Pandemic Day 375

Well, hooray! The Governor this morning lifted the restrictions. So, what does that mean? Masks aren’t mandatory and we can have larger crowds. More people have been vaccinated and positive cases and deaths are down significantly. Cool. That sounds great!
Well, now we are going to be in this new weird space where we businesses want to do the right thing, and we aren’t quite sure which way to go for the best interest of our guests and teams. Some businesses are already posting that they are going to continue requiring masks for the health and safety of their staff and customers. Some businesses are really taking a stand right now in that announcement. I have been wearing a mask at least 12 hours per day every single day for about a year. I think we are all anxious to not have to wear them. I am not sure I want to take a stand about enforcing them at my shop, but I also am not sure I want to just suddenly be loose about it either. I already told the staff we would continue to wear masks for now and until we are certain that we no longer need to. However, I also took down the signs on the door that state that masks are required before entry. I needed to clean the glass anyway and those papers had been there a long time. I could always put them back if we decide that is best.
Right now, it is so uncertain and we want to behave well for our guests and our team. That is the most important factor. I think when our guests feel comfortable without masks, and our team feels comfortable without masks and society as a whole feels comfortable without masks…through that process, we can gently shift I suppose.

Blah. The politics and the pandemic have really made stuff not as fun! Not going to lie. I really am eager to burn all the masks I own.

Pandemic Day 327

Some days I wonder if can keep fighting and other days I know definitively that there is no other option. Today was a good day and gave me a little jolt of the dopamine needed to muster up the strength to deliver a good return punch. Still hanging on by a thread and hopeful for a couple of significant pieces to come together and praying that I can keep things from crumbling in the mean time.

Today we took in $60 above our daily baseline. That is two Wednesdays in a row that we were slightly above our daily baseline requirement. It makes me wonder, “why Wednesdays?” I am kind of a statistics fanatic, as you know, and tracking data for a pattern to emerge is my geeky obsession.

So we had a good day, and I live to fight another day.

This is so freaking hard. I am so extremely grateful for everyone who purchases and supports us. The online DIY Take-Home kits are finally getting traction again over the last few days. They had unexpectedly become non-existent in January. We ended up the month of January only bringing in 66% of our required revenue just to cover essentials such as rent, payroll, utilities, taxes, etc. None-the-less, I was happy with the way the month ended. That last week of January made all the difference. The first three weeks…super stressful, nail-biting kind of days.

There are pressing matters that I absolutely have to get a handle on that require our revenues to get up to at least baseline. I have to be able to breath soon. I feel like my time is running out. I am driving DoorDash like crazy, and it is certainly helping. Most weeks, I can clear above $500 and sometimes even above $700. But $500 average is pretty typical working about 3 hours per day 7 days per week. And most of the time, I drive dinner after spending the day at Burst Of Butterflies.

Additionally, I feel like I am keeping well focused on the objective and handling it without falling apart or letting emotion lead. That is a pretty good change.

Eleven Months

It has been Eleven Months since we learned of the pandemic and the shutdown. Of course back then, we thought it would be over in a month or two. Then there was the shutdown in Mid March. But we made the best of it and took the time to rearrange the studio and paint the walls and floors. We manage to keep our staff, without laying anyone off, and kept everyone busy making all modifications to the studio that I had been wanting to do for a long time, but that are hard to do while open. Well, hey, we got shut down and seized the opportunity. For several weeks of the initial shut-down, we used our time and emptied everything to one side of the studio or another as we made our way around painting all the walls, painting the floors, replacing the shelving, replacing tables and chairs in order to accommodate more social-distancing, etc. Additionally, we refined processes, created a warehouse for our new Art-Kit-To-Go business and created processes around that new business.

In spite of all the great changes and improvements, days and days went by with increasing stress and worry. I was fighting to pay bills and stay above water, and I hadn’t set myself up well enough for this kind of extreme and sudden decrease in revenue. Warren Buffet says that you can tell who has been skinny dipping when the tide goes out. It is very true.

In order to figure a way to sustain, we quickly got in gear and developed the DIY take-home kit for pottery and canvas and other types of craft kits. I worked on the website and quickly built the functionality for it, and launched with a dozen products on March 16, 2020. We posted it out on social media like crazy and it caught on. We were selling them every day. Total revenues still came in over 50% below where they were the same time in 2019. So it was painful to say the least. We are extremely thankful for the amount of people who purchased our kits. It kept our staff busy and able to have a job.

