mom

Into the Maddening Crowd

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Photo credit: caribb / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

I love the promise of airports.  While I’d certainly rather be the traveler than the volunteer chauffeur, I’m happy to drop off others when they need a ride.  I do it for the contact high of fluttery excitement, a feeling which taps into a pool of memories which still pulse with anticipation.  The trip up to the airport makes me feel like anything is possible.

I felt the same when we sent our Growing Gratitude app off to the App Store.  Clicking SUBMIT and pouring champagne, it felt like anything was possible.  One thing I have learned about being a volunteer airport chauffeur is that that feeling does not last.  The drive up is exhilarating with thoughts of fresh surroundings and the thrill of time spent out of context.  The drive home is still, quiet, lulling with thoughts of groceries and what’s on the DVR.  The post-App-Store-submission week was like that for me – still, quiet, lulling.  I was very aware of being the chauffeur and not the traveler, of groceries and what was on the DVR.

Our app arrived, safe and sound.  No worse for wear.  Looking incredibly like it had when we’d dropped it off the week before, even after having experienced so much.  Kansas City, Missouri to Cupertino, California.  Being one of 700,000 apps in the App Store is like being in a small airport where a year’s worth of travelers all show up for the same flight.  Crowded doesn’t cover it.

And instead of the drivers holding signs with passengers’ names on them, the travelers hold the signs.  “Want to launch birds at monkeys and make your DMV wait fly by?  I’m the app for you!”  “Manage your kids’ homework and keep track of the wine in your cellar for just $1.99!”

Ours shouts as best it can above the din, “I’m going to change the way we say thank you! I’m fun, easy, personal, authentic!  I’m free!”

There we are, at our destination and not at our destination.  We’re building a bigger megaphone, a taller platform, a bolder sign.  It’s fun launching birds at monkeys, and I love an app which organizes everything from my pantry to the bodega of my dreams.  But that’s not us.

Our team will help us drown out all that App Store clamor and lift us above the booming crowd because, in doing so, they lift up themselves as well.  Lift up each other.  Gratitude – feeling it, knowing it, sharing it, “getting” it – is good for us, for all of us.  “We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.”  Let’s turn the amp up to 11 and spread the word!

We’ve arrived…kind of.  The end of the trip is the beginning of our great journey.  And as we’re on the verge of becoming the world traveler we dreamed of, sharing smiles across the globe, the exhilaration of what’s to come rattles our teeth, with all of the jolty vibration of a jet engine and the stomach-flipping anticipation of a trip into uncharted territory.

*          *         *          *          *

For more about the Growing Gratitude app, visit our website & the preview of our app in iTunes.  We’re recruiting more gratitude pioneers to use our exciting new app and to help us spread the word – and their thankfulness.  “I’m going to change the way we say thank you! I’m fun, easy, personal, authentic!  I’m free!”

Off We Go(Go)!

Big news!  It’s a momentous time in the life of Growing Gratitude, make-or-break time.  Our IndieGoGo campaign kicks off on Thursday.  Thursday!  What does that mean, you ask?  IndieGoGo is a crowdfunding website which hosts a variety of

Photo credit: bibendum84 / Foter / CC BY-SA

projects.  Folks visit the site either just perusing the projects that are out there right now  (I do this sometimes) or go there because they know of a specific project which is seeking funding this way. The projects set a goal, which represents the amount of money they need to complete the project.  People who are interested in and excited about their projects choose to contribute, meaning that they make a financial pledge to help the project reach their goal, and in exchange they receive perks based on the level of their contribution (like the public radio fundraising model).

I have contributed to several projects.  While putting the Growing Gratitude IndieGoGo campaign together, I’ve given a lot of thought to why I back certain projects. It usually comes down to this:  I back projects that, in their own particular way, make the world a better place to live. I certainly understand the situation of having an idea and wanting to see it through but not the funding to make it happen.  When that idea is something that has the potential to benefit people beyond ourselves, crowdfunding sites like IndieGoGo are ideal as they allow us to rally around the idea, stand together behind it and to become part of the team with our backing.

This is your chance to get the whole story on what I’ve been hinting around at all these months! Head on over to the Growing Gratitude campaign page on IndieGoGo this Thursday to see what we’re all about! Investigate, engage, and then please share the link to our campaign all over the place!

Welcome to the new world. I think we’re going to like it here.

Go Team Growing Gratitude!

Eight(y) is Enough

What’s more important – what we know or what we don’t know?

