Goofing off again. That’s what it feels like. Anything that doesn’t have me stressed and hitting the ground running by 6:30am, feels like “goofing off.” But on “goofing off” days, I work in the evenings. That is not a change. I’ve been doing that since I started the side business of t-shirts and party accessories. So, when I’m cutting the day short for a lecture, a walk with a friend (two walks on Wednesday), visiting George Fox to watch football practice on a beautiful fall evening, I am reconciling the change of pattern and hoping that what today feels like “goofing off” will someday become what is also known as, “enjoying life.”

What a luxury it is to enjoy life. The email from George Fox came through and normally I hit DELETE, but this time I paused, considered, and committed to going. In the life I’d create for myself, I’d study full time, something like theology, ethics, human behavior, cause and affect. I love all of that and I’d get some initials behind my name. The initials I can put behind my name now are ok though… LOL – Learner of Life, which is funny.

I attended a Q&A and lecture at George Fox with a good acquaintance who is a nurse and a Christian. I met her about a year ago and we’ve not seen each other since, but formed a strong bond when I co-lead the Rooted group at church. I’ve so wanted to spend some time with her, and I was glad when this opportunity worked for both of us.

The headliner was Ray Barfield, who lost his Christian faith after witnessing so much suffering of children with cancer. He is a Professor of Pediatrics and Christian philosophy at Duke University. The three other panelists were equally impressive. The very first question from the audience was the famous one: “How do you explain God to your patients when their child has just died?”

Last week I referred to that same question that a friend asked me. I know kids who have the same question, except about their parents. My friend’s husband has ALS and their lives are changed forever. Friends fiercely battle cancer, and some have lost. We all lose, when we lose them. These are unbearable scenarios, and I didn’t have an answer for my friend, but neither did the panel of 4 professors who presented at the the William Penn George Fox lecture

Each of the panelists answered from their own unique experiences with God, their education, and who they are individually. They explained their struggles with that question, and their peace with the struggle. For me, coming to peace with that question only happens when there is a real struggle. To grapple with confusion is to dig deep for an answer and to wrestle with God. If we turn from that option to secure our own answers, we will never know who God is. Wrestling with man to secure those answers won’t get us closer to God. I think we should explore the questions with each other and learn from the discovery. But I’ve come to learn that if I expect that man can answer a question so complicated, then I am expecting more from man than of God.

Right now I am reading the book of Job. Most of us know the reputation of his struggle. But while we know of Job, by studying his story, we don’t just know of Job, we know him. And in this way, we also know God. Whether it’s Job, or John or Leviticus, or the Psalms, this is how we discover the depth and truth of who God is.

One of the panelists (Kristen Lakis) shared something with which I could relate. She said, “We find our peace (these are not her exact words, but my interpretation of her message and how I related to it) when we lament our grief (as Job did) and from that lament, praise erupts.”

Sometimes the change of a mans heart is the biggest miracle of all.

When my life changed as I knew it, I dwelled on specific scriptures that friends sent my way. One friend decoupaged scripture on to a wooden vanity tray (oh, wait, now I can’t remember if she did that part or if I did it!). I devoured those scriptures every morning. They were promises that would get me through the next hours. They didn’t promise that my husband would repent and all would magically recover, but they were messages of hope, that all would be well. There’s a song that pierces my heart when I hear or sing it. It’s called, It is Well With my Soul. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0dIWJ4t4Jg

My Go To journal of verses, like my spiritual 911.

When we are intimately communing with God, his Spirit tells us, in the most quiet place deep in our soul, that all will be well.

Eventually I removed those verses from the vanity tray and have them tucked into my Go To journal of verses that I keep on a shelf to grab when I need a reminder of who I am and where I’m going, especially when I’m stopped in my tracks by hurt or confusion.

I think God’s words were a bandaid to protect me until healing took place, and that occurred as I read the Psalms. I’d sit in my favorite chair and read one after another,

Answer me when I call to you,

    my righteous God.

Give me relief from my distress;

    have mercy on me and hear my prayer. Psalms 4:1

It was as if a friend was holding me as my heart cried out in pain and anger. The tears would slow and I could say, “Thank you, God. Often in a whisper. I had no answers, but I could get up, and move forward with what I knew had to be done.

