Buy local

My wife and I recently went for a walk, pushing our son in his stroller as we enjoyed the nice spring weather. Within walking distance is a local nursery called “Estrada Farms Nursery,” which is owned by some friends of ours. We stopped by to look for some flowers to put in the front porch of our cafe. Their inventory was small because they had just re-opened, but their staff was very helpful. We got some great ideas of what to put in hanging pots, and made a commitment to go back. The pricing was fair, and service was excellent.

Later we drove past the nursery, and my wife said “even if paid a tiny bit more, I’d way rather spend an extra 30 cents, (now at this point, I thought she was going to comment on the proximity, or convenience). She went on to say “knowing it’s going to directly feed a family, rather a massive corporation like Lowe’s or Home Depot.”

I thought about that, and compared it to a  discussion I had  in college about that same subject where I had taken the other side–I’d prefer to go wherever gave me the biggest discount. This friend’s perspective was that if you always do that, then small booksellers and smaller chain gas stations will go out of business. At the time, I only thought of my own perspective, proclaiming adamantly that if a small business went out of business, so be it, that’s the cost of going into business.

I look back on that with a little bit of shame. How blind I was to the larger, social fabric of what it means to belong to a community. And as the years have passed, I’ve sadly watched as small local businesses all over the state have had to close their doors–and far too many have been local bookstores, with their quaint charm and smell of pages and leather that only a local bookstore can have. (My new favorite though is Pioneer Book, in Orem-charming, and a great inventory)

My point of view now, admittedly is influenced by small business ownership. Compare it to how once you are a server in a restaurant, you will forever be a good tipper. But this goes deeper than just “I know what they are going through” type of thing.  I believe in the entrepreneurial spirit, and think it must thrive in order for our economy and our country’s morale to turn around.Success in a small business gives you a unique shopping experience, a character and feel to that store that is impossible to find elsewhere. Giving you that experience is the gifts, buy their products. Pay a little extra for the ambiance. You are going to part with your money anyway, why not have it go to someone who has taken quite possibly the biggest risk of their life, shunned naysayers, and then dedicating their savings, their heart, their souls into building something that hopefully lasts?

It is a tough and brutal market for small businesses, and they rely heavily on word of mouth in order to grow and flourish. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate local bloggers and other people who take great pride in being able to point out the best local businesses to shop, which may be off the beaten path. I know firsthand the challenges that are inherent to business ownership, and believe me, there are plenty of them, without trying to compete with big box retailers and national chains.

So who are your favorite local restaurants and businesses? What small retailer do you recommend I go to in order to support their business endeavors?

Also, what blogs do you follow, or who do you go to in order to find the best local businesses?

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A few lessons learned from today’s funeral

I wanted to write this up while it was still fresh on my mind, because I learned some powerful lessons today.

Today was my uncle Richard’s funeral. He fought a good fight, but this past week, Heavenly Father called him home.

Few things serve as poignant of a lesson as funerals.  I’ve found most funerals to be quite inspirational. I even have this belief that God makes lets people attend their own funeral, in spirit, so they get to see what an impact they have had on the lives of others.

The program today was awesome. It consisted of my uncle Don giving a life summary, then all 9 of Richard’s children giving tribute to their father. Now normally, I’d think, “Wow… 9 people? That would make for a really long meeting!”  especially after driving for an hour and a half to get their. And believe me, I HATE long meetings. But this was outstanding.

Each child spoke for 5-10 minutes, sharing stories, lessons, and attributes about their father. They each did a magnificent job, articulately mixing the right dosage of humor, lessons learned, and favorite memories. They were openly emotional, and their love and admiration each of them felt for their dad was so strong, it was in the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you are saying.” By that I mean, their love for him was so evident, their admiration so complete, it was almost louder than the words they spoke.

I enjoyed every minute of every story. I kept thinking, “This truly is a celebration of a life well lived.”

So in a way his life inspired me to “up my game” so to speak, with my own family, relationships, and different responsibilities.

Not to be morbid, but I couldn’t help thinking forward to my own funeral. I kept asking myself: “what do I hope people say about me? Am I doing what I need to do in order to have those around me celebrate my life? Am I kind to others? Am I spiritual? Am I preparing myself, growing, increasing in “wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” like the Savior did?”

I think maybe I am in some areas… but in others, I definitely coast. In fact, it was kind of a smack in the face that a good life and good relationships are built over a long time…and I need to make the most of this finite time we are given.

The other point I wanted to remember from today has a little background story: Because my wife and I own a dessert business, in lieu of flowers, we sent desserts to Richard’s family a few times over the past few weeks. We hoped to at the very least brighten just a  few minutes of their day, in what must have been a hard, and exhausting time.

