Starting over


Last Wednesday we put on names back on the census and opened up our beds to start taking foster children again. Saying goodbye to the two little ones we had was difficult and we really weren’t sure if we’d want to move forward right away or if at all. But ultimately we decided that we were ready and we did want to take more kids, even knowing how hard it would be to say goodbye again at some point.

Since last Thursday, one week, we’ve received calls for 9 children. Nine children found themselves without homes just this week. And that’s just the calls we received. It’s heart breaking. One of the DCS offices in our area took in 16 children yesterday. 16 children. In one day.

We accepted placement on a 7-year-old little girl. She is a world different from our last experience with two toddlers. I’m in awe of her resilience and her positive attitude throughout a situation that I can only assume is completely overwhelming. She arrived at 1am. With very minimal interaction due to the time, we got her settled and put her to bed. I went to bed and found myself lying there, wide awake, just trying to imagine what she was thinking. She was dropped off in the middle of the night, in a strange home with people she’s never met. I couldn’t even grasp what that might be like. She woke up in good spirits and we got acquainted.

She came with nothing but the clothes on her back and a Happy Meal box with a few toys in it. That meant we had some shopping to do. Luckily, getting new clothes is pretty exciting even if you are in a completely strange situation. We filled the cart with Hello Kitty underwear, pink shirts, and chevron leggings. It wasn’t much, but it was something she could call her own.

She is an incredibly sweet little girl who says ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, takes her dish to the sink when she is done eating, makes her bed, let’s me pick the movies “because she picked last time” and offers to help with the dishes. It’s another reminder that children aren’t always removed because their parents are terrible people. She was clearly raised well and with love. I wondered how her mom was feeling, what she was thinking, was she worried? She worried about her mom too, in fact, her questions centered around whether her mom knew where she was. She never asked me why she was here or when she could leave, she just wanted to know if her mom was upset that she was here, or rather not with her.

The hard part is that she won’t be going back home to her parents or her family. The last moment she spent with them is likely the last time she’ll ever see them. I’ve been struggling with how to try to explain that to her. She tells me about her things, her clothes at home, her dog, and her best friend. She has no idea that she’s left all of that behind with no explanation from the people that matter most to her.

For now though, she has us. Unbeknownst to her, she is getting a fresh start and we’re hoping to make it as positive, secure, and loving as possible, for as long as she is here with us.


Foster care: Love, loss and the lessons in between

Foster Care

Our first foster placement has come to a close. The children came, and they went, back to family. It was amazing, stressful, difficult, rewarding, fun, and heart-breaking. We are different people now than we were a month and a half ago and I’d like to think, those children are too. We learned a lot about ourselves, about parenting and about the foster care system in just a few short weeks. Some surprising and some not so much, but we hope to use this time to reflect. Our experience overall was extremely positive and we hope as we move forward, we can use this experience to continue to grow both as individuals and as parents.

I was judgmental

I judged other parents. I judged biological parents of the potential foster children that I might have. I judged. Parenting is hard. Parenting under difficult circumstances, like when you are a 16-year-old or when you are in poverty, is even harder. I learned a lot in a short time about what it takes to care for a child day in and day out. It is relentless. Your world entirely revolves around them. You find yourself lying to them, telling them Netflix is broken just so you don’t have to watch one more episode of Calliou. However, Dora seems to work just fine. Humor aside, you find yourself doing what needs to be done to get by. With that being said, that’s not to say that there aren’t situations where I still think I’m right. But I know now it doesn’t matter. Parenting is a journey that we get to navigate on our own. Not everyone does it the same way but that doesn’t make their way wrong. It doesn’t matter. We are all doing the best we can for our children. As parents, as individuals, we should all support that effort.

I wasn’t as judgmental as I thought

I was fully prepared to judge the bio-family, particularly the mother who lost them. I didn’t judge her though. I had an immense empathy for her that I didn’t expect. I met her children and I knew instantly how much she must miss them, how hard it was for her to let them go. People make mistakes. People do the best they can under the circumstances that they are faced with. While I don’t justify any action that results in the removal of a child from their home, I do know that not all people that have their children removed are malicious people. As someone who has family members that aren’t perfect, I know that even good people can make bad choices. Those choices don’t mean that they don’t love their children and want the best for them.

