Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I know that spewing anger and insults across the internet it is rude. It is the worst kind of gossip and talking behind someone else's back. So, I will try not to make any of this sound personal, although it feels very personal to me. I am personally hurt and angry because I want to start something new and move in a new direction and it doesn't really feel like I have the support of the people closest to me.

A few weeks ago I mentioned something about how cool it would be to open a coffee shop of my own. At the time, I was filling up a Saturday afternoon with daydreams and I didn't expect it to really mean anything. After a bit, I took the "what if's" a step further and started researching the costs and rules about that sort of business. My kids were around and they really caught on to this idea and now they are asking me when we will get to open for business. All three of them are little entrepreneurs (every summer they want a lemonade stand, ever winter they want a hot cocoa stand, every weekend they want a garage sale, etc.) so it doesn't surprise me that they are all for it. In fact, they have all been working together on a concept for the logo and motto.  My kids are brilliant, I tell you.

DH seemed pretty positive about it, as long as it was just a plan and a dream. When I spoke to other family members, I think they were a little surprised. They are used to my bouncing ideas off of them, especially ideas about career direction and the like. Asking their opinion about starting a new business was completely a new direction for me and they all said as much. their responses varied from "wow, that would be cool," to "how would you manage to do that with your health and stuff?" Unfortunately more than one of them said the words that should never be uttered in my presence - "You can't..."

Oh really? I can't, huh? Well, I'll show you!

Yes, I know how immature and child like that sounds. I know how silly it is to react to something like that. It is like the kid in 2nd grade who would take a dare no matter what it was and ended up covered in mud with gum in his hair and his tongue stuck to the flagpole (I would assume...flagpoles don't get that cold in Texas.) I might not be THAT gullible or impressionable, but there is something that clicks in my brain when someone tries to tell me I can't do something. I'm not referring to a denial of permission, though heaven knows I don't need permission from anyone anymore. I am specifically talking about when I have an idea and someone tells me I will not be successful at it. I can handle criticism and negative comments. I welcome questions, even pointed ones, that will get my mind thinking about all the different outcomes of a plan. I can not, however, resist the urge to shove it in someones face when they tell me I am not capable of something. Don't tell me I can't do it or you will witness the storm from my trying to prove to you that I can!

There have been plans and ideas and endeavors that have failed (sometimes spectacularly) that I have pursued as much out of interest as because someone suggested that I wouldn't be able to handle it. I once ran a girl scout troop for three years (before the politics of the council and the lack of parental support got the better of me.) I have started (and lost) a home-based business in cosmetics (although I still believe in the company and the product.) I have learned that I am not incredibly good at selling anything at all (from wedding dresses, to cell phones, to even my own skills) because I have made a go at all of these things. I can humble myself and accept failure when it happens, and I can even resist the urge to remove someones spleen when they try to utter the phrase, "I told you so." At least I can say I TRIED, though, and I will never have regrets over missed opportunity or inaction. I would much rather be able to say, with certainty, that I am not good at something instead of knowing I never attempted it.

Knowing this little gem about myself, I try not to talk about ideas in any sort of definitive, planning way unless I have already done my homework on it. When I decide I would like to know more about something, I do my own research and decide if I feel I am capable of attempting it before I ever mention it to anyone. I still like to bounce ideas off of people, and until I make the decision and commitment to move forward, I am just as likely to decide it is a good idea as bad. But, by the time I decide to talk to my friends an family about a new endeavor I have already spent many hours learning as much as I can in an attempt to decide for myself whether I can do it or not. In short, if I ask your opinion about it, I already know I can do it.

But, I digress...

Concerning the coffee shop. The idea of owning our own business is not new. DH started thinking about it more than 5 years ago. We got as far as a business plan before the idea was put on the back burner for lack of funding. When the inspiration to open up a shop hit me a few weeks ago, it was actually a way to expand his original idea and make a few twists. By combining what he loves with what I love, we could create a place that would have both a regular customer base, but also bring in customers for one time shopping (which we could then turn into regular customers.) The idea became more and more appealing to me and I really wanted to know how to go about this and whether or not it would ever be possible. The research I did showed me something vital - I don't really know the first thing about running a business, let alone a food service business. Actually, I do know enough about it to know that there is plenty more I need to learn before I could even begin. Then, I remembered Sister #2 went to a cooking school a few years ago and part of their curriculum was a small unit on business management. That led me to do more research on what kind of school would teach me what I needed to know and I found a major international school just opened up a branch in our metroplex.