Quickly, it was clear that the pandemic was not going to be a short event. By end of March, we had converted our sixth annual summer camp (the biggest revenue event each year) to a choice of in-studio or online virtual camp. I was amazed at how many people signed up for zoom camp each week. I was even more amazed at how many registered for in-studio camp. It was tough, but the kids had a ton of fun, the parents seemed super impressed, and it really, really was awesome considering everything. We pulled it off at two locations in person, plus a dozen or so zoom campers online each week from end of May to end of July. We even added two, fairly well attended, additional weeks at the end of July, on the fly, when school closures continued into August. And our team was absolutely amazing.

During the last eleven months, I sold a rental house to pay payroll; I drove DoorDash seven days a week for extra income usually to put toward payroll; we finally closed our Tempe location at the beginning of August to downsize to the one location in Downtown Chandler; I sold another rental house; we received a couple of small grants thanks to the City Of Chandler and Maricopa County and the awesome people who look out for the small businesses; and still, I fight every day to pay everything. It has been, by far, the most stressful period of time that I have endured. At the same time, it has been the most enlightening and strengthening time in terms of the maturity of our team and our company as a whole.

I promised the staff at the onset of the pandemic that I would fight, with everything I had, to keep them going, and that they wouldn’t have to worry about losing their job. A couple of people from our team did decide to stay home and/or do other things. Yet, the majority stayed to fight the storm with us and this group has become the strongest and most amazing team in the history of Burst Of Butterflies. In spite of uncertainty. In spite of months of seeing no customers. In spite of each of them dropping down to half time and lower paychecks. This team stuck with us and still do. We all have grown and evolved tremendously as a team through this process and I am amazed and grateful for the team that we have in place.

On top of all of this, I am tremendously thankful we are still here. There are many, many businesses who had to close forever. It could be us tomorrow. But for today, I am going to just keep fighting.

Off The Bed… On The Bed

Charlie is dying. He is fifteen and a half years old. I guess that is about 110 in dog years. It is quite remarkable. This past month has been a series of downs and ups and downs. About a month ago he started coughing quite a bit, but still fine otherwise. I took him to the doggie doctor and we did x-rays. The cloud from his pneumonia six years ago was more pronounced and his heart was somewhat enlarged. These were all things that the doctor seemed to find normal for his age and such. Antibiotics were given and he began getting them each day. Then, on July 4th, my birthday, we had a get-together at the house. His cough was worse that day and his breathing had become crackly. People talked to me about the inevitable. I told them all that he would be fine…he is just settling into the anti-biotics and getting all that ick out of his system. On July 5th, I called the vet and asked her opinion. She suggested a different antibiotic. So that night, he started the new antibiotic. The next day, he was barely coughing, which was a great sign. However, the day after that, his coughing was worse. The vet said to give it a week. So today, we went to the vet again and did new x-rays. They were very concerned at the progression of the lungs and trachea in the new x-rays compared to those of a month ago. The fact that he is going to die within the next week became clear, and I cried many tears while a fantastic doggie doctor who really cares seemed to look for every possible way to help him. We decided together that the goal is to get him comfortable. He is going to die, that is a fact. It might even be today or tomorrow, but definitely within the next seven days. So we have some meds to keep him relaxed and comfortable. Charlie and I went home and I let him up on my bed with me and he put his head in my lap. I talked to him about the period of time when he first came to live with us and he was about three months old and he always wanted to be in my bed and I always told him to get down. Now, fifteen years later, I was so happy to have him in my bed, his head on my lap, reminiscing about all of the cool experiences he has had in his life. I cried so much talking about it all, knowing that his ears stopped working over a year ago and he probably cannot hear me, but maybe he could at least feel the vibrations of my voice as he lay in my lap. I had a jar of peanut butter and two spoons and he perked up as soon as I opened the jar and his sniffer caught the scent. We ate some spoons of peanut butter together and really had a nice time hanging out. I think he is the most amazing dog with a most amazing life and I am so grateful to have been a part of it for 15 years and for my boys to grow up with Charlie. He crossed this country from coast to coast twice; he put his feet in two oceans as well as the Gulf Of Mexico in every state that borders it; he slept with the boys and I on the beach in San Diego; he went camping several times and was the absolutely the most amazing camping dog; he went each year to find a Christmas Tree with us in the forest; he understood english better than many humans and, after his ears stopped working, he quickly learned lip reading and hand signals; he never left my side given the opportunity and always made sure he had me in his sights when we were anywhere; he had a thing for bread and we had to keep the loaves out of his reach; he knew right from wrong very well and always had that look on his face when I came home from work and he had done something wrong (like steal the loaf of bread off the counter); he got to jump on the trampoline with the boys; one of his first furry best friends was an adopted cat named Becky who came with the house we bought and taught Charlie many things; his second furry best friend was a dog named Shadow who’s human was my best friend Karl; both Becky and Shadow passed away years ago…Charlie The Bear Killer just kept going in spite of pneumonia in 2011 and getting recurring pneumonia symptoms year after year. But now he is nearly 16 years old and his body just isn’t strong enough anymore. He had a great run and is being tough now too. I wish he would let go because I have cried my eyes out, felt my heart break, and now I know that he just needs to fall asleep and when he lays here and looks at me with that look like I am the most important being in his world, I just keep trying to look back at him with assurance that it is ok and he can let go.

