Monday, August 30, 2010

For the love of coffee.

For some reason, I keep daydreaming about owning my own business. I'm not sure why. I have tried to do it before with a popular and well-known cosmetics company and that was not the best. I did fine at first, but getting out and pounding the pavement didn't work so well for me. In the end, I broke even, I think.

Over the last few years, I have thought about owning my own business of some sort. DH had a business plan created for a game store that (I thought) would have been extremely lucrative. We never got further than the business plan, but it got my mind moving in that direction permanently, it seems. When I drive by a vacant business storefront, I think about what kind of business would be successful there. I see shows on TV about small businesses and how they have succeeded and grown in spite of the economical downturn. Whenever I discover a new hobby, I start to wonder if I might be able to make a living doing it.

A few days ago, I realized that there is no place in town to get just a cup of coffee. That seems like a travesty. I LOVE coffee. I like to drink several cups a day, but I am a bit of a snob about it. I have to have GOOD coffee. Most office brand coffee is completely undrinkable to me. Besides, I can't stand artificial crap polluting my caffeine stream. I have to have real milk and real sugar, not creamer, sweet 'n low, or any of the other things that come out of a packet. Because of my caffeine snobbery, I enjoy going to coffee shops and trying out different thing. After all, I do like a little variety - a different brew or flavored bean every now and then. I'll even drink it iced or blended, and a shot of real flavor in it doesn't hurt, as long as it isn't an artificially created concoction (I can taste High Fructose Corn Syrup and Artificial Vanilla in one sip.)

Anyway, my love of coffee and coffee shops brought me back to the idea of owning my own place and then I was inspired by my husbands previous business plan. Now I've got this THING bouncing around inside my skull and I can't stop thinking about it. When I lie down and close my eyes, I start thinking of menu items and designs. Last night, when I would normally be checking up on the news or relaxing with a game online, I was gathering prices for coffee brewers and comfy furniture. When I jumped on to Facebook to see what was happening in the world, all I saw was all my friends and their incredible talents and I started thinking of ways I could give them publicity through a store of mine.

The worst part of all of this, is how absurd it is to even consider something like that. I haven't been able to balance my checkbook and follow a budget during the last 11 years of my marriage. What on earth makes me think I could handle the financial responsibility of an entire store, with customers, inventory, and possibly employees? I have worked in a small business and I know what a nightmare it can be. All the little things that come up that need to be dealt with just to keep the doors open become so overwhelming that is difficult to do whatever it is that your business does to make money.

I still think it would be a great idea. I have an AWESOME concept and I really feel that it would work well in the little downtown strip here in TAEOO (The Ass End Of Oblivion, as WP calls it.) It would be fun and cool and I would enjoy the hell out of it. There is even a spot currently for lease that is the perfect size and layout for it. I spent all weekend researching costs of equipment and furniture and everything my little shop would need. Even now, I have more ideas running through my head and the picture in my mind is becoming more and more clear by the minute.

Here are the roadblocks I am facing, though. 1) Money (of course.) I would need investors, grants, loans, and lots of capitol to get started. I might not start to turn a profit for several months even. That is a lot of cash flow and I already have crappy credit. 2) Health. I am still dealing with whatever it is that makes me stiff, sore, and tired all the time. I am so much better than I used to be, but am I well enough to pull something like this off? If this is the only thing holding me back, I would rather push through than admit it. But I do have to at least take it into consideration right now. 3)  Life. We just picked up and moved almost 2 hours away from where we have always lived. We don't own our own house which means we will have to move again eventually (I am not going to rent for the rest of my life.) Emotionally, the upheaval is significant. Could my kids handle it? Financially, it will be a little while before things settle down after the move. Can we afford for me to follow this dream without having an alternate form of income for awhile? If I start working somewhere else, will I end up putting the idea on the shelf in favor of a steady paycheck? Should I be more interested in providing a steady paycheck to my family than entering into another financially rocky state?

