Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Because Nobody Told Me I Couldn't

Several years ago, before the real estate market bubble burst, John and I read some books about real estate investing and decided we needed some rental property.  We were thinking duplex but then I heard the commercial building my mother in law works in was for sale.  I happened to be acquainted with the owner since I had worked there before her and so I decided to ask him if he would be willing to talk to John and me about buying it.

Of course the fact that we had less than $1000 in the bank and he had the building up for $700,000 was not concerning to me at all because I had  no idea what I was doing.

Somehow after talking with us he agreed to negotiate an offer with us.  So I called a commercial lender that a friend recommended and started the paper work.  After agreeing on a price the owner asked for 10% down.  So I called the loan officer.  He asked why the guy wanted it and suggested we offer $1000 down so I did and the owner accepted.  Then we could only get a loan for $500,000 so I asked the owner to finance the rest of the loan for us.  And he agreed.  Then we needed $20,000 in closing costs.  The loan officer asked us how we were going to pay.  I asked him what he suggested and he said to ask the owner again.  So I asked the owner if he would also finance the closing costs.  He agreed again.

And so we bought a 100 year old commercial building with 3 retail and 3 office tenants for $1000 and it cash flowed nearly $2000/month for the first year and a half we owned it.  After that taxes went up, a main tenant left and another main tenant decided to be unreliable on his rent payments, Isabelle was born and I decided I would rather manage her than a bunch of high maintenance tenants so we put it on the market and 3 years after buying it sold it for way more than we paid.  I will probably never see a check that big with my name on it again.

At the time my brother was also a real estate investor (still is) and selling residential mortgages.  He couldn't believe what we did and told his boss about it.  They laughed about it and his boss said we were able to do it because, "Nobody told them they couldn't."

For every good idea you have there is a line of well meaning friends, family and business professionals ready and waiting to tell you why it won't work.  They don't know they are crushing your dreams and hindering your chances of success, they think they are protecting you from the disappointment of failure.

But failure isn't a bad thing.  When we bought the building we knew we were taking a big risk.  But I asked myself, what is the worst thing that could happen?  The conclusion I came to is that we might have to declare bankruptcy and loose our house.  But we could still work and we would be able to re-build and we decided that worst case scenario was something we were willing to risk.

While overall owning the building was a very good thing for us, there was a level of failure involved as well.  I had no idea what I was doing when we bought the place.  I agreed to some leases that really were not in our best interest and I waited too long to seek help and really learn the business.  If I had known what I was doing or sought help right from the start we might still be making $2000/month doing part time property management.  But without that failure, without making those mistakes, I could not have learned that lesson.

Why are we so afraid of failure?  I have written previously about overcoming my fear of failure during a life changing month of snowboarding lessons.  Still, at the beginning of any new endeavor there is fear of failure.  Fear of screwing up and looking stupid.  And really fear of all the people who never tried anything new but sill stand in judgement of you when you fail.

The good news is that behind every successful person you can find a story of failure.  Before Thomas Edison invented the light bulb he failed 1,000's of times but is famously quoted for saying, "I have not failed.  I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."  Success does not come about because you made no mistakes but because you learned from those failures and pressed forward.  Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, Elvis Presley was told he couldn't sing, but they both believed in themselves and did not let a few failures stop them from pursuing their dreams.

So I continue to work on starting an online business.  I am taking the lesson I learned from the building and taking some time to learn about Internet marketing.  But I am also stepping forward with a belief that I will not fail and that I can do this.  And while the first thing I pursue may or may not make me money it will not be a failure but just another step toward success.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Getting Ready

Less than a week from today I will be basking in the Florida sunshine.  I can't believe it! 