Saving Hope

Mom has been talking to me for weeks about the series on Hulu called Saving Hope. I have been reluctant to watch because I am not big on hospital shows. The whole medical industry bothers me and watching all of this stuff makes me squeamish too.

But today she asked me again if I have watched and, since there wasn’t much else to watch other than news about foreign relations blah blah blah, I decided to give it a try.

I started at season 1 and am five episodes in. It is definitely not the type of show I binge watch. Lately I focus on American Gods, Orange Is The New Black, Walking Dead. I also watch shows like The Profit and Shark Tank. For a good laugh Big Bang Theory. Casual is another one that I catch when it comes out. Well, this medical type show that has a similar vibe as the movie Ghost is a little off the regular type show I would watch. But Mom really wants me to see it, so here I am.

Back To Basics

For months that turned to years, I have thought about writing. However, June 21st, 2013 seemed to change my ability to bring myself to write. Well, here I am…trying to bring myself back to the basics of writing and letting out my thoughts. I doubt anyone reads this blog that I put in place approximately 20 years ago. So, I figure I can just write and say whatever I want here. haha.

I guess I better sum up events during my absence.

My sister took a really expensive helicopter ride to a hospital in Scottsdale on June 21st, 2013 after bashing her head into a brick wall after being catapulted from a motorcycle. They had to remove part of her skull to release the pressure, put some screws in her back, rebuild part of her face and clavicle, and she spent several weeks in a coma followed by learning to walk, talk and eat again. My Mom and I spent every day at the hospital with her. Nothing has been the same since.

Life had become quite wonderful prior…great career with a nice amount of travel and promotion, a wonderful guy that I spent about 18 months with, renovating the house, and a garden that I was proud of… well that all changed pretty quickly after my sister’s accident.

For the most part it didn’t matter. Nothing was more important than figuring out the best way to do what needed to be done for my sister and family. We moved her into the house and took great care to set up her new bedroom exactly the way she would and making sure to put all of her cherished books on her shelves in exactly the order she would. We were very excited to try to give her that familiarity.

Approximately 14 weeks after the accident, she came home. We tried a home health care person to be with her while we were at work. That didn’t work. My sister’s brain doesn’t work the same anymore and the unfamiliar stranger in the home with her just made things worse. She was determined that it wasn’t her home and this person shouldn’t be there and it was just tough. So, Mom and I took turns being home and worked our jobs in a way that I could work from home when Mom was at work and then she could be home when I was at the office. This was tough.

Well, long story short, my son and I moved to a different house to keep things as calm and consistent for my sister as possible at home. Mom and I left our jobs and we all opened up a little shop so that we could take care of my sister and work at the same time.

Four years later, here we are.

I have so many thoughts that go through my head that I just want to write again. So, hopefully this entry will open that door for me again.

On A Gondola

Had a great first date tonight.  I have been talking with this man for a few weeks on the phone and we finally met in person tonight.  It was a wonderful night starting with meeting in Downtown Chandler at San Tan Brewery, a tour of the Downtown Chandler Square, and then a drive to a resort hotel in Scottsdale for an exclusive sushi dinner, and then a walk around the property and a surprise Gondola ride!  He is very sweet and we had a fantastic time.  He seems to be very adventurous and spontaneous, not to mention tall and handsome!!  Let’s see where it goes.  His name is John.

Heading Home From Helen

What a fantastic trip!!  It wasn’t a vacation, and we didn’t do any sight-seeing, but it was an absolutely amazing 10 days in Helen!  Doug and I both worked, and our crazy schedules sure did make seeing each other challenging, but we found time in between everything else.  I couldn’t get internet at the camper, so I had to go to the local grocery store to work… sometimes for 13 hours straight.  I never sat in a grocery store that long, but it had a nice cafe area, with a Starbucks and free wifi.  Perfect!    The camper only has a small shower and enough hot water for a three minute shower, so I did most of my showering at the bath house at the front of the campground.

None of this bothered me.  It was perfect.  I got to see Doug in  between both of us working.  He usually gets done around 2am.  I tried to do the same.  The camper was small, but I managed to make a nice breakfast for us of eggs, bacon and pancakes on an electric griddle.  Some mornings we had cereal.  For dinner, I made cheese quesadilla or toaster oven mini pizzas or even pierogies in the toaster oven.

