Month: April 2020

Change, It Never Stops by Lois Hewitt

time for change sign with led light

Photo by Alexas Fotos on Pexels.com

Before I begin this post, I feel the need to add a little pretext as to the situation at hand.  For anyone reading this in the future (slight possibility, but I guess it could happen), this is 2020 and the world is in lockdown due to a pandemic of Covid-19.  It is a situation that seemingly took the world by surprise.

As I sit here in lockdown, I realize that I have had way too much time to contemplate about life and all the things that go with that.  I have only left the apartment three times in the last 35 or so days.  You can imagine how the mind reels.

This morning I was struck by a thought that I either had not yet considered or was pushing to the back of my brain for fear of even thinking it.  These are strange times, no doubt, but I have been able to keep my head about me.  That, in and of itself, is a miracle given my history of panic attacks.

I woke from a solid and restful sleep with the reality that life as we knew it is ceasing to exist.  Not in a Beyond Thunderdome or Walking Dead kind of way, but “business as usual” is going to be forever changed.

When I ventured out on my new life, as many of you already know, I struggled to find a new equilibrium.  I suffered from insecurity of not knowing where I belonged and what I should be doing.  Then amazing doors opened and I met people who changed my life, experiences that showed me new ways and I gained a confidence I lacked all my life.  The change was drastic and truly amazing.

I felt that I had found a place that I could be, a place to grow old in and a sense of belonging.  I found a job that, although I never dreamed of it, was perfect for me.  It filled me with passion and pride.  I met people who challenged me and who supported my growth.  I had set my sights on retiring from this place in five or so years. Then came the Corona virus.

In a few short months, many people’s ideas of life have dramatically changed, myself included.  Life as we know it will be forever altered.  I am not even speaking of the economic changes that are going to play out in the next year or so.  As I can barely balance my checkbook, I cannot speak about such things.  But it is going to be an adjustment for us all.  I am talking about how we, as humans, gather and how we deal with other humans.

I prefer to see the good that has come from this.  People lending hands where needed.  People caring about their neighborhoods and extended families.  People who are adapting to a new reality, such as working from home and other changes.  Humankind are a resilient lot.  Unfortunately some people have become more angry and less tolerant.  That is the flip side of the coin, and is an unfortunate yet normal reaction to dramatic times.

Some of us are in positions where working from home or in a small staffed office is not an option.  Many people, in my area alone, work in what is considered the service industry.  Our livelihoods are based on tourism and the spending of disposable income.  Granted, as soon as this is over some will be able to carry on as they had but many others are going to have a different life.  Playing catch up financially is going to be a norm for many.   Reopening businesses, hopefully as many as possible, will be the nature of the day.  But are the masses going to be able to eat out, go shopping and visit attractions?  These are questions that have no answers yet, they remain to be seen.

My mind, however, is reeling from the fact that just a few months ago I had decided how my next five or six years would play out.  Of course, anyone with any common sense knows nothing is a given.  Life changes in the blink of an eye, but I, for the first time really, was looking to the future with a plan.  Then along came the big bad wolf and blew my house (of cards) down.  I am hoping that I get to continue doing what I am doing, but with the full knowledge it will not be the same as it was before.  Everyone will emerge from this pandemic different.

I am reminded that life has a way of taking your plans, no matter how thought out or how generous, and placing them in a cosmic blender, breaking them to pieces and creating something entirely new from the shards.  I have lived through the pureeing process before.  Easy it is not, but being better for it all can be done.  I guess we all have to wait to see how this plays out.  What things return, what things disappear and what things transform.  I have not one answer to any of the questions, but I am guessing it is time to get the big girl panties out of storage and put them on again.  I must learn to remember EVERYTHING CHANGES!!

So as it has been said before me “It looks like its going to be a bumpy night” but, at least, we have a new day to look forward to.

