How To Become an Entrepreneur

Confession: I am a serial entrepreneur. Yes, I worked off and on through my adult years as an RN in various emergency rooms and operating rooms, and yes, I loved nursing. But a typical shift in any job often proved cumbersome. As a mom, I wanted to be at home and offer my children an idyllic childhood. What to do, what to do…I decided to hire myself!

My trek through the no man’s land of self-employment began innocently enough. I published a nonprofit newsletter for three years, and grew it into a 30+ page monthly magazine. Becoming a graphic designer and publishing corporate newsletters and brochures proved to be just a step forward. Call me crazy, but I was hooked. I loved the challenge of taking on a new enterprise and building it into a growing concern. Through the years I had several businesses: I was a bead artist and sold handmade beads at trade shows nationwide; I became a travel agent; I became a MLM rep for a leading skincare company; I co-owned an expo company promoting crafters an other entrepreneurs. Now I am publishing books for teens. Along the way I learned a thing or two.

passionReady to embark on this adventure of directing your own life? My number one tip is a simple one. Believe in the magic of the journey. Many a nurse when I worked part time in surgery would wistfully say, “It must be nice, traveling all over the country selling beads.” It was nice. But they never dared stepping out from the comfort of a 40 hour week into the uncertainties of adventure. You must believe in the magic of the journey. I worked hard at both nursing and building a bead business, often working much longer hours than any of my nursing buddies, and while they envied the glamour of my life, they never wanted to embrace the vagaries of life on the road.

Second, you must fuel your passion. Choose an endeavor you enjoy. You can’t sell hair extensions if you love short hair. I know. It sounds too mundane to warrant space on the page, but I see it over and over again: people selling themselves into a business for which there exists no spark of joie de vivre. The average client or customer has a built-in BS meter, and instinctively pulls away from a sales pitch. If you’re not in love with what you do, you’re embarking on a solo expedition, and it will prove lonely and disappointing in the long run.

working officeLearn, learn, learn. My third tip exists as a maxim for all of life. Learn your craft. Learn the tax laws. Learn how to sell effectively, saying just a little while saying all the right things. Accept that a lifelong date with trends and new skill sets exist as a part of the journey, a place to hang your hat each night. If you don’t learn and adapt, your journey will be cut short.

My fourth tip either lights your eyes or causes you to cringe. Connect with people. This is an age of instant communication and social platforms transforming the way business is conducted. Brick and mortar businesses struggle to compete with online entities. Support groups, conferences, other entrepreneurs form a nest from which you draw ideas and leads. If you see yourself as an introvert, pull up your big girl panties and join in. If you see yourself as an extrovert, be careful about overwhelming others. Establish an online presence and form connections.

Tip #5:  Read daily. Read classics. Read memoirs. Read nonfiction. Read great writers. Think about when you attended high school or college literature courses. You were assigned masters of their craft, and it sharpened your own communication. A steady diet of light reading as an adult dulls those instincts.

My next tip, number six, travels hand in hand with reading. Write daily. Keep a journal, write lists, work on your memoir, or just pen a missive to someone you know. Writing is a necessary complement in the process of growing your communication skills. Learn how to weed out the intransitive verbs, and insert words with a punch. Craft sentences an English teacher would want to read. Your verbal communication earns an overhaul in the process.

Last but not least: Grow your self-discipline. If you can’t make a list and force yourself to accomplish a day’s work, you cannot hire yourself and expect a living wage. Time management, organizing and prioritizing tasks, creating a product or offering a service all require putting the pedal to the medal. You have to make miles each day on this trip of a lifetime. Stay too long at an oasis along the way, and you’ll find yourself lost in a labyrinth of trying to catch up or rejuvenate your business. A strong work ethic is a hallmark of any entrepreneur.

If this resonates with you, share your experiences in the comments. If you want more encouragement, reach out. I freely admit I am old by some standards. My parent’s generation turned 70 and sat at home waiting to die. Instead, I’m starting yet another business and tickled pink to be on the road again. I absolutely love this journey of life, and expect my writing career to be more fun than a barrel of monkeys! Excuse the outdated pun. I’d love to share this journey with you.

Finding Your Roots

studiesI found my passion for writing in high school when I was required to keep a writing journal in English class. I wanted to be the next Erma Bombeck, but I found, to my dismay, I’m just not that funny. What I did find was an intense passion for words, paper, pencils, and memoirs. A lifestyle blog brings me full circle to my roots, when I courted words and collected quotes, and now share them with the great void of the internet.

