Unexpected Flowers in a Desert

Unusually for me, I’m already writing a new post for this blog. Last time I mentioned that I had been re-reading my old posts. The original reason was to make sure I wasn’t repeating myself, but it ended up empowering me with the knowledge of the ways I’ve grown as a person and how much scary stuff I’ve had the courage to try, not to mention reminding me of the downright awesome episodes of what I feel are pure miracles in my life when that courage paid off.

Before I had made the decision to jump off the hamster wheel of my day job, I used to use my  lunch hour to exercise along a trail that started right outside the parking lot of where I worked. It’s a pretty little path, made for walkers/runners and bikers and is well-maintained by the city. The setting is mostly natural scrub desert and, while it’s never more than a few yards from the road and businesses, there’s enough of a nature setting to make it a decent mini-escape.

There are some areas, mostly close to bathroom facilities or parking entrances along the trail, where the city has planted drought-tolerant flowers and made rock gardens, but for the most part, it’s just the natural desert kept trimmed-back and no cactus too dangerously close to the path. There’s few flowering plants here and even those that do have flowers usually have only a brief season to bloom. However, on a rare occasion as I walked or ran, I came across some flowers blooming beside the path that had no earthly reason to be there. They were not indigenous to our region and they were certainly nothing the city might’ve planted since they weren’t a species that could be maintained easily. It was always a delightful surprise to be moving along, taking in the greens, browns, greys and yellows of the desert and then, without preamble, to suddenly spy some brilliant purple or delicate pink like a little gem.

Whenever I used the trail, I put on my headphones and listened to my MP3, letting the music mentally shift me into a better frame of mind.  One of my favorites to listen to as I exercised was “Big Country” by Big Country. It’s got a fast beat that fueled my energy as I ran, but it’s come to mean a lot more as my life unfolds.

The song itself is about reaching for your dreams no matter what. It’s about moving forward and not giving up and that it is possible to turn your life around after a disappointment. There was one line I’m particularly relating to right now; “I’m not expecting to grow flowers in a desert, but I can live and breathe and see the sun in wintertime.”

Recently I was having a conversation with someone about how much that song meant to me at the time I was wrestling with the idea of retiring from my job and working without a net. I was thinking back to the times I ran along the trail  hot, tired and wanting to stop, when I would suddenly see a flash of unexpected color that somehow refreshed my mind and made me want to push on a bit further.

When I’m having those bottom-of-the-cycle moments it’s akin to my “maybe I’ll stop and walk now” thoughts as I exercised. I still have flowers in my life, but in my business it’s symbolic of the beautiful, unexpected things that have blossomed while I wasn’t looking.

It’s coming up on holiday time and it’s a busy season for everyone, but very much so for the retailer. Now is the gift-giving season and many people are out shopping and getting ready for loving gatherings with friends and family.It’s also the time many people fund-raise for their favorite charity or cause. People are in the gift-giving spirit and some save up a little all year to have money to give those in need.

One of the unexpected flowers in my life is my volunteer work at the hospice. The doctors, nurses, PCTs, social workers and grief counselors as well as the volunteers are among the most amazing people I’ve had the pleasure to work with. Their passion for their patients and the families is so beautiful, it’s hard to imagine unless you’ve been either a recipient or been fortunate enough to work alongside them. I’ve been able to experience both ways of knowing them and, let me say, it’s an incredible privilege.

They not only provide compassionate, tender care for their patients, but the support and loving understanding for the families is a genuine blessing to them as well. This past Fall the nursing staff asked everyone to contribute to their annual yard sale to raise money for families in need. They do this of their accord and on their own time. This year they raised $800 for their fund. I also have the honor to be on the Rock-n-Rodeo committee which is the hospice’s big fund-raiser. The money they raise goes to the We Honor Veterans program, which offers a special plaque of thanks for the veteran’s service and a ceremony where volunteers from the military base come in full dress uniform to present the plaque in a small ceremony to show them honor. I’ve been at three presentations so far and it’s incredibly meaningful both for the patients and their families. The other major part of the money raised goes for specialized therapies not provided by insurance, especially for children, that may be beneficial for their comfort and to help them stay with their families a little longer. The hospice will not spare anything that may make someone’s last times here on earth better and the funds cover any short-fall or non-approval from insurance.