I don't know the answer to these questions yet. I have a lot of thinking to do before I decide what to do with the ideas floating around in my head. There is no doubt that I will at least have to make a formal business plan or else the concept will keep eating away at my brain. Maybe I'll get back to you when I have my numbers formally crunched.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The countdown begins

10 days left before we move. It's a good thing, too. Any longer than that and I don't know if WP's neighbors will put up with us any longer than that. LH is actually starting to become more confident playing her cornet. Confident is the nice word for loud. She has had the instrument for less than a week and I have already heard more out of it than in an entire year's worth of trombone and french horn combined. It is hard for me to listen to the practicing because off-keys notes can be physically painful, but I know I will have to get used to it until she gets the hang of things. Frankly, I am just impressed as anything that she is actually spending the time to practice on her own. Apparently, having the instrument you actually WANT is the key to enjoying music. Who'd have figured? While she is enjoying practicing, she isn't enjoying the rest of homework, obviously. A big change over last year is that she is actually DOING it, when she is supposed to.  I hope her diligence will be a good example for both her sisters.

This is the first time EG has actually HAD homework assigned nightly and she isn't the least bit pleased with it. By the time she comes home she is totally wiped out. Three days in a row we have seen pretty strong temper tantrums from her within an hour of getting in the door. It takes quite a bit of relaxing and at least one snack before she is able to even look at her homework. The odd thing is not just how easy the assignments are for her once she calms down, but how frustrated she gets over them. Her "big" math assignment was no more difficult than writing numbers from 20 down to 1 and writing out the date. She went to pieces over writing her 6, 7, and 9's correctly. Reading though, is no problem at all. She was tested yesterday - two days after summer vacation, mind you - and she is reading at A SECOND SEMESTER FIFTH GRADER'S LEVEL. I bet if all the math problems were spelled out, she would breeze through them without a second thought.

TD has had the easiest time so far. She has had very little homework and has been able to check out whatever she wants to read from the library. She has, of course, made lots of friends and adores all her teachers.

I have all day to myself again, and I am at a loss what to do with the time. If I was in my own place, I would have plenty of chores, house cleaning, errands, and all sorts of other things to do. With only a few personal items to tidy up and 1/4 of the clothes that we normally have, I can get things picked up in a few minutes and then, I am bored. WP does not have TV service here so I am not able to even watch the local news. I really don't miss it when the kids are around, but at 1:00 in the afternoon, there is very little to do. I am trying to do my best to enjoy the peace and quiet and just reserve my energy for the move coming up. I am more afraid that I am going to become used to the rest and the pain and fatigue will creep in and take over again.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Hopes and Dreams

Today was the first day of school for my girls. I was so incredibly nervous for them for a lot of reasons. First, we are in such a small town compared to where we were living before. On one hand, that is good because everybody knows everybody else. On the other hand, it can suck being the only one who doesn't know anybody. I have never attended a small school, myself, so I had no way to know if the horror stories I had heard about small town cliques were true around here. The last thing I want for my girls is to move them miles and miles away from all their friends and then not be able to make new ones. I shouldn't have worried a bit. TD and EG made lots of friends and had a great time (except for the boys in EG's class who called her a midget, but they got in trouble anyway.) Even LH (who's new school is only as large as her last class was) made a few friends and seemed happier than I have seen her in months!

Second (and this might seem a trifle silly,) I was seriously worried about what my girls were wearing. This is the first time my girls have attended a school that DIDN'T require uniforms. In spite of my rather liberal take on most things, I am a big supporter of uniforms. It is less expensive for me and less stress for the girls. But, it means I worry less about what else they have in their closet because they only have play clothes, really.When considering what they own and what I would still need to purchase for them, I was a bit concerned. I anticipated a lot of, "EVERYONE has them! I HAVE to have it!" Amazingly, when I pulled out everything the girls currently have that is acceptable for school, and we went through it all together, LH was the only one who needed anything new (other than shoes, of course.)  How my kids became so SENSIBLE I have no clue, but I am certainly thankful for it! The only reason LH even asked for anything is because she has outgrown most of what she has. Even then, she only asked for the bare minimum to get by. So, since they were happy with what they had, I was happy to not have to shop for it. Each of them got one, new, nice pair of sneakers and we were all satisfied. Just to be sure, this afternoon I asked the girls how things went and if they thought they had the same clothes as everyone else. All three of them felt that they were going to do just fine with what they had.