Life propels us on a journey in which we visit many a foreign country. Some jobs definitely cause that sense of where am I going and force us to reconsider choices made. Each country visited, though, develops within us new skill sets, new perspectives. I loved nursing with a passion, but it was always the people, not the job. I have been a serial entrepreneur much of my life, first in freelance writing, then in beads, selling travel, selling self-care products. Each venture was exciting, daring to strike out on my own and loving the travel to new endeavors. I learned about stock and inventory, about bookkeeping, about meeting the needs of clients. But in this season of my life I am writing once again. It’s time to return to my roots.

Roots keep us tethered to reality. We all know pie-in-the-sky cloud people who live in the stratosphere. Usually they are managers. And we all know floaters who drift through life following the path of least resistance. Usually they are unhappy or wistful dreamers. I am writing to the ones who relish life with a carpe diem mentality, who find zest in what they love. Too much of the world mimics the next big trend, copies styles, and blends into the crowd. Roots require authenticity. Roots require me to be just who I am. No more. No less.

Dig deeply under a plant, and you find the vascular system of a growing entity. In my personal endeavor to rekindle my writing career, I am traveling to Dallas for a book fair, and working on my fourth novel. Writing conferences hone my craft. I am freelancing once again, and loving it. Each of my writing endeavors connects the facets of my writing career, past to present. Like tendrils of sentient tissue, my roots are extending and strengthening my resolve.bookmark4

I want to encourage you, gentle reader, to be true to yourself. If you find yourself in a dead end job you hate, make a change. If you buried a passion, resurrect it. Find your roots and explore them, strengthen them. Enjoy being you. Me? I love a cup of tea and my paper and pencil. I like to start each day with words.

A Wimp in a Whirlwind

We all want, yearn, for a calm life: idyllic days with enough money and a vacation on the horizon. Then life spins out of control. In the vortex of loss, financial setbacks, and desperation, our true selves emerge.

That’s when I realized. I’m a wimp. Oh, I can quote scripture and sing fervently when life rolls along as expected. I can juggle my disappointment when sideswiped by a minor setback and manage very well, thank you!. But caught in a whirlwind of desperation, I spiral into a morass of self-pity, hopelessness and doubt.

“Where is God in all this?” A dozen Christian ministries promise blessings, but mine are missing. There must be something wrong with me. One catastrophe after another leaves me reeling.

I’m a wimp, alright. But here’s the things. God’s okay with that. Yes, He is training me to be strong and of good courage, but He is full of mercy while I am yet brokenhearted,, devastated and the weakest among us. All He asks is for me, for you, to admit our forlorn condition. Ask for His intervention. Be willing to accept no solutions to problems. Be willing to be at peace amidst the storm.clouds 3_edited

This is my life right now. Yes, we still own two properties. Each home is problematic in one way or another. Now we owe two sets of property taxes. There is no light at the end of the tunnel…yet. In the midst of trial, I still find my hope in a King who knows my name and holds me in the palm of His hand.

Today we decided to continue to live in the midst of chaos. Such a big decision. We had put a moratorium on all extraneous spending this summer, expecting an end to the whirlwind, but we can’t live like this indefinitely. At some point we need to begin enjoying life again. That day is today.  I am choosing to look at the clouds and see better weather on the horizon, rather than expecting another storm. My sweet husband is smiling ear to ear at the prospect. Next blog…where are we going? Stay tuned!

When Loss Is Life

when loss is lifeNo one expects the loss. We live as if life, the precious commodity, belongs to us. Yet loss is a part of life, and when it tragically and irrevocably attacks, it changes you forever. And I mean forever. Life is not the absence of loss, rather, loss exists as a part of life.

March 11 dawned as an ordinary Sunday morning. We prepared for church and when the call came that Brenda was calling an ambulance and would I help with the kids, I seriously thought it was nothing. Our son hadn’t been feeling well, but doctors were talking seizure disorders, not death! As I fed the kiddos, Bill took me aside and said the medics were working to revive him and in that moment, my life spun out of control.

We hustled the kids into the car and raced…and I mean, raced to the hospital. I literally ran into a cubicle filled with family, and Brenda teared up when she told me, “We lost him.” I tried to hold it together for her sake, but when Bill and the boys and I went to see his lifeless body, I sobbed. Literally sobbed over his body. It was like an out of body experience. I had no idea it would hit me like that. But it did.

Since I blog, I kept a record of the adjustments throughout this first year of life without Alma. I knew the stages of grief, but I learned a new set of stages. My grief skyrocketed through all the Kubler-Ross stages in days and hours, only to repeat their eccentric gyrations again and again. In reviewing the chronology of my dance with grief, I realized it hit me hardest as months progressed after the support of services and cards passed.