My own son was the grateful recipient of these services and kind care from this very hospice. It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done to go back there and volunteer my services. Knowing he was grateful and they made such a difference to him was my motivation to try to do the same for someone else. The memories of his loss were hard to face,  but once I pushed past, I found that being part of the blessing they bring is one of the most beautiful aspects of this life I’ve chosen. This all made possible by owning my own business, making my own schedule, but, more importantly, having the hope to try something new.

This year I want to raise money as well. I’m on the fund-raiser committee already, but I want to contribute more than my time. To this purpose, I’m offering the Satin Set for Christmas gift-giving. It’s made up of two of Mary Kay’s most popular best-selling items. The Satin Hands and the Satin Lips set. They’re popular because they are for absolutely anyone. The Satin Hands is a pampering hand treatment that comes in three scents: Peach ( a fresh scent), Vanilla Sugar ( a limited-edition fragrance for the season) and Fragrance Free for men and those with scent sensitivities. I’ve been able to donate some sets to the hospice and I use them as a treat for the patients and their families. This is a free pampering that is really appreciated by those who I get to use it on. The Satin Lips is, of course, for the lips. It’s a mask and fragrance free, color free lip balm that moisturizes for 6 hours. My biggest purchaser of this is men, because it heals and protects with no trace of product on their lips. The sets are sold separately, but together they are the Satin Set and they make a fabulous gift for anyone who’s hard to shop for. I’m selling them for $57.29 which includes the tax and shipping is free to anywhere in the continental U.S. (except Alaska). I’m offering free gift-wrap and delivery for local customers.

I’m hoping to raise enough money to purchase two tickets to the Rock-n-Rodeo which cost $200 apiece. It’s an awesome gala with a silent auction, raffles , music and a gourmet dinner at a beautiful local resort. I would like to have a drawing for the tickets for those who purchase the gift sets as a thank you for helping me reach my goal.

If you like what I’m doing and want to help – not to mention get some easy gift-shopping out of the way – you can contact me and/or order at my website:

marykay.com/lmcfarland92

I would love to be able to write a check for a nice amount that I know will be used for someone’s good. Either on therapies for patients or covering the needs of a family in crisis,maybe even helping with funeral costs because people with genetic diseases or pre-existing conditions cannot get life insurance and it’s just cruel to think of the family that’s unable to bury their loved one properly. I was lucky; my son had Muscular Dystrophy and I couldn’t get even enough insurance to cover his burial costs. My family stepped in and helped pay and the funeral home who worked with the hospice gave their services and a casket for free. They did that because of donations received especially for this purpose.

Most ‘flowers’ in my life are unexpected; this is one that I get to plant myself.  Thanks.

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Plan “B” Sucks

I know it’s been awhile since my last post, but I was waiting for something really exciting to write about. I got tired of waiting and, on reflection, I realized that even though I haven’t hit the goal I wanted to by now, there was quite a bit to write about.

I like going back through these blogs and re-reading the about the events I’ve chronicled so far. It’s not vanity-at least, I’d like to think it’s not-because I don’t feel like I’m an exciting or terribly interesting writer. But looking back reminds me that even though I haven’t hit the mark, I’ve come a really long way.

Our training in Mary Kay is excellent. I like to read blogs and articles from well-known and admired CEOs who are sharing the secrets to their success, what steps they took and what obstacles they’ve overcome to be where they are. I have to say that most, if not all, of what I read from them is what we’re being taught already in Mary Kay. I’ve picked up books on the secrets to business success, inspiration and how to keep your momentum up. Some come at it from this angle or that, but it basically all boils down to the same things and when ever I read the articles, I’m struck by the fact that it’s really nothing new.