It was such a pleasure to hear these people share their experiences with many of whom are nursing or physical therapy students, seeking a way around complicated situations they will face. The panelists recognize their humanness and the tension of a loving God in a world of hurt, pain, and confusion. They don’t present as knowing the answers, but it was clear that they individually seek answers. They’re curious and want to know how to reconcile their questions and pass on their discoveries so they can help people in their most vulnerable and fragile moments.

I don’t anticipate a life where I will study ethics or theology all day, but getting to listen to those who do, is a very nice way to “enjoy life.”

I hope to post the link on my blog when GF posts it.

Panelists in order the listing in the email I received from George Fox: Ray Barfield MD, PhD (Duke); Pam Fifer EdD, RN, CNE (GF); Kristen Lakis LCSW (Duke); Daniel Kang PT, DPT (GF)

October 25, 2019 Update: The links on SEEKING GOD IN THE RUINS I promised to post when George Fox shared them.

Dr. Ray Barfield Lecture

Panel Discussion: A Clinician’s Guide to Re-Conceptualizing Death, Dying, and Suffering

 

It’s day 7, Sunday, the end of my first week of unemployment, or self employment. At the beginning of Week 2, I’m not sure what name it deserves.

I wish I had a map for this journey. Next to my OREGON map would be my INCOME WITH SERENITY AND FLEXIBILITY map. That’s where I want to go, but I haven’t seen that map. I think I have to navigate to this destination on my own (always with God in my pocket). If you’re following this blog, use caution not to take anything too seriously. I’m not sure which turns I’ll take, except to consider each intersection carefully, looking both ways before I cross the street.

An important part of this experience is to confer with wise and experienced people. Some of those people are friends who have a ton of knowledge and experience in owning their own business or consulting businesses. I talked at length with one friend last week who helped me identify some things that caused me to adjust my plan. As I sat down to begin and write out a business plan, knots began forming in my stomach, and I thought, “Dang. This is hard.” I began to question everything, and wondered if it’s possible to reach the destination I’m seeking.

I thought the same thing as I realized how lonely I feel during the day. I miss my co-workers and the camaraderie I had with them. When I was working, I longed for some breaks when I wasn’t interrupted and could focus for more than five minutes on a task. Now I long for an interruption after I’ve worked five minutes on a task. I want it all. I recognize the discipline needed to stay focused, the creativity it will take to feed my spirit with the energy I get from others, and that all of this has to be intentional in order to co-exist. I mentioned this aspect of working at home to my neighbor who is an at home dad. He said he finds that he spends a little more time talking with the cashiers at Safeway than he used to. Nothing against the Safeway cashiers. I’ve been going to the same Safeway for over 20 years and I would miss them if I moved. But I’m determined to be intentional and use my creativity that doesn’t include the Safeway cashiers. And yet… isn’t it just great to connect with people? I think I love them.

It’s just been a week, so I’m doing my best to grant myself a break. I’m in this weird place of knowing I’m in this season by choice and I’m on a mission, but I want to enjoy it, too. Like I’m heading down the road, but feel guilty when I stop for an ice cream cone. I want to write, but feel guilty if I do that, and read my bible, and make a dinner for a friend, get my hair done, and ride my bike. I want to free myself of those guilt emotions and find peace as I enjoy life and earn a living.

I’m working to sort out those emotions, but I recognize how easy it is to slip into patterns that I could regret. It’s been really hard to get myself to bed in time to get myself up around 5, the time I used to get up when I reported for work at 6:30. On days I rode my bike, I got up between 4:30 and 5. Because of that schedule I’ve earned an undeserved reputation of being a morning person and self disciplined. When one behaves so responsibly, it’s hard to convince anyone otherwise, but the truth is that I am not a morning person or self disciplined. I am determined, and that’s what drives me. I love to be up, so I guess I have to get up. Once I’m up, I love mornings and the solitude or productivity a morning gives me. I love to be productive, so I must get myself to bed. But I could watch TV, read, write, work on my t-shirt and party accessories business all night if there were no consequences to doing that.

WEEK ONE was getting my feet wet. WEEK TWO is stepping in a little deeper, with a little more knowledge, and committing myself to improved behaviors that will push me closer to: INCOME WITH SERENITY AND FLEXIBILITY.