The reason this is such a big deal to me is that there are only a few more than a dozen of these schools in the nation. You can go to a cooking trade school and several colleges offer courses in culinary studies, this school is only found in the biggest cities with the best reputation for producing award winning food, chefs, and restaurants. This isn't the "we'll take your money and show you how to chop carrots without slicing your fingers" kind of school. This is the first cooking school ever created, and has a history over the last 125 years, of teaching and graduating the most successful chefs and restaurant owners in the world. Remember the movie Sabrina with Audrey Hepburn? Yeah, THIS was the kind of school she traveled to France to attend. Being able to get into this school means that I would get the best instruction on how to cook, how to create, and how to run a business.

Do you mean, I can go to school and be around food and learn how to make better food and then you will teach me how to do it for a living? How cool is that? People actually get paid to cook amazing food and share it with people who enjoy it? That sounds like a pretty good deal to me. The magic of creating something that tastes delicious and makes people smile and feel good is one of the coolest things to share. Having a full cookie jar. Pulling a perfectly golden brown pie out of the oven. Presenting a decorated birthday cake to my kids. Placing a loaf of perfectly crusty bread on the table to have with dinner. Spreading butter on a warm roll and tasting the way the butter melts and spreads through the roll. These are things that make me smile just thinking about them. Food is a way to show love for my family and sweet and delicious treats are an even better way.

After spending some time contemplating this, I realized why I don't already bake more often. For starters, the time, the mess, the cost of ingredients, and the heat involved can all be extreme. Time and mess, I can deal with. I have to cook dinner every night anyway. But the cost of ingredients - really good ingredients - that is something I can not justify when we are struggling to pay bills. However, when I am able, I DO purchase (or collect) the best ingredients I can find and I can make some pretty amazing dishes this way. It just doesn't happen often. The one part I can't control is the heat. Baking in Texas in the summer is an exercise in sadistic torture (both being in the kitchen and then when you get your electric bill.)

Another factor in my reluctance to bake at home is that the calories involved can be prohibitive. Anyone who knows me understands that I am a fluffy person. Even in High School, when I was at my thinnest, I have always been curvy. Now, because of my health and meds, I have more than enough fluff to go around. Not only does this make me very conscious of what I eat, but also what I serve, and how it will affect my health down the road. My paternal grandfather was insulin dependent all my life. My father is diabetic, too, and that triples my chances for blood sugar problems. I want my kids to never have to worry about their shape and size the way I do, so I am careful about how often I make sweets or even let them in the house. For us, cookies are a sometimes food.

Here's the deal, though - I don't want to completely give up dessert! Is there a way to have my cake and eat it too (no pun intended - okay, maybe it was.) Can I find away to cook and serve and eat things that taste good but don't make any of us sick, and don't use artificial crap? If I have to use fake sweetener to make something "safe" to eat, I would just rather not do it. I have several friends and family members that are gluten intolerant, and they are missing out on some of the best stuff in life, too. Wheat isn't the only thing out there to make food out of, you know. I just don't know how to make it any other way, but I WANT to!

I realized that cooking school will, if nothing else, show me the rules of baking so I know when and how to change them. Also, it is a trade that is worth money in a lot of different venues and fields. Even if I never open my own cafe, being a certified pastry chef will open a lot of employment doors that are closed to all but a chosen few. Hotels, country clubs, cafes, high end restaurants, resorts, and even assisted living and retirement facilities all employ a staff specifically to create desserts and treats for their clientele. Suddenly, my job opportunities are no longer limited to office support and customer service rep. I can get behind that.

While attending a cooking school is a relatively new idea for me, attending college isn't. I have been looking for a direction to take my life in for some time. Because of my health and work history, I am just as unemployable in my own field of work as I am anywhere else. Whether I decide to go back to office work or sell shoes I am at exactly the same place - square one. If I have to start at the bottom, why shouldn't I take the opportunity to explore a new and exciting career doing something I already love to do? What is it that I love? That isn't an easy question to answer.

In the past I considered teaching because there are many grants available for those willing to teach and stay in Texas. As much as this idea appeals to me, I have come to realize it wouldn't be a good option. Raising my own kids has shown me that I have a hard time with other people who don't raise their kids. Teaching - especially in the areas required for me to qualify for those grants - would mean I would be dealing with a lot of very difficult children and situations that would put more stress on me than I am ready or willing to take. I decided that I would rather do something I am excited about than put myself through a daily torture  - even a labor of love - simply to get a degree.

After that, I thought about cosmetology. With research and experience, I feel I would be a bad fit for that field, too. In spite of the cost of school and the certifications required, I would be exposed to many, many solutions that I just can't handle. If my skin breaks out simply because I used a bar soap with fragrance in it, how am I supposed to work with shampoos, dyes, and hair products? I can't even use hair spray or gel in my own hair. What would I look like having to apply it to dozens of other people every day?