It’s amazing how quickly you can fall in love

When we accepted the placement, we knew it would likely be very temporary. Initially it felt like glorified babysitting. We treated them well and met their needs. We were loving but in a distant way. You know you have to guard your heart. The main reason I hear as to why people aren’t willing to become foster parents is because they are afraid they’ll get attached and it will be too hard to let them go. You will get attached and it is hard to let them go. But the thing is, they deserve your whole heart. Depending on the situation, they may have never received much love. While they are in your home, whether it be for a week or a year, they need that love. After a week or so, it was more than just glorified babysitting. You love those kids, even if you know you might only get to be in their lives for a short time. And while that may be one of the really difficult parts of foster care, it is one of the most amazing parts too. Because you know what? They love you too. You see a shift in them from the time you are just a stable figure meeting their needs, to when you let yourself be vulnerable to love them. They know, and they respond accordingly.

It sucks when they leave

Your life has revolved around these little people for the past several weeks or in some cases months. It’s never easy to say goodbye especially when you aren’t sure if it’s the best move for them. You worry about them. You know you won’t get updates, you’ll likely never hear another thing about them again. But you also know, for those few weeks you made an impact in their life. You provided stability, security, and unconditional love. That’s all you can do and it matters.

There are more where they came from

People have asked us if we want to do it again. We’ve asked ourselves the same question. In the moment, with emotions fully engaged, it is easy to say no, it’s too hard. Why set yourself up for heartache? But at the same time, now that we know, we know the type of children that are out there, we know that for every child we say goodbye to there are 100 more that need someone to be there for them too, we can’t just turn our backs. Life is full of loss. Death, divorce, break-ups, job losses, etc. They aren’t easy but we can move past them. And in this circumstance, we have to. We know that foster care isn’t right for everyone. But for some reason we were called to it. It’s not about us. We didn’t get involved for ourselves. We got involved to make a positive impact in the lives of children and no matter how many times we say goodbye, we are still making a positive impact. If everyone let the fear of pain or the pain itself stop them from getting involved in foster care, no one would be there to help those children. We’ll take a break, some time to readjust, to essentially mourn the loss of the children we loved. But then, we’ll get back on the horse and we’ll do it all over again. Because there are children out there who need us and we’re ready to love them too.


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What I Learned in My First Week as a Parent


A little over a week ago we accepted our first foster placement. A 2-year-old and 3-year-old sibling group would be coming to stay with us. We were nervous and excited to finally get the chance to welcome children into our home. We’d been preparing for this moment for over a year and after many phone calls and placements that fell through, these kids were coming for sure.

I opened the door and was greeted by two adorable little children. With wide eyes, they surveyed the house without making so much as a peep. We introduced ourselves and showed them their room. The 3-year-old went straight for the books. The 2-year-old was a bit more cautious, wanting to explore a bit first. And just like that, we were the parents of two toddlers.

These past few days have felt like a lifetime and we’ve learned a lot. Parenthood is no joke and we’re pretty sure someone, somewhere is laughing at us for thinking it would be easy.

It’s not easy

I am not sure we truly knew what we were getting ourselves into when we said we could take two kids at a time. Going from no children to two toddlers has been a major adjustment. In fact, the kids seem to have adapted far better than we have. Endless free time was all of the sudden filled with castle building, playdough playing, coloring, reading and just about any other thing we could think of to keep two little ones entertained. And that was just in the first two hours. I thought back to when I smugly thought, “I won’t let my kids watch TV for hours on end or play with a tablet. I can’t believe how much those parents let their kids play on their phones.”  I would have instantly placed an order for two iPads if it meant I could sit down for two consecutive minutes. I get it parents and I’m sorry.

Showers aren’t necessary

I have considered it a victory if I could just brush my teeth and maybe put on clean clothes. If I have 10 minutes where I don’t have to supervise a child, the last way I want to spend it is in the shower. This is going to be a great way to conserve water.

What’s patience?

After a successful trip to the grocery store with two toddlers, I went to put the cart away and passed a mom getting her daughter, who looked about 5, out of the car. The little girl was messing around, of course. The mom snapped, “Hurry up, we still have to get your sister out. I don’t want to be here all day.” Pre-kid me would have thought, relax lady, be nice. Post-kid me smiled and wanted to offer to buy her coffee. I get it parents and I’m sorry.

There’s a new level of tired that I never knew existed

As a low energy person in general, I thought I knew tired. It turns out, I wasn’t even close to understanding. When I got out of the car without turning it off and wondered why it was beeping at me, I realized that sleep or the lack of it, really does mess with your mind.