I’ve been asking myself this a lot lately as I delve into the preparations for the role of tech. startup founder, small business owner, solopreneur, mompreneur, crazy lady.

I think about the skills I have honed in my personal and professional lives, the leadership qualities I have developed and the complicated interpersonal situations that I have managed and – in many cases – facilitated a solution to.  I think about all of that, and I get so frustrated that I can’t be that person here yet.  Instead of walking into a room of wily middle schoolers and helping them to refocus and to keep their eye on the prize, I find myself reading every day to learn things from absolute scratch and doing things I never imagined could be part of this adventure, like shooting and editing a video.

Don’t get me wrong – I love to learn.  But it’s so strange to feel so incompetent at so many things out here, especially when all I would have to do to see the take-charge me is to walk back into my school.  I’m not on a circular course right now, and my path is taking me further and further away from my comfort zone.  They say that’s where the magic happens (unless you get lost in the woods!).

The upside to this month’s journey has been the meticulous whittling of Growing Gratitude’s mission.  The office floor is covered in shavings and sawdust, and only the very heart of it remains.  When you do eighty takes of a video (while I am naturally prone to exaggeration, take me at my word on this one), what does not ring perfectly true really stands out.  I knew what Growing Gratitude was; that part was easy.  The surprise to me was the time I needed to take to sort out the nuances of what it isn’t and will not be.  The time spent there has been invaluable.

Saw, carve, file, sand.  Smooth it over with my fingertips.  Only the very heart of it remains.

The Stare-down

It’s been a big couple of weeks around here. People like to talk a lot about fear – why we feel it, where it comes from, how to stare it down without blinking first.

That’s the kind of couple of weeks it’s been (the trying-not-to-blink kind).

I’m not sure how other people work with this kind of thing, but when I have an important move to make, I don’t take a step if it doesn’t feel right.  I have this kind of hard-wired sense of inertia that does not let me go down a path to see if it’s the right one.  It’s like I already have a sense if it’s wrong and go no further.

So I had been working on the business plan with gusto, diving right into the world of mobile apps, trying to wrap my head around where the market was, is and will be, reading what I can to try to pick the brains of those who do what I will be doing.  And I’m proud to say I kind of love doing that.

But the more I read, the more I understand that, in entrepreneurship and in life, only a very limited amount of useful knowledge can come from the written word (and if you give reading the same weight as experience you truly don’t know what you don’t know).   Time to get out there and experiment, get my hands dirty, leap based on my best guess and then pick myself up when I belly flop and climb back up the ladder.  The reason I have not yet made more progress in this direction is a crucial one: $.

And therein lies the staring-fear-in-the-face-and-not-blinking, even raising my eyebrows and scowling a bit.   I’ve got to make a move.  That’s all there is to it.  And I’m finally in a place where I can.

If you’ve been following for a while, you may recall that I was considering crowd-funding as a possible source of my seed money.  I gave Kickstarter some serious thought and even worked on a pitch before dismissing the idea out of fear.  I was afraid that someone would steal my idea and make the project happen quicker themselves and I would be out of luck.  I still think that’s valid – some gutless person or company with no great ideas of their own may come along and think they can do what I am going to do and beat me to it.  That might still happen.  What I realized while having a mind-bending conversation with my entrepreneurial friend Jay is that, while someone else might have the resources to put something together more quickly than I can, it won’t ever be what I have envisioned.  It couldn’t be.  When you have an idea that has roots in your very heart, that’s not the kind of prototype that can be stolen like in a spy movie. Once I understood that I gave fear my “teacher look”, and it bowed and retreated.  Game over!

So, in the spirit of having funding that aligns with the goal of my project which is, in a nutshell, growing gratitude and community, I’m pursuing a Kickstarter campaign.  This project will ultimately depend not only on my belief in it but others’ as well – and the willingness of all of us to invest in our vision of what Growing Gratitude is to become.

The task at hand for me right now is to put all of this – plus details about Growing Gratitude – in the Kickstarter pitch to start to reach out to those with whom this idea will resonate.  I am hoping to enlist your support when we get there.  I get now that my feeling protective about this idea has less to do with wanting to be the all-powerful CEO of the Growing Gratitude empire and more about being a fierce momma who will do what it takes to keep her creation from being co-opted by those who don’t see its true worth.  What a relief to discover that business decisions can – and should – be managed like personal ones: in alignment with our values and with ever an eye on our goals.

