The Weird Business – A List

Things I find strange about being a business owner:

-How little Tom and I carpool. Open 7 days/week, if we each take 2 days off that leaves 3 days for us to carpool. But the convenience of someone coming in late/leaving early saves our sanity and ensures more chores get done. In the busy season when there are people in the shop from open until after close, we often carpool. But this time of year when it’s slow and we can eek out a little more work on home renovations? We’re lucky if we carpool 1/week.

-I will never forget after we’d been open for a month or two and sold a large ticket item – a backpack, a tent, something like that – and I was so against buying another one. It is such a financial hardship to start a retail business and we’d seen so much money leave our bank account that when this few hundred dollars came in our direction, I wanted to take the money and run. Luckily Tom understood that replacing something that sold increases the likelihood of selling it again and finally managed to convince me. These days, I’m more likely to balk at bringing in a whole new brand, but very on top of re-ordering.

-How good of a salesperson I can be. It’s not in my personality and not something I’m interested in acquiring. But I am passionate about the outdoors and the brands we sell. That translates into excitement when customers have questions about gear and can be very good selling tool.

-How poor of a speaker I can be. I can get stuck on phrases that don’t quite mean what I’m trying to say and let the end of my sentence drop off as I get confused by multiple questions/customers/attention demands at the same time. I will sometimes use the exact opposite of the word I want. And let’s not discuss my live-TV or radio spots. Please.

-How much I would enjoy being my own boss. Yes, I have frustrations at times and sometimes I chafe at time or money or talent limitations that mean I can’t always achieve my planned project result. But every one of those frustrations and limitations is mine to fix. This lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but it is for me.

The Age of The Bum Knee

On Sunday, I hurt my knee?

I’m pretty sure it didn’t hurt before Sunday. I know by the end of the early AM hike it did hurt.

But from what? Why? How? These are questions on which my knee pleads the fifth.

It doesn’t even hurt consistently. There is a vague menacing aura surrounding every step. It only really hurts if I forget to mince or try to take the stairs “normally” (each foot getting it’s own step instead of this weird cha-cha where I must step down with my right and let my left kind of tag along).

After a day of this, however, there is something that does hurt consistently – my left hip.

It is never has sharp as the knee pain, but achy enough that I limit the number of times I bend or twist. I can’t sit in one spot for very long or the pain worsens. I can’t stand for very long or the pain worsens.

I am trying to be a nice person to be around but it’s hard. Pain makes me grumpy. Restricted activity makes me grumpy.

Realizing I’m at that age where my body can just randomly decide things hurt or don’t work makes me *really* grumpy.

Old School

Today I am writing because I set myself a goal to write daily.

(Some days I write but not here. And some days I don’t make my goal.)

I don’t particularly want to write. My brain is too scrambled for good writing. But I have 3 more hours of sitting here in the shop and I already caught up on accounting, cleaning, ordering, and advertising.

(November – up until Black Friday – is one of our slowest times of year.)

I do need to schedule social media and brain storm some content but evidently I want to do that even less than I want to write.

(I need to put something in parentheses here to stay on theme.)

This morning we had to get up extra early to meet some people who wanted us to see some land together. Since Tom and I only have three days off a year together (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter), this had to happen early on a Sunday when we open an hour later than the rest of the week.

(I paused writing to gather up trash, wipe down the bathroom, do a 20-minute yoga video I missed at home with our early morning meeting, and make a snack. No one came in the store during that entire time.)

We woke up to snow. Which shouldn’t have surprised me since we woke up to snow yesterday. But for some reason it did. It is by no means unusual to have snow at this time. However I am still in the mindset of all the things I want to get done before snow gets here. And I thought yesterday’s snow was some fool’s snow. That snow that all melts away by the end of the day so you can’t even tell that it snowed.

(Part of my snack is green beans – a slight fluttering nod to the idea of a well-balanced diet. They froze in the fridge and I did not notice until now. So I’ve put them at my feet with the space heater. I’ll keep you updated.)

The snow made this morning’s meeting harder, but also sweeter. This came together at the last minute and felt a little rushed but it probably couldn’t have waited. The next time we hike that path will be on snowshoes or in May. The snow also made things pretty and festive. Fall colors are long gone here. Unless it’s an evergreen, it’s brown now.

(The space heater did nothing. It doesn’t help I transferred the green beans to a mug that had been used for hot chocolate two days ago. Now I am shoveling mushy-but-also-ice-spiked green beans into my mouth and trying to ignore that wrong-sweetness aftertaste.)