Third, I was worried about all the normal stuff I worry about every year. How will the girls react to going back to school? Will they behave in class? Will the teachers be fair? Will they have any trouble going through the lunch line? Will they get lost on the way to class or after school?  Of course, I had nothing to worry about. Smaller schools apparently mean more attention per student and all three girls did just fine.

I had other things on my mind today, as well. We were supposed to get a call today about the rent house and whether they would approve our application or not. I was seriously sweating this. An approval meant we would be in our own place within two weeks. If they decided to go with another applicant instead (assuming there was another applicant) it would mean more looking or settling on a house that is less perfect than we want and then going through the approval process all or over again. I know that the owner of the house did not really want pets and having our dog with us was non-negotiable. Also, I almost felt it was too good to be true. This house is GORGEOUS.  All original hardwood floors that were re-finished in the last few years. The previous tenants kept the house immaculately clean and even had painted the house in tasteful, well done, neutrals. The yard was groomed and it was clear that someone had spent some time gardening and planting flowers. Was this really a rent house that we could afford?

It seems it is. Around 12:00 I got a message from DH that he received the call from the management and they approved our application! We get to move in just under two weeks! The relief I am feeling is more than I can actually put into words. It feels like we have been floating without a destination for so long now. Finally, we have a place to land. My kids will have their toys and clothes back in a room of their own. I will have a kitchen of my own to cook and store food in. I will get to sleep in my own, luxuriously comfortable bed (that might be what I have missed the most!)

I will miss staying with WP, strangely enough. Having his help and his calming attitude has kept me sane for the past month. I know that a one bedroom apartment is hardly a good situation for us for any stretch of time, but I am slightly anxious when I think about being back in a place of my own. No one will be there to help cook if I am too tired to do it myself. I will have no other person to be seen by so I might fall off the routines that have focused my day. Will my laundry pile up once again? Will I give in to the fatigue when there is no one else around but me?

Actually, I think I will be ok. I have three wonderful daughters and as much as I hate to saddle them with more responsibilities, they really need to have the experience of keeping things neat and tidy on their own. If the last few weeks are any indication, I have actually been lax in raising them to pick up after themselves. They are all coming to the age where I should be guiding more and doing less. LH has cooked entire meals without supervision. TD recently learned how to wash, dry, fold, and sort laundry on her own. Even EG, who is only 7, is capable of washing the dinner dishes by herself quite successfully without a dishwasher. There is no reason I should be doing all of the housework myself. My continuing to do everything is actually doing them a disservice by denying them the ability to learn these skills themselves.

I understand that the past month has been necessary for my survival and even healing. Being with WP has been the crutch I needed to get past this rough patch, but in a good way. Now I feel that it is time for me to stand on my own feet again. I am healing and getting stronger everyday. I am even hurting less and feeling more energy. Living in a new place so far from what I have known nearly all my life is certainly going to be an adventure. I really think that all the things that we have gone through have prepared me for what we all need to do now.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Almost there!

After weeks upon weeks of searching, DH and I have finally (sort of ) decided on a place to live. We haven't been approved yet for the house we want, but we at least have decided on WHERE we want to live for now. The WHERE happens to be the little town that DH has lived in for the past six years. It is a very small town with one grocery store, a one-screen theater, one Dairy Queen, and all three schools on the same campus. The houses are mostly old and Victorian style, and the streets are paved just enough to not be called "dirt roads." The down town area consists of one block with a hardware store, a car parts store, a few nic-nac shops, and a diner or two.

Why would this city girl ever consider moving here? First, because of WP. We have discussed over the past few years, the idea of him moving in with our family on a semi-permanent basis. I like having family nearby and I sometimes worry about him living alone with all his family an hour or more away. The idea works better in theory than in real life, though. WP likes his space and DH likes to be in charge. Those two things can cause fireworks in the best of situations. Moving to the same (very) small town is a good compromise that lets us all be near, but not too near.

