Tuesday, May 26, 2015

God, The Ventriloquist

I've been asking God a lot of things lately. Most of my requests have been "Where do You want me to go?" and "What am I really supposed to be doing?"

I waited for God to answer me for a week. Then two. I sat, I prayed, I listened. Sometimes I did chores, sometimes I fell asleep. The only answer I heard was 'Be patient. I have plans for you.'

Well whoop-dee-stinkin'-doo- what did that mean? I knew He wanted me to stay home (read: work out of my home while caring for my family), and I knew He had plans for me, but good grief- can't He give me a hint or point me in the right direction? I was no better off than I started!

Oh, God loves it when I get all frustrated and whiny. That's when He works through others to answer my impatient queries. He speaks through them, and waits to see if I'm listening.

This time, he used two pastors at church. Not one, but two.

Both pastors said things that blew my mind.

The first pastor spoke about Cain and Abel, and how attitude is everything. The right attitude can change everything- and obviously by my 'whoop-dee-doo' comment above, my attitude about an answer was less than aromatic. 

The second pastor preached about 'staying in your own lane'. To stop comparing ourselves with others concerning everything- not just our appearance, but our successes and failures as well. That last revelation made me realize that I'd been comparing myself to every successful newbie writer, and I've been trying to 'run in their lane' instead of my own. I followed every path that they did, every genre they did, hoping for the same result. The problem is I'm not them, and my style of writing isn't the same as theirs.

And I wonder why I'm not making any progress? I'm too tired from running everyone else's races!

God answered me through others, just like a ventriloquist. His words, their mouths. It was awesome! After church, I gave my problems a good, hard look.

Then I put on a new set of running shoes and marked my own path. 

I can't guarantee that I'll stick to my path; I've been running other races for so long it's a habit that needs breaking- but I hope to follow my own track until I reach the finish line. 

After all that's where God wants me to be! 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Back In The Daze

My mind is totally numb when I think about my kids being home for the summer this year.

Both kids now have their working papers- my son is 17, my daughter is 14. Both tell me they want to work.

My son has yet to lift the phone or do any research or legwork to lay the foundation to land a job. He thinks he can just ask for one, and get it. Maybe it's an Aspergers thing, but I don't think so. He does manage to find the oddest jobs to do though, so maybe he will!

He wants to work at Chic-Fil-A. Why? Because they are Christian, and they have food. I don't think much will get thrown out if he works there- maybe our grocery bills will go down too- they did when my husband left home to marry me, and he left a family of eight!

My daughter wants to volunteer at a therapy horse ranch. She's working towards becoming an animal cop. She is laying the groundwork. I don't care if it's voluntary- she has a plan.

But what can I do to help them in the off days? I thought a lemonade/iced tea stand would be a great money maker that we can all do for the summer.

At least until I was told we can't. We need to be licensed first.

Wait....What?

Back in the days of the dinosaurs when I was an amoeba, kids could have a paper route, set up a lemonade stand, sell homemade cookies door to door, and offer our services to clean up trash, rake leaves and shovel snow (obviously this one isn't a summer thing, but you get the idea.) Kids could earn money as long as they were willing to work- and people supported them by buying from them and hiring them for yard work. Now the law says we need a permit?

So I looked into it. We don't need a license- we need two. And a tax ID number. The Tax ID and the commercial license are free, but the one we want- sidewalk vendor- is a whopping 300.00...

...a year.

This is lemonade, people- not Fillet Mignon. We'd have to hard sell all summer to break even!

Can we really blame the kids of today for not waning to work? Have that laws made it impossible for kids to start a business or do it to earn enough for a game or a new shirt? And if the food is made within the home (like cookies) you also need L&I to come do an inspection of your home and a FoodSafe certificate.

I don't know about your city, but these are the rules in ours. Part of me wants to just throw my hands in the air and forget the entire thing, but another part of me wants to fight the laws and allow kids to have a lemonade stand, for heaven's sake!

I liked the simpler times. You put up a stand, sold cups of something yummy, and even the police would stop by for a sip or two. Now we need working papers, licenses, tax numbers and inspections, squashing a you8ng entrepreneur before they step foot outside the door. What's this world come to that a kid that wants to work, can't?

Monday, May 11, 2015

To Do Or Not To Do? That Is The Problem!

My brain has officially stopped functioning on an intelligent level. I can eat (and eat, and eat), brush my hair, and do all the necessary body maintenance, but when it comes to doing anything productive, my brain has gone on vacation.

I'm in "information overload".