No one messes with nap time

I’ve had several friends who had to cancel or adjust plans because it would have impacted nap time. I thought, “Can’t you just shift it a bit, just once?” No, you can’t. And no way in hell do you want to. Nap time is sacred and not to be messed with. I get it parents and I’m sorry.

I get why people bring new parents food

Becoming a foster parent is much like bringing a baby home from the hospital for the first time, yet most people don’t really treat it that way. Meal trains are often set up for new moms to help make meal time easy and to be sure they are getting enough to eat in between caring for the baby and being completely exhausted. We quickly learned that preparing a meal for ourselves and then having the chance to eat it was basically an Olympic event that we certainly weren’t getting any medals for. We lost 5 pounds in the first week. Our once hearty diets now consisted of Goldfish crackers and toast. We’re not mad about the weight loss.

It’s like a booze-free hangover

A friend who had just had twins had once told us that he felt like he had a perpetual hangover. We laughed at the time but now I realize that the description is entirely accurate. I’m tired, have a slight headache and I’m a little queasy. All I want to do is eat fatty food and lay in bed.

Even if they are asleep, you probably won’t be. Because anxiety.

Having two little humans sleeping in my house has brought an entirely new level of anxiety into my life. It’s getting better but I am pretty sure I woke up every time the heater came on, every time Kyle turned over, and every time there was even the slightest chance I heard a noise for the first few nights. Not to mention all those times I just got up to make sure they were still breathing.

I’ve never done so much laundry in my life

We have limited supplies so that definitely requires more laundry than normal but still. If clothes aren’t covered in food, sheets are covered in poop, or maybe we just don’t really want to wear this outfit anymore because it’s not pink.

They don’t need a whole lot of stuff

As foster parents it is impossible to prepare for every scenario that might come your way. We have very little in the form of toys or supplies unlike most parents of two toddlers. But it turns out, kids don’t really notice. A few books, a ball or two, and a few other toys have proved to be more than enough. Even with what little we have, they still don’t even play with all of it. They have their favorite items and the rest gets ignored. I hope I remember this when we have children.

Netflix and Amazon Prime are worth every penny

There are a few things I have considered to be gifts from God; Netflix, Amazon Prime and well, daycare. Although these kiddos don’t love watching TV, having the option of endless TV shows is still a must. And the ability to buy 500 wipes for 10 bucks and get them the next day without having to put anyone in a car seat is worth every dollar I ever paid for Amazon Prime.

Kids are amazing

Despite the major challenge and exhaustion of it all, these two little people amaze me daily. I’ve always loved kids but to watch two kids come into our home, who don’t know us and don’t really know why they are here, adapt, bond, and be incredibly sweet and loving is a humbling process to witness. I have already learned so much from them and I’ll always be grateful to them for what they’ve taught me in such a short time.

We don’t know how long they’ll stay but I can say that they’ve given us a new appreciation and respect for parents. The judgment trap is an easy one to fall into and I’m glad these two little people have officially slapped the judgment right out of us in the form of sleepless nights, a trashed house, and more poop than I ever thought possible. I get you parents and I’m sorry.

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Saying no is the hardest part

Learning to say 'no'

We decided to pursue becoming licensed foster parents around 2 years ago. We weren’t entirely sure what we were getting into, and still don’t, but we knew one of our biggest challenges was going to be learning and accepting our limitations so that we could say no when a situation wasn’t right for us. We’re yes people. ‘Yes’ is our comfort zone. ‘Yes’ is easier in the moment and we deal with the consequences later.  In our past experiences, we know that we’ve had a tendency to say yes when we really mean no. When it comes to giving up free time or taking in a homeless dog, the consequences were minimal even if it might have caused some frustration. However, with a child, the side effects of saying yes when you really want to say no could be enormous, devastating and cause more harm to that child than they’ve already endured. Not to mention cause undue stress in our home. Both of which are exactly the opposite outcomes we wanted out of this process.

In order to become a foster parent, you have to take a 30-hour class designed to prepare you for the experience and all of the potential scenarios that might come your way. Of course, there is no way you can be adequately prepared in 30 hours. In addition, you take the class long before you have a child in your home. In fact, we finished our class months ago. Talking about anger, sadness, loss, neglect, abuse, and all of the other elements involved in fostering a child, in an abstract sense, is easy. Applying it to an actual child, in your actual life is an entirely different story. The common theme though and what stands out from those 30 class hours, is the ability to identify needs and your ability to meet them. This includes both your needs as a family and the needs of the child. So, we’ve talked ad nauseam about what we could handle, what we couldn’t, what our strengths are and what our needs might be. This process was meant to help make the decision making process easier. And yet, saying no doesn’t get any easier.

