Monday, February 28, 2011

Recipe for Your Success

As February comes to a close, Amy and I are going to leave you with our new end-of-the-month offering.  We will end each month with a small list of what we learned and tips on how to accomplish the activity in your own life.

As for writing a business plan, here are some things to keep in mind and guide you on your way:

  • Find a SCORE office in your city.
    I can't speak to the one-on-one counseling since we didn't use it, but I found the workshop on "Writing a Business Plan" to be informative and thought provoking.  They can be found nationwide and besides the workshops, they have forms and templates on their website, as well as information on many resources available to start you on your way to owning your own business.
  • Brainstorm what questions come up when you go through writing your business plan.
    Some of our questions were:  
    • How and where are we going to source the raw materials?  
    • What is our tax liability?  
    • How much of our product will we make and how much should we sell it for? 
    • What is the payment model that works best for our business?   
    • What is our mission?  
    • What is the demand for our product? How do we find that out?
      Then find the best resources to answer your specific questions.
  • Work with your strengths and when you arrive at your weaknesses, be honest with yourself (and your partner) about what you are willing to do to overcome them.
    You may find that you start with one idea, but your strengths and/or weaknesses bring you right where you need to be.  
  • Collaboration is essential.
    Even if you go it alone in your business venture, you will need feedback. Be intentional and smart about who you choose to share your idea with.  While we came to the realization that sharing with too many people, or the wrong people, can be a buzz kill...most some feedback can be really valuable.  Starting a business is already a challenge, find people that are supportive, inspiring and constructive with their criticism.
  • Take yourself seriously.
    Melissa and Amy, getting down to business.  

    Take you business idea seriously.  Go forward with your business plan like it is really going to happen.  This will make it possible for you to come up with good, realistic questions that will lead you to the conclusion of whether your idea is sustainable.  We found that our idea was possibly not very sustainable financially, but mostly inspirationally it was going to come up short.  
and then, on the last day of "Writing a Business Plan" month, you might find that it is your husband that walks through the door and announces, "Well, I am an official business entity.  Now all I need is work."
(Jamie just started his own painting company, Crazy Fingers, and it became legal today)

Here's to all of your business plan dreams coming true,
Melissa and Amy

Part 3: Chicken Soup Kills the Soul

I like pretzels, but I'm not making them every day.
Photo by Amy Baranski
Posted by Amy Baranski
Continued from Part 2: Enterprising

I had serious doubts.  After calling Cookspace, finding out their rates, and learning from the owner that several meal delivery services nixed their leases when the economy crashed, a pretty gloomy picture of our Soup and WOW! Pretzels Too! enterprise started shaping up. Without an alternative, I worried Melissa would think I was breaking up with her.

When we sat down, Melissa looked me dead in the eye and said: I’m not really excited about soup.

Was this a dare? Or, was this an I like eating soup and making soup every day will kill my soul kind of moment? It all came out. Since January I’ve been enrolled in a gardening/horticultural program, and Melissa’s been pursuing a path of birthing assistant work for some time now. On top of that we’re doing the blog for a whole year. These interests have nothing to do with meal delivery services, although I’m sure some far-fetched connections could be made.

So, in our typical fashion we spent time processing and unanimously closed the books on the Soup and WOW! Pretzels Too! business. We uncovered a simple fact (that was with us all along) which is our mutual interest lies in this blog, and wherever it takes us. And, if that’s just right here that’s fine. But, unquestionably there's more to learn and do.

We took the business plan template (it’s a PowerPoint document for all of you interested in such details) and started plugging in information about our blog. This includes background and historical facts, along with marketing efforts (those undertaken in 2010 and 2011 opportunities), our personal strengths, a description of our project, how we operate, and many other things.

Let's Discuss!

If there’s a lesson here it’s that sometimes the best choice is to simply work with what you’ve got. So I'm interested if you've ever come to this point in your own's some (ahem) food for thought. Please share your experiences by commenting below.
  • When do you over-complicate things?
  • How have you reached further than you needed for something? 
  • When and how have you experienced success with trying something new?
Just click “comment” at the end of the post. Type your thoughts in the box. Select a profile to sign your name (you can simply select your name or anonymous). Click “post comment”.


Friday, February 25, 2011

did you go with the flow today?

Life has it's own plans for us at times, and I have learned it's best to go with the flow.

I was scheduled for a meeting with the other birth assistants-to-be at the Puget Sound Birth Center.  I always love these meetings, and find the time spent there to be inspiring.  I was all set to go this morning, and since my kids are on mid-winter break, I had a baby sitter all lined up as well.  Turns out the babysitter was sick.  I found out 15 minutes before I had to be at the meeting.  My gut was telling me to stay home and not leave my kids with a sick babysitter, whose fever just broke less than an hour before he showed up.  My heart and mind wanted to speed across Lake Washington and get to the meeting.

no water, so go with the flow
Life brought me a sick babysitter, and the responsibility to stay home and miss my meeting.  As I sat in my running minivan outside my building, calling the birth assistant coordinator to tell her I couldn't make it, I felt like a grown-up.  There was something empowering about making that choice.

When I came back in and took a long, deep look at my apartment, I started to feel less empowered and more overwhelmed.  And as messy as my kitchen was, the water was turned off in our building today, so I couldn't do the dishes.  I decided to go with the flow on that one too.  The hidden silver lining was that I got to spend today catching up on my to do list.

  • I made several call to schools about the RN programs.  The first lead was a dead end, and was quite disappointing.  The second lead was more promising, but time will tell, as I never did talk to a real person but left plenty of messages.  
  • I called a dentist for my kids, she doesn't take the state funded insurance that we have for the kids, but I felt good about starting that process.  I have dental care blocks, and calling Dr. Tweety was one brick out of that illusory wall.  
  • I spent a good bit of time on the business plan.
  • I put (some) laundry away.
  • I finished up the "Background of the Blog" story for our business plan.

But best of all:

I researched blogs.  Blog tips.  Blog monetizing, the good and the bad of it.  Blog indexes.  Blog conferences.  Blog feeds.  I found a website, ProBlogger, and it is filled with great information about blogs.    I ordered a book from Amazon just the other day and it turns out to be written by the guy that runs this website, Darren Rowse.  Coincidence.  I love that.