Below is what I was able to achieve last week toward my business idea:

  • Discussed business idea with a few friends and listened to feedback.
    • This was invaluable. The business idea is the same, but I believe I’ve refined it after a couple conversations.
  • Met with graphic designer (friend) about logo idea.
  • Contacted insurance about commercial insurance for my business and car.
    • I think insurance will legitimatize my business and give customers assurance that their assets are protected. Also, since I’ll be using my car for business, it’s important that I am protected if something were to happen in the course of a work activity. I don’t want gaps in my insurance. Most auto insurance doesn’t cover personal vehicles when they’re used for work activities, and when people use their vehicles for business and only carry personal insurance, they’re putting themselves at risk.
  • Researched how to write a business plan and began writing it.
    • I Googled this and am going through each of the sections. The first is the Executive Summary. As I go through each section, I’m prompted to sort through and make decisions about each area, for example, pricing, scheduling, etc.
  • Researched and signed up for a scheduling system. I signed up for G Suite, but am not confident that’s the way to go.
  • Worked on design ideas for Christmas products for sales.
    • I worked in my Silhouette for some Christmas ideas to sell and worked on a product for a friend.
  • Worked a Nike Offsite event.
    • This was such a treat. The company with whom I worked was such a pleasure. From the collaboration and exploration of how to achieve the end goal to working with the personnel at the event. I got home around 11, and I used that late job to justify getting to bed late and getting up late. I’ll take anything I can get to justify a sleep in!
  • Exchanged emails with a friend for a Day Of wedding coordinator in August.
  • Purchased a Legal Zoom membership.
  • Spoke with attorney (referred to through Legal Zoom) about an LLC and trademarking my business name.
    • I learned that an LLC is the way I want to go because it will separate the business from my personal assets and protect me.

Some things I did that were not work related:

  • Read the bible.
    • This makes getting to bed early(ish) worth it. I’m at Job in a whole bible reading plan. I’m in year 2. Yikes. I loved the exchange between Job and Zaphor. Zaphor thinks he has the answers for Job, and when you read what he has to say, it seems Zaphor does have some good answers. But Job puts Zaphor in his place and tells him to mind his own business. What joy to see that people are people, in today’s world, and before Jesus’s time.
  • Made a Bday dinner for a friend.
    • So fun to make a meal for a friend and enjoy the process.
  • Yardwork, made a small dent in cleaning out Bridgette’s old bedroom, rode my bike, walked Winky, talked with friends on the phone, put up some fall decorations, went on a couple of walks with friends, took car in for service, got hair cut and colored, football game and food prep for the tailgate, and… drumroll please, went to Chick-Fil-A for the first time… and now I know. The chicken strips were so moist and succulent and the lemon slushy thing is to die for. They squeeze their lemons every day!

I gotta tell you. The work stuff I did is the stuff that gives me knots in my stomach. It’s like turning down a gravel road without street lights. The other stuff are things with which I’m familiar, so no knots. But knots and all, I’m not giving up. If it’s like anything else, the more I experience it, the less scary it will be. I’m counting on street lights in my future.

Now, on to Week 2!

To read about what got me here, read My Unexpected Season.

As I sit here, rain pelts the roof and stormish clouds hover. It’s as if fall has bullied summer out. It’s forced its way in, impatient to wait for September 23rd, the date fall is in invited to join us with open arms, when we are inclined to invite it to stay awhile.

We have expectations of what each season will bring us, yet we are often hit with an unexpected weather change that causes us to wonder where our beloved specific season has left us. Prematurely, rain has replaced sunshine and blue skies have turned grey. I’m no stranger to the unexpected, and I find myself here again in my personal season. I’m startled by the change, but in moments where fear or anxiety tap on my shoulder, I fix my eyes on the bigger picture. I’m intrigued and find wonder in the way things can weave together so mysteriously. 

The end of summer and beginning of fall have always been hectic for me. Both kids’ birthdays are in the first week of September. When the kids were at home, we had the beginning of the new school year, which because of my work at a school, I now refer to affectionately as SY20XX. I’m big on abbreviations, but not acronyms for some reason. Anyway, add birthdays, the demands of the new SY and both kids playing a fall sport, and fall has always been a packed season. Bradley still plays football at a nearby college, and with working at a school, the intensity of the end of summer/beginning of fall persisted. This year I added something else to the mix: I left my school job on August 28th, and went to work for a new company on August 29th.

