Not nicer but deeper

Signs of spring abound juxtaposing the promise of new life with the reality of death in this season of both green and black, this season of life altered by a rogue virus. How can we possibly take it all in?

The goodness that we can find in our shared humanity isn’t far off as neighbors serenade the streets with music. We put teddy bears in the front windows of our homes for the kids passing by at a safe distance or join masses of cars flashing emergency lights to support the healthcare workers laboring inside our local medical centers at night. Each gesture brings a smile, some warmth for a brief moment in time.

Conversely it seems that the fear of a silent killer has intensified the divisiveness, the viciousness in social and public media to levels not seen since caveman days. Our society has gone beyond simple disagreement to sarcasm and its true definition: to “tear flesh.” Hatred, really. It doesn’t matter to the masses that we are all in this together, that we are all at war against the same enemy. The process of dealing with COVID-19 will reveal the good and bad in each of us at some point. The stress is crushing in the weakness of our humanity. If you looked more closely I believe you could say that below the surface, we are all hurting from the loss of life as we once knew it.

I’ll never forget the 2 women joking about the newly coined term of “social distancing” in front of the organic produce section of our local grocery store as we waited our turns to step up and select a vegetable or two. That was only a month ago. Yesterday no one was joking in their combination of bare hands or gloves and masks, grasping a sanitized shopping cart, and standing 6 feet apart on the blue stickers marking the floor at the checkout line. The air was tense as I observed the cashier wearing only one latex-free glove, the gal bagging our wearing a re-usable cloth mask and no gloves, then me taking off one of my sweaty gloves to sign the screen of the credit card reader (before sanitizing that hand with a little bottle of same in our truck). This is nuts!

I submit to you that overall the COVID-19 Pandemic is not bringing out the best in people yet. I am glad and grateful to see the goodness here and there. I do believe that most of us in our hearts are somewhere between survival mode and beast mode. We are struggling in our own strength to establish some sort of normal routine while living in the chaos. That is simply not possible yet. How can we do so when in the back of our minds we are wondering if we or our loved ones will be the star of that leaked YouTube video of the patient dying alone in an ICU bed or worse, packed in a black bag in the refrigerated truck parked outside the freight entrance of the hospital? Yes, this is way beyond nuts!

Experts tell us that the world here in the United States will get worse before it gets better. But probably in each of our own private spaces and places, there will be some nice things that will happen. Some loving and meaningful moments will be in the mix. But we must ask ourselves if that is enough? Is it enough to just survive the pandemic of year 2020 with a few GIFs and memes from Facebook in our minds? Or conversely do we throw up our hands, succumb to addiction (including stuffing ourselves with food) and say if we die, we die? I mean really, how does one cope when the world is going increasingly mad?

You go deeper Gentle Reader. You go deeper than asking how or why or when or where or who or what. You go deeper than the comfort of your own bed (if your are blessed to have one) and kitchen full of food (if you are blessed to have one). You ask yourself what life will be like 2 months from now when your housemates can’t stand each other anymore or your employer had to close its business after all, when the government goes bankrupt or the earth groans with the tragedy that actually didn’t take us all out. You ask yourself about the value of your own life and the ones you love and further, the very meaning of life itself.

I pray that it is sooner than later Gentle Reader, that you will go beyond the darkness of days to go deeper still. For it is then that we both will know without any doubt that we were never alone in all of this mess. There is a purpose and a plan. We will find a peace that transcends the mess of this world. This is not of ourselves such that no man may boast. We simply are not strong enough. All along the way the God of the universe is watching, waiting, listening, grieving, loving, and ready to see us through no matter what happens. It is for His design and glory that we live. Say what? How can I say this? I found the answers, the truth in His Word. I found that the Lord ordained supreme testing within a horrific illness I endured and battled over the past 8 years. And through it all, there was meaning and purpose. I was never alone. He was always there with me whether I felt His presence or not. And always there was peace beyond the strife. I escaped death more times than the 9 lives of Morris the cat; COVID-19 doesn’t change a thing whether I live or die. My eternal life that transcends the strife of this world began a long time ago.