First Gear

My few weeks after the last post have gone like this: get up and get the boys ready, take my 4-year old to preschool, play with my 7-month old until he goes down for a nap, then race upstairs and work on my business plan until he wakes up, whether that’s 45 minutes later or 2 hours and 45 minutes later. I do the same in the afternoon if he takes a second nap. And then again at night if I’ve still got my wits about me.

I have been poring over research and blogs and professional association lit about the smartphone app market, where it’s been and where it’s headed. Who risks how much and how often to try to get their ideas out there like I’m working on doing with mine. How people collaborate – or don’t – and where to meet investors if you don’t live in Silicon Valley. It’s all fascinating to me, in a real and unlikely way. And while some people breathe business because money is, for them, the endgame, I see it all as means to an end.

My mission in this whopper of an adventure is gratitude for the 21st century. And while I’m not going to go into many more business details just yet, I believe it’s the worthiest of causes.

As a parent, does anything irk you more than moments when your own child could not be less grateful? It gets me right in the gut. Really. I do not love the prompting – “What do you say?” – how that feels as a parent or how inauthentic it feels to the recipient of the obligatory thank you. And it’s not just a matter of those two words, of course. I think gratitude is a way to view the world, a humility we don’t see enough, a way of grounding ourselves which cuts right through the noise of this modern life. It’s so much more than just two words.

I love taking time like this to think about the root of everything I’m doing. While the need to help provide for my family is strong, as is not wanting to bellyflop in front of basically everyone I know, the electricity which powers reading tech blogs and typing like a madwoman in my 90 degree office is the understanding that I have the chance to put something into the world that it may not have had without me and something it will be better for. I say that with belief, not arrogance.

And belief in an idea is basically all I have right now (unless you count the bones of a business plan which will surely need revision once someone else takes a look). But if behind one door there was $50,000 and behind the other the steadfast belief I feel that this can and will work, the choice is easy. While the funding is what I need to move forward, it’s my belief in this project which will help me navigate when the funding falls into place. So I am frustrated and impatient…and grateful.

(Hey there, Mother of Mayhem reader. First of all, my most sincere thanks for taking the time to read my stuff. It really means a lot to me. If you’d like to follow along on the more public, business face of this adventure, I invite you to visit our Coming Soon page, our FB page, and to follow us on Twitter . Stay tuned for more rock-your-world gratitude adventures!)

I’ll Follow the Sun

Middle school. The last day of school. You could power a medium-sized city if you could harness the energy here today. Looking at kids in the lunchroom, it’s almost as if I can see the molecules in their bodies, spinning in random, haphazard fashion—aimlessly but at breakneck speed. It is something to see. (Bring earplugs.)

I try to focus on these abstract, scientific interpretations because I am not yet ready to sink into the reality of my decision. There is nothing more self-centered that believing that things can’t go on without you. And that’s not exactly how I feel. I know that someone else will be helping kids cope with friendship rifts and broken hearts, making calls to social services and playing cheerleader when kids and adults are carrying loads that seem to be more than they can bear. But part of me still wants to be the one handling all of that, partly because I don’t have a clear view of my future life right now. And because I was good at doing all those things, and it’s satisfying to be in a situation doing things we’re good at.

I explained to my 7th graders yesterday that when I am at school it feels like there’s a hole in my heart because I’m away from my kids and that, come August, there will be a hole in my heart where they (my school kids) should be. But I wonder if that’s true. I feel like the few emotional situations that I dread are usually less horrendous and long-lasting than I anticipate in all my fretting about them. I’m not sure if this will be one of those.

Last week my husband suggested I go get a massage. I’ve been on edge, getting migraines, not sleeping well. I declined the massage because I was afraid of letting go of my stress too soon. This school year I had a baby, went on leave and then came back (reluctantly). That was a lot but not all. One of our students died in February, and we spent much of the rest of the year grieving and trying to regain our bearings. Then, in April, a female student went missing. A few days passed with no word from her—luckily, she reappeared, safe and sound. Then there are the daily heartaches that anyone who works with kids is familiar with: broken families, abuse, so many other non-academic situations which interfere with learning and—one of the hardest for me to help kids manage—getting through to adulthood without believing that hurtful things said about them are true.

I guess I just feel like I had the choice between quitting my job to attend daily therapy sessions or forcing all that emotion down as far as it would go. And I haven’t let it out since. So when my husband suggests I get a massage, I don’t visualize relaxation. I see myself breaking into a thousand pieces. And I can’t afford to do that yet.