One of the challenges I have come up against when it comes to signing "Good Luck With That!" up on blog indexes is what category to put it in.  It seems to fit most into "lifestyle", but then there are lots of other categories it could fall into depending on what month we are in.  One one hand it makes me happy that we are perhaps unique in our approach to the blog world.  On the other, how can I get people to understand in these limited boxes to mark, just what it is we are up to over here?

The other thing that has come up when I read about blogs is interacting with the readers.  I can tell from the stats (in no way do I check these obsessively) that people are out there reading our blog.  You are out there, right?  I would love to hear from you more.  It is super simple.  You just click on comment, found at the end of the post, and type your thoughts in the box that pops up.  And then you can use your google account to attach your name to it, or click the name option and write in your fist name, or just do it by clicking the anonymous option.

Just heard form Amy that she got lost in Renton, and is not going to make it to our meeting that was to be happening right now.  No biggie, I am going with the flow today.  Life has it's own plans.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Part 2: Enterprising

Read Part 1: Corn Chowder on the Brain

Veggies from a friend's garden.
Photo by Amy Baranski
The night we found ourselves sipping wine and eating crab stuffed won-tons at a bistro on Lake Washington, Melissa revealed that to Write a Business plan was one of the new things she had picked for the blog this year. I figured something like that was up her sleeve, and I agreed it would be a fun and challenging exercise.

I immediately recalled that it wasn't long ago when her son Levi, along with several of the other kids in the building, were in a tizzy late one afternoon trying to figure out how they could raise some money to buy a video game. After asking and being denied donations from their parents and us neighbors they landed on enterprising a hot chocolate stand. Bob and I had packets of hot chocolate to donate to the cause and things seemed to be coming together until their head of operations unknowingly purchased the wrong (uninsulated) kind of cup from the dollar store. By then it was too late in the day to correct the situation. The young entrepreneurs had spent what little money they did have on cups that could melt and anyway all sales were final at the dollar store. Miraculously the group's emotions teetered from epic Shakespearean tragedy to a more determined disappointment.

I was hoping to escape similar pitfalls of starting our own hot chocolate stand, or Soup and Pretzel business as we'd have it, when Melissa and I commenced our first business planning meeting. My first question was: were we starting a business or just writing a business plan? And I think we decided that we were going to write a business plan with the intention of starting a business, if it were viable and scalable. Either way we'd aim to learn a lot and see where the month took us. We intuitively knew this was a joint project. Some months we may work independently on our goals, but this effort lent itself to collaboration quite naturally.

Were we still excited about making soup and pretzels and delivering them via bicycle? Yes! We even set the wallpaper of our blog to a picture of vegetables and posed for a picture with vegetables! We didn't really know where to start, but brainstorming seemed intuitive. We wrote out all our goals and ideals: be sustainable, make good nutritional food, keep it simple. etc. We started brainstorming questions around operations. Would the business be decentralized? Who would build our website? Could we rent a kitchen? What would be the benefits of having a brick and mortar location? What were the legal requirements around licensing? How would sourcing for ingredients work? Who would establish relationships with the farmers? How would delivery work? Would we freeze the soups? Did pretzels need to be made day-of delivery? Most importantly would it be cost-effective to produce and offer corn chowder on the menu? There were many, many questions. We knew that needed to crunch some numbers, and quickly.

by Amy Continued in Part 3: Chicken Soup Kills The Soul...

Part 1: Corn Chowder on the Brain

Melissa's delightfully pink kitchen.
Posted by Amy Baranski
It all started one day when I was, as I usually am these days, hanging out in Melissa's pink kitchen chatting away about this and that. Melissa was making this AMAZING corn chowder for a friend's mother's memorial service. I had brought down my immersion blender for her to use because surprisingly between the two of us we didn't have a food mill (which, as we confirmed, performs and entirely different function). As Melissa was painstakingly working her chowder through a mesh strainer by hand I stole a little taste, and it was so good. So, good that I could have some right now for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

A few days later we were hanging out watching the NFL playoffs. I was flipping through a magazine and found an article about food entrepreneurs in Portland, Oregon. Several things flashed in my mind: Melissa's corn chowder, the pink kitchen, corn chowder, Melissa's love of cooking, corn chowder, bicycles, corn chowder, not working in front of a computer for the rest of my life, corn chowder, and how I could get Melissa to make some more corn chowder. So we started talking about going into business: the soup business (and in my mind that was the corn chowder business). Both Jaime and Bob were super excited about the idea.

Superbowl weekend was upon us and Melissa and Jaime threw a great party which included homemade soft pretzels! (among other delectables) which were devoured almost immediately after they came out of the oven. Sometime later that day, (or was it the morning after?) Melissa said: Soup and Pretzels. The sounds of cheering and laughter, applause and party noise makers, reverberated around us as though it were the the stroke of midnight on New Year's eve.

by Amy continued in Part 2: Enterprising.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Bird from the Hand

original Sharpie drawing by Melissa
A list of things I am learning today:
  • That evidently different people's computers give them different Google results.  When I stated the other day that if you search "good luck with that" on Google we come up third on the list, I thought that would be the case across the board, on everyone's computer, or chosen browser.  Not the case.  I have been told we don't even come up on the first page on other people search, in the same search engine.  What is up with that?
  • When you sit around the house most of the day with a sick kid, there isn't as much exciting stuff to write about...which leads to more of a list, rather than paragraphs and whole thoughts that actually work together.
  • For the last five hours I have been looking forward to a reality TV show.  Does that make me pathetic?  Or oddly patriotic?
  • I saw a commercial for Miracle Whip.  Are you kidding me?  Miracle Whip is like mayonnaise's ugly stepchild.  (what kind of awful euphemism is that??? but I still used it.)  I hate Miracle Whip, and if it was my stepchild, I wouldn't even feign liking it.
  • Uranus (insert juvenile laughter) is in Libra in the 8th house in my chart, and Saturn in Libra is transiting at the same degree.  An enthusiastic and talented astrologer I know texted me to say "you better get ready cause you are going to  have some changes, decisions will be made and things will be uprooted."  Super exciting, and I know I am growing because I  used to get all wrapped up in the fire and brimstone of it all...and now I am excited to see what grows where something I don't need anymore is uprooted.  I am more interested in the phoenix rising from the ashes than the fire that creates the ash.
  • I love this blog.  I got out a book from the library today about blogs and I loved reading that too, and I don't like many books.  I went from being embarrassed to tell anyone that I had a blog, like I was jumping on some lame bandwagon that was already overflowing with the dredges of humanity.  To handing our cards to everyone, still blushing a little, but ready to own it more and more.
  • I forgot how much I like to draw, and I was thinking back to painting month...the very first blog month for me as I was standing in front of my Peacock Feather painting in my hallway...I decided to do a little drawing.  Ravens or crows have been on my mind lately, they seem to be everywhere.  Watching, eyeing me up, sensing my internal nervous thought that one will dive down and peck me on my head...which makes me think that it will happen even more cause they can sense that shit.  I often think of their wings, the shape and the way their feathers must feel...stiff and yet, soft.  Mind you, I would never touch one of their wings, cause either they would never be that close to me alive and if they were dead then that would be gross and some voice inside tells me, ashamedly, that I would get some disease.  I also am fond of the Moon, always.  The picture above is what I was up to for the last hour.              
  • I am leaning more toward the nursing today.
  • Getting into the numbers part of a business plan is still the hardest, and I don't know if that will ever change.
  • Always, Always, Always save your stuff as you go...or you'll lose it.  