A placement typically starts with a very generic phone call. You might learn the child’s age, sex, and maybe some very general information about their background. It’s easy to detach at this point. It’s easier to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ based on very simple details. No, that age won’t work. No, we can’t take that many kids right now. In addition, you aren’t actually committed at this stage. You are basically agreeing to learn more and you may never hear about the kids again, at all at this point. However, when you say yes, the next step is a call from the child’s caseworker. This is when you typically learn more information, when you start to get invested. You start to imagine this child or children, you learn about their story, and you start to visualize having them in your home. You start setting yourself up to open your home and your heart to them as a parent. This onslaught of emotions all takes place in the length of a 10-minute phone call. That’s because at this point, if you say yes, it’s the real deal. Arrangements will be made to have the child brought to your home.  It’s also at this point that the ability to say no becomes an all-consuming, crushing experience. The children don’t know you and you don’t know them, but you know that in this child’s world, filled with so many ‘noes’ already, all you want to do is be their yes. But it doesn’t always work out that way.

I said no today. We tried so hard to say yes. We tried to rationalize the situation, to talk ourselves into it. We wanted to say yes. We’re yes people. But in the end, we knew that this was a ‘no’ we couldn’t say ‘yes’ to. We didn’t go into this to be super heroes or to have unrealistic expectations of our own abilities to play a role in a child’s life that is very broken. We didn’t go into this with an arrogant attitude, thinking we could be those people that could simply erase years of hurt, damage and abuse. This isn’t a community service project, it’s a child’s life.  We so badly want to be a positive force in these children’s lives, to help them, but it is so much more than that. We went into this knowing that we could make a major impact in a child’s life but only within the confines of what we could reasonably handle. For that reason, we knew that saying no was the best thing we could do for these kids. So with a twinge of guilt, some sweaty palms and a heavy heart, I said no today. Then, I took a deep breath and knew it was the right decision, even if it wasn’t an easy one.


On the eve of my 31st year

This is 30

Last year on this day, I was a 29-year-old who wasn’t entirely thrilled about leaving the twenties behind to enter a new decade as a 30-year-old. However, I was excited for what this decade would bring and the changes that would come with it. Today, as I sit here eating an amazing flourless chocolate cake a friend made for me, I can’t help but reflect on the last year, the inaugural year of my thirties. While I always felt that my twenties were marked by youth and growing up, my first year of my thirties definitely proved to be the first year I really felt like a grown-up. While I can’t believe I am about to embark on another birthday, this year also felt long and was filled with many big moments and accomplishments. I didn’t feel quite ready to be 30 but I think this year proved that I could handle it.

We did adult things like hire an accountant, buy new cars, and install new light fixtures in our home.  We had the sad task of caring for a foster dog in her last few days and ultimately decided to put her to sleep. We found another dog a really great home. I made a giant birthday cake. We traveled to Connecticut with Camp Soaring Eagle, along with 30 children. Kyle celebrated his 30th birthday in July. We took our first legitimate vacation, since our honeymoon, to France. We tried to give up coffee, and quickly reconsidered. We hosted Thanksgiving and vowed to never make that mistake again. We attempted, unsuccessfully, to take a family Christmas photo. We did some not-s0-adult things too, like make reindeer with our feet, you know, for Christmas.


We tackled a major goal this year, starting in April with weekly classes. Classes were followed by paperwork, interviews, home inspections, and various other details, all so that in November, the day before Thanksgiving, we were officially licensed foster parents. For children. We started getting calls immediately. I have fielded several calls, for nearly 20 children ranging in age from newborn to 8-years-old, in just about a month’s time. A lot of preparation, a lot of discussion, a lot of waiting, and a lot of anxiety has come with each and every call. We’ve said yes to almost all of them and have been placed with one. A little girl, who didn’t stay very long. We’ve learned a lot though, even without getting a long term placement, about the need, the struggle for the children, the foster system in general and perhaps most importantly, about ourselves. More on that in another post.

While this year doesn’t look much different than it did at this time last year, I know it is infinitely different. I’ve officially grown up, despite my best efforts not to. I’ve moved forward in big ways and I can’t wait to see what 31 brings.