Can you afford it? By Lois Hewitt

Many years ago, deep into my retail addiction and self-induced looming financial disaster, I started an eBay store. It was small at first and over a period of about ten years grew into a store with over 600 items. The idea was this online store would be my financial saving grace. Over the ten or so years of having it, there was money made. Did it pay for itself, not really…

In order to make money on eBay, at least in my experience, you need really nice stuff that you are able to sell at a good price, stuff you just cannot find anymore and/or lots of cheap stuff that people still want but will buy cheaply. I had a mixture of each. Honestly though, mostly discontinued foreign stuff.

One day, I got the idea that if I opened a real shop I could (1) reclaim all the space in my house that was warehousing all the stuff and (2) make some money.

I had a friend who happened to have a small retail space available and I rented it for a very reasonable price per month. I got the licenses, insurance and etc. I never realized how much stuff you really needed to actually open a shop and just how many fixture you would need. I learned on the fly.

My husband made me furniture and I began filling the shop. I was able to buy quite a bit of inventory from another shop that was closing down (a red flag perhaps?). I sold jewelry, figurines, scarves, dresses, books, greeting cards and such.

The first day I switched the sign on the door from closed to open was exciting. I could feel all my dreams being fulfilled… Or did I?

Some people liked the shop but didn’t buy anything. Some people hated it and didn’t buy anything. Most people had an opinion on what to sell and how much to charge. Eager to please I listened to every suggestion. Mostly, I learned that I was not selling enough American made products.

I actually agreed with that consensus so I began scouring the Internet for small American businesses that I could buy from. I found a handful that made quality products and that I could afford. Many of the items I liked I could not afford even at wholesale pricing.

My thought was that I would start out small and then I could reinvest in more and varied products later. I made a lot of Made in America signs and did my displays in the front of the shop and waited for all the happy customers.

You could tell immediately that the quality was better. You could tell the items were made with care. You could also tell the pricing was much higher than the foreign mass produced items. I did not take as much of a markup because I felt strongly about selling these products. I figured quality over quantity was my new business model.

I waited for sales to start and I waited some more. The reviews were great but I was told repeatedly that the pricing was too high. I lowered the pricing and continued to wait. Lowered the pricing to just above my cost, made bigger and flashier signs. The sales never really came.

Now let me stop here for a moment, I had a lot of really good friends who supported my shop. They kept me afloat and I can never thank them enough. I also had a handful of customers who supported me. I was truly blessed.

The problem lies in that in order to pay rent, insurance, taxes, inventory and costs associated with selling goods, you need to sell a lot. Many days I made no sales at all. My main daily totals were under $50 a day. Luckily, I was working at a paying job during this time or the doors would have closed much sooner.

Almost one year to the date of opening, I sold my entire inventory at a huge loss, took down my store sign and closed the doors for good.

I know what you may be thinking… Maybe I just was not savvy enough to own my own shop. I agree. Maybe the economy was really bad and opening a retail store was financially a bad idea. I agree. There are a lot more reasons why I should never have done this, but I did. I had some fun, met some amazing people and finally realized that I needed to change my life completely. This was the last thing I did in Ohio. The realization that my life was not working finally came true to me. Soon after this I left and did not turn back.

What is the moral of this long story? Everyone talks about buying American. We all want to do it. It is the right thing to do in order to supply jobs in this country. The more we produce, the less dependency we have on other countries. Just be prepared for the sticker shock.

In order to provide living wages and the other financial aspects people need to live, the products have to cost more. I am, in no way, an economist but common sense dictates that in order to provide sustainable profits, a lot of customers need to buy your products. This is easier said than done.

Disposal income is harder and harder to come by as the prices of necessities continue to climb. People are, rightfully so, downsizing. Demands of certain items are just not enough to make the manufacturing process worthwhile.

I’m not saying don’t buy American. I try whenever possible to buy American full well knowing it is going to cost more because I have seen it first hand.

So many people clamored for American made but then balked at the price. The next time you are in the situation and you have to choose to buy American or foreign, please think it through. Not every item that is expensive to buy is making the seller rich. There are some sellers who have only the intent of that but many, especially small sellers, are just trying to keep their head above water. Knowing your seller is helpful when trying to weigh out all the considerations.