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Who will win the Ultimate Grand Supreme?

Jamie and the drummer @ Forza cafe
Snowing in Seattle today, sort of.  Toddlers and Tiaras on the TV, and everyone's in a tizzy because Eden Wood is there.  Apparently, Eden Wood must win all of these "let's make our 4 year old daughter look like a trashy whore" competitions.

The real question of the episode is though, who will get the Ultimate Grand Supreme?  Isn't that the question we are all asking ourselves every day?  How are we going to take the prize every day in our own life?  What success are we going to forge toward today?  That is part of what I found so refreshing at Jamie's gig the other night.  It wasn't that I thought the music was bad (sorry Jamie, i didn't mean to blog all over your ego), the music was great.  But seriously, you aren't going to win a Grammy, nor do you want to, right?  That was my point, that the band was having so much fun and everyone could see that and feel that.  It was simply a good ole time.

But the there is some serious competition.  That show is a train wreck, so bad I cannot stop watching.  Turns out Eden Wood didn't win the Ultimate Grand Supreme (I am sorry, but doesn't that just sound a little too KKK?) at the Ohio State Pageant, ironically a little black girl walked away with the title.

I spent most of my day swapping childcare with a couple different families.  I got to go to yoga, and had a super hard, challenging, and mentally taxing.  The thing is though, that even after a hard class, I always feel better than before I went.  Makes me wonder why I ever choose not to go.  I'd have to say the highlight of my day so far was doing my friend's dishes.  I found her home to be very comfortable, despite her humble text to me that when I arrived it might be a big fat mess.  Sure it was messy, but don't all houses with kids get messy...and if not, then what the fuck is wrong with you?  Do you have a nanny and a house cleaner and a cook?  Or do you just not have a life?  This friend is a midwife and had been out of her house for who knows how long with a first time mom in labor since yesterday, and had to manage childcare from afar, while also doing her job.  It brought me smile after smile to think of her walking into a clean kitchen after a long, long birth.

The whole birth thing brings me back to the business plan.  Since I am a doula, that is always something I could write up a business plan for.  And I think of that from time to time while I am learning all this business stuff, I think about the fact that what I am learning has the possibility to be applicable in many other areas when I feel the time is right.

Speaking of the time being right, there is another thing weighing on my mind these days.  Since I recently lost my job and am on unemployment, I found out there is a program out there right now for retraining.  There is actually money allocated to not only pay for school for up to two years, if you play your cards right (aka...fill out tons of paperwork and say what the government agency wants to hear), but also you can keep receiving your unemployment check while you get your education.  My thought is...why not get my RN?   I'd be one step closer to the ever present, yet sometimes dormant, dream to become a midwife.  The hitch is that I have this birth assistant job possibility, said to be starting in June.  I can't do both, if I am working, I don't qualify for the program.   The RN job offers more job security and better pay, with the hope of getting closer to being a midwife.  The birth assistant job offers less money, but mean I would get in the birth room now and be a part of something I love.  I have to decide soon.  And this is all also why the soup and pretzel thing just didn't seem viable right now...with these things on the horizon, I don't think I would have the energy to put towards a start-up food business, with only two employees!

Me and Lily and Tallulah are all hanging out in a cafe right now listening to Jamie play some jazz with a trio...guitar, sax and drums.  The scene is a far cry from the Toddlers and Tiaras of just an hour ago.  Although, they did just get done playing "Someday My Prince Will Come." And you know, the music isn't half bad.  ;)  It's fun, but in a whole different way than a saloon in Snoho.  Less whiskey, more coffee and Shiraz.  Tallulah could give little Eden Wood a run for her money though, as I type she is making her way around the cafe with a tip jar...smiling her way into the hearts of the patrons, and their pockets.

The snow has turned to rain, as it often does in these parts.  And Tallulah's smile has turned into a whining face begging for a treat, as it also often does...

And I am off, not necessarily in search of my own special "Ultimate Grand Supreme" like I think I used to...but just to chill and bite my nails and sip some wine and watch Lily sweetly reading her book.  (and try to ignore Tallulah)


Monday, February 21, 2011

Trapper Keeper dreamin'

This just in!  I have a new binder for the blog!

Last night, just before we started our shared viewing of Star Wars: episode 1, Amy ran upstairs to get something.  She came back in holding two black binders, each with the same calendar cover and the title:  2011 - Good Luck with That!  Not only was I super excited because I always get excited when Amy shows interest in the blog, but I totally felt like I was back in middle school or high school when you get your new binder for the year.  I remember that so fondly, and the hope and comfort it would bring.  I hugged my new binder right up close to my heart...and I knew this was for real.

Today I have spent hours working on various aspects for the blog.  And I love every minute of it.  I could spend hours on it; researching ways to get it more visible on the web, finding resources for whatever it is we are working the business plan, meeting with Amy.  Today at our meeting she had this whole power point template filled in with graphs and examples of the blog pages.  It looked awesome.  and here's is where I will share our business plan...turns our it is going to be the blog!  We had thought we were going to start a soup delivery service, all on bicycles and with pretzels too.  And while I love to cook and I also love pretzels, there was no mayonnaise just kidding, it turned out all at the same time that both Amy and I were feeling weighted down by the idea.  We were excited about writing a business plan, but if we were going to spend hours a day and work super hard for something, well, turns out soup just didn't get us jazzed enough to keep us going.  But the that keeps us going.  So, we are making a business plan, a living document that tracks our progress and defines our goals as we discover what they are.