The world simply will not, no never satisfy the groaning, the longing of our hearts. That place is for Jesus Christ alone. Want to explore this topic further? Go right now to the book of John. Find a Bible. And dwell amongst the pillars of the King who loves you so! Do it now before it is too late. JJ

Network Marketers Never Die

Network marketers never really die . . . they just change companies!

Have you ever been approached by a friend who wants you to take a look at something he or she has just discovered?  The opportunity surely will change the world, help you lose weight, create and earn an extra $500 per month in income all while working from home in your pajamas!  Well I have.  My run with one particular network marketing company lasted over a decade.

At first my friend called me one day in 1998 because she thought that I needed the products.  I was experiencing severe pain after an auto accident which was preventing me from returning to work.  So-and-so had gotten tremendous benefits from this new company’s products and I could learn all about it on a 3-way phone call.  Before long, Donna was at my house providing a product demonstration (called a “roll out”) and loaning me a Japanese magnetic mattress pad.  It made sense to me that a product that helped lower “physical discomfort” and improve sleep would have the potential to help me.  I trusted her and bought a smaller product and eventually the full mattress pad plus insoles for my shoes.  Impressed by what I saw, she invited me to a Wellness Preview where I took a closer look at the business.

Network marketing (NWM) is simply a means of distributing goods or services via a network of individual representatives who sign up with the company.  They are not employees but a sort of independent sales associate.  Instead of selling products via a store front, or now-a-days via ecommerce, the hierarchical matrix of Wellness Consultants (or whatever title is given) finds the customers and makes the sales.  If one Consultant finds another to do the same thing then the first person will receive an override, bonus, etc. according to a set compensation plan.  The concept made sense to me in 1998 and still does.  I researched the difference between NWM and pyramid schemes:  the latter usually collect some kind of large fee without any goods or services being provided.  Pyramid or ponzi schemes are illegal.  Network marketing is legal.

My sleep did improve and my pain went down some.  Oh how much I have learned about my health since then (!) yet I did receive some benefits.  This was enough to have a big “product experience” when those benefits helped me to return to work, thus providing me with a conversation-starter with my own new prospects.  Unfortunately I lost a year or more analyzing the products instead of sharing more of what they did for people.  My research background gave me a bit of analysis paralysis trying to understand the science behind the innovative technologies crafted into wellness products.  This over-thinking of things actually ended up stalling my ability to help more people; you can reach more people if you focus on building a business instead of, well, trying to “help people” with the products.  “Sell the sizzle,” they say.

In due time, I did achieve the first level of leadership:  Silver Independent Wellness Consultants.  In a single month, with the help of my friend and my downline organization (i.e. those whom I brought into the business), we generated $20,000 in sales plus met some additional criteria.  My organization and the local consultants we ran with held product and business-oriented events, nearly a hundred Wellness Previews, trainings, booths at job fairs, product demonstrations at wellness fairs and markets, and really tried to make a go of things.  I even presented Nikken at the Illinois Occupational Therapy Association State Conference with a physical therapist friend in the business.  Along the way I met some amazing people, some of whom I still chat with occasionally today.  You do develop a special bond with fellow Distributors who are smiling, positive, and trying to make a difference in his or her sphere of influence in the world!  Sure was more happiness there than in my traditional job in healthcare or “sick care” as we used to call it.

Yesterday a gal called me whom I had not talked to in over 10 years and since I had moved away from our circle of distributors in the Chicago suburbs.  She said she came across my business card and wondered how I was doing?  Sure was nice catching up with her for the first few moments.  Quickly she launched into an unusual discussion of two new companies, one familiar to me, that a friend was trying to get her involved in but she did not want to sell whitening toothpaste!  Not sure if she was complaining or prospecting?  Anyhoo, we are both occupational therapists which is probably what attracted both of us to Nikken’s “5 Pillars of Health” philosophy and wellness technologies.  Yet at some point we all need toothpaste so why not buy it from a friend?  [These are my words, not hers.  Based upon my own practice of recommending favorite products via affiliate programs.  Check out Julie’s Favorites below.  ;)]

