Crazy Ride

Man, what a crazy ride it has been!


This journey has taught me a thing or two. Or… three… okay, a bunch more. When I started this blog, I’d been thinking seriously about launching a nonprofit. If you look back through the pages, you’ll see some very detailed information on what that was going to look like. And, I’m glad I wrote it all out. It helped me get to where I am today.

So, where am I now?

Through my own experience with analysis paralysis, ups and downs through an 18 month unemployment stint, countless classes/workshops/seminars, asking questions and setting up informational interviews, visioning exercises and plugging in to various activities… I learned that the vision I had to start this nonprofit did not fit me. I still believed in the vision whole heartedly, but realized that some key aspects of what I wanted to create for the organization… didn’t fit me personally.

It’s difficult to go back to the drawing board when you thought you knew what you wanted to do. Fortunately I was able to take the four main focuses for the nonprofit (crisis management, job training, life skills, and sustainable living) and spin them into a social entrepreneurial endeavor that does fit me.

That is important in the end, you want something that fits you. That makes you excited and ready to tackle the day!

I wanted to be able to take the vision I’d come up with for the nonprofit and still do something with it… but what? It seemed like it was on the tip of my tongue… or just out of reach for a long time. I felt like I was almost where I needed to be… but, I just couldn’t put my finger on how it would work out.

My room-mate and I talked for months about the possibilities of what could be done. I am very thankful to have had her as a sounding board. Someone with an open mind and servant’s heart for the community. After being unemployed for so long, we saw a vast array of issues people needed help with – and, we weren’t seeing a lot of answers. She had been laid off around the same time I had — around January of 2009.

I found my focus shifting from wanting to serve a broader people group to wanting to serve the unemployed, the destitute hit by this economy – from no fault of their own. Not people who were manipulating the unemployment system. But, people who were striving to find work, who needed unemployment benefits to survive… to live on. Highly intelligent, capable, hard working people who were not able to find jobs. I found myself wanting to shift the four main areas: crisis management, job training, life skills, and sustainable living to help in this demographic of people.

After all… who best to help… than someone who has lived through it and understands the issues.

I have seen the pot holes and pitfalls that are involved… more than that, I have experienced them. Obstacles your not sure how you can get around… your car breaks down, your insurance runs out, the cell phone bill is more expensive than you can afford, you wonder where you can find affordable food to feed your family, your living situation changes and you have to find something else fast… and your savings account starts to dwindle until you have very little left.

I’ve also learned how to reframe my realities to see opportunities where other’s might see failure or impossibilities. I know how thrive through very difficult circumstances… grow from adversity… and I can help other people to do the same.

Then it hit me… an AHA moment.

I can coach people one-on-one. I can teach people how to implement customized action plans. I can help navigate people through the crazy unemployment system, teach how to take stock of current situations, show people how to find low cost healthy food, alternative transportation, develop job strategies, cut expenses, stay healthy/sain and social. I can help people identify obstacles and determine their worst case scenarios. I can show people where opportunities are to thrive.

Unfortunately there is a lot of missing information, lots of questions… not very many answers. I don’t understand why that is. My goal is to change that. I see a need to fill a gap and connect people to experts who can answer their questions from financial, real estate, bankruptcy, mortgage… social services, health care, counseling, and career coaching.

There are many many downsides to unemployment. Unfortunately, there are so many upside down perspectives on what the population of the unemployed look like. They are lazy… that people who have been unemployed for more than six months are riding the system. More than twelve months… what about more than eighteen months? I beg to differ. That’s not the reality I’ve seen.

I am launching a crisis management coaching practice that teaches people to survive and THRIVE through an unemployment crisis.

Stay tuned to learn more.

Building Community with a Coffee House… The Pièce De Ré⋅sis⋅tance

I’ve saved the best for last!

What I’m most excited for… are the dinners. The special dinner events that bring people of the community together.

Now… this is partly why I’ve envisioned a coffee house instead of a cafe. The simplicity of the vehicle… for the events that we offer to stand out. And most of all, I want this to stand out.

Can you think of a meal that was one of your most cherished or most favorite?