Even little things, when it comes to internet progress, feel like getting to the top of a mountain pass.  I often feel like I have no idea where I am heading, but like a mountain goat...just keep my feet sure and steady, and take it one step at a time.  Very capricorn.  Here is what I accomplished:

Friday, February 18, 2011

Pairings: Tai Chi & Pork Dumplings

Posted by Amy Baranski

I love the idea of activity pairings! To go with Tai Chi, I'd suggest Pork Dumplings. Because the best dumplings I ever had were in China. Melissa, maybe someday you (and I) can finally "make a good dumpling." And just maybe that day is in March. Dumpling-making parties anyone??

Pork dumpling masters at Chinese Box Courtyard Hostile in Beijing.


I was at my friend's new shop yesterday, Sugarpill.  A truly lovely little spot here on Capitol Hill....herbs, salts, chocolate, bitters, (I got the Blackstrap bitters and Karyn jotted down a cocktail recipe for a gin flip using said bitters and the drink was amazing...thanks, Karyn!) sweet perfumes, local honey, caramel, jam,  soaps, so many sweet little things.  She was asking about what I was doing with the blog and I shared with her it was writing a business plan month...and I kept talking about my leftover pork sandwich.  I don't know how it happened, oh yeah, she said maybe I should make one month about pulled pork sandwiches, and I said that maybe if next month (Tai chi) gets boring I'd add that in.  And then she said...I could create activity "pairings" on the blog, since everyone is into pairing different foods and drinks together these days.  Tai chi and pork.  I kinda love it.

The card Jamie gave me for our anniversary
Relationships are another kind of pairing.  Friendships, marriages, family, business partners.  The older I get I learn more and more and more about how I pair with different people, or how I don't.  How what I bring to the table...maybe bitter, but sometimes sweet, and usually bubbly; how that goes with maybe someone else's flavor, if you will.  I find there is an intuitive thing that happens right upon walking into a room, when you know if you will be a good pairing.  At least that is how it works for me.  Usually.  I have just been thinking a lot about relationships lately.  How we blend together as humans, and sometimes repel each other....and even with the same two people some days can be the best bite of steak you ever had followed by a sip of perfect red wine, and other days can be like milk and sushi (that would be gross.)  I am so grateful for all the relationships,  I have in my life, how they ebb and flow.  They are like the mayonnaise of my life, they go with everything.

And then the "pairing" comes up again when I think of this blog.  Something about doing it with someone else brings so much to the experience.  I couldn't imagine doing it alone, and in fact, when Dina moved away and was blogging less...I felt that loss, I missed having my partner.  And on the other side of that, I think more than two would be too much.  Too many cooks in the kitchen, isn't that the saying?  I love, love, love having Amy be a part of this blog.  I do believe we pair well together.   Like pop-rocks and fun-dip.

So here are some of my first brainstorming ideas on the activity pairings for the blog:
tai chi & pork
mushroom foraging & LSD
poker & praying
bowling & white russians (come on, I had to)
memorizing a poem & mozzarella cheese sticks
hiking & soft pretzels

more to come.  any other ideas???  Please share...

enjoy the sun, if you're in Seattle

oh and PS...FYI the vegetables on the blog did have to do with our original business plan, but probably not so much with the actual one we have ended up with.  

Under the Heat Lamp

Beginning of Half-Moon (feet should be together).
First off, it's not a heat lamp. But that's okay. It's the phrase that's been going through my head. Last night it was "under the ceiling fan" and I had this whole moment connected to my childhood that I was going to share with the world here. But I'm not going to do that because I've started, interrupted, and restarted this blog post a million times. And Under the Heat Lamp isn't applicable to what I want to talk about anymore, but I'm forcing myself not to change the title of this post--or erase those first few sentences--because if I do I'll probably just hit "Save as Draft" at the end instead of "Publish" like I'm supposed to in order to stay on track with publishing at least one lengthy post a week. I think people really undervalue the value of the run-on sentence.

Okay, so let's get organized. I want to talk about: business plan month, yoga and other random things that have not articulated themselves yet in my streamofonlineconciousness.

Business Plan

Melissa and I met and talked it out. We laid some honest shit on the table, which Melissa informed me was one of the key steps to creating a business plan that was discussed at the business seminar. It makes sense, and I was relieved, surprised, and affirmed at our ability to be honest about:
  • What we want to do
  • What we don't want to do
  • What we have the ability to do
And wouldn't you know the answer just presented its sweet little self to us, really without much "inventing" effort. So no we're not going to start a food-delivery business. We're going to focus on doing what we are already doing and see what turns up. So let's get down to business and celebrate with some cocktails.

Yoga and other random things with no paragraph breaks

I did not go to yoga on Tuesday and I did not go to yoga last night and I may not go to yoga today. On Tuesday I chilled the fuck out. Last night, I ate at Burgermaster. And today we'll just see how this MO-FO goes. I've been cranky and I don't care. Shit has been falling down in my life outside of yoga, my A-game has turned into a C-game. I have a lot of stuff going on, which yeah I talked about in my last post, but I also need time to be alone and think and chill and read and that hasn't been happening. So balance has been lost. It's probably why I suck balls at Balancing Stick. I just don't understand myself in that pose. Every time everyone else seems to struggle in it, stick in it, even if their form is totally jacked, but I'm always coming out early, standing at the back of my mat looking at all the non-giver-uppers wondering to myself: am I just a quitter? How is it I can stay balanced longer in Standing Head to Knee but Balancing Stick is like being on a god damned balancing beam: my knee buckling and my brain completely disassociated with my body. Last weekend my friend Daemond showed up at class. That made practice really fun. Hi Daemond! (if you're reading). I hope I run into him again at the studio. I'm really thinking about doing another 30 day challenge in March but I kinda wanted to do some weekend trips that month, so I'm torn. I'll let you know what I decide. Maybe you (if there ARE any of you (still) reading this) would want to join us for a 30-day challenge? Think it over. It's practically how I started this practice and it builds a great foundation for yourself. There's a lot to explore in 26 poses and 2 breathing exercises. You might surprise yourself. Beside you can say to yourself: I did 30-days straight of hot yoga. And with that I'm just going to hit Publish Post. See you next time.