I wrote a book. I asked advice on what to do next. Self or traditional publishing? Little did I know I opened the writers 'Pandora's box'. I was overwhelmed with responses containing so much information, there was no way I could have it all read and processed in a month and come to a reasonable decision. Instead of having a better Idea of what I wanted, I'm more confused than ever.

I have a small platform. I have a blog, website, Facebook and Twitter accounts. I post once a week, and hope my posts reach enough people to make the world a happier place. So I started looking into promoting myself, and got slammed with even more information than I did publishing!

There's a lot of information on the internet. That's good, but it's also bad. Reading about everything on the subject used to mean a library book (if you were lucky to find even one on an unpopular subject), writing down the pros and cons, then making a decision. Now the pros and cons list is so long I'd be endangering trees if I wrote it all down on paper. I need a pros and cons list for my pros and cons list!

My poor tortured brain made the decision for me. it took a hike. I can now concentrate only on dripping faucets, chirping birds, and wall paint. We have nice wall paint here.

I should take a sabbatical from the internet. But that poses it's own problems. When I get back, I'd have to play catch-up on everything- emails, posts, and messages. I'd be overwhelmed once more and this time, my brain might not come back.

But not taking a break could do the same thing! I really need to find a happy medium here. Like a vacation. But I know better. I haven't been on vacation since my honeymoon eighteen years ago.

Maybe take a day off from the house. Get out. Get perspective. Maybe find a cabin in the woods for the weekend to recharge the old batteries. Then when I come home I'll have a better perspective. At least after i catch up on emails and Facebook posts. 

Sigh.

The good thing is I'm running a charity event for a local recreation center. I can focus on that and leave the other stuff behind for a while. No more reading posts of platforms or publishing- at least this week. Maybe I can clear my mind before the event is over this weekend.

One blessing God bestowed upon me was meeting several authors at an impromptu book signing this past weekend. I spoke with the authors- a mixed bag of genres as well as self and traditionally published books- and I learned a lot. I really enjoyed speaking with the self-publishing guy. He was open, honest, and had no problem telling me the harsh truths and trails of being self-published, and what it takes. He had a lot of good information. I took his card and several others. Something to think about this week.

To do or not to do? That really is the question. I hate the snails' pace I'm going right now, but that might just be the pace God wants me to go. A big part of me keeps scheming for ways to make a quick buck, but that's not always the best way, dagnabbit.

Prayer has helped a lot. Just sitting outside, clearing my mind and asking God "Now what?" after telling Him my troubles, then sitting back and listening for an answer. Sometimes I don't get one. I hear the birds chirping, or the wind caresses my face, and I just sigh and let His peace flow over me. Sometimes that's all that's needed to clear the cobwebs.

To do or not to do? I still don't know. But with prayer and answer comes closer each day. I feel it in my bones- an undercurrent of possibilities that can take me anywhere God wants me to go. Wherever that is. But the idea is clearer each day and that's comforting.

I just hope my brain comes back before I get my answer!

Monday, May 4, 2015

I'm Biznofrenic!

There I go again- inventing words!

Biznofrenic means I want to start not just one business, but twenty of them. I just don't have the means or the business degrees to get started.

I'm always coming up with ideas for businesses I'd love to run- anything from a bed and breakfast to a cafe, a creative arts retail store to combination fabric outlet and quilter's retreat- you name it, I probably thunk it. 

If I was a millionaire, I'd probably spend it all starting new businesses, then having others help me run the darn things because I just can't handle twenty different venues at once. But you need the million to make the million, so everything remains written down as concepts in several notebooks, note pads and post-its.

Basically I want to make my own Disney-like mall that would contain all kinds of shops and buildings for your shopping and relaxing pleasure. Imagine if you will, an Inn tucked away within the woods, complete with walking trails, bike paths, scenic spots with benches, and bird watching/feeding stations. 

Now imagine a restaurant that had it's own farm with enough acreage for animals and beekeeping (as far from folk as possible of course!), complete with greenhouses for the winter months. The greenhouses are self-sustaining with embedded tanks filled with fresh fish to supply the food-bearing plants with nutrients, supplying the restaurant with fresh organic ingredients all year long. You can grow a million pounds of food on just a few acres this way!
Not to mention scenic spots landscaped for wedding parties- and a gazebo, maybe two.

Next would be the conference hall that would allow speakers to speak, specialized teachers to hold classes, have conferences for businesses, writers, or anyone else that had a large group and no where to teach them. During the slow periods, I'd have local businesses come in and to train those willing homeless or low-income folk for new skills. 
This of course would be near the restaurant for breakfast, lunch and dinner breaks (free for the trainers and trainees of course)- with my husband's freshly made pies for dessert.