Throughout this year my mind felt numb. I virtually went through the motions. I did the next thing in front of me, but thoughts were intangible wisps and hard to connect. Prior joys like sewing, knitting, and playing the piano fell by the wayside. I not only couldn’t concentrate, trying to made my heart overflow with sorrow. My chest often felt like it might explode with pain. Was I having a heart attack?  When I was still alive after a few days I realized it had to be stress, painful nonetheless. What helped me the most was talking about him, about what I was experiencing, about my pain to friends who would listen. Blogging brought healing.

Ten months to the day after Alma’s death, however, I woke up. I could focus again. I could knit and keep track of a pattern. I sat down to finish a quilt and had to relearn how to thread my sewing machine, but I was able to actually accomplish a goal! Like a mother grizzly coming out of hibernation, I felt awake. Alive.

This chronicle of my year of life with loss is meant to be a path for you as well. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself time. Blessings…

*Note: This chronicle of my year of grief is available on Amazon. It is meant to be a solace for others who wonder, “Is this normal?” “Am I dying?” “What’s wrong with me?” I’ve made it 99 cents, affordable and public. I hope you can share it with others who find themselves lost in the fog of grief.

 

Winter Storm Yum!

We love chili when frigid air hovers, and it doesn’t matter if its white or red. As a matter of fact, I prefer white. I make this when rotisserie chicken goes on sale, and good fortune preceded this storm, so yay! We’re in luck, because I’m just about to hit the kitchen.

If you’re new to white chili, here’s my recipe.

  • one shredded chicken
  • 1-2 chopped onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 can green chilis
  • 1 can diced jalepenos to taste
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2-3 cans chicken broth
  • 3-4 cans navy beans
  • pint of cream or evaporated milk
  • salt and pepper to taste

I saute the onion and garlic in butter, add all the seasonings and chicken and broth. I like to rinse my beans well in water. I lose the B vitamins, which are water soluble, but I also never get gassy, so it’s worth it to me! Simmer awhile. Add the cream/evaporated milk shortly before serving. I add a dollop of sour cream, some sliced avocado and grated cheese to the top and wowsers!!

Obviously I adore creature comforts, and this satisfies. Complete the meal with some cornbread and you’ve got a rib-sticking heart-warming dinner. Bon Appetit!

Narnia or Snowpocalypse? It all depends.

Winter’s death grip on the midwest remains strong. I took a 2-3 week hiatus from blogging during the holidays and our remembrance of Alma’s birthday. I didn’t have a lot of uplifting thoughts, anyway.

Then storms struck and we lived on generator power for a couple days. We saved the freezer. We heat with wood, so we stayed warm. But life between the haves and have-nots bore a strong distinction between those who loved the snow and those  who felt otherwise. I kept my computer at arm’s length awaiting our re-entry into civilized society.

Now I vacillate between pleasure over earthly comforts, ready to write, and at the same time I peer timidly into the future, with more ice/snow coming our way by week’s end. I see both sides of the perspective continuum.

Here’s the thing: Your perspective on winter landscapes depends on your creature comforts. In the throes of having no power, heating with wood and trying to keep a generator running, the snow became my enemy. When power was restored and our porch shoveled and the drive bladed by my good man, we headed to town and marveled over a magical landscape. It looked like we were traveling through Narnia.Image result for images narnia children crossing ice

Let’s remember, though, that the characters in Narnia didn’t enjoy the cold or the ice or the scenery as they struggled to survive. Spectators enjoy the scenery. Survivors not so much. We love our heritage as being rugged individualists and survivors, but we have been coddled into a generation of spectators. We need to be prepared for every eventuality and strong in the face of adversity. Civilization’s thin veneer is more easily punctured than you might imagine. We exist one disaster away from once again struggling to survive. Look up the FEMA recommendations for surviving a natural disaster and be the hardy pioneer stock we claim to be!

Change is In the Air

Happy 2019!  I took a couple weeks off through the holidays.  It was a difficult Christmas with one less at the table, and Alma’s birthday January 1st came as a double whammy.  We gathered to share his favorite foods and tell stories in remembrance of him…it was a good day.

alma's handsThis is one of my favorite stories, Alma describing how he built a breakfast bar for their home.  “OK, so you start with a pile of scrap 2x6s from building the house. You put them through the table saw twice to make them more square, then through the planer twice, then through the drum sander several times per side. Then you cut both ends off to make the ends square, then you put them in your homemade Taylor press with some glue and a few screws. At this point you have a plank, that you now have to run through the planer 4 times, then through the drum sander 6 times. Cut it to size and shape, add some trim, some stain and lots of lacquer an, Wammo, you have a butcher block breakfast

I am beyond thankful to friends and family who have gotten us this far, and look forward to a year of adaptation, change and joy!  Yes, change is in the air.  Blessings to all.  I’m back!

