Money isn’t everything…but it helps–Week 9

This week I am learning the financial side of my business, which, I found out, tends to make some people very nervous. I had never had a lot of money so I never had to deal with it much; I make it, I spend it, I make more. That’s about the extent of it.

I’m finding out that I have a lot to learn about my attitude toward money, and it’s not something to take lightly. After all, money is the backbone of any business. If you aren’t making money, you’re not going to have one for long.

I was finalizing my business plan this week, the one I thought I was done with weeks ago. After I showed it to my finance guy, I spent a few days adjusting, cutting, adding, and balancing.

“Your figures don’t add up,” he told me after looking at it. “How did you come up with these figures anyway?”

“I just put down what I thought I would need,” I said, already knowing I was in trouble.

I heard a sigh at the other end of the phone line. Oops.

“You can’t do that,” he said. “The figures need to make sense.”

So, I received my first lesson in business financing. The figures have to make sense. For someone whose method of bookkeeping consists of keeping the duplicates to checks and hoping I will remember to write down my debits, I know I need to change my habits.

It might take me a little time to understand it all, but I have a great teacher. Like other teachers I have had before him, he is tough, but I know it’s just because he wants me to succeed.

This is just one more step toward becoming a business owner. And because it’s one of the most important steps,  I can’t afford to make any mistakes.

Facebook Phenom … sort of

Since Mark Zuckerberg first introduce the world to Facebook in 2004, its phenomenal climb in the social media circle has caused me to pause and look at how I communicate with others.

I have been an avid Facebook follower for many years, though initially, I hesitated to join because of the controversy surrounding it. I succumbed to the pressure when my daughter, Caryn, posted pictures of my grandchildren on Facebook and invited me to view them.

Immediately, I had 5 friends, then 10, then 20. It wasn’t long before I hit the 100 mark, mostly because of old classmates, co-workers, and family members. A newly acquired friend was met with the question, “Are you on Facebook?”

I now have 242 friends on Facebook and I’m proud to say that I personally know 95 percent of them. The ones I don’t know have become my friend through knowing someone who knows someone who knows someone….well, you get the picture. Their cause to befriend me had an ulterior motive; one that has something to do with marketing. I didn’t mind. I would soon be using the same technique.

I have noticed that since I started using Facebook, that my way of looking at the whole act of communicating has changed. Cell phones, texting, and e-mails have certainly played a huge part in the “faster is better” concept that is sweeping the U.S., if not the world.

But Facebook is more than just a way to communicate. It’s also some people’s social outlet. Introverts, busy stay-at-home parents, and those who are physically incapable of leaving home have a link to the outside world. Some may argue that could be a bad thing, but really, what would these people do without it? Sit home and watch TV all day? Probably.

Facebook and computers in general have opened up a whole new world for people who don’t have access to a social life otherwise.

But there are two sides to everything. Facebook might cause those who really need to get out and join the world, to be reluctant to do so. For those kids who would rather be on the computer instead of spending time outdoors, Facebook could present a problem. And for that reason, like everything else, parents need to know what their kids are doing and monitor their computer time.

I like Facebook because I learn a lot, not just about my friends, but what’s going on in the world. I have a menagerie of friends with different interests; political, community-oriented, sports, music. They keep me up-to-date as to what is going is going on hat I may not be aware of. I learn about the death of celebrities, scores of athletic events, even reviews about movies, books, and videos. I also keep tabs on family members thousands of miles away.

Is it information overload? Some people have stated that maybe our age of technology is creating a society that is based on convenience and productivity, rather than using our brains to problem solve. While I understand their position, I also wonder how it can be avoided. When we started putting computers in the kindergarten rooms, what did we expect would happen? Did anyone think that through?

Communication is evolving, not changing. Is it more or less effective when we used the old-fashioned telephone or snail mail? I don’t think so. It still comes down to what it is we want to communicate. Now we just get it done faster. However, it does worry me that so many people are becoming impatient when they have to wait in line or get stuck in traffic…or their computer isn’t working properly.