It was camping and living and working and making due in a small space for 10 days with each other while we both had stressful and hectic, and even unpredictable, work schedules.

But none of that effected our ability to have a nice time.  It was an absolutely wonderful time.  On the eighth day, after passing our 8 month’s since we met, we could no longer hold back and declared the L word to each other.  Those of you who know me may need to take a moment to catch your breath.  I most certainly did.  But it is true… I love him and he loves me and he is working hard to get everything in order to move to Arizona this summer.

The moments we have shared over the last eight months have been fabulous.  From the very first magical moment we met to now and every moment in between.  We are forced to get to know each other through phone calls and text messages and eight visits across country to see each other over the last eight months.  We learn more and more about each other every day and every visit and it seems to only increase our desire to be with each other always.

It’s crazy, but it is true….


Packing for Helen

Heavily exhausted and highly caffienated, I feel high.  But I am still doing laundry and packing for my trip to Helen.  The last couple weeks have been unreal…work, rental property, finances, the unexpected X 10, customers, projects, family….  not a single aspect of my life over the past couple weeks has NOT been more stressful than usual.  Wonder how much more can really be piled on sometimes, but somehow, I handle it all and do what I need to do and get stuff done.  Somehow my bosses continue to tell me that I am responsible for so much success of the company and praise me for my ability to juggle so many customers and resources and projects… most of the time without eruption.

I am on my second load of laundry and have already begun to pack.  I am hungry but I can’t seem to find anything that appeals to me.  I have a task list that still needs to be done for work tonight and another list of reminders and to-dos for trip preparation.  I performed the final walk-thru with my tenants today as they moved out over the weekend.  Not sure I can think of a worse time than this month for their departure, but I have known about it for a couple months and prepared as much as could be done for it given the time of year.  I met with the contractor this morning to get an estimate on the various repairs to be done in the house before the next tenants move in.  The bid was slightly higher than I had hoped, but that is to be expected as well.  I contacted all three utility companies today to switch the utilities back into my name while it is vacant waiting for the next tenants to call it home.

I think about retirement for a bit, but I cannot fixate on that right now as there are way to many things to do before heading to the airport eight hours from now.  I saw that the plane that is designated for this trip does not have internet, so I suppose I can dream about retirement on the plane in the morning.

I look forward to being in Helen again.  I plan to be working each day as it is not truly a vacation, however, it will be very nice to see Doug and get a better sense of what it is like for us to spend our time together while each of us are working and managing responsibilities.  I pray that the recent constant stream of unexpected crisis will hopefully be behind me, as it will be that much more challenging to handle things remotely.  I have to have faith that my contractor will have my best interests in mind as he handles the renovations on the rental without my oversite.  I am somewhat inclined to wait until I get back to handle the work on the rental, but there is a time factor involved and I would certainly love to be able to get the house rented sooner than later.  Every day that goes by is a loss of income.

I just cannot think about that right now.  I need to figure out what I am going to eat and put the clothes in the dryer and continue packing and get my work done for tonight and get to the airport.

Cabins In Helen

I went back to Helen, Georgia for four days with the intent of looking at cabins to hopefully purchase one as an investment vacation rental. Dan and I went together so that he could advise me as my business partner. We arrived in Thursday night into Atlanta and made our way to Steak ‘n Shake for some food. Oh, it was soooo good. I really miss having Steak ‘n Shake nearby. By the time we were done, it was pretty late. We thought about stopping at a bar to have a drink, but then thought better of it. Instead, we found a dark, quiet park to pull into and take a nap. We figured we would head to Helen early in the morning. Of course, after about 45 minutes of resting there, the local police decided to pay us a visit and we had to leave. We stopped at a hotel and rested in the parking lot there and I talked on the phone with my local Helen tour guide. Around 6am, we arrived in Helen and I went to the Huddle House to have some coffee and do some writing in my journal.

The moment we arrived in Helen, my heart skipped a beat once again. I cannot even explain in words how magical it is there… like a fairy tale.

For the rest of the day on Friday, we looked at about 12 different cabins. The opportunities are excellent.

Friday night, we made our way to the Hayloft where I had a chance to see my favorite local tour guide. He was busy and distracted and uncertain about our interaction given the complications of it all such as the 2000 miles between us. Our initial talk was emotional and left me feeling somewhat lost. What is this crazy attraction between us? It is so intense. None-the-less, he had to leave to work and I went to the bar with Dan where he was hitting on a hottie and hoping I would help him seal the deal. She was cute and it was fun, but my mind was elsewhere and the drinks were flowing quite freely.

The rest of the weekend was magical and emotional. I wish I could stay there forever.

Sunday I made an offer on a cabin and Monday talked with the bank. Then we left town back to the west.