The moral of this story is that when I don’t feel like writing, sometimes it’s because I have nothing to write about. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

(This has taken me two hours and still no one has entered the shop.)

On a Roll

My brain is mush. I’ve been go-go-go all day.

Currently, Mondays are my Thursdays. I usually take off Wednesday and Thursday. It also makes Fridays my Mondays which let’s not even. But two days off in a row still feels very luxurious so I muddle through somehow.

It’s the beginning of the month which means end-of-month accounting, new month newsletters…I just paused writing this to check three other browser tabs and two spreadsheets. Enough said.

…And now I’ve deleted an entire paragraph where I basically summed up all my to-do list. You’re welcome.

One bright moment started early today when a customer came to browse then called me over to discuss a boot she was trying on. It was a men’s boot. But here’s the thing – everyone’s feet are different! Men can have dainty feet and women have clod-hoppers!

So I mentioned the boots were technically a “men’s” fit, but that can feel good to women especially if their feet are a bit wide. We found a good size for her in the “women’s” style, then found a better size in the men’s than what she first tried on.

As soon as she put them on, I knew they were sold.

I absolutely LOVE putting people in the right shoe for them. In 2013 when we were hiking the Appalachian Trail, I let an outfitter in Franklin, North Carolina put me into a pair of shoes I had never heard of before. Those shoes changed my life. I’m wearing my 9th pair of them right now.

I know that every pair of shoes that leaves my store are not life-changing. Some people have easy feet. Some people buy something on sale even though a full-price pair felt better. Some people are desperate for footwear and buy the best thing we have for them even though it’s not perfect.

But sometimes…sometimes…I get a glimpse of myself trying on that shoe for the first time in 2013 when I see a customer slide on the perfect shoe. It never fails to give me a contact high.

The Good Kind of Tired

Thanks to Daylight Savings Time ending, it was light enough, early enough, so that I could “run” this morning before work.

I also did yoga, then helped put up the big holiday decorations in our city park* for a few hours.

I’m just sitting here, in a weird comfy stupor, so happy to be this kind of tired. This physical drain from all the movement and work and play I was able to do today.

My body isn’t always able to do everything I want it to do, or even need it to do. But today it did.

*Is this who I am now? Someone who volunteers to put up decorations because by George this is my town and I want to show my appreciation? It doesn’t sound like me. Yet here I am.

It’s About Time

The weeks between Halloween and Thanksgiving feel like the slowest time of the year for our business.

I believe some of late March and early April is the true “dead time” contender (and sometimes part of February and May depending on how brutal the winter and how bashful the spring). But then we are preparing for the busy tourist time between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Right now, there is definitely a little prep work going on. Starting the weekend before Thanksgiving, our downtown will host an event every Saturday for four weeks straight.

But the day-to-day at the shop has slowed to a crawl. Even the orders coming in for the winter season are smaller, more muted, than the big, bold newness of gear that explodes in the spring months.

I am trying to enjoy it. It’s hard to turn off my brain after seven months of mental acrobatics. It’s harder to let my mind wander to long term projects after so many days in a row of just trying to make it through the day.

Today, a Saturday, it was pretty dead in town. There have been angry, blustery little snow flurries that whip through the air but can’t find purchase on land. After checking off my list, I left Tom at the helm and came home.

I walked the dogs (one foster, one permanent). I emptied the dishwasher. I filled the bird feeders.

I am enjoying it.

In Other News

November is shaping up to be a good month…we paid off our business Line of Credit, signed the contract to get our online store up and functional, and I will have a few friends come visit before Thanksgiving.

The house is coming along…so weird to think it was almost a year ago when we were able to move back in. Lots of projects still to be completed, but we have a heated, usable basement. We have a clothes washer and dryer which quite frankly I’m not sure how we survived without them and had to clean up after so many animals. We have a dishwasher. We have a second bathroom that includes a tub where you can shower without smacking your elbows against the walls.

Our store is now 5 1/2 years old. We had a big growing pain last year that really didn’t stop hurting until around July. But we made it. Success in the retail world is pretty relative. When we opened the store I did not know what I wanted it to look like in 5 1/2 years. And that’s probably for the best. I’m not sure what I want it to look like in another five. The goal for 2020 will be to hire someone full-time and arrange a schedule where Tom and I get a day off together. For several years now we’ve only had Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. Or the occasional 40 below Polar Vortex.