Well, at the luncheon today, about 10 people individually approached us and thanked us enthusiastically for the desserts.  I was so astounded at how gracious they were, I was speechless–I think I blurted out something like, “Oh, no you are welcome– it was the least we could do” or something less coherent–just because I was caught off guard. Not that I expected otherwise, but you don’t picture a funeral being the time where the surviving family seeks out people to thank  individually. I know for a FACT we weren’t the only ones to give food, and I also would wager good money we weren’t the only one they individually thanked. One of my cousins even gave us a hand-written thank you card.

I couldn’t help thinking, “You just went through one of the most devastating experiences of your life, and you still remembered to thank us for giving you treats?!”   I was so impressed with their graciousness, I made several mental notes–to make more of an effort to remember and express gratitude for things people do for me, ESPECIALLY when I go through hard times.  I noticed when they were thanking us, they had beaming smiles on their faces–which only reminded me that gratitude in general helps everyone feel better.

Uncle Richard lived a really good life. He left behind a loving wife, 9 kids, a whole ton of grandchildren and great grandchildren, and a legacy of kindness and respect. I have no doubt he will be happily welcomed into the Savior’s arms, who will say, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

Farewell Uncle Richard. I’ll be good, and I thank you for your testimony.

Book or music suggestions anyone?

Within the past few 6 weeks, my habits for passing the time have gone through a dramatic upheaval. As you can tell from my post on new TV shows, there was a stretch there where I was getting far into watching TV. And it wasn’t anything educational or helpful in any way…just a mind-numbing, stupifying escape. One day my wife described me as “couchy”, which I didn’t like…but didn’t necessarily set out to change right away…

Without any kind of resolution or goal setting, all of the sudden I’ve reached my satiation point with TV, and have been hitting the books. But not just crime-thrillers, which I have gobbled up in the past and honestly can’t remember one from the other,  I’ve been trying to sink my teeth into quality books.

The first I tackled was “Pillars of the Earth”

This is a book that most of my reader friends had recommended at one time or another. I’m not going to give a full book review, it’s been done ad nauseum. But I will say this, I was blown away by Follett’s ability to weave so many characters together, with their own changes, feuds, jealousies, passions, love, and revenge.  When I write my little stories, I can barely keep track of my own character development, let alone about a dozen. Overall, a great book.

Next, I decided to tackle “The Glass Castle”, a memoir by Jeannette Walls.

I actually bought this book for my wife for Christmas, after her friend strongly recommended it. After Pillars, I decided to pick it up. I don’t often read memoirs. After reading Walls’, I may have to change that. This book gripped me from beginning to end, as it told the story of the upbringing of Jeannette Walls and her 3 siblings, carted from town to town by her care-free, irresponsible and artistic mother, and her alcoholic but brilliant father. All I can say is this: Any complaint you have ever made about feeling poor is nothing. Do you have more than one pair of shoes? Do you have a TV? Do you have electricity? Do you have at least one meal a day without digging through trash barrels? If you answered yes to these questions,  then you don’t know poverty like the Walls kids. Holy crap. I will do my darndest to never complain again.

But the story isn’t about poverty as it is about the triumph of the human spirit, and the strength we gain through adversity, and through bonds we have with others.

The other thing to change has been my choice of music.

Almost overnight, I got sick of my playlist and went searching for something more inspiring. I started loving classical music. So I borrowed a bunch of my dad’s CDs, and have started tackling them one by one, most recently listening to Yo-Yo Ma’s cello solos of Bach’s music. For some reason Suite 1, which has been played a bazillian times in movies, commercials, and probably ring-tones, puts me at ease and calms my soul after a stressful day of work. If you don’t know it by name, I’m positive you’ll recognize the sound. Here’s a youtube clip:

I’m also looking for other artists that are just different…  On Spotify, I’m listening to M83 right now (so obviously, I don’t ALWAYS listen to classical) who might be old to most of you, but I’ve never listened to them. Good stuff so far. Also, I’ve been listening to that song “Sail” by Awolnation…which I KNOW has been overplayed, but because it’s unique sound, and the fact that my barely crawling son loves it when I play it because he loves how we “dance” to it, I’ve been playing it endlessly.

 

So I’m on the search, for great books and unique music.  Any recommendations?

Blogging

I really need to learn to write shorter blog posts.

Craig

Does this self-help philosophy CREATE the dissatisfaction it claims to cure?

I checked out one of my favorite websites, BSPCN.com, and found an article from 2 days ago called “Thoughts for Change”. It included the following advice for your job–I’ve added the italics to show I am quoting:

– Go on that trip. Don’t postpone it.
– Say those words. Don’t let the moment pass.
– Do what you have to, even at society’s scorn.
– Write poetry.

– Love deeply.
– Walk barefoot.
– Dance with wild abandon.
– Cry at the movies.
– Take care of yourself. Don’t wait for someone to take care of you.

Go for the win.

Beautiful advice, right? Walk barefoot, write poetry, and all that. It’s very Carpe-Diem-esque.