As soon as I got a breath, I imagined writing a post about the enthusiasm I had for the new career endeavor. I would have told you that on my first day, I was a bit embarrassed because I greeted my co-workers with a hug and held back tears. I’d left a solid job at the school and people I love, for a brand new profession, with the hopes (after several conversations) of a management position with the company. But for now, I took a substantial cut in pay. They wanted to try me out. Everything was so different all at once, and I think my body and spirit were more overwhelmed at it all than my mind was. It might have been putting on the brakes while I was doing my best to convince it that it would all be okay. I have a hard time deciphering between this thinking head of mine and my spirit who I like to think guides me.

I hope it’s not arrogance, yet maybe I’ve got some self reflecting to do on this topic. But because my work ethic and enthusiasm to learn are strong, I imagined I’d be moving up to management within a time frame my budget could tolerate (possibly supplemented with more t-shirt orders or signing up to be a Lyft driver). I also possess what some might consider an overdose of hope and peace.

You know that peace that surpasses all understanding that we’re promised in Philippians 4:7 and the hope we can count on in Hebrews 6? I think I scare my daughter with my hope and peace, and I sometimes wonder if I’m confusing it with ignorance or denial. I put it to the test though. If I were ignorant or in denial, I wouldn’t work so hard to achieve self sufficiency. I would throw caution to the wind and I would have flown to NY for my son’s away football game. I would splurge on spa treatments, buy cable, and be first in line to buy the new iPhone. I would take vacations!

I believe that I’m mostly aware of what I’m doing. I’m constantly talking to God, asking for guidance. I need input from others, and my bed partner Winky, doesn’t count.

Proverbs says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel…” so, I confer a lot with friends. They’re my partner substitutes. I pick and choose them sporadically to listen to my ideas, hoping not to overwhelm any one of them with everything that must be considered in one’s life. Then I make a decision, pray that God will bless it, and proceed. I have faith in that process, and in that, I find peace and hope. That means when things don’t work out the way I anticipate, I am not rocked. I’m planning my course, but like Proverbs 16:9 says, “the Lord establishes our steps.”

My dear friend who is not a Christian asked me the other day if I thought God is a puppeteer, orchestrating my moves. This is one of those moments that I wish my knowledge would allow me to spout off explanations about the mysteries of God. I love this friend and totally get what she’s asking, because I seek the answer to that question regularly. I do believe God is almighty and decides when the wind blows and the seas calm. And I also believe that he made the weather, and well, weather is weather, and if it rains in Portland, he lets it rain. This topic opens up a huge can of worms, and the biggest question a non Christian has is, “Why would God choose to save one child and not another?” My friend, in essence, asked that very question. I have to tell her that I don’t know. But what I do know is that he’s real. That he’s God. That he loves me, and that he is faithful to me. I also want her to read, The Reason for God, by Timothy Keller. He has the answers! I have it cued to listen to it again.

I can say this because God’s faithfulness to me is not a wand he points in my direction and grants me a charmed life. His faithfulness shows up in my heart, in my peace and my hope, in spite of anything but a charmed life, where hardly anything is what I thought it would be or what I would choose it to be, except that I am fully and joyfully at peace.

 

Joyfully I commuted to my new job, reveling in the newness of it all. The commute where for 30 or so minutes I got to pray or listen to Catholic radio or to a current book (I just finished “Dare to Lead” by Brene Brown: Five stars!). It was blissful car time that I’d never have anticipated tolerating, let alone enjoy. But what’s not to enjoy with a view of Portland on both sides of the Markham bridge as I moved with all my new car friends? As I turned the corner off the bridge, old buildings covered in graffiti and railroad tracks and trains that stop traffic several times a day surrounded me. The city is pumping the economy and I’m part of it. I loved it!

The new job however wasn’t as exhilarating as the commute. My eyes were opened to the back house of a staging company where the employees work incredibly hard to create a stunning ambience that will appeal to potential buyers. The first week I was both in awe and physically exhausted. Into week two, I’d discovered how to manage the job so I was contributing more by packing, unpacking, and placing items, rather than lifting bins. The team encouraged this strategy, as they know the toll on the body. I was beginning to get the hang of it all and saw a potential rhythm I would enjoy. But somewhere in the two weeks something unconnected to the physical work wasn’t lining up.

After much thought, reflection, prayer, and some conversations, I came to the conclusion to give my notice. Again, I put my process in place and made a decision. I can’t say I know where God fits into these specific steps, but I felt solid going into the job, and while disappointed, I felt solid leaving.

