. I mean, the preacher tells me the same story every year . . . To me it means . . .

  • I am loved beyond anything imaginable. All these days and nights I spend feeling lonely and sorry for myself are for naught because I am loved so completely. (I John 4:9-11)
  • I am accepted. No matter how little I like how I look. Or how I may not seem to “measure up.” I am pure and clean and perfect in His eyes, and no one is a better judge than that. (Colossians 1:21-22)
  • I have potential. Everyone stumbles. And, man, I fall flat on my face quite often. But He gave me the opportunity to pick myself up and move past that. Past my problems and weaknesses. I can be complete and whole, healthy. He took responsibility for all of those. (Colossians 2:10)

I have so many struggles, just as I am sure that you do, and this “gift” is one that I need to re-open every day rather than once a year. So rather than an Easter card or candy this year, I wanted to share this story with you in my way and why it means so much to me.

I am so blessed to call you family or friend. Thank you for being a part of my life. Thank you for sharing yourself with me. You will never know just how much that means to me.

Sincerely,

~hope

A Dozen Aspects of Business You Must Learn About as an Entrepreneur

Several years ago, I wrote about how I decided to Strike Out on My Own in business and a list of pointers if you were in that place yourself.  Now as I have set a goal to make some more money, I am exploring strategies for building my business once again.  From everything I’ve been reading there are about a half dozen different aspects to being an owner/operator of a business, and to succeed you have to have strategies in place for each one.

Here are the aspects I am reviewing about my own business in an effort to make an educated step for expansion and growth:

  • Sales and Marketing Strategies
  • Systems Strategies
  • Financial Management including Increasing Profit Strategies
  • People Strategies including being a great Leader
  • The Customer Experience
  • and one that touches on them all Communication Strategies

Over the next few weeks, I plan to write a synopsis of what a small business owner should consider when reviewing these strategies for his/her business, and by small, I mean mom and pop shops.  I think as a owner/operator with even just a couple of employees, outsourcing many of these avenues is not financially feasible, but sometimes you have to consider that avenue when it is obviously something that is 1) not the core of your business and 2) not one of your strengths.  This is where I am at right now.  I am spending far too much time on things I’m not necessarily the best at and I need to consider finding some other way to get those things done.

Sales and Marketing – This is very obviously not my strong suit.  I have been so blessed over the years that sites like Guru and Elance have helped me put my business in front of people who need it, but as the virtual work world changes, I need to expand my marketing and sales avenues.  And I’m finding that when I do it myself, I waste precious time that I could actually be doing work.  This is where I’m starting.

Systems – This could also be known as your Toolbox.  Systematizing the day to day operating of your business intrinsically frees you up to focus on the core of your business AND if you do have employees or subcontractors it let’s everyone “stay in their lane” to prevent waste and confusion. Tools in this not only include your email, custom software, etc. but also the procedure with which you use them.

Finances – Understand where your money comes from and where is goes is the key to being a success at business.  Controlling your overhead in a virtual workspace allows you to offer very competitive rates and make a decent size profit, but you must remember to plan for the future and the day when you must increase your out going monies to stay competitive whether it be with education and/or equipment, having a solid understanding of your finances and a long term plan in place is important.

People – Whether you are a one person shop or a mid-sized business having good people skills is important, whether you use it for sales or support, hiring or management, knowing yourself and how to influence are important.  We all have strengths and we all have weaknesses, that’s life, but being aware and being willing to admit and address those is vital to maintaining a healthy , joyful work environment and who doesn’t want that!?

Customer Experience – I don’t know who said it, but I know you’ve heard it. Word of mouth marketing can be the best or the worst thing for our business ever.  A happy customer is going to talk about it, a customer with a bad experience is going to talk about it exponentially more, thus managing the customer experience is key not only to your day to day work environment but also to the healthy longevity of your company.  There are lots of strategies out there for this and I am looking at them all!

Communication – Let’s face it, in this technology filled age it’s really easy to put the word out about something.  You can blog it, Tweet it, Post it, Take a Picture of it, Pin it…you get the point.  The key though is to have effective communication, communication that is actually heard.  We will explore the tools, the branding, the scripts and the theories.  I’ve found my key over the years is to communicate the way a client hears it – as much as I don’t want to, there are some clients I MUST pick up the phone and call and small talk before we can tackle the root of the call whereas others would greatly prefer a short text, understanding who you are trying to communicate with is the secret!