Second, I like this town because it is so small. In spite of  the lack of major grocery chains or take-out restaurants available country living has its advantages. I can see stars at night and I never hear sirens - ever. I can let the girls walk to the library all by themselves. It is two blocks away and the area is safe enough that I don't feel the need to stand on the corner and watch them all the way there. The entire school district is about the same size as my senior class was in the city. For such a small area, their schools are surprisingly advanced technology-wise. They have all the same internet tracking for grades, attendance, and school lunch accounts that they have in the city but they also have an very current computers in all the classrooms. They even have brand-new interactive white-boards that I haven't seen in the city yet.

Third, my kids like this place. We have been here for almost three weeks (staying with WP while we wait on the rent house) and my girls have spent more time outside than they have in the last three summers put together. We received a personal call from EG's teacher today, even though we only registered (late) on Monday. All three girls are on a first name basis with the neighbors, the librarian, and the people who work at the grocery store. They have never had this sort of freedom or safety before and they seem to be thriving in it.

Our application for the house is awaiting approval and we won't hear anything back for a few more days. If we arent' approved (heaven forbid!) I have a few other houses that I will try for. What that means is that we will be staying with WP for a little longer than we had hoped. Our plan was to be moved in before school starts. That obviously isn't going to happen. Once we are approved (hopefully!) we won't be able to move in until September 1. If we have to look further, it might even be longer.

Until then, we all are snuggled quite cozily in my dad's one bedroom apartment. My girls are learning how to cope with less space and less STUFF and I can totally get behind that. I have been working towards this goal for many years and moving here has really helped that little dream along. There is one thing I have to learn to cope without that I really don't want to - DH.

Because the commute to DH's office is too far to make daily, he is staying at his parent's house during the week and driving up here to stay with us on the weekends. We all really miss him a lot. Thankfully, WP is here to be an extra set of hands and eyes for me. I seriously don't know how single moms so this. I couldn't imagine handling all of this myself. But, even after we have our house, things will be better but not perfect. DH can telecommute on Thursday and Fridays, but he will still have to be in the office Monday through Wednesday. That means he will still be living in his parents guest room three days a week, at least for the foreseeable future.

Anyone who didn't know us would think we were having "issues" and that this was an attempt at a trial separation. Nothing could be further from the truth. We talk on the phone several times a day and we chat online almost every night. I don't want him to be away from us any minute longer than is necessary. It doesn't seem as though he is enjoying this anymore than we are. He misses his girls so very much. I now really understand the advice given that said, "Don't marry the person you can live with. Marry the person you can't live without."

Our hope is that he will not have to keep up the double household gig for very long. Since he already telecommutes two days a week, extending his job to a full week telecommute is really just a matter of approval for the HR department. The house we have chosen (so far) is a lot smaller than we even had before so having a dedicated office will be difficult. If it means having him home every night, I am willing to do whatever it takes.

Things in my life have been so hectic for so long I don't even remember what peace feels like. When DH and I talked about moving to make changes in our life, we both knew that we would have to make sacrifices and changes. I never knew how big those sacrifices would be. For the sake of my family and our peace and happiness, though, I will be willing to give up whatever I need to.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday the 13th

I believe there is a balance to all things. Whenever something awful happens, there is usually a good reason for it, or at the very least, something spectacular will happen to balance it out. It works the other way, too, but the thing to remember is that all things change. When things are up, be thankful and enjoy them. When things are down, take comfort in knowing that the pendulum will swing in the other direction before long.

Six months ago, I was on top of the world, it felt like. I had an excellent paying job that I loved, I had a car of my own for the first time in many years, all my bills were paid and caught up, and I was finally on the path to healing, both in body and in mind. But, no matter what we tried and how we brainstormed, we could not seem to keep our situation (financially and otherwise) from constantly spiraling further and further into a black hole. Even though we were making twice what we made before, we were still wasting hundreds of dollars that we should have been spending. After three months, we were really no better off than we were before. Then, one bad decision on my part led to me losing my job, which led to bills piling up, and us losing the rent house. I do feel responsible for the current situation. I know that if I would have kept the job, things would be much different right now. I would hope they would have been better. In reality, though, I am sure there is a good reason that I lost the Awesome Assignment.

Had I stayed working there, DH would not have even considered interviewing for a position that would move us out of town. Even though he didn't get the job, the timing of it and the location of it caused us to consider things we had previously thought were beyond consideration. Because we spent the time to think beyond what we have always done, we are making steps to improve our lives and and the lives of our children.

