“I’m Going to be a Writer!”

The past few months have been an exercise in patience as I wait for a potential space for Stronger Skatepark to be ready for occupancy. As of this writing there is no date in sight, as the owners of the space are slowly jumping though legal hoops before the city will grant them the permits to begin construction on the ADA bathrooms they need to be approved for occupancy. Long story short, this space will not be available for several months.

In the meantime I found another potential home for the park in Milwakie. It is much closer to my home and needs far less work before we can move in. This space has kept me up at night again, fully renewing my passion for this project. I can’t sleep becuase I’m designing ramps in my head, thinking of the best way to make a 7500 square foot space both friendly to beginners while being big enough and fast enough to keep veterans like myself entertained during the long winter months.

Its been a full two and half years since I started working on Stronger. Its been over a year since I started looking for buildings. I honestly thought that getting funding would be the hardest part, but it hasn’t been. Finding a building has been exponentially more difficult. Strict occupancy rules and high fees in Portland have pushed me to neighboring cities, where empty large spaces are in short supply.

I wax and wane in my involvement in my own social media for the project, feeling like a failure as I have nothing to post. I’m still here working away at this, but it just hasn’t materialized yet. Having the support of my ramp designer and builder has been absolutely key to my not giving up. As I apologize for dragging him to yet another space, and asking him so many of the same questions again, “Would this space work?”, “Can we fit a mini ramp in here?”, “Would we need to put in our own flooring?” he reassures me, “Its fine, I don’t mind at all!” and “I think you are doing this the right way, taking your time to find the right space.”

It doesn’t feel right to me, I want results, I want a tangible skatepark. The one that fills the gap Portland still has; something larger than commonwealth, friendly to beginners, clean, safe, and close to town, a place to hold contests and other community building events, a place where the skate community can gather under one roof, a place that can bring us together. “Together we are Stronger” thats the whole idea. This has been needed in Portland since before I lived here, since Department of Skateboarding closed its doors in 2010.

Along with the frustration of the slowness of my vision to materialize is my frustration that I don’t have a career to be working at while I’m waiting. In the past I’ve been a children’s pastor, a nanny, I’ve worked in my families restaurant, I worked in a skatepark as a teen, I’ve worked with animals in several capacities, and currently I’m hustling in that new gig economy, primarily delivering food with Caviar.

To be honest, I don’t hate it, I actually like it. I spend hours driving while listening to podcasts and music. I’m introverted and often feel refreshed after a shift, spending five or more hours almost totally alone, with only a few short words to restaurant employees and customers. I’ve learned that usually customers don’t want to talk to me, and that is just fine. But its not paying the bills, the hours are limited, and I’m working almost exclusively when my child is not in school, evenings and weekends.

While driving I often find my mind wandering away from whatever podcast is playing and I start thinking. I can spend a lot of time thinking, planning, finding problems with my plans and ideas and refining them and suddenly realize I need to start my podcast over completely. Gui Raz has been droning on in the background for thirty minutes about art art and I didn’t catch a damn thing, I’ve been exploring every career possibility in my head.

After a lot of thinking and probably not enough research I’ve decided to try and develop my writing skills and look for some freelance writing jobs. Its a skill I already have, and one I feel very comfortable in. One of my earliest jobs was writing for a website, with weekly live call-ins to an internet radio show. I was 13 and it was 1999. Each week I would write about something related to skateboarding, usually a review of a product sent to me, or an overview of an event happening at my local skatepark. I would report on demos coming to town, contest results, new skateparks opening, and I got paid in lots and lots of free stuff. I loved it.

In high school, I was consistently praised for “my natural wiring voice” and in college I continued to excel at writing, without trying all that hard. Honestly, I’m excited about taking some time to refine my writing skills further. I’m hoping that I can attempt to develop these skills and make some money along the way and maybe some day have a real career I can lean on when my crazy passions aren’t panning out as hoped.

Again, long story short, if anyone knows any writing gigs that would fit my interests and passions (skateboarding, alternative education, spirituality, personal growth, small business) please send them my way, or throw my name out there. I’d appreciate it. I’m officially throwing my name out there!

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I wear glasses now, so you know I fit that writer stereotype. 

I am Sad

That’s a hard thing to accept, being sad. I’ve been taught my whole life that its no tOK to be sad. It’s weakness. It’s an inconvenience. You just don’t be sad. You be strong. Somehow these things can’t coexist. There is sadness and there is strength.

The problem is when you don’t allow sadness it becomes illness. I’ve done this my whole life without realizing it. I don’t allow myself to experience sadness in any healthy way. I let it build and build. And sometimes I will finally cry and cry and cry and sob. But more often I will withdraw. I will hide within myself until I feel nothing. And then I slip into depression and become of a shell of my true self.

This week has been that. At the same time I recognize that there are other factors at play. My hormones are making this week extra hard. I have really rough symptoms of PMS and PMDD sometimes, this month is one of them. I’ve had some insane dreams this week. In some of them I’ve been dying and those dreams are somehow comforting. Thats a weird thing to wake up feeling. Its hard to grapple with.