Always, Amy.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Victory is sweet, mostly in the 15 year seats

Sitting here listening to Bright Eyes' new album, the People's Key.  I fell in love with Conor Oberst's music with his fist solo album, Conor Oberst.  (seriously, one of the best albums you can buy)  He is an amazing lyricist.  He has an incredible talent to put together instruments and sounds; to create a song, an album, an experience.  So far, one song in, this new album is no exception.  The CD was a gift from Jamie to me, for our 15 year anniversary.  He also got me the Moulin Rouge soundtrack.  I guess you do get to know someone pretty well after that many years.  He used to buy me CD's for every special occasion and it completely enraged me, and now...well, either the choices are more meaningful, or my expectations are less intense.  I say it must be the prior.  Everything is more meaningful after 15 years.  The love, the everyday, the issues, the baggage...but mostly the love.   Just the fact that we are still here after 15 years, after so many reasons to go...come on, we all find reasons to go.  It takes creativity and the ability to see the big picture and patience and forgiveness to be here.  Day after day.  Thankfully.
at the kitchen table, Sitka&Spruce

But back to the blog.  I received our business cards today.  They are awesome!  Simple and straightforward.  Just right.  I only wish I would have had them Saturday night...out to Sitka & Spruce (amazing food and great hosts) and the Paramount to see Rock of Ages.  What a great night!  (as always, with the Riley's.  love you guys!)  And I am sure I could have handed out a few least to all the wanna-be rockers.  Don't you think that crowd would love this blog?  You know, I am sure I will sing more than a few of those songs during karaoke month!  I can't stop singing them now...."Here I go again on my own..."

But really, back to the blog.  Amy and I met this weekend and we have totally changed the course of our business plan.  After my seminar last Wednesday, and much brainstorming afterwards....I came to see what my true passion, as far as a business goes, right now.  I thought it would be the thing that had to do with the vegetables background on the blog, but no.  Not at all.  I think that was a spark that started the important conversation of being into some kind of business...but then again vegetables often spark a lot of interest for me.  I LOVE food.  Mostly mayonnaise...but vegetables too.  So, at our meeting this past weekend, turns out Amy had been thinking the same thing too.

So, hopefully, somewhere , someday, we will find victory... or success in this business venture.  In much of what i have thought about tonight in this post, it brings to mind a Conor Oberst lyric from his song, Cape Canaveral.

I watched your face age backwards
Changing shape in my memory
You told me Victory is sweet
Even in the deep seats.

and now, I  am melting into the beauty of the "Ladder Song".....
wow.  Good night.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

I love you. You're stupid. Just kidding!

Looking down from Cape Flattery. Photo by Amy Baranski.
Yesterday during Savasana after Ustrasana (camel pose) my yoga teacher talked about how we might feel. When we first started our practice, she explained, "overwhelmed" is the label we may have assigned to that wave of feeling rushing throughout our joints and mind as we quickly transitioned from our knees to our backs and into Savasana.

Camel pose is the deepest backbend of the Bikram series and at times reminds me of standing on a ledge--a soaring seacliff above craggy rocks looking down on a tangly kelp forrest tipping out from the surf. 

Just the other day Bob asked:

Friday, February 11, 2011

Cinderella dressed in yella

Today is Friday.  It has been two days since the business plan seminar I attended and I have not written a word on any business plan.  Instead I have been busy writing my resume and cover letter, from scratch, because my computer's hard drive crashed back in September and I lost everything.  For the second time.

Can you tell I am in a stellar mood today? ;)  Got my bright and cheery disposition out to shine.

I have to tell you about this morning, I spent it chaperoning Tallulah's class to the Pacific Northwest Ballet's performance of Cinderella.  Some points were so memorable and fun, I truly love hanging out with kids that age, being a sorta teacher like role.  But overall, it is hard to enjoy a ballet performance when 75 kindergartners need to be hushed and gently reminded that the little person in front of them does not like the incessant tapping with the big boots on the back of their chair.  In an effort to tune out the noise, I got caught up in staring at the beautiful Cinderella sign on stage, and drifted off to a day dream where i had a fourth child and named her Cinderella.  And I really thought that was a great idea.  By the time the school bus was turning the corner back to school, the noise level from the constant talking and laughing and sometimes screaming children had numbed my ear drums, and only now, 2 hours later is the ringing subsiding.  Oh, to be a school bus there's a job that'll drive you to drink.  Or shoot heroin.  Or maybe just drive the big yellow, sound-torture-chamber-on-wheels right into Lake Washington.    But really, there were some sweet moments.

Back to the job search.  To qualify for unemployment, I have to "make contact" with three job possibilities each week.  There is nothing out there that I qualify for.  This week's winners were: customer service for the Herbfarm restaurant, a national medical scheduler (wtf is that?), and an assistant to a funeral home director. Think I'll be going to any interviews?  But at least I have the resume written, even if it isn't that great.

And all this constant thinking about starting a business, writing a business plan, scouring craigslist for job prospects, going to has got me thinking a lot about a question that arrises for me, a lot.  "What do I want to do with my life?"  it's like I have career ADD.  I can never seem to settle on one thing.  I think that is why I love this blog so much.  I get to do so many different things, all under the same umbrella of the blog.  Some things stick, like the yoga.  Which I have to say is funny that I love it so much, and love the same-ness of it, considering this ADD thing.  But I would probably get this if I wanted to be a Bikram teacher.  I think it just has to do with my professional life, as if I have one of those.  I should check out my astrological chart on this one.  yea, that was another one of my possible careers...professional witch, what with all the herbs and astrology, i think I may even have a crystal ball somewhere.  Nope, probably got rid of that during "purging my stuff month."

Well, that is where I am at right now.  And speaking of stars and astrology, I am hoping this Gemini moon draws me right into the details, into the nitty gritty bitty pieces of it all...sometimes I get lost when I get all out in the big picture.  I think I'll set some goals for myself for the weekend.