This is not an easy issue. I struggle every time I need something. I just hope my experience helps you make decisions right for you.

As we see our lives change due to the current situations, thoughtfulness has to become part of our every day process. Stay well and safe!

Lessons from Lockdown by Lois Hewitt

I made a promise to myself that I would not profit from the 2020 Covid-19 quarantine, then I realized that I make no money from this blog anyway. So here are the lessons I have learned since I have been quarantined for over three weeks now.

1. I suck at Jeopardy but I’m kicking it on Wheel of Fortune. I always knew this was the case, but now I have proof.

2. I LOVE to eat! I didn’t honestly realize how much I actually like cooking either. I have been enjoying planning meals, organizing shopping lists (with no hoarding) and cooking it all. I have not really baked since I left Ohio. I am totally enjoying all the homemade goodies that I am making.

3. I can survive as a vegetarian. Mike has been a vegetarian for about 40 years and I have always tried to maintain being a vegetarian when at home. Going out…. It’s always meat. Since we are not going out or even take out, I have adhered to being a vegetarian and am happy with the results. I thought I would get so weak without a hamburger or steak. Turns out the less you eat meat, the less you want it. This also goes for sugar which I am cutting back on.

4. Cleaning… Not so much. I thought I would jump at the chance to deep clean every surface. I thought the only thing holding me back was time. Turns out I just don’t care. Don’t get me wrong, I clean. Just not Martha Stewart clean. I am not cleaning every nook and cranny with a toothbrush. Not happening. Decluttering is more my thing. Clutter is the enemy.

5. Not leaving the apartment is okay. In the time since this started I have left the apartment only twice. I’m good with that. Back in my questionable days, I had an almost two year stint of barely leaving the house. This is nothing compared to that.

6. Motivation can be difficult for me. I really hate to admit that but I do not always use my time responsibly if I know I can do it tomorrow or the next day. It seems to me that it is the mandated schedule from work that keeps me on task. I have gotten better at completing attainable to do lists daily, but it is a struggle at times.

7. With that being said, I do not write as much as I thought I would. I dreamed of time (not under these circumstances, of course) when I could freely write. I dreamt of my time being spent like Ernest Hemingway, writing my amazing opus, the one that would change the world. Again, not happening. This makes me very sad. In the back of my mind I worry that I have nothing of interest to say.

8. Depression easily seeps in during down times. It is a bad mixture of unrealized accomplishments with a slash of pointlessness. The news is overwhelming, everyone has an opinion and it is very easy to see only the dark side. I now turn off any posts where people are yelling or violent toward each other. I don’t know when our society went from basically cordial to downright aggressive over even the slightest infraction. This breaks my heart and makes me fearful. I do not react well to bullies, and so many people express their frustrations in negative ways. I need to overcome that fear.

9. Fear of the unknown. This is a situation many have never dealt with before. Fear is running high. I don’t mind staying in but I am also fearful of going out. I have taken this opportunity to explore a few online learning opportunities. I am taking a couple Theology courses and upped my time in Bible study.

My Christianity has been my comfort during good and bad times. I know God’s word but I have not studied it in depth. The words I am reading fill me with comfort and peace even during the uncertainty of these times. I am reminded of the bigger picture and how I am not in control of the chaos.

I want to control all that is happening but that is not my job. My job is to be patient, make a difference if at all possible and make choices every day that bring a positive impact into the tiny place that I call my world. Amazing things happen as do scary things. I cannot change that. But I can learn to choose the way to process the information and move forward differently. I do not need to be fearful or depressed as I know God is in charge.

I have forgotten that fact from time to time in my life. I tend to try to control it all. It is just to exhausting. So today I plan to choose to be more motivated and less fearful. I may even step outside on the porch today. It all starts with one tiny step.

Please be safe out there. This is a scary time. I know not everyone believes as I do, so I truly hope you can find peace during these trying times. If you do believe in God, hang onto Him tight.

For many years I volunteered at a shelter for victims of domestic violence. My heart and prayers go out to anyone that is locked down with an abuser. Please seek help.