What were the smells, the tastes, the sounds… who were the people? What made it so special?

jarsIn my previous church we had a congregation wide dinner ministry (dinner for eight). With the concept that eight people would bring a dish to share (potluck style) to an assigned host’s home. I love being involved in these kind of meals. They give people the opportunity to get to know other people. By a simple meal. Breaking bread together.

Some of my most favorite meals were when I rented a big three bedroom house in New Jersey, when I was working in Interior Design. Friends and new DSC06068connections would come and gather at my newly acquired residence for any holiday from Thanksgiving to Arbor Day. I had this big house & I wanted to share it. We converted two ordinary tables to fit 12-14 people — by using a 4×8 piece of particle board. Draping it with bed sheets (table clothes) and center pieces. Dishes were mismatched… no one cared. Everyone brought a dish to share… there were music, games, laughter, and wonderful memories.

210007307I want to host special dinners for people in the community with a similar bent to what I hosted in New Jersey. Serving family style… delicious food… a long dinner table set… with mis-matched colorful china and dishes… vintage cotton table clothes. Glasses… mason jars for flowers… dish towels for napkins (an idea recently seen at Foodheads during a catering event). Place settings a-symetrical… with very few… if none at all the same. Symbolizing diversity.

Food would be brought in via local catering companies.

This is where community is… around the table… breaking bread together.8b22432r

How does this work… we knock on doors… meet our neighbors… and personally invite. This is where I hope some of the barriers come down. We invite those who cannot afford next month’s rent and those who can. We serve. We offer a meal, a safe place, a comfortable environment. True hospitality. Authentic connection for real people living real lives.

Can you see it?

I can!

Building Community… Through Art and Music

So, we’ve been talking about a community space where people frequent… the nucleus of a neighborhood. A gathering place.

Breaking down the components of using art and music to build community…

You’ve seen it… you’ve gone into a local eatery or coffee shop and there is a local artist (from the city or area) exhibiting their works. What I want to do looks somewhat similar, but the purpose is not to generate exposure to a local artist to help promote their works… to generate income for them. But, to build community. Build conversation. Build connection. If the exhibit generates exposure and they get income… that’s a bonus.

Who’s works would you envision on the walls that would accomplish this?

child-painted-handsIt’s time to think outside the box. We have artists everywhere! What about the sixth grade class at the local elementary… just down the street, or the elderly gentleman who’s been creating toilet seat mailbox 029sculptures (Barney Smith – San Antonio), or the autistic man who communicates through paintings. Maybe it’s the woman who creates the funky mailboxes, or the sixteen year old who is dreaming of creating custom shoes… maybe there are independent film makers trying their hand at documentaries. Who are the local artists? Not the up & coming artists that want to sell their wares. But, who do we have who live in our zip code who create, paint, photograph, collage, draw, sculpt and film?

Let’s use the same concept for music.

3372483487_d83a994034Who are the local musicians? Is it the guitar instructor who’s been giving lessons, is it the worship band or church choir, is it the 4th grade class recital, maybe it’s the teenage garage band… or a local saxophonist. Who are the people who reside in the community that sing, tap, jam, rock-out, and lift up a joyful noise… via instrument or voice? These are the “local musicians”.

Make sense?

Some events we would have to showcase the local artists and musicians in the community may include a local independent film festival, reggae night, folk night, praise night, perhaps a local recital. Maybe we rock it out with the teenage or college garage band.  Maybe we showcase the paintings from an organization that helps emotionally troubled people communicate… or vision board collages from job seekers. Maybe we have a talent show… or a coloring contest and exhibit the contenders.holding-hands

I want to showcase the talents from the people who live in our zip-code… who may not be up & coming, but, are people that love what they dabble in or communicate through the arts. Our not so average neighbors. How would we know about their talent unless we give them an opportunity to share? Or, give them a voice?

So simple, it doesn’t have to be complex. And, how do we do this? We knock on doors.

It all fits together.

In the poll I presented a few weeks ago, I was surprised that no one put down entertainment as a reason to revisit a favorite coffee house or eating establishment. Some of my favorite coffee houses included the entertainment.