Monthly Archives: August 2008

An update from outside the box

I realize that starting a business is technically NOT considered operating outside the box.  Probably more like creating another box, really.  My box is going to have to fit somewhere inside of or at least next to other boxes already in existence.

But I’ve never had a box before.  I feel like a toddler who, upon opening an awesome new present, only wants to play with the box.  Mostly because there isn’t much inside my box right now, there’s pretty much only the cardboard walls and a couple of flaps to twiddle with at this point.

What happened was, I went to the local rec center to propose a Spanish conversation class, and the director loved the idea.  He gave me an instructor application which I brought home and proceeded to fill out.

Turns out I need a license from the city.  

So okay, I look up “business privilege license” on the web (“privilege:” presumably they don’t want you to forget that earning a living is not a right) and get to the appropriate form which I download and print.  I dutifully begin to fill in the blanks on that form.

Turns out I need something called a “Federal Tax ID,” which I again look up online and am directed to the IRS site on which one may get an “Employer Identification Number,” which is essentially starting a new business and getting the little number that you will put on your tax return.

The really cool part about all this is that it was fun.  I’m learning that I know when I’m on the right track when my enthusiasm mounts rather than dwindles as I encounter twists in the road.  Instead of sobbing hysterically and wailing “Why meeeeee?” in my most pathetic voice, which is my M.O. when ambushed by red tape, I was getting jazzed.  My own business, huh?  Pick out a name, pick out some goals, allow your inspiration to coalesce around a box, inside which you can put your brilliant ideas, then your efforts, and maybe someday your accomplishments?

Yeah, alright.  Let’s do it.

It’s still only in the embryonic stage.  If I showed you the ultrasound it wouldn’t even look like a box, it would just be a lump in the form of a tax identification number stuck to a dream.

But someday maybe it will be a lovely strong box, oak, perhaps stained a warm brown in homage to the cups of coffee that inspired it, with forest green trim, and it will have little ribbons connecting outward to tutoring clients and language classes, to translation jobs and writing projects, and it will be bubbling happily with words.

That’s the plan, anyhow.

I’ll keep you posted.

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Pursuing happiness

Like with a harpoon.  Or a high-powered rifle.

It is a basic American right but we misread it with alarming regularity.  We translate “pursuit” as “sit on the couch and wait for it to be advertised.”

I was raised by great parents, don’t get me wrong, but ambition and go-getting were never part of my lesson plan.  My parents were amazing when it came to including me in projects that they themselves were working on.  My Mom let me stick pins into her tomato pin cushion as she took them out of the pant leg she was hemming.  My Dad always made sure I was on hand to fetch a tool for him, and I prided myself on knowing what a vice grips was.

But if I wanted to take on something by myself… forget it.  Key phrases I distinctly remember as responses to my project ideas: Mom: “Maybe someday…”or “Well, I don’t think so.”  My Dad was a veritable font of encouragement, greeting my attempts at pretty much anything, from laundry to baking, with: “Does your mother know you’re doing this?” and, my favorite, “You’re just going to screw that up.”

So I used this upbringing as my excuse for being a passive slouch in my 20’s.  That’s what the 20’s are for, really, blaming your screwed up life on your parents and popping open another cold one to replace the baby bottle you wish you were still sucking on.

Then, with any luck, you turn 30.  Or maybe you have kids.  Either way, you realize it’s time to grow up.  You realize that, considering the messed up state of government, traffic and the universe, your parents didn’t do half bad.  It finally dawns on you that, hey, what you do every minute of every day has as great an impact on the world as what they did.  You realize that someday, someone is liable to blame everything, from the president’s idiocy to the drought to their own bruised self-esteem, on yours truly.

Time to make it count.

Lately, being a stay at home mom and thusly contributing precisely jack to our family’s economy, I have been wishing that I could work outside the 9 to 5 box, get a few off-the-beaten-path gigs going, like say a couple of tutoring clients or a translation assignment, maybe a freelance essay published, just a few things that will allow me to continue the priceless work I do taking care of my family and home while covering a couple of bills.

I’ve been hiding in the shadows with my list of ideas, feeling shy and unconfident.  And suddenly ridiculous.  These jobs ain’t gonna drag themselves out of the woodwork.  

What else is this life for but shooting for the moon?  What else does being a grown-up mean but taking the full blame and credit for how I spend my life energy, which is the only currency we truly have with which to purchase satisfaction?

Who am I if I am not pushing my boundaries, trying to grow out of those unhelpful characteristics which I developed, for whatever reason that now no longer matters, when I was just a pup?  I will never know who I am and what I can do if I don’t move forward, fueled by the visions, however improbable, that infuse me with enthusiasm when I chance to glance their way.

A secret: happiness IS the pursuit.  

Getting there, if we ever do, would just be icing.

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Vaccine hysteria

I’ve been following the controversy over immunizations for many years, and the only thing I have become 100% convinced of is, if you want to find people who are passionately, violently, even rabidly on one side of a fence or the other, start talking about vaccines.

Of all the issues which it seems we should be calm and rational about, but aren’t, this takes the gold medal.  And news sites like CNN like to feed the frenzy with regular articles such as the one they posted a few days ago: measles outbreak may be linked to vaccine fears.

Perhaps because it deals with children’s safety, people tend to get their panties not only in a bunch but hooked up over their ears when they start to talk about this.  You’ve got the people who’ve only ever listened to the fearmongering of the medical establishment that says: if you don’t inject this poisonous material directly into your child’s bloodstream, starting with a newborn hepatitis shot that will protect the kid should he or she ever choose to become a slutty drug user, and followed by however many shots we will eventually develop for things ranging from polio to illnesses as mild as the chicken pox, then the poor creature will surely contract a plague that will eat them alive.  That’ll be $100, please.

