Jessica and I took an adventurous walk yesterday, trying to get better acquainted with our new surroundings. Having recently moved we are becoming adept explorers, letting curiosity be our guide as we try new things and experience new places.
About halfway down a tree-lined street nestled in the shadow of the mountains I noticed that what I thought were light colored leaves were actually puffy seed pods. We gently pulled a few of the velvety pods from a tree admiring the full bright green seeds ensconced within them. Upon further inspection we found some more mature seed pods drying out on the ground exposing seeds that were weathered, dry and dark. While the shiny bright beauty of the newly birthed seeds, protected in their green cocoons were what caught my attention, they were not the seeds that were primed to grow. As we peered closely at the ground and sifted through crackly brown casings that pulled away easily from the dry seeds I was reminded that nature usually seasons seeds over time as she prepares them for growth. Their potential cannot be rushed but rather nurtured, letting it develop intentionally over time. I think the same goes for children, relationships, ideas and experiences. It can be hard to wait patiently for something or someone because the process of change can seem laboriously long. But people are a lot like seeds and when the conditions are right and the seed is ready the resulting beauty is usually worth the wait.
Take Action: If you've already applied this post to your life thanks for reading, please come back soon!
If you need some help to take the leap from story to action, here you go: Think for a minute about a relationship (family, romantic, friendship, etc) that you're in that has potential. Consider the beautiful things that could come from that relationship. Focus on one of those beautiful things and then think about one thing you could do today to support and work toward that potential. So if I want to cultivate a stronger relationship with my daughter so that she'll talk openly with me when she's a teenager, I will strengthen our connection today by listening intently to her 8 year old stories when she wants to tell them to me. By listening today I'm building a little pod around the seed that is our relationship, creating space for it to grow and change and become what it's meant to become. As always, I'd love to hear your epiphanies!
Compassion is the universal language of humanity. No matter what words you speak, acts of kindness and empathy resonate soul-deep. The more we each speak this language of compassion in thought, word and action, the more we’ll understand each other. The more we understand each other the more we can imbue our lives with peace.
Take Action: Today find a way to speak the language of compassion by reaching out to another person (family member, friend or stranger) and asking “What can I do to support you today?” And then if you’re able, do that thing.
The other day I attended a bridal shower where the honored guest asked everyone to offer a piece of marriage advice. It is always interesting to stop and consider marriage from the perspective of someone just diving into it. With every ounce of newlywed respect, it felt a little like trying to explain how to use, clean and care for one of the brightly wrapped gifts in front of her when her focus was, quite naturally, on the novelty of the item. I wanted to share wisdom and perspective about the work ahead, offer warnings about pitfalls and acknowledge the potential for deep and lasting joy. This is the jist of what I said:
With this marriage you are creating something that has never existed before. You each bring unique strengths and vulnerabilities to the relationship and your task is to combine those in a way that allows you to move through your days, weeks and years together. Life will invite you and this marriage of yours to many places. Some of those moments will be surprising and may break things that you thought were sure. Other moments will reveal that ties that seemed weak were actually very strong. It is important to remember that in all of this you have the ability to choose how you navigate those moments. The more times you are both able to turn to each other, communicate, draw on your inherent strengths, humbly accept and seek to move through your vulnerabilities the more your relationship can grow. And the more moments you can string together where all parties are growing and becoming something stronger, the more your marriage will thrive.
Take Action: Think of a relationship you value. It could be a marriage, partnership or friendship. Express gratitude to the other person in that relationship today. It could simply be for the existence of the relationship and how it enhances your life or for something specific like a kindness offered or a strength they possess.
Recently my family moved about 1,500 miles from the place we’d lived for the past 12 years. We’ve approached the experience with a mix of gratitude, sadness, joy and adventure. We are so grateful for the life we lived in San Antonio and the people we came to know and love. Because of the beauty of our life and our love for the people we feel sadness at leaving. At the same time we feel joy and excitement at the opportunity of living close to our family, trying new things, meeting new people and having new adventures.
Over the past few weeks as I’ve sought to settle into a new rhythm of life I’ve found myself missing certain people or experiences. Something will trigger a memory and I’ll feel a wave or twinge of longing. In those moments I’ve decided to honor that connection by drawing a part of that person close, whether it’s in practicing creativity in a way they’ve taught me or saying or doing something that reminds me of them and makes them feel near. It’s comforting.
After several of these experiences I began to think of heaven and how this life gives us the chance to live removed from the Divinity from which we came and sometimes we have moments where our soul remembers it’s part of something much bigger. In living, we are presented with a similar invitation to grasp these bits of divine that we recognize along our path and weave them into our being, giving increasing voice to that infinite part of us that has always existed and will always exist. Sometimes the distance, the longing helps us understand what we value the most and it gives us clues of what to seek.
Take Action: You receive daily communication from your body, mind and soul. Today open yourself up to the wisdom of your soul, notice the things that invite you to greater peace, greater love, greater awe. Those are the moments when your soul is speaking.