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Foster dogs: Meet Penny

Little Penny

It’s been months since we have fostered a dog, the longest stretch, in fact, since we started fostering a few years ago. Some circumstances had changed, life was busier and we just never came across a dog that we thought would be a good fit despite the overwhelming need for temporary homes. It’s crucial when you foster dogs to have boundaries, to know what you can handle, what you can’t and what will work best in your household. There is no point in taking a dog in knowing it won’t work out, only to have to move it again. The goal of fostering is to provide stability, to provide a home environment where a dog can thrive and you can really determine their true temperament. It can take anywhere from a few hours, to a few days to even a few weeks for a dog’s true personality to shine through depending on their history. Moving a dog from home to home doesn’t help anyone, especially the dog, so we’ve determined what works for us and what doesn’t and we do our best to stick to that. My weakness and preference are senior dogs. They are often harder to adopt out despite the fact that they are almost always potty trained, mellow, and still have plenty of love (and life left) to give. They fit in well in our house since our dogs are also mellow, older and lack patience for puppies or high-energy dogs. They can be left home alone without incident and they sleep through the night. All major wins in my book.

Emails started circulating about Penny, a senior dachshund who was in desperate need of a quiet place to go. I did my best to ignore them, hoping someone else would step up. Until, of course, no one did and I knew it was time. Penny isn’t just a senior, she’s a special needs senior. She hardly moves, she needs help eating and she sleeps 99% of the time. It was difficult to tell, though, whether this was her normal state or if this was what happened due to the recent trauma in her life. Despite what people think, dogs can shut down, they can give up, and they can grieve.  Penny was adopted as a “senior” (probably 7 or 8) at the humane society by an older woman. She was a lap dog and the center of this lady’s life.  Circumstances changed when the lady began to age herself and began to suffer from dementia. Not only could she not care for Penny any longer, she didn’t even know who or what she was. She came in to rescue scared, confused and completely devastated. Her estimated age is anywhere from 12-15. She looks every bit of her age and is by far the most frail dog we have had. When I agreed to foster I didn’t know what I was getting. I knew she was a senior but I didn’t know the extent of her situation.

She is deaf and mostly blind. I think she can see shadows or some other movement but that’s about it. She can barely sit up without falling over. I feed her by hand and offer her water out of a spoon. She shakes almost constantly when she is awake. Bladder control is hit or miss. If I feed her too much at one time, she throws up.

She’s not a dog that will ever get adopted. She will never be someone’s pet again. She has no more love left to give but she is in desperate need of love and compassion. She needs a quiet place to spend her days, someone to feed her and someone to keep her wrapped up in her favorite blanket. I can do that, if only because I hope someone would be willing to do the same for me.

On the up side, her sense of smell is very much intact and at the first hint of food she perks up. For ease of eating, I’ve opted to give her baby food. She can’t get enough. She drinks heartily and she gets agitated when I sing to her so I know she still has some smarts left. I think about my own dogs who at almost 8 and 9 are closer to the end of their lives than they are to the beginning. I think about what would happen if something happened to me and I could no longer care for them. I think about how I would want someone to cater to their needs, to feed them baby food from a spoon and to do multiple loads of laundry if they just so happened to wet the bed. Because I believe in karma, I am putting every ounce of that into this dog. Because I know it could happen, my dogs could need someone someday and I need to believe that someone would honor their sweet little lives, without knowing a thing about them, simply because that is just the right thing to do.

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Giant cakes, birthdays and why Pinterest is rude

Cake FailA friend of ours recently died after a battle with kidney cancer. He was too young, he had too much left to do, many more birthdays he should have celebrated and many more memories to make. I like to make a big deal about birthdays anyway but watching another family grieve over their father and husband, makes it seem like we should make even bigger deals about birthdays. We should never complain about getting older, he would have given anything to get older — wrinkles and all. We should celebrate every birthday like it was our last because you just never know.

So for my mother-in-law’s birthday I decided to make her a cake. Not just any cake though, a cake that says every birthday should be the biggest celebration ever because no matter how long we live, birthdays are limited. I am going to make a cake, I thought,  that puts all previous birthday cakes to shame. This cake is going to make other cakes jealous.

6 layers. 3 flavors. Two kinds of icing.

One huge disaster.

Pinterest gives off illusions of grandeur. It makes you think you can do anything. It makes you think that making giant cakes are easy. It makes you think that in just under an hour you can have a professional cake sitting on your counter. It makes you think that your layers won’t stick to the bottom of your pan and you won’t have to chisel those suckers out with a metal spatula. It makes you think you can evenly spread icing over 6 layers of cake without getting a single crumb in the frosting.