1. Meet with Amy
2. Put my laundry away
3. Go to yoga Saturday and Sunday
4. Decide what to do with my life (just kidding)


Thursday, February 10, 2011

yoga update

To let the curious know - we have continued on with Bikram yoga! We are doing 5-6 days out of the week, more like 6. March 1 will mark the beginning of the Sweatbox's 30-Day Challenge (ours in January was self-imposed). From their website:
"The 30-Day Challenge is Almost Here!

It's that time again of the year again - time for the 30-Day Challenge! We begin March 1st.

Let's remember all of the reasons why we practice: we feel clearer and happier; our bodies are healthier and more efficient; we behave more kindly to our family and friends; we are better parents. The 30-Day challenge is the single best opportunity to get yourself back into a dedicated practice regimen.

Try the challenge. Do your best to do it. Put yourself first for 30 days of your life. Once you do, you'll be hooked.

Sign up people! You won't regret it."
Developing a Bikram practice has helped me gain strength and stamina--it might do the same for you!


Court Side

Last night I was at a college basketball game where I sat next to this guy. A short distance to my left was a friend who is working towards an MBA. The seats near us were stuffed with business acumen. A couple thoughts went through my mind:
  • Most people wear Jeans. Jeans serve as the great equalizer of America.
  • Court side is another golf course--whether on hardwood or turf grass relationships deepen in 110 minutes of hang time and 10 minutes of exchanging business.
  • If you're the son of the coach you're a sonofacoach!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

some real business

The whole business thing got very real today.  I went to a seminar on "Writing a Business Plan" that was hosted by the Seattle chapter of SCORE.  SCORE is an organization that offers free one on one counseling for people starting or owning small businesses.  Retired business professionals offer their services to do the counseling, and teach classes and seminars.  And amazingly enough (I don't know why I find this amazing...maybe because I feel so busy and broke, so I can't imagine offering this much time for free) everyone there, the teachers and the librarian....everyone, seemed truly interested in other people's business success.  Jerry, our main teacher for the day, was telling us a story about one of this clients and he mentioned that he was on the phone with her last night...from his home!  and then emailed this same client at 5am this morning, because he was thinking about her situation and thought of another way to help her.  Wow.  Jerry and our other teachers shared many stories of people like us, with dreams of owning a business or those that has succeeded and then had some pitfall.  Every time Jerry told a story, he used the pronoun "we"; he saw himself as a part of that budding business and has even become long time friends with some of his clients.  I loved the personal stories.

The day started off a little stressful.  Jamie had to work at 7am (thankfully, he is working again right now.) and I had to catch a bus at 7:40am.  The kids need to be to school by 9am.  Thankfully Amy offered to walk the kids to school.  But it hit me at around 11pm the night before that even with Amy walking the kids to school, that left a crucial window of one hour with no one to be with the kids.  With Lily being nearly 11, usually that is not an issue, but in the morning...before school, the variables for meltdowns are too great to leave her with that responsibility.  So again, thankfully, Amy said she would come down at 8am and assist in the getting ready for school thing.  Whew.  I ran out the door and two blocks (uphill) at 7:40 and caught by bus by seconds.  I got all checked in on time at the seminar, and was enjoying the desk to myself, the crappy coffee with powdered creamer, and listening to the small talk about weather when Jerry finally started the day.  I felt fresh and engaged.  Then my phone buzzed.  It was Amy calling.  fuck.  I discreetly texted her to find out that Tallulah was refusing to go to school.  fuck again.

 I left the class and called her from the hallway, and she put TJ (Tallulah June) on the phone.  TJ was whining, loudly.  Crying about hating school, and why can't they go back to Bright Water (the private school we decided we did not want to pay for she cried and held on for dear life when I left her there last year too)  Anyway, after I talked her down off the ledge, I went back into class.  (I later found out it was probably more Lily that helped "the brat" as she fondly refers to her walking to school)  I was way less fresh and engaged, more like cracked out from bad coffee and frazzled from the satellite parenting.  Not to mention feeling horrible about causing Amy duress.  The best part was that Amy texted me to say..."now I feel like I understand more what Louis CK is talking about with the whole parenting thing."

knowns and unknowns

blog at sunrise.
Melissa and I have been meeting early in the morning and late at night, talking about our business plan. We listed out what we want to do and why. And we're in the middle of number crunching (which has more variables than I had thought about). We have a lot of research ahead of us.  

KNOWN: some of the questions we need answered.
UNKNOWN: potential return of invesment.
KNOWN: we're working well together.

On that note, I'm going to hit publish and get ready to walk the kids to school today as Melissa gets prepped for an all-day business seminar downtown.  - Amy

P.S. It goes without saying that this is the most boring blog post I've ever read/written in my life.

Monday, February 7, 2011

business meetings and Eazy-E

I had a business meeting today.  I had no idea how truly excited I was for this venture until today, after I met with Amy for our first "official" business meeting.  Could I say business meeting in every sentence?  I won't.  But I could.  So, anyway, back to the business meeting...what has happened in the past when I come up with all these great business ideas is that I blab my mouth about them all at every chance, mostly over drinks with people, and what happens is the excitement fizzles.  I spread the energy too thin and receive mixed reviews and then I go nowhere with the original idea.  For instance, one of my ideas was the "Door Whore", who could forget that one?  It was for a clicker, like the thing that unlocks your car from a distance, but for the front door of your house.  I know that fancy rich people probably already have this, but mine was for the people, the working class, the everyday mom that has three screaming kids and ten bags in her arms and has to pee and can barely hold it cause she has given birth to so many god damn kids, ok, so I was thinking of myself.  And the inspiration for its clever name came from an old Eazy-E (1963-1995)  song "Eazy Duz It", because the door whore's tag line was "...for easy access, baby."  It's a well-known line from that song where they ask Eazy why he wears his pants like that.   Yea, I know, I have had some rockin' good ideas.  It's a wonder I haven't become one of those fancy rich people already.