For a long time we have both said that "Something" had to change. Neither of us knew what that "something" was, but the immediacy of our current situation has forced us out of that rut and now we are changing MANY things. We both value what we have more because we have been forced to give up so much. I am finally sharing the financial responsibilities with DH which is easier on me because I don't carry the burden and shame by myself anymore. I have been able to release the resentment and work along side my husband to improve our lives instead of feeling as if the struggle was mine alone. Most importantly, we have decided - together - that living outside the city would be beneficial to all of us.

The more we look at houses that are in "The Country" the more I want to be there. I want to live in a place where I can see birds and wild animals and trees taller than the houses. I want to drive down the street and not see another apartment or hotel being built where a grove of trees had been before. I want my kids to be able to walk to the library or park, the way I did when I was a kid. This is only possible in the smallest of towns these days, but it IS possible.

Besides cementing the idea of giving up city life, losing the lease on our house has had some very interesting consequences. I have been staying with WP since we moved out of the house. Never before have we visited here for more than a few hours. Several times he has visited us for days, or even months at a time, but staying with HIM is much different. The schedule he keeps and the simple life he leads has been a wonderful example for my children. Not only are they creating memories with their Grandfather that I know will be precious to them for many years, the structure and comfort they experience here is nothing that I could have given them on my own. The only reason my girls have been able to adapt so easily to the changes around them is that they are here, in a familiar place, with people that love and care about them.

One of the best things that has come from this is that my girls have been able to actually experience small town life instead of just hearing about it. They have learned how to adapt to a simpler life. I never could have shown them this while living in the city. There are a hundred little things that alone make very little difference, but together create a life that is so very different from where we came from. Small things like not having a dishwasher, stores that close at 7:00, a library that is close enough to walk to and is safe to be in, and neighbors that know everyone make living here feel so different and peaceful.

I am falling in love with small town life. I don't know which small town we will end up in, but I know I already like this one very much.

Friday, August 6, 2010


Sorry I have not been updating regularly. Things are moving so fast (literally) and I haven't been at liberty to give all details all the time. For the moment the details are this: We are relocating to "The Country."
(I might have mentioned that before, but you're all probably used to my repeating things by now.) Last Saturday was our last day in our old house. We haven't found a new house yet, so I (and all three girls) have been staying with WP since then. DH has been staying at his parents because the commute to his  bed job is way to far from WP's place.

Do I like this? Not a bit. Can I deal with this? Just barely, but not for much longer. Don't get me wrong, WP is an awesome host, even though he has a one bedroom apartment that is not really arranged well for four extra people. He has even managed to cook, keep the kids on top of tidying up their own mess, and even keep up with their own laundry. I am flabbergasted to say the least. We moved out of our house with one load of dirty laundry and after a week, we don't have any more than that.

Bedtime is the most interesting time of day. There is one air mattress that has a slow leak and one futon that has a very thin mattress. On one, I go to bed comfy and wake up with my butt on the floor. On the other I go to bed with bars pressing into my butt and I wake up, well... you get the idea.

Besides that, getting all three children to calm down and go to sleep in the same room before 10:00 at night is on the near edge of impossible. Sure, we're on vacation and all, but seriously? 10:00! SOME of us like to have a few minutes of peace and quiet without short people all over the place, looking over my shoulder, and eavesdropping on my personal conversation. 

Yesterday was a change of pace. I took the house hunting to the next level. We all piled into my little car and headed out to "The Country." There were a handful of houses that seemed like good leads and it was finally time to track them down.  After a full day of hunting in the first of the small towns we decided on I was slightly let down. House one was extremely dark, very small, and not at all what I was expecting. House two was a little better, but not in great shape. Enough rooms, but still pretty small. House three was by far the most interesting house I have ever seen - ever. It was advertised as three bedroom, two bath, two living area, with a fireplace, and a large lot perfect for kids and pets. This was the most imaginative listing I have ever seen.