My plan is to walk out my sadness and grief from this year and my uneasiness about what the future holds for me – walk it all out in the sun, wandering with my sons around our neighborhood, listening to music and letting all of the emotions seep out through my skin a bit at a time. Let it all swim out of my body with my sweat and evaporate out into the universe in particles so tiny they are harmless.

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Let the (Hunger) Games Begin!

I quit my job today. I guess resigned is a more appropriate description, as I went to speak with one of my district supervisors in my best heels and holding a carefully crafted letter. If you feel conflicted about quitting your job and want help with a resignation that indicates that you’ve long wrestled with that decision, seek me out. It’s not a skill I hope to use often, but apparently it’s one I possess.

I don’t have another job lined up. I think we’re still in a recession. My business is still several months away from any sort of official launch – my business is waiting for my end-of-the-school-year busyness to subside.

On the way home, I couldn’t find the right music to match my mood. I needed something jubilant with an undertone of a stunned OhMyGodOhMyGodOhMyGod. If you know what kind of music would complement that, please let me know.

I have jumped. I have climbed. And while I am a big fan of the cannonball (check out some previous posts if you don’t get the reference), there’s that lingering belly flop fear. Still, part of me knows that this may have been the hardest part, and it’s done.

Let the (hunger) games begin! And may the odds be ever in my favor.

Don’t Look Down!

I tend to think in metaphors. Right now, the imagery I am using to put my current situation into perspective is that of a rock climber. I’ve been bouldering for months by myself. It’s tiring, but around each turn there are unexpected finds that I would not have come across had I not been alone with my thoughts. My project idea has survived a few different reincarnations already, and I need to keep moving and protect the space in my head to get there.

Now I’m at the base of this mountain. It’s breathtaking – and terrifying. I’ve been able to get a little ways up by hoisting myself on fairly easy, obvious footholds. The branding process is complete, and our logo is perfect. It inspires me and is my vision for the company. The COMING SOON page on our website is in the works. I am off the ground but not high. Falling from here would injure my pride more than my body.

The next stage in the journey requires ropes, harnesses and expertise. I’ll need equipment which takes money – more than I have, of course, or this blog post would be irrelevant. The dilemma is one which is familiar to small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. The options are these: put my family’s house up as collateral to get an SBA loan, lose some autonomy and take on investors or put the project up on Kickstarter and risk someone else taking my idea and launching it before I can get funding together. I have posed all three as negative, though each one certainly has its advantages.

I know that people in business take calculated risks all the time. They use their understanding of the context surrounding their situation to decide whether to leap or to wait. And I suspect that they often do not regret having leaped at an inopportune time if that experience makes them wiser the next time around. Live and learn. But when you don’t have a string of successes beneath you to buffer a misstep, the stakes feel higher.

When the house where my kids sleep is on the line – or I risk losing the opportunity to pursue this dream altogether because I shared when I should have kept it close – I want to pull the ropes tighter, lean towards the rock and steady myself, wait until there’s no wind at all and think hard about my next move. But when in life does that strategy work out for anyone? In life, as in rock climbing, looking down is counterproductive and pointless. Eye on the prize – ever upward – and forward march.

Worst Case Scenario Dinner

Okay, folks. Things are decidedly closer to rocking and rolling.

I had a significant sit-down, worst-case-scenario talk with my husband about the potential (and probable) financial ramifications of quitting my job. We talked about how we could scale down to make it on less income, and I even prepped him for the possibility of turning off the cable (deep sigh from him) and my iPhone service (sniffle and forced brave face from me). I hadn’t thought to put that conversation on my list of things to do, so I wrote WORST CASE SCENARIO DINNER at the bottom and marked it off. Rock and roll.

But that’s not all the exciting stuff that’s happened this week. We have logo! Those crafty gents at Reactor Design Studio pitched me 4 logo ideas on Friday. I spent the weekend polling friends and family and walking by the printout of my favorite one posted on the fridge with wide eyes and squinty eyes and slowly and quickly and probably gained a few pounds as I stalked this prospective logo and opened the fridge to play it off. I needed to know that I felt comfortable with it, and I do. I made the final decision yesterday. It’s so awesome.

It feels amazing to finally have something tangible – albeit two-dimensional – to give this idea of mine some gravity on this planet. It’s not just all in my head anymore. Whoa. Wow. Yes.