But my point in all this is to say, this time the excitement is growing, the energy increases exponentially every time we talk about it.  It could be that the idea is better then previous ones, or it could be that the timing is right.  The people involved have complementary skills and enough wit and openness to laugh a lot and be flexible.  My last post I was concerned about not sharing the idea with everyone here on the blog, but now I feel like there was a deeper reason.  It isn't about worrying that someone might steal the idea, I mean...maybe that is a reason for someone else and a side benefit form me not sharing the idea on here, but for me, the reason that is bubbling up is that keeping it to ourselves allows for us to cultivate it without a lot of external input.  And while often that input can be positive, sometimes it's negative, and not in a constructive way.  I am thinking of it like incubating some chick eggs...keep them warm and safe, you don't want a lot of people handling them because they could crack.  I like to be warm, and safe.  And I don't want to crack.  Speaking of crack, it's seems to all be coming back to Eazy-E today, huh?

peace out.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

You're Hired!

This month, Melissa and I are talking business, doing business, culminating in writing a business plan. It's our own version of The Apprentice, except no one gets fired! We just might go broke.

I've been part of a start-up business, a non-profit business, a corporate business, and I've even owned my own business. A number of my friends are M.B.A.s, one even from Wharton (yes you are detecting an obsession with the Trump family). I've known people who've: acquired venture capitol; invested their trust funds into business; and or scrimped and saved their earnings to invest in their own enterprise.

Who among us hasn't had that million-dollar idea, if not fleeting,during a late night session with friends and a good bottle of wine?

What speaks to me most about entrepreneurship is the potential for world-changing creative output from hard work and collaboration that can lead to sustainable and equitable living...

Speaking of business I have to head out to help scout new locations for this year's hives for the Urban Bee Company (my husband's endeavor). More thoughts on all of the above soon!

As always,

Thursday, February 3, 2011

SAHMWKIS (stay-at-home-mom-with-kids-in-school)

I started my new life as a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom. I have found that these acronyms are quite popular on-line in chat rooms or places where moms go for advice. DH - dear husband, and others are out there, seemingly just to annoy me.) Actually, I have not yet decided whether I am assuming the title of Stay-at-Home-Mom or unemployed mom.  Tallulah told our friend yesterday that I don't work anymore because I am "disabled."  Tallulah is 5.  "My mom doesn't go to work anymore, because at her job, they, um...she is, uh, disabled.  So she doesn't go there anymore, she stays home with me."

Today was day two without a new label, or cool acronym for myself...and apparently, according to my youngest daughter, disabled.  I did not make it to yoga, and was hugely disappointed about that. I really tried.  I got home from Levi's classroom and after making a long overdue call to a friend, while I packed my yoga stuff up, I had 30 seconds to decide if I could walk to the Sweatbox fast enough.  And not only that, could I also get everything else I needed to get done finished after yoga and before I had to get the kids from school? I decided no.  So, I sadly put my yoga bag down and went to the computer to finish the financial aid form for Lily's private middle school she dearly wants to go to. (We go to an interview tomorrow!)  It's funny how I could make it every singe day for 30 days, and then as soon as it was not the priority, it easily can seem impossible to make it there. Or easily seems possible to not make it there.   Very different perspectives with the same outcome.

Plus I have this new month to tackle.  And what a month it is!  Why did I pick business plan??? Researching isn't so bad, but there are aspects that I guess I knew were there...but always ignore.  And these have come up in just the first few days, I wonder what other surprises will be in store for this naive business lady?  My plan was to honestly write everything about my journey as being a total novice to starting a business.   And while I will still do that, it will look perhaps a little different than I had first thought.

I didn't know that it might not be a good idea to tell everything about the business as we blog.  I didn't think that anyone would possibly be out there scouting for ideas and steal ours.   I know I have an idealistic nature, and an aversion to the harsh business world as I think it is.  Sometimes I think it is that belief system that has kept me from my own success.  Maybe I think to be successful you have to play by "their rules" and I don't believe in their rules.  So, this will be interesting, to see how I can come to terms with that.  Do I play the game?   Do I write my own rules and assume if I follow my heart and passion it will all work out as it should?

As of now, I will heed the friend's advice and not give too many details to the business. We'll come up with some code words to disguise our master plan.  For now we have an "idea" and I found this website from the Small Business Administration to get a template and ideas for what we need to think about and get on paper.  I thought this seemed like a reputable place to start.  There are so so may websites out there for this kind of thing, and as  newbie, you just don't know who to trust.

You know, I kind of have a lot at stake here.  If this is something that takes off, the timing couldn't be better.  This month I have the time to put toward this and the motivation to make something happen.  I am tired of working for someone else and working hard to make more money to may for their life.  I am tired to not feeling inspired by my work and having that translate into lower and lower self esteem.  I am in a place in my life, since starting this blog, of growing and becoming stronger, and I am ready for that to translate into my career.

And, Happy New Moon, and Happy Year of the Rabbit!

Lily's art work, age 7
“Let there be peace -- and let it begin with me” is the Rabbit motto. The Tiger makes waves, but the Rabbit mends fences. Diplomacy reigns. If you want to improve your chances of success, negotiate and cooperate rather than force your ideas on others. It’s also a time to kiss and make up. Forgive and forget. Let’s all get along. Make love not war. If last year the emphasis was on excitement, it’s now is on harmony.  -from

So...negotiate and cooperate to improve my chances of success.  Looks like it goes well with my Moon in Libra.  Enough said.  Done and Done.  I am always open to listening to the signs.

and for now the signs and the clock and my eyes are saying...good night.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


A whole year has passed since Dina and I started this blogging adventure together.  I can remember looking ahead to the coming year back then, with such excitement for each new thing I was going to totally immerse myself into.  My plan, as I recall, was to do whatever new thing that month brought every day of that month.  And if I couldn't make that happen, I would read about that thing or learn about it in some manner.  Some months I lived up to that expectation...I remember during "growing our own food month" I read a Michael Pollan book and watched a few movies on that state of our agriculture system here in the US and found it all to be very inspiring.  And i felt like i used my time wisely considering after I planted my seeds, there wasn't a whole lot to "do" for a bit...besides chasing away big dogs and their big fat paws from my little plant babies.  During "painting month" and "learning the Beyonce dance month" I found a way to do those things most days, and found it even easier to feel guilty about not doing them on the days I didn't make them a priority.

