The Beginning of a Journey

"The New Fred Meyer on Interstate on Lomb...

“The New Fred Meyer on Interstate on Lombard” (7404 N Interstate Ave, Portland, OR 97217). This version has additional correction to correct for poor white balance and slight counterclockwise rotation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We all know we should be eating healthy. It’s almost instinctual. Similarly, we also know that eating fast food all the time will not make you healthy. It will, in fact, make you fat.

But what about other things, the things we don’t often see? How about the food in those boxes at the grocery store? Perhaps, on some instinctual level, we realize that that is not real food, either. It’s processed. 

Maybe you grew up in a traditional family and learned all about the old paths. Maybe you’re just now learning about the harmful chemicals in what you thought was “healthy” food. Or maybe you’re somewhere in between, or none of the above. Either way, you’re here for a reason. We’re all on some stage of a journey to real food. We all have different motives. But the end result is the same- health.

In that quest for good, nutrient-dense food, there comes the ever-present question of cost. It’s an understandable question, really. Organic is often insanely expensive, and buying fresh produce all the time just isn’t realistic for some people. And what about those who don’t, for one reason or another, have access to a farm?

That’s what this is for. Maybe you’re on food stamps and you’re only limited to the stores, because EBT doesn’t work for farms and online stores. Maybe you’re in the city and there isn’t a farm near you. Not everyone can take shortcuts.

I want to show you that it IS still possible. I’m not perfect; I’m still on my own journey to real food. I still eat Cheerios, and I still make a quick run to McDonald’s upon occasion. We’re all in different stages. But that’s why it’s a journey, and not an immediate life change.

So- how do you eat healthy when most of what’s available to you is processed in some form or another? Walk with me, and I’ll show you quick tips to good eating. Take what you can, and leave what doesn’t work for you. We’re all different; what may work for me may not work for you. I’ll also share some tips on things that may not work for myself, but they may work for your family.

This goes beyond just healthy eating. In the process, I’ll also show you how you can cut corners on other areas, as well. Stick with me, friend, and maybe we’ll both learn something new!

The $5 Challenge

YOU. Yes, you. I have a challenge for you.

Every week, I’ll post a challenge. It can be about anything, on any topic. They will challenge the way you think, the way that you see the world. It will make you think, forcing you to step back and reevaluate. In the end, you may find that it will change your world.

Today’s challenge: $5

What can you do with five dollars? Buy a cup of coffee? Get a meal at McDonald’s? Maybe a new shirt off the clearance rack?

What can five dollars do? As that Abe Lincoln crosses the counter to the cashier, it seems small. Insignificant. It won’t pay your bills. It will hardly put gas in your car- not enough to be worthwhile.

Helping someone? Reaching out? What can five dollars do? It won’t solve the hunger crisis. It won’t buy a house for a single mom with no home for her kids.

Five dollars can mean a lot. This tiny, insignificant bill can mean the difference between a smile and a frown. It can change a life.

A small meal for the guy at the corner. A few items for the lady behind you at the Dollar Store. A coffee for a tired co-worker. A card to say you’ve missed seeing someone at church.

5 dollars

5 dollars (Photo credit: leff)

What can five dollars do? Five dollars is a lot. You don’t need a million bucks to change the world. Just $5. That’s all.

This week (and if you’re brave, do it every week!), use five dollars JUST on someone else. Don’t skimp- if the tax pushes it over $5, pay it anyway.

Five dollars. Change a life.

State assistance in the real world

Before I get into the meat of the series, I want to add some disclaimers. Many people have a warped view of those who live on “state assistance.” I can’t tell you how many comments I’ve heard about those who “bum off the government.” About giving up your toys, your gadgets, your fancy new cars. About how if you would just work hard, you’ll be able to make ends meet.

