Light House Church was a Great Experience

A lot of what I’m working on in therapy and on my own, is reframing the story of my life. In reexamining these events and phases of my life I find myself grieving things I’ve needed to grieve, celebrating things I never celebrated, and finding healing and peace for old wounds.

In the process of starting a business I find myself relying most heavily on my experience at Light House Church as the Children’s Program Director. I’m reading an excellent book right now entitled, “Do Cool Sh*t” by Miki Agrawal. I’m not finished with it, but I love it so far. In it she discusses three routes to bringing your idea to reality; the intrepreneurial approach (working from within an existing organization), the entrepreneurial approach (starting your own organization) and the philanthropic approach. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was essentially doing the philanthropic approach with Light House Church. The philanthropic approach says to find an organization that you support and lend them your skills, which helps you to develop your skills. Its a mutually beneficial arraignment.

I spent five years working on Light House Church aside several other people. I wasn’t a key decision maker as to the direction of the organization, but I was in charge of an entire department. When we were first starting out that simply looked like a list of things you need for childcare so we could have a very basic nursery. All I had to do was get the items and schedule volunteers. As time went on my job grew, soon we had a children’s church program. I designed the curriculum and taught it. I did everything at first, and still had the nursery to staff and maintain.

Soon I started having ideas of my own for more programs and events, so I made them happen, often on a shoestring budget. I’d organize almost everything for these events including, marketing, equipment, set up, volunteers, food, and clean up. The events varied pretty drastically in size and scope, some with 5 kids attending, some with nearly 100 kids. As the years went on this became a very time consuming job. They even started giving me a very small amount of money for all the work I was doing. All this while going to school and working at a doggy day care. I was busy, but I was rocking it.

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Eating ice cream with the kids on a Wednesday night in the summer. 

This experience of running the children’s programs at Light House Church was absolutely invaluable to who I am. I learned that I could do it. I could dream up a program or event and I could make it happen. I could do it even better when I had a good team on my side. I learned that I could learn a lot of skills all on my own. I managed a database, I made videos, I made power points, I crafted lessons, I crafted crafts, I created something from basically nothing. And now I’m going to do it again and I have my experience from Light House Church to lean on when I think I can’t do it.

When I watch videos of contests at WARP and think “There is no way I can do that. Its just too much, its too big, too many people, too many details,” I remember how “too big” didn’t stop me when I organized a community easter egg hunt for underserved kids or when I decided to do an even bigger christmas event or when I took on running Wednesday night programing on-top of Sunday morning programing. I’ve looked at “too big” and I’ve done it.

This next endeavor might be big, but I’m going to build a good team, and I’m going to do it. We’re going to change the Portland skate scene forever and I never could do it if it wasn’t for Light House Church.

This realization of how valuable Light House Church was for me is another reframing. There was so much hurt clouding my vision when I looked back on that experience. Choosing to leave my community was one of the hardest choices I have ever had to make, and the pain that followed that has been close to my heart for a long time.

I’ve come a long way since then and I can now see that experience for the valuable part of my life that it was. We did a lot cool stuff, heck, I did a lot of cool stuff and I’m really glad that I did.

Being Present

Its so strange to me that being present in the moment is such a struggle. Its so blissful when you can be fully present in a good moment. Its incredibly deep when you can be fully present in a hard moment.

I struggle with being present. In my head I’m usually living in the future, worrying about what is to come. Sometimes I live in the past dwelling on what has already happened.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe planning for the future is essential, and that processing the past is valuable. But I have a tendency to put so much thought and effort into the future and the past that I struggle hard to be fully in the now. Or to be in the now at all.

Being mindful and being present are things I’m working on in my life. Taking out just 2-3 minutes to sit quietly and focus on nothing but my breath has been a challenge. I’ve been trying to do it for months now and I’m just starting to get the hang of it. My hope is to eventually work up to ten minutes of meditation everyday. It helps to clear out the plethora of worry that is constantly swirling around in my head and bring me back into the present moment. From there I can get a better sense of how I should go about my day.

Writing is another tool I use for mindfulness. Its hard to think of anything else when you are in the flow of writing. When I come this blog, I usually have a good idea of what I want to write. But even when I don’t have a good idea of what I want to write, I still write. I fill up my journal with all sorts of random writings.