I can’t wait to dive in and share my findings and resources with you, and I am sure that I will learn as much from you in the process!

 

 

 

Spring Fever has Set In

DSC01845They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem…Well, I have to admit it, I have spring fever like a CRAZY person.  I am getting up every morning, no matter how cool and opening all the windows, leaving the door open to let the dogs wander and cleaning.  The poor kids, all still in their beds are shivering and squinting as the sunlight floods their rooms, then covering their heads and attempting to go back to sleep as I turn on my music and get my day started with my juicer and dog play. I seriously have a problem.

According to the experts, most all of this is explainable…the SUN is out!  And that is certainly more than obvious this year after such a rough winter. So I’ve decided to take advantage of these decidedly upbeat mornings I am having and get some things done around my house and my internet life.  Here’s my first draft of a list of things I want to do over the next couple of weeks to embrace this beautiful spring and sunshiney weather we are having:

  1. Purge – we’ve still got lots of stuff that never gets used and is just literally gathering dust.  That’s all got to go, either trash, donation, ebay sale, etsy sale or Craigslist sale.  That starts today!
  2. Weed the flower beds – since I’m in major debt reduction mode, there probably won’t be many new plants this year <<sadness>> but I can make those that are here look nice!  So that will be a kid paid job over the next couple of days.
  3. Clean – I’ve recently been introduced to a product call Norwax. Crazy, amazing stuff, and supposed all natural.  My girlfriend came over this week and let me borrow some of hers on my dining room table.  (Anyone who has seen my table knows that anything that can clean is is nothing short of miraculous!)norwax--tableOk, so my picture may not be the best, but that’s craft paint, glue and who knows what else that we are constantly trying to get off the table…scraping, goo stuff, etc.  With very little effort Norwax just cleaned it and left the finish.  Can you tell I’m amazed!?  (Stay tuned for more cleaning info.  I told her that if it cleaned my table I would host a party for her…so coming soon!)
  4. Plant our garden – we’ve been planting gardens for four years now…each year we get better.  We read more, get more experience and tend it better.  We have 6 raised flower beds in the back and a several planters were we grow tomatoes and herbs.  We got the additional soil we needed to add to our beds this year, last night, so planting time is right around the corner.
  5. Get Crafty – one of my 2014 goals is to update all the kids scrapbooks using existing materials that I have hoarded over the last 10 years (and yes, hoard is the right word here,) and then convert to a digital only scrapbooking method.   I have failed horribly at getting this going.  I have rearranged the stuff a half a dozen times to be ready but have yet to sit down and craft.  So this time, it’s happening.  And contributing to this drive is knowing that much of the stuff I’ve made over the years and haven’t used, I can sell on Etsy.  So prepare for a link to my Etsy store.

Ok, I think that’s about it for now. I hope you are enjoying your spring as much as I am mine.  I love this motivated, committed feeling I have after such a hard, depressing winter.

What’s on your spring fever to do list?

Preparing for the Summer

We are just a couple of weeks from the end of our school year…While we do school year round, this month represents the end of their current “grade” and we complete our standardized testing to fulfill our state’s requirements for homeschooling. After this, we typically take a couple of weeks off, and then start on a structured summer schooling schedule.

educationThis year we are going to do things a bit differently. I’ve been exploring Unschooling for several months this year, and we’ve decided as a family to take this summer off our typically structured assignments and see how we could incorporate a more unschooling approach. I’m not sure how this will work, so we will have to feel our way.

I had the twins read up on unschooling and going to college if you’ve unschooled so they could make an informed decision about trying this. I think this is kind of step 1 for this transition, trusting the child to make some educated choices for themselves. The only one who is resistant to this change is my youngest. Little does he know that he is the most unschooled of them all as he has an amazing natural curiosity that he pursues full tilt.

Now as the Type A, structure, organized person that I am, especially with the kids’ schedules, I imagine this will be most difficult for me. The kids will probably enjoy the freedom…

I’m not quite sure how to measure our “unschooling” experiments success at the end of the summer. But I am determined to guide while not demanding into new learning experiences and to facilitate rather than plan for learning adventures.Do you have any tip or tricks for making the transition from a more traditional homeschooling method to one of unschooling?