On Three Kings Day my daughter Jessica received three soft juggling balls in her shoes along with an instruction sheet on the art of juggling. As with any new endeavor, she took to it with great enthusiasm, confidently tossing all three balls in the air expecting to be able to keep them aloft with relative ease. After all, people make it look easy all the time. After a few attempts she got frustrated so we pulled out the instruction sheet which directed her to practice juggling with only two balls and to add the third only when two could be consistently kept airborne. Though juggling two balls doesn’t seem overly complex, there is a recommended way to keep the balls moving so as to easily incorporate a third. Without practice with the rhythm it’s hard to smoothly transition to an additional item to juggle.
I have thought a lot about juggling this week as I try to keep myself and my family aloft while tossing a business into the mix. When we’re faced with an unexpected or new endeavor life invites us to practice juggling more than we’re used to. Initially it can feel overwhelming and frustrating, especially if other people seem to have a handle on it and we find ourselves with not one but maybe all three balls falling to the ground despite our frantically flailing arms. I’m a firm believer in practice and respect for growth. I may not be able to juggle those three things proficiently now but with patience and a focus on my established rhythms I think I can get there. You can too, with whatever you’re trying to juggle in your life. In the meantime, if you see me dropping the ball just give me an encouraging smile.
As I mentioned in my “Love Story” Facebook posts a few months back, Ritchie and I went on our first date Valentines Day 1997 which means that we’ve spent the last 20 years cultivating our relationship. As I look back and reflect on how those two sweet teenagers made their way from that first spark of giddy infatuation to more steady and enduring love, I am reminded of how small consistent decisions have far-reaching consequences. Here are a few decisions we make that I am so very grateful for…
-Greet with a hug and a kiss. I watched my parents do this and so it seemed natural to welcome Ritchie home at the end of the day with this small ritual. When it was just the two of us I would stop whatever I was doing when he got home and meet him at the door. Now I am usually outpaced by Jessica and Cassie but almost everyday we all express our gratitude for Daddy’s arrival home.
-Fight fair. Early when we were married I drove Ritchie nuts as I played both referee and combatant in our verbal tiffs. With my Family Science degree I was armed with communication recommendations (many of which I am still working at :)) and I would stop us in the middle of an argument to insist that we not use words like “always” or “never” or to patiently request a specific example when I felt I was unjustly accused of something. 20 years later that looks like clear and calm communication most of the time.
-Commit to creating something unique. The relationship we have is unlike any other we have had or ever will have and it is different from any other marriage we know about. As long as we both keep choosing to make it a priority it will grow and deepen. We each bring our own gifts and in this shared space of our relationship we seek ways to let those gifts flourish as we develop as individuals, as a couple and now as a family. As two different individuals seeking to grow, learn and make it through life we sometimes stumble and we each have a birds eye view of the others shortcomings. In those moments we have the opportunity to extend patience, understanding and love and to witness the distinct beauty that comes from intimate kindness.
-Smile at each other. As often as we can. In the unexpected moments, the ones those two teens never could have dreamed of, from the hours of anxious anticipation in IVF clinics to the breathtaking views from mountain jungles sometimes there aren’t words to convey the emotion or the gratitude we’re feeling. In those moments, with a simple smile I’m saying thank you for the gift of your loyal and incredible soul at my side along this path of life. I think Ritchie’s smile is saying the same thing that gangly and goofy 17 year old said “Wow.”
As I wrapped up work with most of my “seasonal refresh” clients this week, I started to contact some of the people who wanted landscape consultations. It’s been an interesting process to see what the market will bear by offering different prices to people. I determined relatively early (like Day 2) that running a business at a $20/hr rate is not viable because once I’m up and running, sales tax, payroll tax and overhead costs not to mention supplies, scheduling and job preparation will eat a large chunk of that amount and I will basically end up volunteering. Now I volunteer quite a bit each week but I’m trying to learn more about business and by definition businesses earn a profit.
I’ve been more busy than I want to be at $20 but so far I haven’t had very many people take me up on my consultation and landscape design offers which, depending on what they wanted, ranged anywhere from $40 (for a troubleshooting consultation to address remediation for a specific area of the yard/garden) to $300 (for a landscape review, a full front and backyard design plan, 2 revisions, a full plant list with sources, phased and detailed installation instructions and an HOA ACC submittal packet). I’m looking for that sweet spot, the one where I have enough work to occupy the hours I want to devote to this each week at a price that’s worth it for me to spend time doing the work (supply) and where the work I do adds enough value that the individual is willing to pay it (demand).
I have had quite a few people ask me to quote other seasonal clean-up work (for the backyard or a friend or neighbor) and my little family crew and I have been doing that for reasonable and profitable rates. I’m wondering if seasonal maintenance is something people are more interested in in my neighborhood than well-designed landscapes. I’m grateful I had so many people interested because I’ve been able to conduct a ton of market research these last few weeks. Here’s to a deepening understanding of economics!