Let me tell you, it doesn’t always work that way. I didn’t grow up that way. Growing up, we hardly ever went out to eat- it was a treat that only came once in a while. When we did go, we got the economical meals. No happy meals from McDonalds- all the kids knew that the dollar menu was our limit. Often, we shared a drink- one large drink for all eight kids.

Oh yes, did I mention there were EIGHT of us? Eight kids on a single income that didn’t even bring in that much. Oh, I can’t even begin to tell you the comments I’ve heard on THAT one. Disparaging comments about the number of kids in a family, and how if we didn’t have so many, we wouldn’t need state assistance. Etc, etc, etc.

Let me tell you, I ENJOY every single one of my siblings. I couldn’t imagine life without them. Comments like that… they make me bristle. Just at the idea of not having my wonderful baby brother- you’re stroking the tiger now, just sayin’. (Did I mention I’m one of the oldest? Yeah…. protective big sister, you know.)

So. There’s a lot of really, really rude comments. A lot of misconceptions, a lot of assumptions. A lot of judgement. And quite frankly, it’s annoying. Worse than annoying. So I’m just going to get it out there right now- families on state assistance are doing the best they can. They’re working hard, coming home exhausted, cutting corners, and trying their best to hold on to everything. You’ve never seen “tight-budgeted” until you’ve seen a family attempt to live on less than $30,000 a year. And sometimes that’s the best that they can get.

These are the people I’m speaking to, directly. But I wanted the disclaimer that they’re not being catered to, they’re not bumming. So STOP making them ashamed for who they are. Don’t make them ashamed to pull out that telltale card at the checkout line. For some, it’s enough to swallow their pride and ask for help at all. So… just some understanding– or failing that, silence.

Weekly Challenge: Resolutions

I had a post ready for you last week. Really. But, it seemed that the computer and WordPress site conspired against me and deleted my post. Yup, there went the entire thing. It was a good post, too. I really missed it.

Well, as is often the case whenever something like that happens, I lost the inclination to write. I don’t like having to rewrite something I’ve already written. (Who does?)

So, I made the executive decision to call it a holiday. After all, it was Christmas/New Year’s, right? We’ll just take that excuse for right now.

Anyway, holidays are over and it’s back to the normal grindstone. That means it’s back to (semi) normal postings, right? So with that said, here’s my challenge for the week:

Today’s challenge: Resolutions.

Let’s face it. Who doesn’t have things they want to fix? There’s always those little things that we know we need to get to, things that need worked on. Relationships, our job, life, our weight… something needs fixin’. We have this niggling feeling in the back of our minds that something needs to change.

And so we resolve. New year, new beginnings, right? And this year, we’ll DO it!

We resolve. And we may even make an effort. With luck, we’ll last til the end of the month. Most have already broken it two weeks in. (Yes, I saw that cookie you snitched yesterday- don’t worry, everyone else does it, too.)

Today, I’m proposing a change. Be honest. Resolutions don’t really work, do they? They’re too broad, too vast. We’ll make the resolution to work out more, to lose weight- but where is the specificity? Where is the motivation?

With no motivation, there’s no change. So before you make a resolution, first get motivated. It’s more than just “I’ll feel better if… .”

Be specific. What would you like to do once you’ve reached your goal? Maybe your goal is to work more in the garden. Why? So you can have better fruit to enjoy in harvest! Losing weight? What activities do you envision yourself doing, that you couldn’t easily do before? Maybe playing a game of flag football at the park with the kids?

Give yourself a reason to do what you’ve resolved to do. With a reason, you’ll find the motivation. The better the reason, the bigger the motivation.

What are your resolutions? And what are you going to do with them?

 

Nutrition on more than just a budget

Tasty Food Abundance in Healthy Europe

Tasty Food Abundance in Healthy Europe (Photo credit: epSos.de)

I grew up in a low-income family. We (almost) never went out to eat, and clothes came from the Goodwill, and then only if you absolutely needed them. Foreclosures and repossessed cars were common. We moved around a lot, once even staying with my dad’s father- five kids in one small bedroom. Most people would find it small just for one person.