"Sewing ourselves a dress month" nearly brought me to a murderous state...what with all the tension and agro-ness toward sewing, and the big scissors in my hands.  I totally hate sewing, as I do most crafty endeavours; and I knew that going into it and often found myself with fabric and thin pattern paper everywhere wondering...why in the fuck did I pick this?  But I have to say, I am so proud to have finished that mini dress.  Every time I wear it I find a way to let someone know...."I made this!"  Would I do it again?  Maybe.  And yes, I am a bit crazy.  Then there was "writing month", remember that?  Of course not!  I didn't write a goddamn thing.  That was a shocker, I thought I loved writing.  I even, at one point in college, thought it could be one of my hidden talents.  Turns out, the blank piece of paper won again.  Almost.  I did finish that readers write submission!  The other total flop of the list had to be "salsa dancing month."  It started out fine, going dancing for Jamie's birthday....and then never again.  Sometimes life and the priorities it sets right in front of you take center stage, not the dance floor.

By far, clearly, my favorite was "yoga month."  I had no idea it would sweep me off my feet the way it did.  and even more of a shocker was that it would be Bikram Yoga that I fell for.  I gave everything I had to that practice and I am sure you know, dedicated another whole month to this moving meditation...completing a 30 day challenge.  Other months that I liked included drumming, the vegan diet, and the make-up-your-own-month where I did a simplifying of my stuff, a major purging.

I am so, so grateful that I took on this year of trying new things.  I learned so much about myself and life and people.  I gained a self confidence I never had before.  I have a stronger foundation from which I can stand and greet the world in a new and more diverse way.  And I am looking forward to a year of new activities, new lessons, new challenges, and new triumphs.  I wonder if I am still looking for a passion?  Or am I finding a way to stay youthful and maintain some sort of mental flexibility, and physical too in some cases.  I love that this helps me be open to trying new things...those of my own imagination and dreams and those of someone else's.  You never know what someone else is going to put on that list.

Amy and I revealed our new lists last night at a dinner to celebrate finishing the 30 days of yoga (which was much harder and less euphoric than I had created it to be in my mind all month.)  I think both of us would have rather been soaking in a hot bath tub or snuggled in a warm blanket on our couches, but in the end we had a great time.  It was so fun to pick each folded piece of paper and unfold it not knowing what was written inside, and then share our thoughts and ideas and research we had done for each topic.
So....we will reveal the list tomorrow, with a new look and feel to the blog.


PS...and now, I leave you with my submission to the Sun magazine:

Readers Write Submission
Paying Attention

For the past month I have been practicing yoga every day.  Every day I spend 90 minutes in a room heated to 105 degrees, working my body into 26 different postures and sweating.  When I set out on this challenge, I assumed that the physical aspect would give me the most trouble.  And while it has at times, what I am discovering is that the mental component can prove to be much more of a struggle…but with exponential benefits.

The unspoken question arises moment-to-moment….what am I going to pay attention to?  Am I going to mentally jump ahead and worry about what postures are coming next, and what postures I can weasel my way out of without too much self-deprecation to follow?  Am I going to pay attention to my trembling muscles moving and holding the poses, the teacher’s calm voice guiding me through each posture?  Or am I going to be in each moment, totally present, only paying attention to my breath coming in and my breath going out? 

The times where I am paying attention to my breath and not the mental chatter are fleeting, but blissful.  I get to that place by being a beginner again, and not anticipating, not reviewing…just following instructions.  It seems to me that being in that state is a sort of “not paying attention” to anything.  Those few moments when the mind is clear are elusive and beautiful, and can disappear as soon as you start paying attention to them. 
We can spend all the minutes of our day paying attention to the details of life…getting the dishes clean, making sure all the bills are paid, folding the laundry, feeding the kids, answering the phone, the list goes one and on.  I feel unending gratitude for those brief moments where my mind is free to not pay attention to anything, to just be and not attach to any thoughts, watching them float by like clouds on the sky.

The Sum of All Things

Hi there,

Yesterday marked the finale of the 30 day Bikram Yoga challenge with Melissa--and some other endings and beginnings that Melissa shared over here. I can't wait to read her Readers Write submission to The Sun magazine. Congratulations Melissa, on a year well spent, and thanks again for bringing me on for the 2011 adventure. Also super thanks to all the encouragement from everyone and Jaime and Bob for the rides to and from class during those super cold and wet days.

Meditation Month

I'm on the right.
As readers who follow this blog may recall January was meditation month, and as you can easily tell it was really more about the yoga for me. Does that make it a moving meditation? I really tried, and while I intend to finish my reading materials I just couldn't sink my teeth into it the way I thought I could. Part of the challenge was balancing everything else that's going on in my life. Meditation kept looking like an escape hatch or a total disconnect from everything I was supposed to be doing. Which probably is an indicator that I need to practice it more. Or maybe not. In any case, why does something like meditation--or even yoga for that matter--seem like a luxury?
I can say that with the theme of this month as meditation, complemented by the yoga practice, I have experienced and increased sense of focus and intention in every day behaviors. I immediately feel more focused in a period of time and more giving of myself to the task at hand--whether that be washing dishes, folding laundry, writing a blog post, doing my day-job work. I've just been

30 Day Yoga Challenge  

What the sign says.
This past weekend took me to Portland for a birthday party so I had to find a Bikram-certified yoga studio to complete days 28 and 29. I found Bikram Portland on Alberta Street. Practicing away from home in new surroundings was at first scary but a great experience that in a way brought me back to the very beginning of my 30 days--just listening and adjusting to a new environment. I don't know that I could have had any better classes. Of course day 30 I spent most of the time lolling about on the floor in Savasana wishing I could leave much like my very first class. It's funny how when you build up a climax in your mind and then you get there and it happens to be just like any other day.  
I've been asked by a few people what I think of this practice and if I've received any noticeable benefits. So here's a quick (very quick) summary of what's happened to me:

10 body improvements from 30-day Bikram yoga challenge:
  1. Slimmer waistline, calves, quads; overall improved definition in the legs and arms
  2. Ability to stand and touch my toes (something I haven't done in over 15 years)
  3. Ability to sit and extend my legs, lock my knees lift my heels off the ground while touching my toes
  4. Deeper breathing when outside of class; improved ability to stay relaxed during stressful situations
  5. Increased stamina for standing on one leg while engaging the quadriceps
  6. More conscious engagement of my abs outside of class, especially when bending over
  7. Greater water intake has led to increased alertness and mental agility while outside of class
  8. Smoother skin
  9. Overall more moderated appetite
  10. Deeper sleep
Namaste January.