And the shopping!

Stores would have art and high-quality crafts from local artisans, as well as fun stores that sell toys, games and all those cool, goofy things that encourage kids to have fun. A bookstore is a must, and would have it's own section for self-published works from the locals (if they're good, that is!) 
Maybe even a T-shirt shop, complete with a computer system where you can design your own shirts- oh yeah-coolness overload right there. And tie-dye workshops- gotta have that too. Let's not forget the fabric store (and tie-dyed quilting fabrics!) who would work with the artisan shop to display fantastic fabric art and hold competitions for the locals. 

And a church. Nothing fancy, but one that's filled with the love of God and the Spirit of serving others. A church that makes you feel like your home when you walk through the doors. A church to make God smile.

Twice a year we'd hold a fair on the entire grounds, complete with funnel cakes, cotton candy, and all the fun food and rides you can think of, complete with contests and challenges for both the vendors and visitors for total family fun. 

Wouldn't you love to spend time at a place like this? And this is just off the top of my head! I can safely say I'm a Biznofrenic. I think you'd agree.

And all I need is a few million under my belt. That's not much to ask...is it?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Tim Hawkins Picked On Me!

This weekend my husband and I went to see the Christian comedian Tim Hawkins.

I hadn't laughed that hard in ages, and Tim really blessed me in so many unexpected ways- including picking on me during his show because I laughed too loud.

Really loud. So loud that I was making others laugh! 

Throughout the show he kept mock-glaring at me and on one occasion, threatened me with his flute. I responded by laughing harder, and yelling "WOO!" every time he did something wonderful- which was often. One point he played the intro to "Yoga Pants" one of my favorite songs of his, and he heard me exclaim "Yay!" to my husband- he hesitated for a second to give me another penetrating look before resuming his song. 

I loved every minute of his show, including the friendly teasing.

During the intermission, I bought a T-shirt of the Christian cuss words. Why? Because he used one that I suggested when he asked for 'clean cuss words' on Facebook- "Son of a motherless goat" is on the bottom of the shirt- is that awesome or what?

But the best part came afterwards. We had a VIP pass to meet Tim face to face. I wish it was longer than the minute allowed, but we got some great shots of the three of us, and he was happy to answer my questions. Super-duper nice guy. 
I suggested a funny face pic, and he said he made one the first time- but the second one we all made a face- and he chuckled when he saw my "bunny teeth" face.

A pivotal moment people- I made a professional comedian laugh.

I so desperately want to do what he does! 

If I ever managed to get on stage, I'd need a mop. Several of them in fact. I also don't play an instrument, but karaoke music might do the trick. I dream of doing shows with Tim Hawkins, Ken Davis, John Branyan, and Taylor Mason. I think about skits, parodies and funny poems all the time
I also have nightmares that I'm a shaking, stuttering mess standing in my own puddle on stage getting no reaction from the crowd. Comedy, thou art a double-edged sword.

I asked if I could send him a sample of my parodies- and he surprised me by saying yes. I can't tell you how twitterpated I am! Now if I can just stop shaking long enough to video one, I might be on my way to stardom...
...even if it's in my own head.

If you haven't seen Tim or any of the other comedians, do it. It's so worth the money. Besides, as Christians we have to keep clean humor alive. God loves to hear us laugh- even those who laugh a little too loud.

Tim Hawkins, thank you for making me laugh until I cried. Thank you for inspiring me to work towards a long desired dream. And thanks for the warm hug and funny faced pictures. You blessed me more than you know. May God bless you in unexpected and wonderful ways!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Prayer Power!

When you ask God for something, prepare to be amazed! When He decides to answer, you might not be ready for it.

I prayed last week to be sent work so I could earn some extra money at home. I was checking my Etsy store (crafts) my emails (writing) and my Facebook page (odd jobs) hoping for something though those venues.

An offer was on my Facebook page, but on my personal one, not my professional one. A new found friend whom i tried to help out a while back, but couldn't. But apparently he could help me.
"I just saw your post about face painting. I didn't know you did that! I have a place you might be able to go."
That lead to a comic book store promotion and landed me a face-painting job where I can charge for my services outside of their store. Awesome!

But that was just the beginning.

I got a phone call from a friend I hadn't heard from in ages.