That lifestyle also included food stamps. In fact, early into my marriage, I came to the shocking realization that I just kind of expected food stamps to be a part of life. No, I wasn’t “bumming” off the government. I just never expected to financially stable enough to buy my own food. To have one or two or three hundred dollars from your own pocket to buy food was incomprehensible to me. Who has that much money?

Consequently, I felt separated from everyone. Those who could casually talk about the things they buy or going out to eat, seemed to me to be just brazenly announcing how much money they had. How much they were not like me. I still struggle with that.

When it comes to my grocery shopping, these feelings are compounded. I’ve been doing a lot of research. Do you have any idea what is in our foods?? Most of it isn’t good. Much of it is toxic. There are few options for true “healthy” eating at a grocery store. The ones that are good, like organics, are insanely expensive. Again, who has that kind of money?

If you recognize what I’m talking about, then you’re the one I want to talk to. In my search for good nutrition, I’ve read a lot about buying from the farm. About getting good, grass-fed meat straight from the butcher. And I can’t help but think- those doors are closed to me. I can’t do that. I can only get what the state allows.

So I want to take a different spin on things. I want to show, from a “poor family’s” perspective, just what you CAN do to get your family good, healthy food. Because for a certain class of people, it’s more than just “living on a budget.” It’s being limited in your options, because you can only go to certain stores with that EBT card.

Follow me on my journey, and maybe you’ll learn some tips yourself. Healthy eating CAN be possible, even if the farm is not.

Business in social media: What to post

Before you even start your business, you should create a Facebook page. Before you apply for that store location, you should be posting status updates.

Why? Because it generates interest. People get excited about something new.

Keep in mind, it does come with a price. Maintaining a Facebook page for an unestablished business is more difficult than keeping one that has been around for years.

However, there’s no arguing the potential advantages it can give you. It does mean that what you’ll be posting will be slightly different.

So when you don’t have sales and new products, what do you post? Here are a few quick suggestions:

Updates
Your company Facebook page acts just like your personal profile. The idea is to post updates about your life, sharing it with friends and family. The same concept goes for your business.

I think Patrick describes it well here. Facebook, and social media in general, is about relationships. You develop a relationship with people, and they will follow you. No relationship, and they’ll forget about you in a week. What’s more, they’ll be more likely to turn on you. With a foundation for a relationship, they’ll be more forgiving.

Updates secure that relationship; they develop it. It draws in your followers, lets them know what you’re doing. It doesn’t have to be a new product introduction, but if you tell them that your application for a business license was just approved, they’ll cheer with you. Continual updates make them a part of your journey, and they’ll love you for it.

Goals and deadlines
Not only does it keep you accountable on what you’re doing, it also gives them something to look forward to. This pays off as you build anticipation for the coming date. Add a grand opening, and the anticipation doubles, and you might find yourself overrun when you finally DO open.

Pictures
People relate to visuals; it helps them to see things. It also makes your posts more eye-catching. Any time you’re at an event, whether it be a trade show or even just out shopping for business supplies, use that as an excuse to take a picture. It generates interest, and also serves as proof that you’re actually doing something.

Shoutouts*
Two birds with one stone: you get to share something that is important to you AND you just might get something in return. Shoutouts are when you single out a specific person, organization, or item, in order to bring attention to it. It’s a great way do a friend a favor while at the same time increasing your own page.

Fact is, while you may not have all the neat updates of a long-established company, you do have something you can contribute. It’s a fickle world and you better deliver, but the payoff is well worth it. You’ll build a loyal customer base and by the time you open shop, with any luck you’ll have a ready stream of customers.

*This is really too large a topic to cover in one post, but I at least wanted to address it. I’ll post a more detailed explanation on it next week, including tips and a short description of online etiquette. Stay tuned!

 

Weekly Challenge: Taking Action

YOU. Yes, you. I have a challenge for you.