I considered being a freelance writer. I did a lot of research and wrote a lot of articles and stories. Then, I decided I would rather pursue a field that would actually PAY me for the 12 hours a day spent on it. I love to write, really I do. In fact, no matter what I end up doing for a living, I will keep on writing. I just don't have any illusions that I will ever be able to get paid for it. There are too many bloggers, novelists, short story writers, journalists, and just plain writers for me to really feel confident in pursuing it as a career. I need something that will allow for my creativity but still provide a regular income.

 So, office work - not a great choice, but I'll take it if I have to. Teaching - right out (including daycare - been there, done that.) I don't want to handle the kids and stress (or the lawsuits from the kids who mouth off to me.). Hair stylist - no way (unless I want to find out the exact chemical that will make my skin peel and fall off.) Standing in the same spot all day with my hands at or above my head just sounds painful to even think about. Writing - boy it makes a nice hobby, but as a career I will probably starve before I get paid for it.

So again., why shouldn't I take the opportunity to explore a new and exciting career doing something I already love to do? Why not become a baker and pastry maker so that I can take the joy I get from serving my family and share it with the public?

The answer to that, as always, is money and health. As for money, right now I live 100 miles from where I used to be, simply to save money. We have been trying to make do and live on one paycheck - DH's - for a long time now, and it really isn't working. Practicality suggests that I find gainful employment to improve my financial setting before attempting to advance or change careers. I agree, to an extent. We need more money coming in, and I fully expect to keep looking for for work. I just also feel that adding the extra step of going back to school would ensure that I will be able to continue to find work - work that I would love to do - for many years to come. It takes hard work and sacrifice to get what you want. I know that working and going to school will be a strain on everyone, myself included. I don't see how it is any worse than my working a full time job that I don't really like. I will be gone from the house the same amount of hours, approximately. The actual dollars may be less, but for many reasons, I don't want to work full time (that is a whole other topic I won't get into today.)

Health wise, am I capable of handling school and also working 20 or more hours a week? That is a question that I can only answer by trying it. I know that there was a time in the past few years where I was only able to be out of bed for a few hours a day. There are also times when I have surprised myself at the amount I was able to accomplish even when I was nearly at my worst. Whether because of meds, a different mindset, or some other unknown source, I have made a turning point in my recovery. I feel better than I have felt in as long as I can remember, and I have more energy and less pain than I have had in, literally, years. The daily routines that used to wear me out in a few hours are now the minimum of what I can do in a day. I no longer count the hours from pain med dose to dose. I can walk further, lift more, work harder, and stay awake longer than I have been able to do for many years now. What's more is I WANT to do all these things.

I have come to a point where I am well enough to do more, but if I don't take advantage of it soon, I am afraid I will start to slip backwards gain. It feels as though the more I do, the more I am ABLE to do. Strength and stamina come from exercise - both physical and mental. Without a way to exercise, I will not progress any more. Sitting and not doing anything creates in own sort of stress. The strain of physical pain has been replaced by the weight of inactivity. I need a place to be, something definitive and productive to do, and a reason to get up each day and go just a little bit further. I have gone as far as I can go in my daily life without adding something more to it.

Is jumping in with both feet a smart idea, though? I don't know. Going from sitting around to five hours of school and four hours of work every day certainly seems extreme. I know that if tomorrow I were to jump up and be on my feet for nine hours a day, I might be pretty beat when I got home. I also know that though I might be starting school in about two weeks, but I don't have a job yet so it is highly unlikely that I will actually go from one extreme to the other. I also know that in my job searches, I do not have to focus on jobs that keep me on my feet or away form the house. There is a reason I have a home office. I have several connections and leads that I have been pursuing for a while. It is just as likely that any of them will come to fruition as it is my getting a lead for an office job or getting hired at  Target . Many of those leads would have me working from home during the evening hours, which suits me and my schedule just fine. 

So, my perfect plan would be to start school in two weeks and have a work-from-home job to work on when I'm not at school. The hours I need to be at school are the same hours the girls would be in school (including driving time) so if I were to land a gig working from home it means I would be gone from the house while they are and at home when they are. It also means I can make money while still keeping an ear out to make sure the house won't burn down (and not need to ask for help or pay a babysitter.) I have worked from home before and I know about the silence/work/kids-at-home juggle. We do it all the time when DH works from home and I know my kids are capable of doing what needs to be done.

So, now I will ask all of you - Does it sound like I am being completely crazy? Am I making ridiculous expectations of myself? Am I being selfish to want to attend school while DH is stuck in his job that he doesn't like?
I am looking for input about whether I should or shouldn't pursue this. It isn't about can or can't because believe me - I know I can.

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