As we have saved all our Christmas money, birthday money and side jobs who paid cash money over the past couple months to cover our incidental expenses while we are gone, I am in awe of what a gift this trip is.  I truly can't imagine how we would ever take this trip if I hadn't won it from Family Circle Magazine.  We love to travel but have never had the discipline to actually save significant money for vacations.  As a result we do weekend camping trips or stay at friends cabins.  We have only taken a full week vacation twice since Jake was in Kindergarten.  One was a trip to California and Disneyland, the other was our Kenya trip a couple years ago.  So spending 8 days in Florida in the middle of winter is a pretty big deal for us.

As with everything we do these days, my working changes the way we prepare for a trip.  Normally I would wait until Thursday or Friday to pull out suitcases and would spend an entire day preparing the family for the trip, pulling out our more summery clothes,doing laundry, shopping for supplies and, of course, cleaning the house because I hate leaving a dirty house and hate more coming home to a dirty house. 

Instead, I will spend much of today, Sunday a week before the trip, pulling out suitcases and pulling down the summer clothes from Isabelle's closet.  I will be trusting Jake and John to help with the house cleaning this week because we all know, "if mama ain't happy, nobody happy".  And throughout the week the suitcases will sit open in our bedrooms as we slowly fill them up one day at a time.

Just one more thing we are learning to do different now that I am working.  But nearly 8 months into my working full time I am really seeing the family begin to work together and get things done.  It is hard at times to let go of control and share responsibilities but each time I do I am blessed.  So I am confident when we get on the airplane next Saturday we will be fully ready for the adventure that awaits us.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Athlete in training

Isabelle has started gymnastics.  She was way beyond excited when I told her on Christmas day that she would be starting lessons in one week.  She has now had 2 lessons and is loving it but I have noticed something interesting.  She gets home crabby and exhausted.  When I watch her going through the skill building tasks of walking on a balance beam, doing backward rolls on mats and swinging from bars I only see the fun she is having but I realized after the first lesson, she just did a 1 hour workout!  When I have worked out for 1 hour I feel great but I am also exhausted and desperate for food.

I know people always talk about keeping kids active but it wasn't until this moment, seeing how tired Isabelle was after an hour of active play, that I realized how important it is, how much down time she has.  And I became even more excited about having her involved in a sport.

We aren't really a sports family.  Jake did baseball for a number of years but I think the dad's coaching Jake were a little relieved when we finally stopped signing him up.  We didn't really care that he wasn't good, we didn't spend our evenings and weekends working to help him improve, and he didn't really care that he wasn't good but kept asking to play because he was having fun.  This kind of attitude doesn't garner a lot of admiration in team sports circles.  Which I think is why Jake has enjoyed wrestling so much.  While there is a team, when it comes right down to the match, it is all about him.  Does he want to win and what kind of effort is he going to put in?  Which seems to be much more motivating to Jake. He won't be a college wrestler, he won't be going to state.  But he is having fun.  He is learning how to work out his body, be healthy and active.  And that is what I want my children to get out of their time in sports.

I would love it if Isabelle really clicked with gymnastics and shot to super stardom.  We are enjoying watching my niece, the future Olympic athlete, master the sport of swimming as she accumulates wins in increasingly large circles, from local to state to regional competitions.  We are proud and excited for her future.  But Isabelle might not be that motivated, she might just want to have fun and be happy to simply show off a back  handspring to her friends occasionally.

Since that day I ran out our back door 7 years ago and began my career as an adult onset athlete I have learned a lot about why it is important to have your children in sports.  As I have become more disciplined, learned to focus, achieved goals, pushed through to the finish line, I have been able to take those same skills into my day to day life.  I have taken chances I would never have taken before, I have tried new things that would have scared me to much before, I have felt a strength I didn't know was possible.  I have seen myself succeed and found it to be a high worth chasing in other areas of my life.  I have seen what I can do in one area of my life and believe I can do it in other areas as well.  I have believed in myself.

When Jake was little it really didn't seem like a big deal that he wasn't involved in a sport but today, having seen how my life has changed simply by running out my back door, I can't imagine not raising Isabelle to be active and involved in some sport.