When I write in my journal or in a notebook, I try to just go. I just write and let words flow. It doesn’t matter what they say really, once you get in a groove good things start to hit the page. It is a way to focus in on this moment. And in this moment of writing I can often also manage to process recent events or even plan for the future. When I do it though writing its a focused thing. Its not the same tangle of worries that clouds my mind and makes me anxious. Writing helps me to work though those things in an orderly way and come to a place of being present.

In addition to daily meditation I want to be writing daily or near daily. I hope to post on this site at least once a week. The topics will vary drastically, but they will all be things I’m thinking about. Alongside writing I’m working on not giving so many fucks about what other people think. I’ve been giving way too many fucks for way too long. I worry about what people will think of my parenting, or my clothes, or my home, or my writing. I shouldn’t let so much of my energy go to worrying about what others think. That effort is going to show here. Like it just did, when I used the word fuck. Its a good word, its a strong word. And sometimes you just need a really fucking strong word. I’m not going to censor myself to make other people comfortable. I’m not forcing anyone to read this.

So here I am, in my effort to be less anxious and more present, writing on this blog. You are welcome to take it or leave it. You are also welcome to take what you like and leave the rest behind. All I ask is that if you comment you remember that a real human being is on the other side reading it.

 

 

Why I say “No” to Direct Sales

“Direct Sales” seem more popular than ever, and more in my face than ever. Some claim they are a great way for Moms to make money when they otherwise couldn’t. Maybe thats true, but the numbers say otherwise. There are countless articles on-line showing that on average people involved with direct sales only end up making about $2 per hour for their efforts, I don’t feel the need to argue that you aren’t going to make real money doing it. There are tons of much better options to work from home and be your own boss. Options that pay a living wage.

My beef is something else. My problem is the stress that “Direct Sales” put on personal relationships.

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I still vividly remember my first encounter with “Direct Sales,” I put direct sales in quotations becuase they are anything but direct. I was invited to a stamping party, by someone who I thought was my friend and wanted me to become a closer friend via this event. Stamping was not something I was interested in doing, but I went anyway becuase I valued the budding friendship. I had no idea I was in for a a bait-and-switch. Not once did the invite mention a company name or the word sale. I thought it was going to be friends sitting around participating in something together and sharing good conversation. Nope. It was essentially a class on how to use the products, which we were were then expected to buy at the end. I was outraged. I did my best to put on a happy face and sit though the sales pitch, but I refused to buy anything and my friends weren’t happy with my choice.

I’ve always been frugal. I don’t buy shit I don’t need. The last thing I would need or want was stamping supplies. Why did they invite me to the event in the first place? Becuase my money was of more value than our relationship. I as a person simply became a dollar sign to that friend. She got kickbacks for every dollar made off her party.

My first experience with direct sales was far from my last. Not long after that I had several friends get involved with Amway even declaring things like, “Just watch I’ll be retired in three years.” None of them are retired and I’m pretty sure they’ve all quit Amway since then. Around the same time I had some friends getting involved with Pampered Chef and Scentsy. Once again I learned that my money was more important than our friendship as I was invited to more sales pitches. I even once told a friend, “You don’t want me to come, I will eat the free food and not buy anything.” She assured me, “I’m sure you’ll find something to buy.” I went out of obligation. I didn’t buy anything. Why would I? I was a college student eating mostly fast food. I had no need for kitchen gadgets.

Today I cook and I cook a lot and I have a real need for good kitchen gear. Yet I would never buy from papered chef, because I know you get the best bang for you buck at restaurant supply stores. Thats where I buy most of my kitchen equipment, because I do research before almost every purchase. I don’t need a sales pitch becuase I do my research before I’m willing to hand over my money. I can also use the internet at anytime to order most items direct from the manufacture. That is real direct sales right there.

Direct sales companies are simply saving money though their model. By not having to pay for a retail storefront and not having to pay any employees a living wage, they get to keep a lot more of the money from each product. If they cared about their sales people, they would pay their sales people a steady income. When you are working direct sales, you are essentially a sales person paid on commission only. And since you are self employed instead of employed by a company you aren’t having any wages withheld for taxes and come tax season you are having to pay the entire burden yourself. As someone who is starting a business with a goal of paying my employees well this turns me off as well. I can’t feel good giving a company my money when they can’t bother to pay their sales people for their time.