The driveway was a dirt path between trees off a major road. The entire property was covered with large trees, overgrown bushes, and trash and debris. The front door was apparently not original to the layout because as you walked in to a small living area, a door leading to the back yard is directly in front of you (bad Fung Shuei, if nothing else.) The interior was painted mostly bright yellow. To one side was a very large living area, and two bedrooms were off of there. That was when things started to get weird. Besides the fact that there was a lot of furniture still in the house, there was a lot of cleaning supplies laying around as well. That really didn't bother me much. What was awfully disconcerting was the owners idea of "two bathrooms." One bedroom had a full bathroom attached. The other had a closet with a toilet and sink in it. In order to sit on the toilet, you had to leave the door open. Then, further down the wall, was another closet with a shower in it. I am not trying to exaggerate the size by calling it a closet. It was literally a closet that had been converted into a shower and then they put a closet door in front of it to hide it. It opened directly into the bedroom.

After walking around a while, I realized that what they called a "third bedroom" was really an extra room on the other end of the house (apparently added on much more recently) that had a closet, a fireplace, and no door. In the original part of the house was the "eat in" kitchen which appeared to have a built in china cabinet. That was when I noticed that behind the dining table (that belonged to the owners) was a hook up for the washer and dryer - right against the wall. What they called a "breakfast nook" was actually the utility room without doors. Oh, and there wasn't a VENT for the dryer, either. Very odd, indeed.

Even though the house was within our budget, I decided to keep looking.

Today, I went hunting in a different small town (somewhat) in the area. There were (again) three different houses I was looking at. The first two were (again) very small and in a neighborhood I wasn't too pleased with. The third, was one that I had fallen in love with online. I looked at this house and the interior pictures so many times I had dreams about walking through it, myself. It was a gigantic Victorian house in the historic part of town and I was extremely excited when found out that it was not just for sale, but also for rent, and it was within our budget, AND it was large enough for all of us. But, of course, there was a catch - it looked like one of those haunted houses out of a horror movie.

Now, to understand why this is simply "a catch" and not "a deal breaker" you have to understand that I LOVE old, creaky, wood frame houses that have seen decades if not hundreds of years. I spent most of my childhood in one of these old wooden monsters and there is just something about them that says "home" to me. When other people see a house that is dilapidated, I see a valuable piece of history with parts of the original wall paper still attached and wood that is full of character from hundreds of hands and lives passing through. Walking through the door, my heart pounded as I could see my dreams of a full renovation project coming true. My kids walked behind me, shivering, and jumping at every creak and groan, convinced that it was haunted.

After much deliberation, I decided that this, too, was not a good option. Besides the fortune that it would cost just to make it safe to live in, the house was only for lease as long as no one wanted to buy it. This meant that the house would still be listed and on the market while we were living there and as soon as a contract was put down, we would have 30 days to move. In spite of my Victorian fantasies, I have no desire to unpack all my things and fall in love with someplace only to have to pack up and leave again.

So, all my leads had come to nothing, but I couldn't give up just yet. I pulled out a map of the town, figured out which areas were nicer than the others (mostly by getting lost while looking for the other three houses) and started driving up and down the streets to see if there were any houses with For Rent signs in the yard.  This is when I had my heart broken for the second time today. I came across a beautiful ranch style house in a great neighborhood. Five bedrooms, three full bathrooms, three living areas, and a gorgeous yard in front and back. One of the living areas was an office with built in shelves and one of the bedrooms had a private entrance. The kitchen was huge and every square foot of the place was more perfect for us.

Of course, it was twice our budget. I knew this before I ever stepped foot in the house, but I called the number from the sign while I was sitting outside the house, and the owner was home at the time and I really couldn't turn down a walk through without being rude. The owner was so very nice. It killed me that we couldn't just move right in.

So, I drove home even more disappointed than I had yesterday. It's been a week and we still don't have a place to live that is our own. I have no idea what we are going to do.

Actually, I do have a small idea. Tomorrow we are going to drive to yet, another small town and look at the last house that I have on my list of possibilities. It seems too good to be true. A house on the lake, on a school bus route, with enough rooms for everyone, and even a price I can afford? The owner called me this evening, but I don't actually remember leaving a message for him. It is quite possible I did, I just don't recall. Who knows? What I DO know is that I had better find something spectacular tomorrow or I might just jump off a very tall curb.