So it turns out when you accidentally start a business there are quite a few things you have to learn really quickly. Here are a few tidbits I picked up this week:
Important Acronyms to know:
FEIN (Federal Employer Identification Number)
LLC (Limited Liability Company)
JSN (Just say no…especially important when people ask you to do something you REALLY don’t know how to do-like remove a tree)
TAGQ (Pronounced tah-gque, “That’s a good question”….turns out there are quite a few of these coming my way)
Live & Learn
Don’t apply for your Federal EIN number before your LLC paperwork confirmation comes back. Because maybe the name you wanted is taken (it turns out checking domain names and the federal EIN site isn’t the same thing as checking in with the State Comptroller. Who doesn’t buy their domain name when they file their business paperwork!?) and then you have to file a bunch more paperwork to make your EIN Number match your LLC name.
Applying for insurance when your previous experience is a volunteer apprenticeship and the person you worked with is now deceased (but lives on in everything you put in the ground) presents an interesting series of hoops to jump through. Additionally, submitting a resume, payroll estimates and gross revenue estimates is challenging when you’ve been in business for 2.5 weeks. But having insurance to bring in jobs and earn that revenue seems like the responsible way to operate. So much for the advice in $100 Startup to just try something out and see if it works, write the business plan later.
Sometimes things work out and fall into place. Sometimes they don’t. Ritchie and I have been trying to figure out a way to create a revenue stream that we could use for humanitarian endeavors. We’ve sorted through and planned a few different things now but kept hitting roadblocks. Then this opportunity just kind of opened up and I feel hopeful and confident that Esteban, our newly-sponsored high school student training to be an Agricultural Technician will give this whole endeavor added meaning, motivation and success. It’s a blessing to use our freedom, gifts, experiences, time and opportunities to empower others. Until next time, happy landscaping!
Yesterday I had the chance to go ice skating with Jessica. Having only been a few times in her 7 years she’s still a bit unsteady on the ice. She enthusiastically donned her skates and I watched her stumble through the door to the rink and wait with anxious anticipation for the Zamboni to finish it’s job so she could begin skating. Her initial enthusiasm quickly channeled itself into focused determination as she gripped the wall and unsteadily made her way slowly around the rink. After a few minutes, I followed her out onto the ice, watching her strong little legs jerkily move along as she tried to master the feel of balancing her entire body on two very narrow blades and gliding on a very unforgiving surface. When she was ready to leave the wall she took my hand and held tight, scooting one leg and then the other shuffling herself around the rink again and again. After a while she began to let go at intervals. Feeling increasing confidence in her steadiness, she would move a few feet from me, sometimes falling, sometimes skating and inevitably looking back to see if I was watching. After a few laps of back and forth hand-holding, I began skating close to her holding my arm out. I opened my hand and flexed my arm muscles so that my arm was strong and available to her. I imagine watching me skate was pretty comical, partly stooped with one arm bent at the elbow. It didn’t matter though, I wanted to serve as firm support for her when she needed it. She grabbed on quite a bit but increasingly she could balance on her own. A few times she skated farther from me and someone would come between us. Other times she’d fall and look up at me with the tears that come from pain (knees+ice=hurt) and question why I wasn’t right next to her, why I’d left when she needed me. I told her it was because she had skated on her own, she’d quickened her pace. I thought about God, as I always do in my contemplative parenting moments, and how his support for us is the same. He tells us his arm is extended, and that for all our faltering moments, His hand is stretched out still. Just like I held my arm firm and steady, He offers his strength, support and solidarity as we learn new things, as we stumble, as we venture out and gain confidence in this thing called living. And when we stumble and fall and look up blaming Him for His absence, he simply holds out His arm, helps us up and reminds us He’s never been far and that He’ll skate with us as long as we want Him there. I love that about Him.
Take Action: Nourish your soul with a prayer today, gratefully acknowledge one blessing and ask to have the eyes to see His hand in your life.
When Ritchie, Jessica and I set out for Guatemala last year we knew that we were undertaking some things we’d never done before and there was a good chance we were going to make mistakes as we immersed ourselves in experiences with new places, cultures and people. We committed that instead of getting frustrated when something didn’t quite go the way we planned we’d remind each other to “Live and Learn.” The strategy worked well for us and sometimes the mistakes were funny like when I told our local guide I needed to take a griddle (plancha) instead of a boat (barco). Other times they were more serious like when a flight got cancelled and we didn’t know that the large-group-tour-guide was running to the reservation counter because when you’re near the end of the line you wait for the shuttle for an additional hour AND get the last available hotel room on the outskirts of the city AND eat your “free” dinner with your six year old asleep in your lap around 10:30 pm. Nevertheless the practice of saying “live and learn” at each misstep helped us to laugh and enjoy our adventure. Over the past year we’ve continued to use this mantra in our home, work and travels and it’s lightened things up nearly every time. So next time you goof something up, just be curious about what you could learn from the experience. It makes a world of difference.