What Happens On Cookie Day…Really?

Rhoads family cookie day occurs just once each year.  Let me give you some sage advice: never give your grandchildren little love monikers, like cookie names.  It leads to hosting a family cookie day where we bake each kind of cookie.  It leads to bedlam!

It all began so innocently.  Matthias was our first, and whenever we wanted to talk about him, we all just said “M” and he never caught on.  Then I had a little Sugar, so the others all asked what their cookie names were, and, well, before long I had a Chipper, a Gingersnap, a Snickerdoodle, a Tea Cake, a Chocoberry, and a Lemon Drop.  If you make double batches of each, that’s a whole lot of cookies!

in the beginningIt begins with a pristine kitchen large enough for all of us. We go to the church, which has three ovens.  I wonder if the kitchen feels any fear…it’s those Rhoads kids again! Watch out! 

Everyone lines up for hand washing.  When Alma was alive he wore an old security guard uniform and his sole function was watching little hands touching faces or noses or hair…it was back to the sink for all of them once or twice.  They’re better now, but Bill watches all the same.

Some of the chilled dough is ready for immediate baking, four batches have to be mixed, and of course, everyone loves helping Katelyn with the sugar cookies. The shapes are beginning to look better, but icing is thick and literally swimming with decorations. Note to self: You can never have too many sprinkles.

When it’s all cleaned up, the cars are loaded, and I turn off the light, I breathe a sigh of contentment mixed with a whole lot of relief.  Cookie day is a happy memory.  I hope when I am gone each one will think of me when they munch on cookies, and remember how much I loved them…enough to endure cookie day once a year, lol!

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Be Afraid of the Nine-Year-Old

I’ve languished for three weeks with a virus refusing to go away. Today I lay, spent, on the couch and a perky 9-year-old wants to prove she can bake cookies without me. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

The first comment hollered to me from the kitchen foreshadowed her entire venture. “Nana, what’s 21/4 cup?” Really??? She’s baked with me for years. She reads ingredient lists to me all the time. Her math features fractions on a daily basis. Really?!!

“Nana, is this granulated sugar?” She hauled in a canister of powdered sugar. Really?  Have you read the label?  Yes, I’m feeling very afraid.

But this is how she learns. So far the crashes sound muted, but she’s still on the first step in the instructions.  I’m wondering why there have been so many crashes in just the first step. I’m afraid to look, but I’ll have to, sooner or later.

Letting our little ones grow up is hard, isn’t it? On the one hand, we bust our buttons with each milestone. On the other hand, we pay for each milestone along the way. I’m left wondering if all the universe operates on that same principle. One step forward, two steps back, three step forwards and lose the common sense somewhere in the middle. With each gain a loss promises growth.

Living with loss helps me appreciate the promise, and I’m very much like a nine year old in walking down this lonely path. Minus the perkiness. Minus the sweet treat. Of course, we have yet to taste her cookies, so the analogy may prove true in the end.

Family Bandaids

Life with loss, so they say, is a Chutes and Ladders kind of game. I never played as a child, but I’m playing now. Today I enjoyed a chute that put a bandaid on the hole in my heart. We enjoy family dinners on the first and third Sundays, and they never disappoint.

On first Sundays we have recitals and all the littles play something on the piano. I love watching those little fingers fly across the keys! They usually play something they’ve memorized, so who’s interested in looking at the music or counting, anyway? Aaron tickles the ivories, always a blessing. Today Levi brought his electric cello, and those mournful tones touched my soul.

The hugs and giggles and chaos may be exhausting, but in a good way. Megan and Lori work seamlessly with me to get the meal on the table. It takes two cycles of our dishwasher working overtime to handle the mess. When the toys are put away and the final waves initiate the mantle of silence, it’s a lighter silence. We wear little smiles and laugh about the kids’ antics. Charlie breathes a sigh of relief because he ‘s patiently endured too much love, so he naps beside me. The room feels less oppressive.

I like looking back at pictures with my son and ran into this Thanksgiving picture from a year ago, when Alma was still with us. They say you grieve as much as you love, so I must learn to adapt to a lifelong hole in my heart…but these short reprieves help. A lot. Yes, it’s like putting a bandaid over a sore that made me cry all week long. So incredibly thankful for family.DSC_0152