Suddenly the season that I’d anticipated had switched gears. Of course I considered waiting it out. There’s a really good chance things would have worked out. But at this time in my life, I wanted more control. I’d left my school job for more opportunity and I wasn’t feeling confident that this was going to be it. As I sought a solution to the confusion about the job, I wondered what I could do, where I would work, what can I offer? I was reminded of something I do well, which is to juggle things. Maybe it’s from the years of restaurant work or from being an oldest child taking care of my younger brothers and sister, or my foster siblings. I’ve been in charge and juggling my whole life. Maybe this is what I have to offer!

So, with the decision to leave my job, I am forging ahead with a new plan. While in traffic on my way home from church on Sunday I came up with a business idea and name I love! I’m not yet sharing the name on social media until I research a trademark. I conferred with a Legal Zoom attorney yesterday. Which, BTW, I am so far, impressed with Legal Zoom! My concept is that I will be a source for those who need help juggling the tasks and demands of their life. We’re all stretched so thin, and I will be the one you call to fill in the gaps. Need gifts picked up and wrapped? Call me. Need your house spiffed up for company and the table set? Call me. Need a “Day Of” wedding coordinator? Call me. More to come, but that’s the gist.

I hope to incorporate more blogging into my new effort as well, so you if you follow me, you can move from one season into the next with me, and witness how I manage the clouds, knowing the blue skies are not far behind.

H A P P Y  F A L L !

A Dog Dilemma; Another Winky Story

Soaking in the sun on this Sunday afternoon.

During my “at home vacation” I was faced with another crossroads about Winky, and like so many crossroads, I faced it alone. There are many things I do alone and feel quite capable. But when it comes to finances, life altering decisions, and kids, God did not intend us to manage these things alone. He says plainly in Ecclesiastes: “Two are better than one…”

If you are my friend, you know how much I value your input and conversation. We talk in depth and our talks quench my thirst for perspective and insight. You are a substitute for a partner or a parent, and you know I value our discussions. I cannot say it enough, but for you I am grateful.

If you want to read about Winky, You can read Part 1 here:

https://jonifrances.com/2018/08/12/can-i-teach-this-dog-new-tricks-part-1/

Part 2, here:

https://jonifrances.com/2018/09/09/winky-part-2/

THIS IS A LENGTHY POST.

There hasn’t been a Part 3 until now, in part because while I have kept Winky, it hasn’t been a solid decision, but more like an acceptance that I’m stuck with him. I know how horrible I sound. I’m probably going to lose 3 of my 4 followers. But to clear my name, let me remind you that while I haven’t been in love with Winky, I have committed to him, and if you know me, you know how I feel about commitment; it trumps feelings.

One morning just before vacation I woke to find my bed with blood all over it. After double checking and discovering I hadn’t been murdered in my sleep, I determined that it had to be Winky, yet outside of some matted hair, I could find no evidence of a wound. This is at 5ish on a work morning. I made some quick assessments (I think I should include this scenario in a cover letter when applying for a job: problem solver, dedicated employee, etc) and proceeded to get ready for work, leaving Winky secured in my bedroom with all his doggy needs.

I came home from work to find him listening to the radio and practicing his line dance moves; he was fine. I washed my sheets and when I gave him a bath, I discovered a wound on his cheek. Since there was no more evidence of blood, I decided to wait for his annual check up that was coincidentally, 2 days away. Winky continued to behave in his Winky like fashion and I felt confident there was no sense of urgency and his wound would heal. To be on the safer side, I continued to leave him in my bedroom during the workday. Not my favorite thing to do.

When I took him to get his shots and reported to the Dr. the bloody incident, he guessed that Winky had an abscess tooth that exploded. After a few questions, I still didn’t understand how the vet came to his conclusion, but accepted my ignorance. The vet said he wouldn’t be able to determine for certain if Winky had an abscess unless he put Winky under. Under the blankets? Oh, sure! He sleeps under my blankets every night and that won’t cost anything. Nah…not so lucky. Putting Winky “under” is what I’ve avoided every year by not giving him the recommended dental care that has me leaving vet appointments with my own tail between my legs.

The conversation goes something like this:

Vet: “Well, Winky still hasn’t had any dental care and I really recommend it.”

Me: “Hmmm. How much does it cost, again?”