Pat’s call was one of two prospecting calls this past week.  The first one was actually from a third gal who wanted me to look at a FitBit-type of personal monitoring device that had  a special germanium plate that was supposed to block electromagnetic frequency radiation (aka EMFs).  Oh dear.  I asked for research evidence of its effectiveness and ended up watching a video on the product benefits.  Below this YouTube listing was a video on the company’s compensation plan!  Perhaps I need to warn future network marketers who come a-calling:  I came into this industry as a skeptic and left it as a certified network marketer.  Yes, there was a program sponsored by the University of Illinois for persons of many different companies, given by a marketing professor and gaga-millionaire from the skin care company who now sells whitening toothpaste.  You gotta do better than this to snatch my attention gals . . .  Still love ya hon!

So I say:  Network marketers never die they just switch companies!  While I have seen this over and over again with my former Nikken buddies, all of us still use their products.  They are great and we are still sold on them.  There’s a KenkoAir purifier in our bedroom as I write this and our home, even this many years later, would still certify as a Nikken Wellness Home.  That also means that I bought-into and bought a lot of products . . . to support my health, of course . . . to demonstrate while enjoying the benefits . . . should I ever get back into the business . . . oh dear ones, I really don’t think that is going to happen anytime soon.

Nikken, independent, wellness, consultant, business, home business, opportunity, Japanese, company,

But I tell ya Gentle Reader, I will incorporate the concepts of leverage and word-of-mouth advertising (now called social media) should the Lord allow me to develop my company, Two Step Solutions, LLC.  My experience in network marketing definitely tapped into the entrepreneurial spirit that led to two other home businesses:  the Living Safely Program and Trinity Jewelry by Design.  I guess there is just something in me that loves to create new things.  Call it “humans being more?”

Hmmmm, I am getting a little happy feeling just thinking about it!


What could be better than that?

Tonight on Facebook I got a real education.

I learned that naturopathic doctors are getting murdered by the pharmaceutical giants and that chemotherapy never works.  Obamacare may be exposed for what it really is and I can sign a petition  with a few strokes and clicks to make everything all right again.

I learned that the media says that Clinton is leading Trump in (crafted?) “polls” and that extremist demonstrators stabbed a bunch of people while I baked cookies on a beautiful night.

I learned that all I have to do to clean my colon is to drink a blueberry concoction and that the sunset over our town was a blessing from God.

I learned that the USA should withdraw from the United Nations now that the UK has withdrawn from the EU but the vote may be reconsidered too.

I learned whose family did what this weekend, the anniversaries that were celebrated, and the babies-n-pets who have done the cutest things lately.

I learned that those with chronic illness, chronic pain, chronic fatigue, and the like are still suffering out there making me really sad.

I learned some cute slogans to remember with some attached to Bible references and cool photos.  Are they be real or photo shopped?

I learned who is selling what, whose stuff is still cool to look at, and what stuff we should all win/buy/enjoy before we die.

I learned about the upcoming webinars that will cure this or that, make fat melt away, or make my business succeed if I really tried hard enough to win!

I learned how to waste just under an hour pouring into the what-you-can-see lives of others and the social media marketers of fairy tale realities, stuff, skills I need, emoticons, or whatever advertisements to distract me from living my own life.

I learned that God is more popular than Jesus . . . as a matter of fact I did not see the name Jesus Christ mentioned at all.

Most of all I learned that my daytime spent sick in bed was probably still better than the mindless, numbing, lying, evil crap that often goes on in the world around me and gets posted on Facebook.  So please send me pictures of puppies and maybe a cute kid or penguin.  Scripture rocks too.  The rest is quite meaningless.

We’ll see if tomorrow on Facebook is any better?  (I never learn!)  JJ

Facebook logo


It’s just not my turn that’s all

Another day slipped into history as I pondered the gratitude I felt for a recent task accomplished.  It’s no matter that the wrapping of Christmas presents got done from about 2 to 6 in the morning on Saturday.  That’s just how I roll these days . . .

