Feb 27

I read an article somewhere online today that listed 20 things everyone should accomplish in his or her lifetime. I read through the list, just out of curiosity, not that I thought I needed another to-do list to work on. I was expecting rather grandiose and unattainable dictates, so I was mildly surprised at how basic the list was. It included things like Keep a journal (yes I do), Get your heart broken (how many times does it take?), Take a leap of faith (every time I get on the treadmill), Adopt a pet (do kids count?). Of the twenty items, I had actually accomplished 15. Not bad. There are a couple I probably won’t get to such as Live in a foreign country (not that I’d be opposed to a short stint in Europe) and Go wilderness camping (regular camping is bad enough). Oh! and Take a sabbatical unless being involuntarily unemployed counts, but the true version I don’t see happening anytime soon unless I strike it rich in the lottery. My last winning ticket was only $4.00 so I don’t put much hope in that.

The first item on the list was Own a business. I have to say that is one thing I am grateful to have done. I’ve actually owned a couple businesses over the years. One was in decorative painting that I started on a whim, mostly. I enjoy art and painting and thought I’d give it a go for extra income in conjunction with my full-time job. I put an ad in the local newspaper and got a call from a lady asking if I could paint a couple of white columns in her house to look like marble. Of course! I told her, and then proceeded to figure out how to do it since I’d never done it before. Thankfully, she loved it and hired me a couple more times. I eventually got connected with an interior designer and my business took off. I painted in homes, in restaurants, in other businesses and basically learned along the way based on what people requested. Metal doors to look like wood, walls to look like animal print, lots of marble and stone look-alikes and murals. Murals were my favorite. I’m proud of the fact that I built a business that lasted for many years off of one ad in a newspaper and word of mouth. I learned a lot. But not as much as I learned with the second business I’ve had. My ex-husband and I owned a heating and air conditioning business that we started out of the basement of our house. He knew the trade, and I have to admit, he was good at it. I helped with marketing and as an extra pair of hands whenever needed. In a matter of a couple years, we were able to move the business into a rented space and eventually into a warehouse we bought. We made it an official corporation and hired employees and equipment and trucks and even expanded into a second office space. We eventually reached a million dollars in business. It was quite an accomplishment. It was also quite a learning experience.

There is a daily struggle that comes with business ownership that is unlike the daily grind of a normal 8-5 job. When you are solely responsible for earning not only your own living, but the livelihood of people you’ve hired, there is a weight on your shoulders that never goes away. It’s a 24/7 proposition. Oftentimes hiring someone to do the extras doesn’t always pay out, so you end up doing a lot of the details yourself. I learned how to make and install duct work, and help set air conditioners and boilers, and sometimes went with on midnight emergency calls because two sets of hands were needed. I helped reroof our commercial building with metal sheeting. I learned how to do payroll and talk with vendors and call customers about unpaid bills and spent weekends manning a booth at fairs. I made countless runs to pick up supplies in various towns. There was never a moment when there wasn’t something to do. And yet, in crunch time, when the money doesn’t come in as quickly as it goes out, paying yourself is often last on the list. Funny how that happens.

Ultimately, we sold the HVAC business. That also had its own special lesson. And my painting business fizzled out over time, especially after I moved. I don’t regret either one overall. The best teacher is experience and I now know what I know. Owning a business is both a blessing and a curse. And it isn’t for everyone, so I don’t necessarily agree with its inclusion on the internet to-do list. I’m glad it was on mine though.

Day 29

I love music. All kinds. I have favorites, of course, but I have been known to listen to some bluegrass and then turn around and listen to heavy metal. I love some types more than others. I can honestly say I’m not a huge fan of accordion music, although I saw a rock band last night whose lead singer played it. I admit that it put an interesting twist on it. I also am not thrilled with the really heavy metal that is mostly screaming, yet some days…it really seems appropriate.  I’ve never understood people who are so anti-whole genres of music. Usually there’s some song or artist within an genre that is a draw for me and I certainly don’t love every artist or every song of a whole genre.  Over the years,  I’ve come to the conclusion that people fall into different camps when it comes to listening to music: those who simply like the sound and pay little attention to actual lyrics and those who find the lyrics essential to the song overall. I’m in the second camp. I can hear a song that doesn’t necessarily grab me right away, but once I read the lyrics, it speaks to me differently. It’s as if the music itself makes more sense. Like the sound effects in movies–it enhances the story.

It really should be no surprise that lyrics draw me in. As I mentioned in a previous post, I love words. To me, songs are simply poetry set to music, and I even take that approach in classes I teach. I have my students bring in their favorite songs, and we read the lyrics as we would a poem. It’s always interesting to me and my students the different meanings we come up with when dissecting lyrics. I tell them that songs, especially, speak to us on an emotional level. Sometimes we put the meaning we want into what we hear. We personalize it to our own lives. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. As a writer myself, I love that. I want my poetry to be universal. Of course, I know the story behind what I’ve written; it has my own personal meaning. But I think all artists in every art form want their audience to be moved by the art, and the way to do that is to connect with people’s emotions.

The concert I went to last night was of one of my favorite bands, Stone Sour. While I love the sound, they’re a favorite mostly because I really appreciate the lyrics to their songs. So many of them tell stories, but not in a trite way. My description is intelligent rock music. I imagine some of their fan base need to consult a dictionary when looking up the lyrics. I had the opportunity to meet the band members (all amazingly gracious and down-to-earth guys off stage) and tell that to the lead singer, Corey Taylor. I won’t document his entire response which included some swearing, but in a nut shell, he thanked me. Apparently, it’s exactly their intent.

So today I’m thankful that I got the opportunity to hear a favorite band live and chat about such things as the importance of lyrics with the members, but even more thankful for music in general. I can’t imagine life without it.