So I continue to work out on a regular basis to keep my health and mental stability strong and am enjoying watching Isabelle develop the endurance necessary to be physically active throughout her life.  Whether it is as a gymnast or some other activity I know the reward will be worth the effort.

Friday, January 13, 2012

We can still be friends

I had a revelation the other day.  I was my son's first girlfriend and he has totally broken up with me!  Now he wants to be "just friends" and I am having a hard time transitioning into my new role. 

I shared this creepy tidbit with my husband who is fresh out of Psychology 101 and he affirmed my thought telling me this is exactly what Freud was talking about.  Not in the inappropriate Oedipus way but there is a special mother/son bond.

When you think about it I was the first girl in his life.  He shared his thoughts and feelings with me, I listened to him, encouraged him, loved him.  I taught him how to treat a woman with respect, how to open doors for me, cradle my arm in the crook of his elbow and help me on with my coat.

I thought we were getting along just fine.  I never saw it coming.

Then one day another girl came into his life and suddenly he was sharing all his thoughts and dreams with her.  He was spending time with her and taking her thoughts and encouragement more seriously than mine.  And there she was benefiting from all my hard work of molding him into the wonderful man that he is.

What did I do wrong?  Or did I do it right?

Isn't this what we are supposed to do as parents?  Train them, teach them, help them grow and then let them go.  I must admit that the reality of that last part, let them go, is really becoming more and more real to me as we get closer and closer to the end of high school and I realize 6 months from now we will be packing up all his stuff and moving him out.  This is what I have been doing the last 17-1/2 years, preparing for this moment to come.  And he is ready.  Although half of me wants to lock him in a closet and hold on to him a little longer the other half knows I have done my job and it is time to release him.  And in the end I will listen to that other half.

So now that he is ready, I guess it is time to get myself ready.

So I am working on learning to be "just friends" and trusting that I have raised him, loved him and encouraged him to go out and make choices for himself in relationships and life that continue the work I have begun in him.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Seeing the future

You know how at the end of a particularly challenging stage of life you are able to look back and see how it all worked out and how God took care of you?  And you know how you wish you weren't so stressed, full of discontentment and argumentative about the process but instead enjoyed the ride, enjoyed watching God put it all together and bringing you exactly where you needed to be exactly when you needed to get there?

Or is that just me?

So the other day I was feeling stressed, discontent and argumentative about the process we are in.  And I decided I HAD to cut down to 30 hours a week.  But of course when I looked at our budget it seemed more like I needed a second job than less hours.  And that made me feel a little crazy, trapped, frustrated, helpless, hopeless.  And frankly I wanted to figure out how to get out of this crazy path we got ourselves on.  Rewind!  I want to go back to the beginning!

I heard someone say once that if everyone put their problems in a pile and you could choose any problem you wanted out of the pile you would go back and choose your own.  I know my problem, I know how to deal with it.  I know how to be at home and broke, to struggle with self employment, encourage my husband to keep going through a bad economy.  I don't know how to be a working mom, and still be broke, and encourage my husband with his education and work, to help my daughter grow to be a godly woman when I am not there to observe her behavior and redirect.  I feel like I am having to re-define who I am.  I liked who I was before.  Even if it wasn't working for our family anymore.  Do I really have to change?

When I am in the middle of something I don't like I often think about the other side.  When we were waiting to have a second baby I would often imagine announcing I was pregnant or, later, telling people we had been chosen by a birth family.  I would think about holding her in my arms.  It reminded me that I was going somewhere and that this moment is not permanent.

And so it is with this, I often think about the other side.  When I am able to quit my job to run my little online business.  When John is a practicing PA.  When this short but important time in our life is over.  And since I have experience getting through these stages I know that when they are over I will wish I didn't fight it so much.  I will wish I had enjoyed the process more.