One thing that has been beaten into me these past few years is how much good stuff comes your way when you say yes. Yes, I’ll volunteer. Yes, I’ll donate. Yes, I’ll sit on the board. Yes, I’ll hand out posters.

But somehow, for some reason, my gut reaction is still, “No.” I have so little free time. I have so many other obligations. There are too many unfinished projects.

I’m trying to teach myself how to wait. Don’t go with my gut. Think things through. Realize the implications and rewards.

When I think of returning to writing, I often think of deleting this blog. Or at least, everything written on it to date. Start fresh. But I logged on to do just that* and instead here we are. I’m not sure if this is thinking things through or going with my gut. But I do know it’s progress.

*Ok, I did delete one post. It wasn’t that I came across weird or vulnerable or mean or slutty or insert-negative-adjective-here. I deleted it because it bored me.

Almost Worth It

I had to reset the password to this account in order to come babble at you and two hours ago it would have been an impossible feat considering how taxing I found the rest of my day.  But then I consumed an unfair amount of the “Household Christmas Chocolate” and somehow I managed to to reset the password even though it also included having to remember the password to the email account to which this blog is associated.

Tom is actually unaware of the original amount of “Household Christmas Chocolate” so we can all agree the fact that I have left ANY makes me an extremely generous person.

….Aaaand I have just deleted all the stuff I thought I came here to say because it was boring and I am too exhausted to make it un-boring.

Hello.  I’m here.

Questionable Quotation Marks & A Few Parentheses For Good Measure

It’s my “day off”.

Here’s the thing about a “day off” as a business owner – it’s bullshit.

That’s not quite true.  During our slow time (I almost put quotation marks around that and then thought, WTF, it IS our slow time.  Nothing coy or ironic or quotation marky about it), days off could almost truly be days off.  Granted, I felt compelled to hike/snowshoe/expedition somewhere worthy of business social media, but at least I was outside getting some exercise.  And in our slow time we can (mostly) afford two days off.  Like normal, regular, sane people with normal, regular sane jobs.  Which meant one day to get chores done and one day to actually relax and have “off”.

But now is not our slow time.  And we can’t really take two days off.  And a day off is slowly, but surely, becoming bullshit.

By the end of this week, we’ll be living in a half renovated apartment above our business.

Shall we discuss the fact that an apartment renovation was not on my radar for projects this summer?  Nah.  There’s no point.  Radar or not, we needed a place to live while our “real” house is being renovated and upstairs from the business made the most sense.

I might not have thought that if I’d ever been upstairs from the business prior to agreeing we’d renovate it.

It needs EVERYTHING.  New walls.  New flooring.  New kitchen.  New bathroom.

I knew 2018 was going to be a challenge for me.  I signed up for A LOT of change (FYI – I don’t own a condo in FL anymore).  The condo.  The cabin (basement, new well, new roof, new driveway finally happening!  Can’t live here for three months!)  The job (FYI – I don’t have another job anymore.  As of January, I work solely for our business.  Let’s here it for unpredictable cash flow!)

Let’s be honest.  No one likes change.  But my last name since 2004 has been In Progress.  If that doesn’t suggest a predilection to uprooting the status quo, I’m not sure what does.

So.  I’m here.  I’m persevering.  (Which is much different than preserving which I don’t think will get done this year).  I’m if not rolling, at least not lying down in chains to stop, the punches.

As it is my “day off”, I’ve treated myself to a drink or two.  We’re moving at the end of this week you see.  One less vodka bottle to pack.

Historically, quotation mark days off and drinking lead to an over pouring of feelings via Facebook.  Particularly of the moral/political persuasion.  Pretty much lately I feel the only time I have time to consider the world beyond how I am going to keep my business open and pie in my pie hole is when I am tipsy.  Tipsy Jessica = Social Justice Jessica.  It’s not right, it’s not pretty, but it’s the truth.

But if one crowns oneself “In Progress”, one must learn a thing or two from history.  For example, to not refer to oneself in such a pompous manner.

So I will not take to the Book of Faces.  I have learned a lesson.  (Not so sure it is “my” lessons so much as fucking common sense – give up status updates the minute libations cross ones lips.  Damn.  Did it again.)

Instead I shall post here.  And purchase this sign.


I can’t wait to put it up in the shop and tell people it supports  Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health.

Let’s raise a glass.  To more bullshit day’s off.  More vodka.  More renovation.  More progress.