Following the last phrase, “Go for the win” was this graphic:


According to the author, “the win” we are supposed to go for is a career that is a combination of what you love, what you are good at, and what pays well.  Let’s discuss this a little more:

  1. If your job pays well and is something you are good at, but is NOT doing what you LOVE: You will be “Rich, but bored” (really? most people would happily ask for that trial… please)
  2. If your job is something you are good at, AND what you LOVE: You will be “Happy, but poor” (is that truly a bad thing?)
  3. If your job pays well, and is something you love: it is “just a dream” (huh? You are still saying I have a job, though, right?)
  4. But if you happen to find that combination of all three, you have a “win”. (wow.)
  5. I’m taking a little liberty here, but a little logic tells me the opposite of “win” is “lose”. So therefore, by a little logical liberty, it can also be communicated that anything less than a combination of these three characteristics, you have a “lose” job.

I find this message to be so incredibly ridiculous, it’s almost offensive to our culture. YET, we are spoon fed this crap from all kinds of books, literature, and various forms of media. This is part of the “I DESERVE…” culture, that is so prevalent. The “I have a right to…” or the “Me, me, me” culture.

Trust me, I’ve read more than my fair share of self-help books that say essentially the same thing.

But now, I’m in my mid 30’s, and see what is going on around me, and I’ve changed my tune. Maybe I’m becoming cynical in my old age. Or maybe I’m a “realist”. Or maybe I’ve just started to simply realize what matters, and what doesn’t. I’m realizing where I get my fulfillment, and where I don’t (for example, after the roughest day, seeing my son’s face light up when I get home makes me forget about anything that happened during the previous 8 hours–and as I’m wrestling around with him, I feel far more contentment than the greatest of work days can provide). I’m realizing that being paid well may have nothing to do with the “win”, and maybe I’m realizing that sometimes it’s a win to get a plain old job, one where you can work hard, be a part of a team, and feel like you are contributing.

I’m not saying you CAN’T have a “win” kind of career, but what if you only barely like your job, which pays just barely enough to pay the bills, but not well. And let’s say because you are a hard worker, you are good at what you do.  Are you losing? Not at all. There are millions of people in the United States who would love to have A job… almost ANY job, even if they aren’t so passionate about it. They spend time calling, sending resumes, and lining up for interviews, and try their darndest to communicate how their previous job experience as a marketing executive has perfectly prepared them for that retail position. Then they are met with “I’m sorry, but you are overqualified”, but what the person across the desk is really saying is either “Your knowledge and experience is intimidating. Will you take my job?” or “Wait, you’re THAT experienced? Why should I train you if you’ll take a higher paying job as soon as it opens up?”

But I also believe that you shouldn’t bank on getting that magical feeling of being fulfilled from your every day job requirements, per se. You should seek fulfillment in constantly performing well at your job, no matter what it might be.

I firmly believe that Victor, the 60-ish year old man who is cleans the bathrooms and floors in the commercial building where I work, is going for “the win”. I don’t know his story, I don’t know if he has a huge family or a small family. But I know he is cheerful as he works, and he does a great job. And when I talk to him, he’s always polite, respectful, and complimentary of my broken Spanish when I try to communicate in his native language. Did Victor dream of growing up and cleaning toilets, by himself? Doubt it. Is he good at it? Absolutely. Is he paid well? Don’t know. But does that mean he isn’t “winning”? That’s ridiculous.

He wins because he does his job well. He wins because he works hard to provide for his family. He wins because he chooses to be in a good mood while at his job, while millions “lose” while grumbling about their boss, their hours, their company.

I believe the advice portrayed in this graphic does more to contribute to dissatisfaction. People read this stuff and look at their job and mistakenly think, “hey… I DESERVE to win! I need to find that thing that is the magical combination… THEN I’ll have fulfillment and be a contribution to the world!” But this kind of thinking is completely selfish. You contribute by being selfless, not by getting everything you dreamed. You contribute when you have a great relationship with your childred, your family members, your loved ones–not from your 9-5. Yes, you spend a lot of time there, so you should be happy. So go ask Victor how he is happy, then figure out how to be a little happier in your current job that probably pays more, and is closer to your skillset than his.

Someone has to be the janitor. Someone has to do dishes. Someone has to clean sewers. Someone has to do mundane tasks like sweeping streets, emptying trash, and all of the hundreds of different ways that people are hired to clean up a mess. And very few of them LOVE it. But that doesn’t mean they are losing. The “win” is found in something else, not the combination of the graphic above.

In fact, if I had any photo shop ability, I’d make a graphic like the one above–and the 3 circles would consist of 1. Be grateful for your job, because millions don’t have one 2. Try your very best, no matter what job you have. 3. Live beneath your means, no matter what they are.

And the middle part? I would love to say “happiness” or “contentment”,  but we’re just talking about a job here, right?  So the center would read “job satisfaction”, which is something very valuable, yet too few people have.

It might not be flashy or all-encompassing enough for a self-help best seller promising a new life and sky-high levels of happiness. But it would be enough for you to hold your head high, and maybe just remind you of what it takes to enjoy right where you are.

Craig

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