Social media is one of the ways that I employ to counter the tremendous isolation I experience while overcoming a serious illness.  I used to be shy about it.  Many folks write about their need for a sabbatical occasionally when Facebook and the like become too big of a time eraser.  My life is structured differently I guess . . .

My brother, Michael, often talked about the support he felt from fellow poker players online.  Really?  How can you experience anything valuable from an anonymous side chat in a gambling venue of penny poker through the internet?  Flash forward ten years.  Now I get it.  Mike was home all of the time caring for our mother who was struggling with lung cancer, chemotherapy, and alcoholism.  The things that he endured were very difficult.  He would say that he never knew what he would find when he returned home from running out to the store or anywhere at all, making it difficult to get things done.  Those little touch points with his fellow poker players gave him the assurance he needed to do what he had to do the rest of the day . . .

Should life return to “normal” one day for me then my time spent here with you will naturally diminish.  I’ll be sleeping in the wee hours of the morning instead of wide awake in the recovery phase of a hellish nightmare earlier that evening.  I have already grieved about it, the loss I mean.  So much time has passed with so little getting done in my own life.  Perhaps the tasks that have been completed are not measured on a calendar or my “To Do List?”  For those in Christ Jesus, we know that to be true.

Romans 8:28, encouragement, encouraging scripture, all things work together for good, hope, hang in there

Another example is how I finished reviewing a copy of a canoe and kayak paddling magazine last night for which my husband is the Editor.  I guess I can now add “Assistant Editor” to my resume for my contributions to the first four issues.  Cool beans.  I could list a bunch of crafty Christmas things that I would rather be doing yet that was not my calling for those hours.  Many will be blessed by this sacrifice including me.

Ever feel this way when sidetracked from your dreams, Gentle Reader?  In ways big and small we may struggle to discipline ourselves to do the tasks we must do when our hearts are in another room or time zone.  Know what I mean?

The bottom line for me on this subject tonight is that the sooner I rest in the promises of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the sooner I will realize that I am perfectly where I need to be.  He will provide everything I need from the breath that is not coming easily to the assembly of a Christmas gift still in boxes strewn here and there.  I know from another tumultuous time in my life that the Lord does answer our prayers in due time.  The waiting, the setbacks, the anticipation make the rewards sweeter.  How can I expect to make it to the finish line with style and grace if I give up on the last leg of the race?  I will not!

So don’t you give up on me either, k?  And please hang tough if you are going through challenging times as well.  If you need to cry out for help then please do so NOW.  Our God promises in His Word that:

The Lord will strengthen him on his bed of illness;
You will sustain him on his sickbed.

Psalm 41:3  New King James Version (NKJV)

He will see us through to our last breath if we but call upon His name.  My Heavenly Father has done so for me a thousand times.  He will do so for you too.  Tonight I am praying for us both.  JJ

Dog in bed

How NOT to start an online business!

Click on image for details!
Click on image for details!

Trinity Jewelry by Design has become a labor of love for me but it was not always that way!  I started it six months after I was no longer able to work in my professional job due to illness.  While I did all the planning recommended in starting a traditional business including writing a Business Plan, there were a couple of key elements missing for my success.  I would not realize this until almost 2 years later!  My “home business” is actually a hobby that has provided “occupational therapy,” not profitable income per se.  This is still a good thing, good enough to continue for now.

Much of this blog will focus on Etsy since that is the venue with which I am most familiar.  Sellers on Etsy, the largest homemade and vintage goods website on the internet, have valuable online training available for free via newsletters, tutorials, and a deep how-to directory all in one place.  The cost is $.20 to list your first item and your sweat equity is free.  Anyone can learn how to take a product from your living room to the world even if he or she had very little computer training like I did two years ago.  Applying oneself to the process brings a better shop presentation, increased traffic, and sales.  Most small business bloggers will tell you the elements for success.  I’ll approach it a little differently here based upon my personal experience and observations:   success in an online business requires knowing what not to do as well!