Then you’ve got the other side who, by necessity, must match the passionate rhetoric with their own intensity just to be heard.  And you know, they are driven by fear too.  Fear of brain damage, autism, even death.  

Both sides point fingers and accuse the other of their irresponsibility in not accepting the other’s position.  It reminds me of some religious arguments I’ve heard: the one side says, my religion insists that you must accept my religion or you are doomed, and the other side says, I don’t accept your religion so leave me alone!

But this is science, you might correctly point out, not religion.  Except that there are actual scientific studies which appear to support both sides of the argument.  So it seems to come down to, which studies do you “believe” are valid enough to base a possibly life-changing decision on.

And once you’ve decided which studies are valid, roll them up and beat the opposition with them ’til they’re a bloody pulp.

I wonder if we will ever come to a point where we can figure this thing out like grown-ups and not like tiny kids running from ghosts.

Our kids deserve better.

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This is where I’m from

The land of the treesitters.

Good ol’ Cali-forn-eye-ay.

The land where we stand up for, or sit down for, what we believe in, even if it means living among the ticks and going showerless for a month.

Of course, normal folks can’t afford to live there, but damn it, there will be trees, and old ones too!  Miles of virgin forests for the rich people and the starving hippies to enjoy!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a tree-hugger.  When I lived in Santa Cruz, I cried right along with everyone else when I found out that the magnificent old Walnut across the street from my work had been cut down because the Mercedes owner who regularly parked under it was tired of scraping the bird crap off his windshield.  

I’ve become attached to all manner of trees because they were on the property where I lived and I’d spent many hours gazing lovingly at their leaves waving in the wind.  

If I am ever fortunate enough to own a piece of land, I’d like to have all kinds of trees, depending on the climate: if it was warm enough, I’d love to have orange trees, avocados, peaches, maybe a kiwi.  If it was a colder climate, I’d love to have apple trees, a pine grove, hopefully a redwood.

And should someone decide, for a really dumb cosmetic reason, to cut down an awesome tree that lives on public property in my community, I might even show up to protest.  I’d of course have to go home to my own bed and toilet at night, thank you very much, but I could lend my voice to the cause.  I’m very supportive of trees.  

I can’t help it. It’s in my Californian blood.

And it’s a fun place to be from, you know, people think you’re a nutjob so you get to be little on the funky side of normal.  You get to say “Dude” as much as you like.  You get to make a big stink about things that most people don’t even think twice about, like trimming hedges.  Cuz the hedges have integrity, you know, and it is not within our earthly mandate to limit their personal growth.  

And if I forget to take a shower on any given day, Hey!  I was up a tree, saving it’s life!  Give a gal a break, man!

And could you remove the ticks from the back of my neck, when you get a chance?

We may not be the original environmentalists, but we’ve taken the discipline about as far as it’ll go, baby!

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Self-awareness

It never ceases to amaze me that at such a young age, we are aware that people are looking at us and that they think we are awesome.

Eventually it starts to mess with us, because when we go out into the world, we can’t be sure that people think we’re all that great.  Maybe we start to feel painfully self-conscious, maybe we are just making an extra effort to blend into the wallpaper, or maybe we get off on the attention.

But that pure joy of a little kid who knows he is surrounded by people who love him, who gets that smug little grin because he knows everyone thinks he is too cute… that feels so good.  Makes me feel like all is right with the world.

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Lowering the drinking age

This topic from CNN news is one I’ve long debated over: should we lower the drinking age?  

On one side of the debate, the testimony from countries who allow kids to have a glass of wine with dinner, and they tend not to go nuts and die from binge drinking when they are suddenly let loose in college.

On the other hand, does it encourage kids to drink earlier?

On the other hand, I take great issue with the term “kids.”  Until a person is in their 30’s, they are girls and boys and kids.  Forget about the fact that, at 18, they can vote and fight for their country, they are tried as adults and can sign legal documents.  We insist that they are children who know nothing and should be treated with no respect.

Well, yeah, they know nothing.  I think most of us know nothing until we are probably 50.  And maybe not even then.  But to treat someone as a baby lets them off the hook (“Boys will be boys!” = there is no point in trying to civilize the young males.  This is crap.)

I have long been in favor of making the 18 year old cutoff age as the true threshold of adulthood.  At that point you are a grown-up, with all the rights and responsibilities that go along with this label, and if you mess up we aren’t going to smile and waggle our finger and say, “Kids will be kids.”  You will be busted.

And there will still be drunk drivers, there will still be people dying of alcohol poisoning, unfortunately.  But we will have consistent expectations of our young people.  They will know when they need to wise up and start behaving themselves, even if in reality it ends up taking them awhile to get there.

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Dixie

We found Dixie.  Here she is with some of the people she will be ferrying.  

In a way it feels like I am moving in the opposite direction as the rest of the world.  I was a carless cyclist back before anyone gave a serious thought to global warming.  Then the public concern began, and I was part of a one car family.  Now the hysteria is mounting, and we’ve acquired a second vehicle.  Livin’ outside the box, baby!

Not that one can really live outside the environment.  We are all responsible for our Mother Earth, we are all responsible for the tools/toys we choose to use and how we may abuse them.

But I can’t help but feel that I can take better care of my family this way, given our situation.  Maybe in taking care of them I am taking care of the world in the most direct way possible.  This is the hope.

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