Yet as I talked with God I found myself justifying my stress because it caused action and obviously I needed to do something!  And I felt He challenged me to take action without the stress.  To trust Him to lead me to what I needed to do and lead me away from what I did not need to do.  And that sounds a little challenging.

OK as I am writing this I felt called to read my "Jesus Calling" devotion for the day.  Today is about being victorious in Christ.  Here are a couple relevant parts,

"I may infuse within you a dream that seems far beyond your reach.  You know that in yourself you cannot achieve such a goal.  Thus begins your journey of profound reliance on Me.  It is a faithwalk, taken one step at a time, leaning on Me as much as you need.  This is not a path of continual success but of multiple failures.  However, each failure is followed by a growth spurt, nourished by increased reliance on Me."

"It is through problems and failure, weakness and neediness that you learn to rely on Me."

See I told you this book was written just for me!  So I am thinking that instead of allowing my stress to dictate my actions I should allow my reliance on God to dictate my actions. (Act, my word of the year, is part of the word action.  Has anyone else noticed that?)

Today I am going to imagine going through this process relying on God instead of my own strength.

2 Cor 5:7 "We walk by faith, not by sight."

Thursday, January 5, 2012

What a way to make a living

For the record, I don't remember anyone ever treating me like they thought I was stupid just because I was a stay at home mom.  I suppose there could have been an occasional comment but I don't remember them.  For the most part all the interactions I had before I started working were with people who thought I was intelligent and competent.

Then I got a job as a receptionist.  I realize you do not need to be a rocket scientist to do this job.  It is pretty basic, answer the phone, ask who is calling, intercom over to the person they are calling to find out if they want the call and then transfer or ask the person to leave a message.  Pretty basic stuff.  Of course I have other work and it is a little more complicated than that but really, my job is not hard and not particularly challenging.

But that does not mean I am stupid.

Yesterday when I asked a caller what it was regarding the woman on the other side told me her boss was an alumni of the same college as the man she wanted to talk to.  I acknowledged that and asked again what the call was regarding.  She then asked me if I knew what the word alumni meant.  Now she had already told me it was not a solicitation call, which frankly is what I think the word alumni means, so I was just trying to get clarification on why she was calling someone who did not want to talk to her because he had no idea who she, or her boss, were.  And since she didn't want to leave a message but instead wanted to know when to call back, at which point he still wouldn't take the call, I was now forced to assess what she wanted.  And apparently her strategy for getting me to put her through was to insult me by assuming I do not know what the word alumni means.


For the record, I also hate it when I am referred to as "the girl".  I am not opposed to all forms of the word "girl", I don't mind being referred to as "girlfriend" by my friends and I will often tell John I am getting together with "the girls" when I go out with friends.  I am talking here about phrases like, "let me give my name badge back to the girl" or when another woman is sitting at my desk and the owner walks by and says, "look at you girls working away."   

In my mind I want to have a sharp retort for all these comments.  I want to ask the woman on the phone if she knows what the word "regarding" means.  And when someone refers to me as the girl I want to tell them that my girl is at school, in 1st grade.

But then I try to remember.  This job isn't about me.  And my job is not to convince people I am smart.

Humility, that is what I am learning.  I am learning to be humble enough to do the job at the bottom of the totem pole without thinking it is below me.  To realize it is not about me, to remember that this job does not define me.  I am defined by who I am not what I do.  And who I am is a child of God, a follower of Christ.  And right now this is what He wants me to do.  And so I am obeying Him.

Proverbs 11:2 "When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom."

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2011 Christmas Post

For the next month this post will appear at the top of my blog.  Scroll down to see new posts.

Is 9:6 "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

Merry Christmas From the Hardackers!

It has been a Topsy


Upside down kind of year at our house

We have gone from a one income, mom at home family to a 2 income dad in school kind of family.  We have set a long term goal, have a vision and are taking action.  Because we are DOERS!  And we are doing it!

The year started out with us living our regular life. 