Vet: “Well, it depends on if he needs to have teeth removed. But typically it’s just the cleaning. Putting him under is the most expensive part of the procedure. That runs between $300 and $400.”

Me: “And what happens if I don’t do it?”

Vet: “Like I said, it’s just compromising the health of his teeth, plaque can build up, his gums can recede, he might be eating and suddenly his teeth will all fall out and he’ll cry in pain and it will be your fault.”

Well, that’s my interpretation of what he says. As the discussion progresses, I feel like the biggest dog owner loser. I’m sure the vet is just giving me facts, but they feel like thunder clouds moving in on a perfectly sunny day.

I took Winky to a nearby pet store that hosts a traveling dental service a few times a year. I scheduled Winky with the hope that he’d get a good once over and I’d take advantage of the discount this service offers. But the tech who provided the service on that cold rainy day informed me that she couldn’t service Winky because Winky’s teeth were beyond the routine cleaning that she would normally perform.  She recommended that I go to another provider that provides full doggy dental care on a sliding scale.

Ugh. How does this even happen? I could list on 4 fingers what he eats, and on none of those fingers are people scraps or bones. And how is it that my doggies are so health fragile? Rocky was put to sleep because of a back condition that immobilized him and Lucky died of cancer. I have friends and know of people whose dogs never receive little care. They live long lives full of vitality and act completely like dogs. I have one friend who doesn’t even give her dog shots or flea medicine! This is not a dog who is neglected. He’s healthy as an ox and pampered with daily walks, treats and couch privileges. My dogs on the other hand are threatened with various ailments and odd dispositions. It’s as if I spread some kind of contagious dog disease on them, and they’re none the wiser. They all have one common dog like behavior. They all love me.

I took Winky to the sliding scale fee clinic to get a second opinion on his teeth. Well, maybe this is a third opinion. After a $281 dental cleaning and assessment, I was told that he needed to have about 18 teeth removed. I asked her how many teeth he had, and with what he would chew his food if 18 teeth were removed? After a lengthy conversation, complete with x-rays, I left with a quote that was good for 30 days. I would watch to see if Winky was experiencing pain. 30 days passed, the quote expired, and here we are.

At the vet’s office, with a knot in my stomach, I scheduled Winky for surgery. The vet gave me a rough quote of $500 to $600 if no teeth had to be removed. If teeth had to be removed, it could go up to “around a thousand.” I considered submitting a photo of Winky to a dog modeling agency to pay for his health care. But there’s always the issue of time that interferes with these great ideas. He is that cute, though.

Winky’s big day came during vacation. Late in the day I received the first call that informed me that side one of Winky’s mouth required 7 teeth be removed. If the sliding scale fee place was accurate, that meant side two had 11 teeth to remove.  The next call informed me that side two had 5 teeth to remove. I immediately recognized a discrepancy between sliding scale fee vet and this vet, but that was a moot point. I considered giving Winky a healthy side and a non healthy side, but of course I told the Dr. to proceed. “Yes, go ahead and replace all the brakes.” The final bill would be $1160.00. The Dr. also  informed me that Winky has periodontal disease and I’d have to stay on top of that if I want to decrease the chances of more surgeries. I hung up the phone and cried.

As I continue to develop my side biz I anticipate things that I hope to achieve with the money I earn, and adding more doggie expenses has never made that list. I understand some people will do anything for their dogs, but (until now) I haven’t been one of them. I want a dog to know his place. I want that I rescued him to be enough. I virtually camped out to retrieve him after he’d escaped a couple of weeks into owning him. I want that to be enough. If you’re curious about that event, you can read this link. Please keep in mind that this was written in 2014. It’s not edited and some areas may not make sense to you, and that’s okay.

I want him sleeping with me to be enough. I want him to understand that I chose a house with a fenced yard on one level, because of him. I put doggy doors in the walls and replaced dog soiled carpets with hardwood, because of him (and Rocky). I want that all to be enough. I want him to know, HE’S A DOG!