My frosting has so many crumbs in it, it looks like I put cinnamon in it or that I have some jacked up version of not-fun-at-all-fetti going on. At least one full layer is still charred to the bottom of the 6 cake pans I used. Pinterest is laughing at me right now.

My cake IS giant though. So giant in fact that I went ahead and left one layer off of it. It didn’t seem necessary when it was already 2 feet tall. I had to remove a shelf from the refrigerator in order to get it in there. It’s also burnt. The edges are crunchy. I hoped to make up for that with excessive frosting. It leans to one side because it isn’t entirely even, probably because half of the cake is still in the pans. There is frosting My dogs currently have a sugar high because they were eating all the frosting I was dropping before I had time to wipe it up. I just went ahead and threw the frosting bag away because I couldn’t even imagine having to clean it.

I can’t wait to cut it open though. I wanted one of those amazing ombre cakes (my spell check wants to change that to hombre and I am thinking an hombre cake would have been a better way to go) that Pinterest keeps throwing in our faces. I am hoping that is the silver lining. That everyone forgets what it looks like on the outside because they are in awe over the multi-colored layers within. Time will tell. Pinterest is still laughing.

I bought her a bottle of wine too. But after that experience, after six layers of failure, the only solution was wine. I am drinking her birthday wine with frosting in my hair. That cake though, I’ll never forget it. It will be the most memorable birthday cake ever, for me at least. Until next year, when I hope to top it.

Life is short, eat ugly, burnt, giant cake.

No other cakes are jealous, in case you were wondering.

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What I wish someone would have told me about owning a business

Business tips

Owning your own business is many things. It’s frustrating, exciting, difficult, humbling, exasperating, overwhelming, and amazing. It is all of these things all at the same time. We’ve only been business owners for about 4 years but we have learned so much in just that short time. There are a few things I wished someone would have told us but like many things, experience is the best way to learn. In hopes of helping out other aspiring business owners, here are a few of my tips for surviving in the world of small business.

Don’t undervalue yourself (or over value yourself)

There is a common thought that if you are new, you should charge less to attract customers. You also may charge less because you don’t think you can charge more than someone who has been in business and has a lot more experience. Depending on your business, that is accurate to some degree but in other cases, not so much. In the service industry your price reflects quality and customers are most often willing to pay more for what they think will be a better service. If you are selling goods this doesn’t necessarily apply but people aren’t as interested in getting a deal when it comes to a service, they are interested in getting a high-quality service and they’ll pay for that. There will always be someone who charges more than you and always someone who charges less which means your price should reflect only one thing – your value. Experience, education, equipment and things like that all come in to play but so do the elements that make you, you. Your interactions with customers, your availability, your unique approach to whatever the service is etc. Research fair pricing, you want to be fair and in the ballpark of what is expected. But you also need to take into account what you actually do. Everything you do related to your business needs to be accounted for or else you are essentially working for free. Working for free leads to burn out and frustration really quickly. Don’t under estimate the value you bring to your customer.

Of course you don’t want to overcharge either. You can’t buy a nice camera and start charging professional prices even if you do take great photos. But you shouldn’t sell yourself short either. It’s a balance and the trick is finding it.

Get an accountant

Math. It hurts my brain just thinking about it. An accountant will be one of your most valuable assets. Not only do they take a huge burden off of you but they also are in the know on various ways you can save money or do things differently so that you can make more money/pay less taxes. Even if you think you can’t afford it, get one. Best money I ever spent.

Learn to say “No”

I’m not good at saying no in general. But in business it is essential. You can’t advertise in every publication or donate to every good cause. You can’t work 24 hours a day or be open 7 days a week. I suppose you could but eventually you’d find yourself in a bind. Set limits and stick to them.

A business is an education

You most definitely will learn as you go. Be prepared to make mistakes and be prepared to embrace them, learn from them and move on. Talk to other business owners, learn as much as you can from other people on what worked for them and what didn’t. It may not all apply to your business but the more you can learn the better. Don’t be too hard on yourself. This isn’t easy. Any business owner will tell you that they are still learning things even after decades of being in business. Things change and evolve, business is a constant process of learning and growing. Make that your expectation and you won’t be as disappointed when things don’t go as planned.

