Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Dog Days of Summer

It seemed like a good idea at the time:

1. Getting a dog

2. Having shaving cream ‘summer fun daze’ on the trampoline

3. Allowing a raccoon carcass to bake in the back yard’s 100+ degree Texas heat as buzzard bait in a failed ‘Witness the Magnificent Food Chain!’ biology lesson for the kids

4. Leaving the dog in the back yard (see #3)

5. Starting a business

The dog thing, I can (kind of) explain.

We’ve always been cat people but Travis has been hounding me since he first saw the picture that ‘came with the frame’ of a little blonde boy and a giant golden lab smiling cheerfully in a Father’s Knows Best mirage of family bliss. He had been fantasizing about a Lassie relationship since he could walk and well, a breast cancer diagnosis can cause the ‘life is short’ mantra to be misapplied sometimes. Woefully so, I’m finding. Forget that now – when told on punishment of death or no screens for a week that he MUST walk the dog, we are met with the hostility and cold stare only a 10-year-old can muster.

Starting a business, on the other hand, with no time, no money, and absolutely no experience should have been the siren cry for my friends and family to wave the checkered flag saying “Whoa, lady, you have enough on your plate! Might want to rethink this!” Starting a business in this day and age is no small thing, whether it is an internet e-commerce startup or a mortar-and-bricks manufacturing enterprise or even a kiosk at the local mall, it really can only compare to raising a child. Thankless, back breaking work (especially in the early years of childhood) and endless worries in good health and poor. Why would anyone ever procreate or start a business, I now ask? My office and house is a disaster. As a mother of four and a new business owner, I am a walking cautionary tale.

“Gee, you really know how to make things hard on yourself.” These were the encouraging words of my twin sister, Denise, upon hearing the news that I was pregnant with my third child. Travis (#2) had gotten out of diapers only six months earlier. You should have heard what Denise said when I told her I was pregnant with Caroline (#4) when Sabrina (#3) was only 5 months old.
There’s something about the truth though, that gets under your skin. She’s right. I do this to myself over and over again. I must have been out of my freaking mind to think I could start and grow a business in the summer months when all four of my children were underfoot, bickering, and asking hounding me about their next meal (ramen noodles and bananas).

It seemed like a good idea at the time to capitalize on a breast cancer diagnosis with a new, innovative creation that would solve a problem that has been vexing mastectomy patients for years. Make lemonade out of lemons. I love every time I get a new order for my ‘Pink Pockets’ patient pockets to hold drains and the testimonials from my customers warm my heart. And it’s not just because I am making money because I am not. I am awash in an industry of competing non-profits who pay themselves first – donation money, whatever there is, goes to the ‘administration of the nonprofit first’ and what is left over, goes to beneficiaries of the charity. I actually recently had a person accuse me of 'profiteering on the misery of others' because I'm selling my invention rather than giving it away.

When you are a for-profit endeavor – you pay yourself LAST – until you can generate a profit or go out of business. Or lose your sanity, whichever comes first. I’m sorry to say that there are a few (not all) non-profits in this space that give tireless effort to cure breast cancer or other diseases a bad name. Beware the cancer carpetbaggers preying on the great generosity of the US citizen. They are the exception to the rule to be sure but they are still among us nonetheless.

I drive my 13-year-old daughter to and from swim team every day and I’m always encouraged as I make this hour round trip at all the small businesses I pass along the way. Storefronts and vehicles with small company names painted on the side. I point them out and am encouraged by the fortitude and hard work I know now has gone into the life’s blood of the people I don’t know that have scrimped and saved or loaned and risked to make and grow a business. It’s a really humbling experience to dive into the unknown and most days, what I am learning about sales tax remittance and SEO and product packaging makes me feel dumber rather than smarter, which is not a great confidence builder at my age.

When I’m feeling my lowest, though, I just recall a conversation I had with my husband a few years back. We were talking about me taking a new job and what resume-speak phrases I ought to avoid and what experiences to highlight when our daughter Sabrina, then 4, asked what we were discussing. I told her that I was thinking about taking a new job and she said to me “But Mom, you already have a job. You take care of us.” I just need to remember that whatever happens, being a mom really is my most important job and I’ll have it the rest of my life. Who knows where and how long my job as President and Founder of Surgical Drain Solutions, LLC will last but I’ll always be Mom-In-Chief (to quote First Lady Michelle) to Danielle, Travis, Sabrina, and Caroline. While I’ll never get paid for this work, the return on investment is too great to measure. And the dog? Well, I guess she can stay as long as she continues to earn her keep scaring away solicitors and ding-dong-ditchers. Her bark, like mine, is definitely worse than her bite.

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Linda Medrano said...

You are simply amazing! I'm really so impressed. The things you've done and tried show such a wonderful spirit! I doubt anything will ever really hold you back with whatever you want to do. Yes, you are a little crazy, but in the best way imaginable! You rock, Diane!

Wendi said...

A treat to read, as always. I wish you'd write more, but you have plenty of other things...

The raccoon? Oy.