Maybe we should think about the days when all we had was black and white TV with four channels, no video games, no cell phones, and no computers. Those were the days when we watched our parents sit on our porches waiting for a cool breeze while we played with the neighbor kids. We took the time to enjoy life. We could all use a little of that these days.

A steady pace-Week 8

I decided in May to record my progress as I learn how to start my own community newspaper. I don’t think it was a conscious thought, but I’m glad I did. Looking back, I noticed that I write a lot about the emotional and mental aspects of the process, though what I have learned may give some insight as to how I am gaining the knowledge I need to succeed (I also noticed I included Week 6 twice, but oh well, some weeks are like that).

This is where I am, Week 8 (or 9 if you’re keeping track) of the Hiawatha Advocate: I have finished my business plan, and had it looked at by my business guy and my financial advisor.  I have edited it and have applied for the Targeted Small Business Certification that will help me secure a low-interest business loan.

I have set up a website on my own, but we are  in the process of building a better, more professional-looking site with the help of a “new employee” (though he’s not getting paid yet. CJ is doing it for the sheer joy of getting in on the ground floor of what could be a historical event).

I am keeping my goal of posting at least one new story a week, a goal I knew could be attainable without be overwhelming.

I am in the process of making a template for the newspaper, exploring what pages I am going to have; news, entertainment, community events, businesses, etc… I am also keeping notes about specific styles and fonts I want to use.

I am setting up my ad rate sheet, examples of ads to use in my “mock” paper and basically, getting it ready for feedback so that I can go back and change what I need to before I finalize my plans.

And all along I am keeping notes about the local businesses I want to visit to sell advertising and subscriptions, building my confidence, and adopting a more professional attitude.


And throughout learning the ropes, I am living my life, spending time with my family, trying to be a good daughter, mother, grandmother, girlfriend, and friend.

I wrote last week about balance; how to balance all the aspects of my life. I know it will be a challenge when I start school, but even more so when I begin to work 14 hours a day on the newspaper.

The work doesn’t scare me. What does scare me is not being able to have the time for all the other parts of my life that I hold so dear. Is it possible to keep that, while realizing the dream I have worked so hard for?

I think it is possible. But, as I said last week,  it will take some dedication to time management, organization,  and balance.

Things are going as planned. I have never had a bad feeling about this venture. Not once have I ever thought that maybe it wasn’t feasible. It is becoming a reality, but at a steady pace I can handle. I think that, because I am by nature an impulsive person, it has given me time to contemplate all the ins and outs, all the pros and cons, all the positives and negatives about what I’m trying to accomplish.

Steady as she goes…it’s become my mantra; that, and Attitude is Everything. After all, a positive attitude is necessary to keep that balance I hold in such high regard.

An afternoon with Sylvia Browne

My Mother’s Day gift came a little late this year; or rather, I had to wait a few months to use it. My children went together and bought me tickets to listen to author and psychic Sylvia Browne talk about her books, her psychic ability, and about life in general.

Sylvia Browne-July 10 2011

She spoke July 10 at the Moon Bar at the Diamond Joe Casino in Dubuque. I was thrilled when my daughter, Lori, said that she wanted to go. Like me, she thought it sounded interesting and wanted to see what she was like in person.

I was first introduced to Sylvia when I bought her book, “Lessons for Life,” at a Goodwill Store (a great place for used books!). It looked brand new and I was intrigued by the title. How could such a small book, 136 pages, contain what I needed to learn about life?

I knew of Sylvia Browne; she had been on the Montel Williams Show long before John Edward appeared on the late-night TV screen, conversing with spirits from “the other side.” However, I had always been a bit skeptical of her psychic abilities. Was she for real?

But I found her books to be extremely interesting. They were about Sylvia’s life, how she met her spiritual guide, Francine, and what she has learned about life and “the other side.”

The one thing that Sylvia always writes in her book, (and also mentioned when she spoke in Dubuque) was, “Take what you want and leave the rest,” which she said means that if we find something we can use, great. If not, that’s OK, too.

I have found Sylvia’s books to be fascinating reading, but it still leaves me wondering, is it be possible to communicate with the dead? Do we really go to another place after we die? A place where life is perfect, where there’s no negativity, and we’re all 30? Is our life here on Earth for the purpose of learning lessons that we take back to the other side and teach others what we’ve learned?