One of the things we’re taught at our training center is that the business has cycles. There’s the top, which is where everything is exciting and your enthusiasm is through the roof. This point is usually where your sales are good, you’re getting new team members or you’ve achieved some goal. Your excitement attracts new customers and team members to you so naturally, you just know you’re unstoppable. Things are going according to plan. On the bottom end, you feel stagnant and maybe a little bored. Maybe your sales are in slump and you’ve lost some team members and you’re wondering why you aren’t like so-and-so who seems to have it all well in hand. What we’re taught and warned about is that this happens to everyone. If we read too much into it rather than realize it’s a natural part of the process, we will be tempted to believe we aren’t made for this business and it’s easy to throw in the towel. The point I’m leading up to is that owning your own business is work, and work, no matter how much you like what you do, is not always fun.

When I quit my day job and launched my efforts at doing this full-time I was so excited.  I just knew that I would make director in about 6 months and be a car achiever before the year was up. This was entirely possible, but that wasn’t my journey. I had some learning to do. But…

I’m more confident than ever that I will be everything I’ve set out to be. This year has had some seriously scary moments and times of wondering if everything was about to collapse on my head. Yet everything has been slowly, but steadily moving forward. I made Star Consultant last quarter and I’m going for four quarter star this year. I managed to be in the top ten in our unit in sharing and sales for last year.  I had no idea I was in the top ten of anything.

Before this year I felt like I was bound in golden handcuffs. Golden handcuffs are what seem like security but are really things that keep you tied up in chains. For example, my sister (Sorry, Mandie) took over my job at the preschool. This was convenient because it gave her a bit more money and allowed her son to have a reduced tuition to go to the school and it gave her free after-school care at the very place she worked. Seems like a dream job, right? Uummm……No.

When I talk to her and ask how it’s going, she tells me how crazy the class is. Being a pre-school teacher takes a very specific kind of person, but even if you have the patience and flair for it, taking care of 16 two-year-olds every day, full-time can wear you down. And it barely pays a living wage. If it wasn’t for the lower tuition and free after-school care for her son, she wouldn’t make it from month to month. So she went to school and studied hard on top of working full-time, sacrificing her whole Saturday and time with her son every weekend to get her EMT licence. She graduated and started looking around for an exciting new job. She soon discovered that the higher paycheck she’d receive as an EMT wouldn’t cover the amount she needed to keep her son in school and pay for his afterschool care which she’d lose if she quit her teaching job. She decided that she needed to go to school for nursing, but unlike the EMT course, she’d need two full days a week to go to school. When she went ask for a reduction in hours to be able to go to school, she was told she was needed full-time and she couldn’t be spared. Golden handcuffs, friends. It was just enough to keep her afloat, but only barely, and, at present, no way to change that.

That’s what I realized when I broke those chains off my own wrist. It’s the old saying “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” that’s been so true for me. I could still be in that job, telling myself that I needed to be patient and wait for this business to take off, but the reality is that I needed to break away totally to do what I needed to do.

And that’s what I face when I let myself believe I can’t do this. It means going back to never quite getting ahead. Paying the bills but not much else. Feeling frustrated, over-whelmed and tired. And for what? What will I have at the end of it all? Working for someone else is like renting a house verses owning one. You pay and pay your rent but you never get to own the place you live in and make your house your home. When you work for someone else it’s their world, their rules and they decide what your work is worth.

The American Dream means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. My understanding of it is that you make your fortune, own your own home and live the life you want to. The people in the early years of this country believed that if you worked hard, you could be anything you wanted. We built this country to guarantee that right to any who wanted to give it a go. Back then, most people were entrepreneurs. Plan “B” was working for someone else. They understood what still holds true today: “Plan “B” sucks.