Keep your overhead low

It’s tempting to have a fancy office, nice equipment, the best technology, etc. but it may not be worth it. If something doesn’t actually make you money, you don’t need it. Start small and work your way up. In most small businesses, if you aren’t working, you aren’t making money. So there is no point in having an office full of nice things sitting there, costing you money that could be going straight into your pocket. People aren’t hiring you because you have a fancy business card or the best printer ever, keep reminding yourself of that. With that being said some overhead is essential to making your business work and to maintaining your sanity. Don’t bury yourself in work because you are afraid to hire help for a few hours a week. When it comes to supplies, a basic computer will do the job as well as a fancy one. Association fees, memberships and various other things add up. Remember that anything you are paying for isn’t going into your paycheck.

Don’t compare yourself to other business owners

A few points up I suggested talking to others, learning as much as you could from how other people do things. I stand by that, but the tricky part is learning not to compare what they are doing and typically their success with yours. Someone in the same business as you may seem to be way more profitable or much busier but the truth is you rarely know the whole story. People come to you because of you and trying to be someone else isn’t going to get you their success, it is going to hinder yours. People find success in different ways and at different rates. Should you learn from others and tweak your process or improve if necessary? Sure. Just don’t get caught in a trap of thinking that what you are doing must be wrong just because someone is seemingly more successful than you are.

No one tells you what to do

Self motivation is tricky. The lack of it is the reason I generally only make it to the gym 3 days a week instead of the 5 I commit to every Sunday. Or the fact that I only stay 30 minutes when I continually tell myself my goal is an hour. This is the biggest blessing and curse of business ownership. People that work for others think it is glorious that you don’t have to answer to anyone, that you don’t necessarily need to meet deadlines and that you can just come and go as you please. “Just take the day off” they think… it’s not that simple. A successful business runs only if you run it properly which means you have to keep yourself in check. You have to make the phone calls, place the ads, pay the bills, work overtime, even when you don’t want to and even when you know no one is going to fire you or get mad at you if you don’t. You need to be organized. You need to be able to get things done without being told. Without that, you only hurt yourself.

Not everyone will like you

This is a hard one. It is in our human nature to want to be accepted, to be liked. In the world of business, this is a huge check in humility. Not everyone is going to like your service, your product, what you offer and that is okay. You don’t like everyone either so what do you expect? Do the best you can and don’t worry about the rest. Don’t invest time in trying to convince people that you are better than they think you are, invest your time in keeping the people happy that already know you are great. There are going to be some people who absolutely love you, that refer anyone and everyone to you and think you are a gift from God. Put your energy into those people and don’t let the people who don’t suck any of that away. We don’t live in a game of Monopoly. There are several options for a reason. Don’t take anything personally, just stay the course.

Find an outlet

It’s going to be stressful. There are no paid holidays, no paid vacations, no paid sick days. There won’t be two weeks every year sitting in a bank just waiting to be used up for some vacation, exotic or otherwise. In the beginning especially, it is going to be non-stop. Make time for you and spend your free time doing something you love with no business talk in the mix. If you work with your spouse this is even more crucial. It is so easy to want to talk business constantly. Turn it off and do something else, if only for a few hours each day.

Remember why you started in the first place

Most people who start their own businesses do it because they love what they do. They want to work for themselves. It’s so easy when you love your job and when any ounce of effort you put in benefits you and only you (not some corporation), to want to spend every waking moment working. In some cases you have to spend every waking moment working just to keep the doors open, but like any job you are working to support your life so don’t forget to live it. It’s easy to feel an obligation to your customers and to some degree you should, but make time for you, time for your family. Don’t feel guilty about taking time off, people will survive without you. You’ll be more valuable to your clients when you are rested than when you are over-worked and in need of some time off. The clients you truly want will understand that. Those that don’t can go somewhere else.

Help others when you can

Having your own business is a huge blessing (even if it sometimes feels like a curse) that not everyone has the opportunity or the ability to do. Pay it forward by helping other business owners who are starting up, volunteer your time and donate to worthy causes. One of the best things about being a business owner is having the ability to decide how you want to run your company and how you want to manage your funds. Dedicate a portion of your earnings to charity, sponsor little league teams, give that high school student an after school job. When the stress of being a business owner starts to wear on you, you’ll be able to look at what good you’ve been able to do and that will remind you that it is all worth it.

Have you started a business? What are your best tips?