I guess that all depends on what an individual chooses to believe.  In all honesty, I’m still exploring that realm.

But Lori and I did have an interesting time listening to Sylvia. She sat in as easy chair on the make-shift stage in the bar and those who had an extra ticket to ask a question, lined up on either side. There was also a drawing for those who didn’t have that extra ticket, but unfortunately, Lori and I were a few minutes late and lost out on that one, too.

Nevertheless, the questions were very interesting, and included one man who asked if his business would thrive. She told him, “You’ve always been able to pull the rabbit out of the hat at the last minute. You’ll be fine.”

One woman asked if she would ever find happiness, to which Sylvia replied, “Yes, but you have it find it inside yourself.”

OK, that one was a given, but Sylvia did answer questions that were specific to that individual. In the middle of the questions, Sylvia stopped and asked if anyone knew a Tom or a Thomas, who had died with a head injury. A girl raised her hand and Sylvia told her to go to the microphone. “He’ll drive me crazy if I don’t acknowledge you,” she said, to which the audience chuckled nervously.

The girl said that her friend Tom had been killed in a car accident a few months ago and she had recently dreamt of him. “He wants me to tell you he’s OK,” said Sylvia. Lori and I looked at each other wide-eyed, and though we didn’t say anything, I think we thought the same thing. “Did that just happen?”

While we waited in line to have my book signed, Lori asked me, “What question would you ask her if you could?”

I thought a long time about it, and finally answered,” I’m not sure I’d want to know anything. What fun is life if you know what’s going to happen?”

It also made me wonder how many of the nearly 100 people, who had the chance to ask a question, will use the information Sylvia gave them. To many of them, she gave hope. Some, she gave closure, and still others, the opportunity for acceptance. How many will actually abide by her suggestion to lose weight, get medical attention, or practice patience?

I’m not sure I’d want the power to see the future, even if it was someone else’s. What if it was something unpleasant? I don’t think I’d like being the bearer of bad news.

Balancing Act: Week Six … and Seven

It’s summer. I should be spending it going to the pool or taking a much-needed vacation, but I can’t. I have way too much to do. And time is zipping by faster than I want it to.

Taking a moment from my busy life to spend time with Isabelle, my new yard work helper.

I have encountered a few obstacles in my quest to put together a community newspaper, mostly of my own doing. When I was the editor in chief of the Mount Mercy Times, going to school, and working full-time, my life was pretty much planned for me. Now I’m finding that while I still work full-time, I am my own boss and I have to find a way to balance how I spend my time.

I love spending time with my kids and grandkids. It’s my reprieve from a minimum of eight hours a day on the computer, and that’s just during working hours. I spend probably 3-4 more hours on my own time.

In between that time, I have to make time for interviews and cover events for stories I’d like to write. I want to work in the yard and do things around the house that need to be done. My dog deserves some attention, too. How can I do everything I want to do?

One word: BALANCE

I loved the teeter-totter as a kid. But there was a science to it. If there was someone heavier than you on the other side, it just wasn’t any fun. And let’s face it; being off-balance is not fun.

I like an even keel and when something in my life is off-balance, I know it. After a little calculating, I can usually tell if I am devoting too much attention to one thing and then correct whatever it is that’s throwing me off. What I need to do is make a schedule for myself and stick to it (which can be difficult to do when life happens.)

It also comes down to time management. I know it takes me 20 minutes to get to work from my house. I know I can write a blog in 15. I know that my dog will accept 5 minutes of playing ball and that it takes a half hour to weed and water the plants in my yard.

I can do this. I think I just need to make following a schedule a habit. Organization is a challenge for me, but it’s definitely a must. Maybe by becoming organized, the balance will just naturally follow. Let’s hope so anyway.

Some may not be thrilled about the outcome, but the System works

Like many people, I kept tabs on the on-going trial of Casey Anthony, the young mom from Florida who was accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee Anthony, three years ago. It wasn’t that I especially wanted to, but the hype surrounding the trial was tough to get away from. Casey’s picture was everywhere and the news of the daily court-happenings popped up through every media venue.