"Can you do such-and-such craft for my employer? By Wednesday? He needs fifteen of them, and he'll send the supplies."
Well that was fantastic since I couldn't buy anything at this point. "Sure! Bring it over and I'll have a look and I'll brainstorm ideas."
Fifteen was more like seventeen, and he wanted a lot of detail work. The price I quoted originally was on the low side for my friend, but it would cover something I needed to get this week, so all was well with the world. It's a lot of work, but I'd do my best for her- and him. I told her what was going on. She smiled and nodded.
"I'll talk to him and see what I can do."
I smiled. "You can, but let God do the talking. My quote is still valid, but since he sent more that we agreed on, I'd appreciate it if he could cover the extra work. Just don't tell me what he said- let God surprise me later...okay?"
She agreed, and I got to work. 
I'm working for what I quoted. It was something I prayed for, and got it. Yes, there was a little extra work involved, but I was okay with that. Even if the guy doesn't give the extra, God would bless me anyway. Two unusual customers in a week? God was good.
That's when the phone rang again.
Another friend, "Hi- can you fix a few seams for me? I need the holes sewn and reinforced before a trip- I love these pants!" I laughed and told her to bring them over. She's picking them up today.

Yes, the work is sporadic and sometimes small. But every drop in the bucket helps. God blessed me with a lot of skills, and i enjoy using them and doing something different each day.

But it does make me wonder what He has in store for tomorrow!


Monday, April 13, 2015

Weightloss Wonders


It all started when I saw a nutritionist. If she'd tried to throw me into what I'm currently doing almost a year and a half ago, I would've walked out after the first appointment. But she was a subtle and wonderfully sneaky woman, so she made small suggestions here and there that didn't make me arch and hiss in protest. (Hmm...maybe I've been around the cats too long?)

Basically I was eating too much. Well duh, I knew that, but I was eating good stuff because take-out was just too expensive! Okay, not everything was wholesome, but on the average I was eating better than most people my weight.

Breakfast consisted of three eggs with spinach and tomatoes, and two slices of good ol' American cheese- with a side of three strips of bacon. This is about a 600 calorie breakfast. She showed me that if I just take away one egg, one slice of cheese and one slice of bacon, I could cut off about 200 calories and not suffer a great loss in flavor. So I did. Just changing breakfast helped me lose a little, and we made small changes throughout the year this way.

Get rid of the chips. Eat veggies or fruit for a snack. Eat with smaller plates and bowls. Cut dinner portions in half if having them for lunch (we eat a lot of leftovers here). Commit to walking around the block. Now walk for twenty minutes. Now thirty. And bit by bit, I was losing weight. I lost fourteen pounds in a year that way. Little changes can be good, but I got complacent and the weight started going back up.

After a three pound gain, she suggested what I'm doing now- 1500 calories a day. The only stipulation I made was that I not eat any "diet" foods (no non-fat/sugar/whatever flavorless wonders that cost a fortune), and she said that as long as I logged everything, stayed within the calorie range and mainly ate good food like veggies, fruits and lean meats, she was fine with that. I'm now starting week thirteen and am thirty-eight pounds lighter!

Had you asked me a year ago if I would do this, you'd hear a big, resounding NO as I crunched on a large bag of chips. Now I can still have chips if I want (because I don't deny myself anything), but instead of telling "I can't eat that" i say "it's not worth the calories". The craving goes away after I choose not to eat it! And when it doesn't? I dole out one portion and enjoy the heck out of it.

Since I started this new eating lifestyle (not a diet, because diets don't work), I've had chocolate, jellybeans, Cadbury eggs, more jellybeans, cake, and pie. I've had chips and fried food, french fries and take-out. Not every day- just when I truly wanted it. Some days I planned ahead for the extra calories and some days I totally blew off the day. Some days I've had more than 1500 calories, some days I had less. But it was all real food. No powders, shakes, premade frozen meals or mixes. She gave me enough advice to help me do it on my own.

That is HUGE, people (please forgive the pun!) I had to learn that I could do this myself, because other people aren't putting food in my mouth. I am. Learning control was hard, but after the first week, it got a lot easier. Thirteen weeks later, it's a habit. No more excuses.

My house has very little processed foods. Portions are controlled (at least mine are, but I'm teaching my family as well.) We brew homemade iced tea with very little sugar in it (1/2 - 3/4 cup per gallon). There's still work to do, and I want to get my family involved before my kids go down the same road I did when I was their age. 

I started at 335 pounds. I'm now a svelte 297 pounds. I conquered my first goal of being under 300 for the first time in years. My next goal is 250. Eventually I want to get down to 160, and for the first time ever, I feel I can get there- and that, my Dear Readers, is an awesome feeling!