I married a kind man and other musings on a 20 year relationship

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.”

Happy Valentines Day.

Lessons in Supply & Demand

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!

The Accidental Entrepreneur 2.3.17

I’m not sure exactly what’s going on here but something beautiful is growing.  One of my gifts is being able to see potential and this humble little endeavor holds a lot of promise.  That’s what I tell myself when I hear myself saying things like this to my clients:

“Well, I mean, I’m not exactly licensed at anything…”

“In my Master Gardener Classes, they told us we had to kill 100 plants to qualify as a Master Gardener.”

“Oh, you don’t need me at all.”

“How long have I been doing this?  Well uh, this is my 3rd week.”

It’s a good thing I can laugh at myself and that I’m also imparting massive amounts of plant wisdom.  I’ll get the hang of this.  Growing to greatness, that’s me!

Things I learned my first week in business

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!

The Accidental Entrepreneur or The time I tried to buy an ink cartridge and ended up starting a business.

img_6381A week and a half ago, after setting the intention to be more budget-conscious I found myself needing a black ink cartridge.  Those things are expensive and I didn’t have enough left in my weekly home management budget to buy one.  I could’ve used money from another account or my savings and it would’ve been fine but I tend to do that a lot so I decided to stick to my budget and get creative.  I printed everything in blue ink instead of black for a while but as the week wore on this strategy got increasingly frustrating and I found myself with a list of “things to print when I get an ink cartridge.”  I needed a black ink cartridge to live efficiently.  I decided I could try to earn one.  Now I’m a little rusty when it comes to earning money since I’ve been staying home with Jessica (and preparing for Jessica and trying to conceive Jessica) for the past 11 years and I’m particular about the time I commit outside our home.  So I decided to post a message on my community Facebook group offering to cut back the myriad brown and crunchy frozen plants in people’s front yards.  I listed my qualifications (Master Gardener Training, Landscape Design practice/consulting) as well as my availability (3 spots on Thursday) and price ($20).  I hoped 3 people would want to take me up on my offer so I could buy my ink cartridge and get on with my life.  In less than 3 minutes I had 3 customers and I was elated.  Within 8 minutes I had 5 customers so I said I could do 2 front yards on Friday too (Hey, I thought, I can also buy the essential oil I’ve been needing to replenish).  By the end of the night I had about 20 messages and by the next morning I was up to 30.  The following week saw an additional 10 people added to my list, each wanting a different service (tree pruning, lawn consultation, landscape design, winter clean-up).  As I met with different neighbors I realized that I inadvertently stumbled into a ready market for my landscape love.  I’ve worked hard, I’ve made some mistakes, I’ve learned a lot, I’ve gotten dirty, I bought a hedge-trimmer and wielded it with pride (because I spent 60 hand-cramping minutes cutting back ornamental grass with hand pruners and that hedge trimmer gets the job done in less than a minute!).  So this past week I filed papers with the Texas State Comptroller to officially establish Beautiful Village Landscaping LLC.  Now proudly (and humbly) operating in Bulverde Village.

“His Hand is Stretched Out Still”

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.

Reverse Migration

weaving-2

Learning about backstrap weaving in the village of Nuevo San Idelfonso.

 

This NYT lens piece resonated with me.  During our trip to Guatemala last year we frequently heard the words  “Mi esposo se fue” or “My husband went.”  When you see the poverty, the extreme living conditions, you understand.  The reason we went to Guatemala was to empower people and improve conditions there so that the need to immigrate would be less.  We wanted to share the goodness, the strength and the hope that America can offer in a place that could use some support.  We wanted to strengthen and support the already beautiful Guatemalan culture and people so that both could flourish more fully and bless all of us with their strength.   We chose Guatemala because my husband Ritchie has a background there from his two year church mission and we love the people and culture.  We didn’t do it from a place of superiority but from a place of gratitude.  We thought  “We are presently recipients of freedom, beauty, and opportunity and if any of it could be useful to you we will happily share it.”  If we all did this, even in just small ways, the world would be such a different place.

Take action: 

1) Identify a country where you could make a difference.   It could be a place you dream of visiting, a place you have experience with or a place you’re curious about.  We chose one that was easy to get to from our home here in Texas.  Ultimately it’s the land and the people you are connecting with.

2) Do a google search for a person or organization doing empowering work in that place and join their Facebook page or email list.  It could be a local from the country you’re interested in or a globally-minded person in your country.  Once you begin to understand what they do, brainstorm skills you have that could be useful to the organization.  Offer those skills and a bit of your time and let me know what happens.

Google, Google on my screen

Do you ever take a minute to look at the sidebar ads google suggests for you?  Every once in a while it’s really insightful to look at them because they’re populated based on your searches, purchases, emails, etc.  It’s kind of like looking in the mirror, the ads become a reflection of what you’ve been looking for and what you’re interested in.  When you look at them, are you surprised?  What kind of person do they reflect?  Is that the person you are?  The person you’d like to be?  The good news is that google changes as you change and as the things you seek become more refined, the ads and content you see are elevated too.

Look for the seeds

A few weeks ago I was volunteering in Jessica’s classroom.  After reading with the kids, I mentioned to her teacher that I was going to go tidy up the plants in the patio garden.  Her wise Montessori guide kindly cautioned me to be mindful in my “cleanup efforts” because some of the flowers were going to seed.

As Jessica and I worked outside in the backyard yesterday afternoon, I recalled her teacher’s words and I delighted in collecting the bountiful harvest of seeds that my plants were generating so effortlessly.  Usually when plants are going to seed something beautiful and intentional is happening.  Though they look dried up and done-for they’re just in the process of offering up next year’s colors.  This principle has wide application, especially in a world where we put so much emphasis on the way things appear.  Sometimes appearances are deceiving.  

Experience Joy

Each day we breathe we’re invited to increase our capacity for experiencing life, for really living.  We can choose to use our experiences to support this goal of being vibrantly and fully alive.  Many times we notice this invitation when we feel sadness, grief, guilt or sorrow.  We may shy away from these experiences or cover the emotions and avoid processing them because they are uncomfortable.   In the thick of a challenging moment it can be soothing to remember that you are simultaneously deepinging your channels for feeling joy and peace.   So navigate your way through struggle with as much grace and support as you can access and then look for the deeper joy and peace that are now inherently yours as well.