I was feeling resentful of the responsibility for him and how I’d ended up with him. I went to my computer and placed him on 3 Re-Home sites. As I scanned my photos for his cutest pictures to place on his profile, tears streamed down my face. In the story I wrote for a would be owner, I spoke of his anxiety to take walks and how he doesn’t do well with men (or strangers, or kids, or people when they stand up, and still with me when I call him). I admitted he sleeps with me, but that he also likes his kennel and may adapt to sleeping in that. I described his excitement when I ask him to go on a walk, and his fear of actually walking down the sidewalk (or road or beach) and then I wondered who would want him because he’s so undog like. I felt I was doing the right thing. That I need to be smart with my money and don’t want to be that person who can’t pay my living expenses or gripe because I don’t go on vacation, because of my dog expenses. I felt comforted, thinking no one would want him, and at the same time hoped someone would.

I was spent from emotion and frustrated at navigating this horrid predicament by myself. I just couldn’t fathom what Jesus would do. But I called on him regardless, because that’s what I do. When I went to get Winky from the vet, the vet tech mentioned how sweet he is. I was afraid to talk, unsure of what emotion would spill out. In a flattened tone I agreed and told her that I was trying to find him a home.

The next evening someone surprised me. I had an email from an interested party, and my heart sank. But she had another dog and a cat. She had ignored what I said about other animals, so BAM. She’s out! I was relieved. Then later I was shocked to see another inquiry and then another, and my stomach turned. First of all, who are these people who want a dog who doesn’t walk and barks at everyone? I looked at my description again, wondering if I’d subconsciously painted a better picture than I’d intended. But nope. My biggest loser complex grew bigger. Also, I’d assumed finding him a home would be a process and I would ease into it, kind of like birthing a baby. Maybe 9 months would pass and I’d adjust to the idea of handing him over. I didn’t imagine packing up his things tomorrow. I went for a walk and cried.

The next day the vet tech called to tell me that she also had a possible home for Winky, and in that conversation I explained my trepidation and we agreed that we may talk again in the future, but right now I could not move on this decision.

I pulled him off of the Re-Home sites. Before I could get him off however, a friend reported to me that she had seen a comment on one of the Facebook sites where someone criticized me for wanting to get rid of Winky. Like I said, I know I sound horrible. But I also know that I’m not unkind and I’m sorry I’m not that person who will sacrifice myself for my dog. Winky is a dog. I carry all the emotions that many dog lovers carry. But our emotions vary. I have friends who would never pay $1160 for surgery and they’re financially more capable than I am. They adore their dogs. I have other friends who would pay thousands in medical bills. We all have a different financial, time, and life scenario, and come from different family and social cultures. No one should criticize someone for not doing what they would do in a dog situation. I think if I were homeless, I wouldn’t own a dog. But I’m not homeless, so I’m not privy to that judgement. 

A couple of days after this whole emotional rollercoaster, I was put to another test. At about 10pm I heard a scuffle on my back deck. I have discovered that at night Winky employs some dog like behaviors. On this night, he was challenging a skunk. He successfully chased off the skunk, but he himself, was skunked. At about 10:15 I was giving him a bath, which did not remove the skunk odor. And like every other night, Winky slept with me. I was grateful I was on vacation, because there is no sleeping next to a skunk.

Commitment: If you give it enough time, feelings will catch up. Now I love him.

I’ve discovered a whole lot this week about using my Silhouette machine. You know how we learn from our mistakes? This week seemed like a crash course in learning. I had to put production on hold last week because of my birthday and then Easter. Take the hours away spent for a birthday and a holiday, add the other things that are part of everyday life, plus my day job, and I easily get behind. So putting the previous week behind me, I dove in this last week to tackle a few orders with deadlines, fully expecting accomplishment and success. I’ve learned so much in the last few months, it didn’t occur to me that there was still more I didn’t know. I’ve been steadily making mistakes and it seemed I’d paid my dues, but there are more to be paid.

It’s just been a few months since I began exploring this new craft, and while I am creative, I’m not a crafty person, so this might as well be a new language. Words and abbreviations that are common to the Silhouette crafters like, HTV, vinyl 651 and 631, tape transfer, vinyl transfer tape, carrier, Siser, permanent and temporary vinyl, (glossy means one, and matte means another), weeding, flocked, print and cut, platen. The vernacular is extensive. I’m learning a new software program called Silhouette Studio and a new piece of equipment called a heat press. I had to determined whether I buy a swing arm or clamshell, 15 x 15, bigger or smaller? Do I buy a mug heat press? What brands and sizes do I buy and from whom and what’s the best product for the best deal? What kind of mugs do I buy? Can I use Dollar Tree mugs and transfer contact paper (Yes for vinyl – no for sublimation). What kind of heat transfer vinyl do I buy – by the roll or sheet and from whom and what brand? This put me right back in the grocery store when I was a new mom and would stare down the diaper aisle. Except this has been going on for days and there are more than just diapers down this aisle.