Right now I’m missing all the dates I had hoped for for Stronger Skatepark. Its not happening on schedule. At the same time I’m constantly refining the business plan as I learn more information and I’m watching the costs grow and realizing to do it well I’m going to need more financing. This is a hard thing to accept. Either, I’m going to get lucky and find a building that will have low costs from whatever jurisdiction I open up in and will need only a minimal build out, or I’m going to need to find a co-owner or another investor. This is hard to swallow.

I know its an absolutely insane comparison, but the one thing that brings me hope is looking at Elon Musk and his endeavors. He dreams big, real big, and nothing ever happens on schedule or on budget, but it happens. I see a Model S drive by me and I see so much more than a technological marvel thats going to change the world, I see his vision realized. Someday thats going to happen for me. Its not going to happen on time or on budget, but it will happen. Someday I will be putting our logo up on a building and bringing together my whole team of designers, builders, investors, friends, and supporters to build the park. And wherever it ends up its is going to change lives. It might not save the the world from carbon emissions or put us on Mars, but it may give a young person a second chance at life. It may convince a parent to let their child do what they love. It may provide someone who has never had community with a community where they can be accepted for who they are.

It is not happening on time and that makes me deeply sad.

I’m here dedicated to this to the point where I’m pushing myself to the edge financially and emotionally over it and its not happening like I’d hoped and planned. I am sad, and I’m letting myself feel it. I need to so I can move though the feelings and keep working toward the dream. I am sad and I am strong.

I Remember Better Days

These days are hard days, but not the hardest of days. I remember worse, much worse days, but I also remember better days.

I’m in a good space with my mental health these days, which makes the challenges significantly easier to weather. Even my therapist was surprised with how level headed I was today. Things are objectively bad. The skatepark is going slow right now. There’s not much I can really do. Each day I look at buildings, most days there are no new ones. Often times there are one or two to look into. I e-mail the government that has jurisdiction, I email the relator. Usually I quickly get a “No” from one or both.

“This is zoned industrial, your use would not be allowed.”

“This space has already been leased”

“They are asked $20/sq. ft.”

It’s just closed door after closed door. It really gets me down. Then people leave comments on social media “Is anything actually ever going to happen with this skatepark?” Ouch. That hurts. Believe me, I’m way way more invested in this than you. There is literally no one as invested in this as much as me, except maybe my investor, but even they are only in 10% at this point. I’m in 110%, and then a little more. This is my life, my mission, my dream. My greatest fear is that I die before I see it to completion. I will look for buildings until I’m successful or I die. I will make this real, no matter how many ways I have to come at the problem. I’ll do it with or without you.

Then the fucking election. Just wow. I’ve been saying for several years that Hilary would be our next president, long before she even announced her campaign. It was clearly her next career move. She is smart and calculated. But she messed up, the DNC messed up. And their supremely unqualified opponent won. I don’t even think he thought he would win. Everyone is shocked.

I’m gonna be honest and say this has shaken me up. I had a panic attack when it was clear he had one. I’ve had three over the past two days. Thats more than I’ve had in several weeks. I’m legitimately scared for minorities in this country. Even if the president-elect does none of the awful things he’s promised, his victory has given racists everywhere permission to be openly racist. People are already meeting violence on the street simply for the way they look. This is not the country I thought it was. I’m deeply disturbed by this.

I’ve already decided that all I can do is whatever is in my power to bring peace. I’ve spent some time looking over why people voted for this man to try and understand better. I get some of it, but I don’t get prejudice. Its just extremely difficult for me to understand. All I can assume is that these people were raised this way. They certainly weren’t born that way. They must have experienced some trauma or some training to make them think that others are less than human. They were probably treated as less than human at some point in their own lives.

I’ve also made it my mission to stand with anyone who I can that is oppressed by these people.  The people who are now in danger are the people I must stand beside in whatever ways I can. I love them. How can I not? They are people too.

Stronger Skatepark is part of my personal mission to bring more peace into the world. A place where those of us who get our best therapy on wheels can come and feel peaceful again. A place where those who have no other community can find acceptance. A place of respect for all people. A place where we can learn to love one another.

Today is hard though, as that dream seems a million miles away, and it seems as though we’ve lost a lot of progress in this country towards peace. This place seems the least peaceful I’ve ever seen it. It’s scary.

Today all I can do is hold on to what we have right now that is still good and beautiful. I have music, I have skateboarding, I have friends, I have family, I have nature, I have sex, I have food, I have all these things and more that keep life worth living in the hardest days. Each time we seem to loose something, the only choice we have is to pick ourselves up and keep going; day in and day out. Tomorrow is another day. A day where I will do my best to find the good and beauty around me, a day where I will do whatever I can to stand with those who are oppressed, a day to be a force for peace instead of a force for division.

I hope you will do what you can to bring peace to the world.

Love wins.

My name is Allison and I wrote this.

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.

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.

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.

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!