Today I’m constantly barraged with invites to buy books, oils, clothing, cleaning supplies and more. Its hard. I don’t know how to handle it when I feel like I’ve just become a dollar sign to people.

Its even more strange to be in the process of starting a business and have this happening. I only post about my business in the way that it relates to my personal life. I don’t view my friends as customers, becuase my target market is much wider than my circle of friends. If no one from my friends list ever visit my business I would be just fine finically. I don’t want any kind of business that makes my friends into dollar signs.

The biggest reason I say no to direct sales is becuase it is harmful to relationships and that doesn’t sit well with me. If you are going to use social media to promote your direct sales, please, make a business page and invite me to like it. This give people a chance to be involved and follow you if they want without having to feel like they are simply the sum of what is in their wallet.


 

If you are looking for better ways to make money from home I highly recommend checking out the personal finance and small business subreddits. There are lots of great ideas on there that don’t involve working for a large company. I’d also suggest learning some digital skills. Learning photoshop or illustrator or web design is a great way to work for your self and make really significant income. Don’t sell yourself short with direct sales, there are so many better options!

I’m going to be 30 soon?

Inspired by a facebook friend I decided to make a post that is the condensed version of my life story. Many of my friends are newer and may not know much about my past. Here is the fly-by version.

I lived in a little town nestled between big towns, known as of Lake in the Hills, Illinois. My parents were poor when I was little, but the little I remember from my very early life is pretty ok. My dad died tragically when I was only 4 and my sister wasn’t quite 2. The resulting lawsuit bumped up our families net worth and our little family of 3 moved to a new house in Algonquin and soon I was in public school.  After two terrible years of public school, I was moved to a catholic school, which was only slightly better. My school years were a weird mixture of good times and personal struggles. I was a total nerd and my only friends at school were the other nerds. We had good times. Outside of school I was friends with many of my cousins and we all played a lot of video games together.

We had a a lot death and tragedy in my family alongside my Mother’s chronic illness, that had her in and out of the hospital my entire life. Sometimes I would be randomly be picked up from school by my grandma or aunt or even my Mom’s friends I barely knew and they would care for us while mom was sick. Those times were really hard on me. I was in some kind of therapy on and off that I only remember hating. I struggled in school at times and at other times found school to be far too easy and boring. I would get A’s in half my subjects while being tutored so I could pass in the others.

I started skateboarding about age 12 when my maternal grandmother died and I got to spend some time with my older cousin who lived far away, but was in town for a while. I had seen skateboarding on TV and was drawn to it, but getting to skate with my cousin sealed it. I was hooked. I got a board and skated every moment I could for the next several years. Once I could skate ramps I lived at the local skateparks. Thanks to my neighbor I discovered WARP (skatepark) shortly after it opened and found a place where I felt I like I belonged. I spent my teen years at WARP or driving around to other parks and spots with my skater friends. When I was 14 we moved from Algonquin to rural Wonder Lake, IL. Not long after, my family doubled in size when my soon to be step-father moved in with my new siblings. I now had a second little sister and a younger brother, who became my live in skater friend.

I started in a Catholic High School, but after bullying and terrible teachers I moved to Woodstock High School. School was not a focus for me. I did enough to keep my parents and teachers happy, but was only invested in my music classes, in which I met this kid named Ace. We became friends though our various musical endeavors together. Life was busy between school, family, skating, and music. So why not add one more thing by going to the local evangelical youth group!? So that’s exactly what I did. And when I do things I do them hard. I was in deep really fast. They offered the deep kind of relationships I was missing and craving alongside answers to spiritual questions. My life really changed during my zealous Christian period. I quickly became part of the worship band and became a youth leader. By my senior year WARP had been sold to new owners with almost all of us who worked there quitting our jobs (I worked there as soon I was old enough to beg for a job, and boy did I beg). Youth group was my new community.