So we spent a lot of time driving all over the twin cities in the early winter dark to find various high schools and watch our son wrestleAnd we are back at it again this year, loving that Jake has found a sport he is so passionate about.

Isabelle turned 6 years old and John made yet another fun cake for our little artist.

My dad injured his back while in Florida and had to fly home so Isabelle and I flew down to drive home with my mom.  But not before spending a few days soaking up the PERFECT weather they were having down there and getting in Isabelle's first trip to the beach.  (A trip I am no longer free to make on a whim so my parents better stay healthy this year!)

Just as I am about to launch into a full time job I have a not so brilliant idea to plant a garden for the first time ever.  It didn't turn out well but the kids had fun watching all the ants run around after lifting up the board I had used to kill all the grass.

I have spent this first 6 months of working "releasing".  I have released myself from many outside commitments as well as releasing myself from expectations I have for myself and ideas I wanted to implement.  It has been challenging but God has taken care of all of us along the way.

John had some time this summer at home before he started school and spent a day starting the tree house I had wanted to build this summer before I learned I would be working.  He rocks.

Jake turned 17 in June a month after I started working.  I was exhausted but late one night we still made the birthday poster happen.  Proud of him and the godly young man he is becoming.

This summer Isabelle was also learning to adjust to my working and the schedule of sitters.  We cried together alot but in the end she had a great summer.  One week she went to camp at the YMCA and loved every minute of it.  A definite repeat for next summer.  Here she is wearing a the t-shirt they made and warrior face paint.

At last the day had come, first day of school for John and Jake.  Jake is doing PSEO for his senior year of high school which means he is taking classes at the same community college John is attending and receiving both high school and college credits.  He will graduate from high school and finish his freshman year of college at the same time.  Year one of college paid for.  Check.

I have loved seeing John and Jake studying together.  So proud of them both.  John was concerned about going back to school after so many years but he is doing great and enjoyed his classes this first semester.  He is now 1/4 of the way through the first 2 years of his 6 years of school.  (We have broken this journey into 3 mental parts, makes it seem a little less daunting.)

Then Isabelle started 1st grade!  She loves her teacher, tells us she is the best 1st grade teacher in the school, and is having lots of fun.  She loves art and music class, no surprise there.  When did our sweet baby turn into this sweet girl?

Of course Jake worked at the Renaissance Festival again.  He now owns a kilt and really looked the part this year.

I love that he has a job where we can go watch him work and it isn't weird when I pull out a camera.  He really is a pro at hawking and he loves it.

Jake also had the opportunity to go to Panama this year with our church youth group working with Youth With A Mission (YWAM).  It was a great trip for him getting the opportunity to share Christ with teens down there in local high schools and come to appreciate that people all over the world worship the same God who is at work in all our lives.  The group acted out a drama without any words and Jake played the roll of Jesus.  They did it for our church when they returned.  It was very powerful.  Here he is sharing his testimony.

The youth group guys.

And then this fall as the weather was getting cooler, John finished up the tree house.  We all love it.  Isabelle even went out there one day when she was mad at me to get away.  We didn't get in a tea party up there before it snowed but I see several in our future for next summer.

Isabelle's exciting news of the year was that she became a big sister!  Her birth parents had a little girl the end of October named Scarlet.  We went to a little baby shower before she was born and Isabelle was excited to show off the tutu she chose for her.

Unfortunately they moved to Japan with the military shortly before Scarlet was born so she will be over a year old before we are likely to see her in person.  However, modern technology is our lifeline so we got to meet her on skype and Isabelle and her sister got their first picture together.

As Isabelle would say, "isn't she cute!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

While this was a topsy, turvy, upside down kind of year we still managed to have fun, keep our family prioritized and rely on God to take care of us as he leads us on this crazy, fun, exciting new adventure in our life.


Can't wait to see what 2012 has for us!

 Ps 32:8 "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you."