Be clear what you are doing.  Is it a hobby or a business?  If it is a hobby, the details might not need to be as polished in the beginning as you learn.  If you want to pay your bills as you learn, get a professional business mindset, plan, and presentation together before you launch.  For example, in my business plan I calculated how many macramé bracelets I needed to sell per week to pay my medical bills and set this as my projected income goal.  Two problems stopped me right away:  1)  I only knew how to make the most basic jewelry from plain materials and 2) I didn’t know how to take great pictures to “sell” my jewelry in this extremely competitive market.  Sizzle and shine move the shopper to “add to (their) cart.”  Identify your purpose and plan accordingly.

Start when you are not distracted by personal and financial stress.  Rushing to get something going, skimping on materials (such as packaging to save money that really should go towards gas in your car), not taking the time to check the endless details (e.g. typos in item descriptions), and a tense mindset can kill the excitement of a new venture for you and your customers.  Also the creative process needed to make handmade items will be altered by a chaotic home office when burdened by illness of a family member or 24/7 caregiving responsibilities.  Going through a significant life change?  I offer that it might be a great time to brainstorm about the new venture but might not give you the grounding you need to present yourself to the world with confidence.

Starting when you have not done your homework will waste time and money.  Every business requires some level of market research.  This might include something as simple as systematically “Googling” your product or service on Etsy, Google and Bing, to see what else is available out there.  I was delighted to discover that the search process can lead to identifying trends in my business sector, spur new design ideas, and even help begin networking with other business owners.  I also realized that my simplistic designs in the beginning were priced way too high for the value presented.  The joy of discovery and creativity go nicely together in the beginning; they are needed periodically to keep things fresh and pertinent as the business goes forward.

Use a limit of funding as a challenge to identify new resources.  It can be fun to spend money on a new venture.  Whether we have secured a business loan, siphoned-off some income from our 9-to-5 job, or withdrawn money from our savings it just might be the limits of our funding that will help us to be the best stewards of our resources.  One area many home based business fail to budget for is marketing.  Yet with just a little reading on Etsy, LinkedIn, and various social media avenues, we can find lots of FREE advertising.  Hello Facebook and Twitter!  Search ads on Etsy are great for a launch of your business or a new product and worth a few bucks until traffic increases.  The same goes with supplies, print services, and so on.  On a smaller scale, I remember discovering lovely new color combinations when my variety of beads and income dwindled!

Dig into social media and link them together.  Those entrepreneurs who are already savvy with social media have a huge advantage over casual users.  Many of us who use social media to chat might not realize its potential to impact our businesses.  For example, I know an Etsy seller who never posts her products on Facebook despite her huge Friends List; she is content to have sporadic sales that barely cover the listing costs.  She owns a hobby business.  I know another wildly successful online fitness trainer who has paid for training to make daily, seamless pitches to her key customers at the right time with the right message.  Others simply hire a marketing company (aka SEO services).  You decide.

Forgetting your baby will make your baby go away.   Even a hobby business will eventually fade away if there are no new listings, website  updates, or other activity going on.  How fun is that?

Remember the power of the personal connection.  I’ll end with this:  when I wanted to explore an online business and couldn’t handle the hassle or expense of developing my own website, I called my Aunt Patty.  She sold patchwork purses and vintage fabrics on Etsy.  I had never heard of Etsy!  She taught me some basics and then I was off and running.  This personal connection that got me started continues with my customers, neighbors who “Like” my listings in our homeowner association Facebook page, international sellers in a jewelry forum on LinkedIn, and so on.  Networking with others who share our passions softens the 2-dimensional stiffness of the internet.   It’s good for business and good for our humanity too.

“How NOT to start an online business with Etsy” goes beyond checking your level of inspiration and available perspiration!  I offer that if you begin with where you are and what you have, clarifying where you would like to go, and developing a love for the learning process then lots of fun possibilities await including success.  I am grateful for this part of my journey while recovering from a serious illness.  The future is brighter now and I’m just getting started!  How about you?