Every week, I’ll post a challenge. It can be about anything, on any topic. They will challenge the way you think, the way that you see the world. It will make you think, forcing you to step back and reevaluate. In the end, you may find that it will change your world.

Today’s challenge: Taking action
Some of my posts are inspired by daily events. So it is in this case. News travels fast. In the Internet world, it’s even faster. This morning, this world exploded with the stunning, horrifying news: school shooting. 27 dead. Most of them are children, far too young for their lives to be cut so short. Those who made it through- did they really? Their innocence is destroyed; that childish sense of safety, where all the world is their playground, where the bad guy always gets his- that illusion is broken by the chaotic sounds of shots firing.

Most of us, however, lay untouched by these events. We sit shocked, horrified, but in the morning we’ll get up just as we always did. We’ll sleep tonight, wondering how such horror could happen, and we’ll get up in the morning and go to our jobs, our holiday vacations, family times, and party nights. We might go to church on Sunday and stand vigil, meditating in prayer for those who died.

But what has changed? We’ll spend Sunday morning in vigil, and then dismiss to cheer for our respective football teams at the next game. Has it really made a difference?

I want to challenge you today. We’ve all heard the cliche phrases about holding your loved ones close, about living your life fully because tomorrow is not promised.

Today, I want to take that a step further. Tomorrow is not promised- all the more reason to do all that we “would have done.” What’s holding you back, really? There’s always a reason not to. Today, you have more reason to just DO IT.

Mourning over those lost changes nothing. It’s sad, but unless you were there or someone you love was affected, you won’t be. Because until then, it’s just a story. It’s just a story, until it happens to you. And so we sigh over a story, we talk about what must be done, we wonder what we would feel like in the same situation. We argue and debate over how to prevent this in the future (yes, I find myself guilty of the same), and we tsk that such a horrible incident could ever occur in peaceful Connecticut.

We mourn, and we move on, and in the end, it’s just another day in the life, another bad story in the headlines. But stop for a minute- what if it WAS you? Read the personal stories of those affected, listen to the news accounts… and then act. Maybe do something directly- campaign for gun laws, or against them, or raise money for safer schools.

But you don’t even need to go that far. How about reaching out to someone around you, someone who needs it? We are surrounded by people every day, people that we walk by with nary a word. We glance at them, maybe we nod, and we move on, unaffected.

Today- be affected by the stories around you. Make them your stories, and take action.

Being a start-up business in social media has its own challenges…

Last week, I discussed the best time to start social networking for your business as part of a series on social networking. (Check here for the beginning of the series: an explanation of social networking and what it has to do with your business.) Social networking can be a fickle thing and is confusing to many, especially for those starting new businesses. Instinct says to wait until your business is established before creating a Facebook page.

In this post, I explained why that’s not the best idea. It’s still doable and it’ll work, but for the greatest impact, you want to create your Facebook page before you even begin your business– even when you’re still in the research stage.

Doing this comes with its own set of challenges, however. A Facebook page for a start-up business is a lot different from one that’s long since established. You don’t have sales to advertise. You don’t have a new line of products to introduce. You may not even have a location to invite people to.

But you can’t just let it slide, either. Continuous updates will be the catalyst for the success of your business. People are quick to forget and quick to move on. They won’t wait around for you to get started.

If a known, established business, say, Walmart, goes a few weeks or even a month without posting, people aren’t likely to miss it. And, they’ll still shop at Walmart. Why? Because Walmart is already firmly established in people’s minds as the go-to place for shopping. They already know it’s there, and they know where to find it.

You don’t have that advantage. You miss a post, and people are likely to forget you. I’ve seen pages who have gone months without posting, and finally post a status update. The result was many angry fans who’d forgotten they had even liked the page and questioned why the post even appeared on their newsfeed. They lost likes over it.