As I set out to execute my orders, I faced new particulars unique to this craft, or if you’re me, to this new business. For one, the process I’d believed I could do for one particular order required another piece of equipment. I thought I was all set because I had purchased a mug heat press. But with sublimation, another technique of transferring images on to a mug, it requires a different type of printer, ie: not the one I own, the one my dear friends bought me for Christmas. I scrambled, scouring the Internet to determine if I should buy another printer: websites like Silhouette School, TRW, YouTube, and Facebook support groups. I tried desperately to ascertain if sublimation is a part of a Silhouette business, and what part it would play in my business model, the one I haven’t yet developed. 

After hours of research I began with the other order on deadline. I felt fairly comfortable with this job, yet I found myself struggling with other decisions: How far down to put graphics on a shirt. There are factors to consider: size and type of shirt, and size of graphic. Some women like it across their breasts and some do not. Then there’s the length of time the heat press stays on the shirt. That depends on the vinyl you’re using and the shirt fabric. My friend had given me a material I hadn’t yet used. Then, do I peel the carrier off when it’s hot or cold, or does it matter? I thought I knew this for the most part, but the new shirt material threw me off. Depending from where you get your information on the Internet, you can get twenty different ways to do the same thing. Who is the expert? Which method do I choose and which website do I trust? Which will save me from wasting materials and time? And in this case, which will save me from ruining the shirt my friend gave me?

My lack of knowledge became apparent. The lack of experience became evident and defeat set in. I felt like a slave to it all as I considered the amount I must learn before I will enjoy the rewards of fulfilling a service and purpose and begin making a profit.

I was so disappointed when I discovered I couldn’t put my friend’s logo on the mug like I thought I could. Then I sat down and cried after I discovered that oil can get on a t-shirt if it’s not placed a certain way on the platen of the heat press, and that I would have to throw out the t-shirt. I cursed because the guide gauge wasn’t locked down and caused the sheet to slip around in the Silhouette machine, costing me vinyl and over an hour of time as I hunted for the problem. I cringe when someone asks me a price, because I haven’t been able to track my costs or time and I’m determined not to charge customers time and materials specific to my learning curve.

Blood, sweat and tears – prayers and podcasts. I listen to a podcast called, Don’t Keep Your Day Job. It encourages me and I’m grateful for those who have gone before me and the technology we have to be encouraged and to learn. I think the founders of YouTube deserve my money for all the YouTubers who are teaching me, yet I’m really grateful I don’t have to add that to my expenses.

A couple of months ago I felt certain in the decision I’d made. That I wouldn’t make money with my Silhouette machine if I was hand ironing projects and sharing kitchen counter space with my dinners. So I rearranged my family room into a dedicated work space and I purchased a Trans Pro Select 15 x 15. It comes from Pro World, but I bought mine (and was fortunate) from someone on Facebook Marketplace. It’s a great piece of equipment. Then I bought a  TransPro 3 in 1 Mug Heat Press from Pro World. Two big purchases to improve efficiency, capability, and opportunity. Although, I thought I would be using the mug heat press for vinyl 651, only to learn that’s not a method for vinyl 651.

I thought the equipment would be the magic equation to turning out products, but like everything of value in life, there are no shortcuts. I’m happy to have the good equipment, but the equipment doesn’t give me the knowledge; the practice does, and the blood, the sweat, and the tears.

Vacation and Bonjour

Party flair for a French themed party

I purchased Melissa Viscount’s E Book, “Cutting a Profit.” She’s the author of Silhouette School. Through my research I’ve figured out that she’s a “go to” Silhouette guru. I’ve only read the first two pages and on about page two she says not to take an order for anything you don’t know how to make. Oops. I’m glad I bought her book. I’ve got a lot to learn.

But learning I am. There was success this week. My friend had a French themed party and these items (minus the VACATION MODE) were the perfect touch. 

As I look at my yard this spring, I’m reminded of what blood, sweat, and tears can produce. Well, a lot of rain and sunshine has a lot to do with it, but I need the encouragement, so I’ll take some credit, too.

Merci Beaucoup,

Joni

 

And a little dogwood in a jar to start off the week