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Make like an Olympian and save a dog

One of the big stories to come out of the Olympics, that has nothing to do with competition or medals, has been the many stray dogs surrounding the Olympic complex in Sochi. Russia ordered the extermination of the dogs likely because they were a nuisance and much like trash to be discarded, they were just trying to clean up and present a nice appearance. There’s a good chance most people would have been happier to see stray dogs roaming around than to hear of their imminent fate and outrage ensued. Luckily several people stepped up to the plate including locals and various Olympians. People came together to rescue many of the dogs and several will catch a flight home to the US to live the life of luxury with some of the world’s best athletes.

While I find these stories to be very heartwarming and I am glad someone stepped up for these dogs, this isn’t a problem isolated to Russia. There are dogs here that are killed every day, dogs who could use this kind of press and dogs who are just as in need of a hero. We might not be killing them because we are hosting the Olympics, but we are killing them and that should cause just as much outrage.

According to the Humane Society, about 2.7 million dogs are put to sleep each year in this country. These aren’t aggressive, sickly or dying dogs, these are healthy, adoptable dogs. They are puppies, someone’s once loved pet, dogs that still have a lot of life and a lot of love to give. Count to 11. Every 11 seconds a dog is unnecessarily killed because shelters are full, because no one wants them. Don’t sit by as we order the extermination of dogs in our shelters simply because they haven’t made world news.

Get to your local shelter and be an advocate for the dogs dying in our cities. Spay and neuter your pets, support your local rescues, and when you want a dog, don’t just buy a pet, save a life. For every dog that will be shipped to the US from Russia, there are at least 100 just like it in a shelter in your state. Be the hero for our dogs.

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A year ago today

Grandma Margie circa late 80's?

A year ago today, I spent some of the last semi-normal moments with my Grandma. After hearing that she wasn’t doing well and the end was coming, I packed my things and drove to Phoenix. She was still walking around, still eating, still able to have a somewhat normal conversation. She was by no means herself but it was better than the days that followed.

We watched the State of the Union address. She mostly talked about how ugly Boehner is and how smug he looked. She wasn’t really listening but her commentary was far more interesting to me than the speech itself. I was drinking wine, she was drinking lemonade. When I told her I’d be spending the night, she immediately told my Grandfather to go open the vent in the guest room. He jumped up, I told him he could wait until a commercial. He was the only one actually paying attention to the speech.

She needed help doing basic things. When I first arrived she was reluctant to let me help her or even see her struggle. Even during those last days she wanted to protect me from seeing how much she had declined. A few days later she had given in and was actually requesting my help over my Grandfathers. She must have realized that despite her best efforts, I was well aware of her new state. Or maybe she realized it was my turn to take care of her and that I wanted to.

When her house cleaners came to clean the house, she started to cry. She hugged the woman that had been cleaning her house for years and apologized for how she looked. Through tears she said, “Look how bad I’ve gotten, so fast.” The house cleaner cried too.

She was an incredibly intelligent woman and it was so difficult to see the change in her mental state. She seemed dazed, confused and was even hallucinating. Whether that was a side effect of medication or a side effect of dying, I’ll never know.

I made her meals and her tea, we shared almonds as a snack, and we talked about her wedding. She showed me where she had stored away my Barbie dolls. I sat by her side as the hospice chaplain visited and tried to ease her fears about dying. She cried, knowing that no matter what, this was a journey she was facing alone, despite being surrounded by family.

A few days later she was confined to a bed and not long after that she had slipped away into a deep sleep that she’d never wake up from. I’ll always cherish those moments even though they were difficult to witness. A year ago today I was talking to my Grandma. Pretty soon I won’t be able to reference time I spent with her by “a year ago”. She died on February 19th.


Today we found out her dog died. She loved her dogs. Sandy was particularly clingy in the days leading up to my Grandma’s death. At one point Sandy was nuzzling up next to her while she was trying to eat lunch. My Grandma said “Ouch” when Sandy hit her leg and my Grandad jumped into defense mode. He started to move towards her while already telling Sandy to go lay down. Without skipping a beat my Grandma yelled, “I’m the boss!” Which meant, the dog stayed, painful bumps or not. A year ago today, my Grandad was coming to terms with the reality that he was about to lose his wife. Today, he is coping with that anniversary and the fact that he lost the dog that my Grandma loved.

A year ago today was one of the best and hardest days of my life. It was one of my last truly vivid memories of my Grandma and also the day that I too had to accept that the disease was killing her, that she was dying, that my life moving forward wouldn’t have her in it. Today, I hope she is sitting with her donkey and all her dogs from over the years, having a beer.

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