People are fickle. The harshest critic of you and your company isn’t the media or the investors; it’s the consumers. In my last post, I mentioned the reason for creating your business social network early is to make people a part of your journey. The downside of that is the risk of leaving them out of your journey.

People need to be a part of something. When you offer an invitation to join, but don’t deliver, they’ll forget about you at best and feel jilted at worst.

Having a Facebook page for a start-up business isn’t impossible. It’s just not the same as a business that’s already established. It has its own perks, but it also has its own challenges.

Start a Facebook page- or any other social media account- early. Get it going before you even start your business. But to make it successful, you need to deliver. Commit to posting at least once a week. No, you don’t have sales… but you have other things. And sometimes, it’s those unique posts that send your success soaring.

So what do you post, if not sales and product announcements? I’ll share that part with you next week!

Weekly Challenge: Making A Difference

Child 1

Child 1 (Photo credit: Tony Trần)

Do you want to make a difference? Most everyone answers yes. Stories of those who have actually gone out and done so are hugely popular.

You want to make a difference. But what have you done to do so? Maybe you drop a dollar in the donation jar at the register. Maybe you give Santa a few bucks as he rings his Salvation Army-issued bell outside the Walmart. Maybe you even signed up for one of those “Adopt a Child” programs.

But what have you done, really?

You fed a child for a day, for a month. Your purchase helped buy schoolbooks for a classroom in Africa. Your donation helped the homeless shelter reach out to another family.

What is all that? What does it mean to make a difference?

Maybe it isn’t even about them. It could be about many things, depending on who you talk to. Bettering the lives of others, helping the less fortunate, saving the world…

It’s about YOU. You, the one donating your hard-earned cash. You, spending a little extra time with someone. You, giving some sort of inconsequential gift to someone who has less.

Do you see? Those are what makes the difference. It isn’t feeding the children in Africa; it’s not building houses in Mexico; it’s not even standing for hours dishing out warmed-over soup in a homeless shelter.

Those matter, but not everyone can do it. But there are other things…

It’s the brief smile you give a child, the extra ten seconds you wait to hold the door for someone. Spend an extra five or ten dollars and pay for the one behind you in the coffee line. Strike a conversation with someone while waiting for the bus. Carry groceries out to the car for an older lady.

It’s those smaller acts that change the world. Because when it comes down to it, it becomes about you. Those acts don’t change others as much as, eventually, it changes yourself. And by changing yourself, you can reach so many others.

It has to start somewhere. Start it in the grocery line.

Social networking: An invitation for a journey of a lifetime

Well, last week was a day off, thanks to the holiday and the craziness. No, I didn’t go “Black Friday shopping” this year… I had my own craziness at home to deal with. I thought we were just putting up Christmas decorations… well, turns out my husband had other ideas, and well, the decorations are still sitting in the box they’ve been stored in for the last year. But, I do have to admit- my living room looks a whole lot better now with a little rearranging!

Anyway, we’re back on track for work now, and that means- yes, I did promise to explain why now is the best time to set up that Facebook account for your business.

So. We’ve already looked at why social media is absolutely necessary for your business. Gotta reach those people where they’re at, right? With that said, when is the best time to start? I say it’s before you even establish your business.

Wait, what? How do you have a site for your business when you don’t even have a business yet? I’ll give you a few good reasons.

People love start-ups.

Ever hear a success story and get that good feeling deep down? Why do newspapers and periodicals constantly focus on start-up businesses? Because everyone loves a good success story. Everyone loves to hear how some blue-collar underdog managed to build a successful business.

Even better is when they’re part of the story. Everyone wants to be a part of something, to later say, “I was there when they first started.”

Why start your online presence now? It allows your customer base to become part of your story. It’s an invitation to join you on your journey, to watch your business grow. It holds a romantic appeal for others, those who would come along simply to share the exhilaration of success.

It’s your journey. But when you create a social media network, it becomes theirs as well.

Next week: Tips and warnings about starting online before you start your business.