Ace and I had become close friends and started dating around the same time. After high school I went to one semester at NIU, then came home and did one semester at community college. Then I got a job (as a nanny for my pastor’s preschooler) and moved out. Ace and I had all sorts of drama in those years, and eventually he went away to school in Minneapolis and we kept dating long distance. After a year of working and doing some school on-line I decided to go to Bible College. Our youth pastor had started a new church, and I was very closely involved with that start-up. I was the kid’s person. I designed and organized the entire children’s program. I was on the fast track to becoming ordained. But Bible college had me deeply examining all my beliefs. I was deconstructing and rebuilding my theology and it wasn’t coming out how my church community had hoped. At the same time Ace was doing the same thing at a different school and every time he came to visit he would cause friction at church with his ever more progressive beliefs.

Ace came back from school for good and we got married in 2007. About a year later we were ready to move on from our church. Our beliefs just didn’t fit anymore. We couldn’t find anything remotely progressive or inclusive in our little town, so we just started inviting people over to have dinner and discussion in our (newer, bigger) home. It was pretty awesome. I could tell a lot of stories of what happened at Mosaic, but this is getting long already. Somewhere in there I graduated from school with my bachelors, got a bunch of dogs, worked at a doggy daycare, got my black belt in Tae Kwon Do, kept skating but not nearly as often and most importantly, my nephew was born!

Vincent’s birth was really what opened me up to having a kid sooner than I had originally planed. Ace and I wanted a baby and in 2010 he was born. It changed everything. I studied everything in depth and started radically changing my lifestyle to make it healthier for my baby. I quit eating sugar, I worked on cooking my own food more often. I stopped eating fast food. I learned how to love better than I’d ever loved in my life becuase I was in love with this tiny, fat, often screaming, human.

Ace had spent years working on and off in terrible retail jobs while never giving up on his music, but we needed something more stable, and Ace was considering opening a business. He even went back to school to learn the ins and outs of small business. His dream was a tea shop/small local venue. A safe space for young adults to share their art and get some drinks and snacks. But, did we want to be stuck in McHenry (which is where we lived now) for another 10 years? The answer was clearly “no”. So the search for a new home was on. Portland was quickly the front runner when we learned that my sister was considering a move to Portland as well.

Soon, both of our small families were packed into my car and visiting Portland. None of us wanted to go back to Illinois. We all took the next year figuring out how to move to Portland. In august 2012 we arrived in Portland for good. It was a new start, one we needed after the rough break-up with our old church. We wouldn’t have to run into people around town who would unintentionally break our hearts with the things they would say. McHenry was too small and too conservative for us to stay there, we felt like we didn’t fit. Here in Portland we fit.

Here there is a space for creatives like Ace. He decided to once again get a part time job and pursue his music. I tried to stay home with Mark, but we just couldn’t afford it for long, so soon I was sitting for friends and looking for another Nanny job. Luckily I found one that grew with me from 1 day a week, to 2, to 3, and sometimes 4. The job also grew from one child to two. It got hard, but I stuck with it for a long time and it allowed us to refinance our home and pay our bills. In the meantime Ace lost his part-time job and switched to music full-time. He’s now doing a combination of YouTube, original albums, cover albums, and freelance composition.

Last summer my job got to be more stress than I could handle. It was also becoming hard on Mark and it was clear that I needed to quit. Luckily I worked for awesome people and the timing worked well and I was able to leave without any hard feelings. We had a few really hard months and I had to sell a lot of stuff to help pay the bills while I wasn’t working. But by December Ace had found some more success with his music and since then we’ve been more financially stable.

I started doing childcare again this year, but I’m already moving away from it as I start my new business, Stronger Skatepark. Skateboarding has been the one constant in my life though all of this. I’ve been skating for 18 years now and here in Portland the skate scene is bigger and better than it ever was back in Illinois, even at its height in the early 2000’s. I’m passionate about helping kids get into skateboarding and helping parents support their kids. That’s why I’m devoting the next few years of my life to to this park. Portland needs it!

Next month I turn 30, and I feel like I’m finally really getting to know who I am. I’m not sure why it took so darn long, but I’m glad I’m here. And summing up 30 years in 1500 words isn’t too bad a skill. 😉