Accusations that Casey wanted her daughter out of her life so she could spend more time partying, painted an unflattering picture that tarnished her character from the start. I was curious how the whole thing would play out.

By the time the jury began deliberations, I was convinced, like many people, that she had killed her daughter, tried to hide her body, then finally dumped it in the woods.

But all the jury had to do was decide if the prosecution had given a strong enough case to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Casey had indeed murdered her own child. And when they came back with a “not guilty” on the first-degree, child abuse and manslaughter charges, my first thought was, “There’s something wrong with the system.”

As I was stewing about the injustice that had just been served, I switched the TV channel to Fox News. Not one of my favorite channels, but what the reporter said made me take a step back and think about what actually happened.

He said that we are lucky that the system works the way it does.  We get to have our fate decided by a jury of our peers, who don’t listen to what is going on in the media, or what others opinions are and listens to the facts. It had to be proven, without a doubt, that Casey Anthony killed her daughter, and it couldn’t be done.

Did Casey kill her daughter? We may never know. But whoever did will have to live with that for the rest of their life.

Though some people may not agree with the jury, we have to admit that they did their job. They did what was expected of them; to listen for the facts and decide if she was guilty based on those facts. Obviously, they didn’t hear enough facts to convict her.

Personally, I hope I never have to be put in that position. I can’t imagine the stress that would come with having the life of someone put in my hands.

We’re lucky that we have the jury system we do, that our fate is not handed down by some totalitarian power who decides our fate for us. We should be grateful that we at least have the opportunity to prove our innocence, especially when deck is stacked against us.

Gotta give him credit for trying

OK, so politics are not my forte. I’ve accepted that. I try not to rant and rave in my editorials about how bad I think our government officials are, and try desperately not to become disillusioned with something that has been the norm for almost 240 years.

With that being said…..

Have you ever been to the US Debt Clock website? It provides information about some of the most interesting things. It shows the National Debt and the unofficial number of the unemployed in the United States; the number of people in the work force and how many people are on food stamps; how many people are retired and how many families there are in the US.

The site lets you go back to the years 2000, 2004, and 2008, and even makes projections for 2015. It’s interesting to see that the debt has only risen approximately $2 trillion in each of those four years, but skyrockets from 2008-2011 by  $5 trillion.

After seeing the numbers, the first question I had was, why did it go up so much in three years? What are we spending our money on? Does everything cost that much more today than it did three years ago? Who is in charge of the books?

I was also appalled by the number of the unemployed. The site gives an “official” number of the unemployed, but also has a number for “actual.” The numbers are astounding and it also makes me wonder why so many people are out of work. Is it because they really can’t find a job, or just choose not to work?

It’s ridiculous (and a bit sad) that not one person in our entire country can come up with a workable plan to stabilize our economy. I think some have tried, but trying to get the majority to agree on anything seems next to impossible.

Sorry Obama; You had good intentions but you had too many people against you from the beginning. Instead of helping you, they fought against you, making it that much more difficult to get anything done. It didn’t help matters that the House changed hands while you were in office.

I, for one, applaude you for trying.

America, I beg you; please think about who we are selecting to run our country. Let’s make it a law that our elected officials can’t make a career out of sitting behind their desks in Washington and make choices for the country according to their own agendas. We need to set the term limit for elected officials to only two, instead of the decades that some are trying to get away with.

We need to look past the false promises and fake personas that make up our elections and really take note of who our future leaders are and what they stand for. Let’s not choose someone because of their speech writer’s knack for stirring the emotions inside of us. Really dig deep and make these people accountable.

We have to. Our future depends on it. Our children and grandchildren’s future depends on it.

It worries me to see certain people talking about running for the presidency who don’t really have a clue about what America is about. I get the impression that they are doing it for the glory, the power, and the White House dishes. We need a president who can take America by the B*&#s and whip it back into shape!

The next election isn’t for another year and a half, but it’s already starting. If we choose to go with another president, I hope we choose wisely. I think if Obama had more support, he could have gotten a lot more done. But then, he still has time to turn this around.

The clock is ticking….