Thursday, June 15, 2017

More Bang For Your Buck

Fourth of July approaches, red white and blue decorations bloom and our thoughts turn to magnificent fireworks.
It is my second year working fireworks. I've learned a few important facts worth sharing. Safety first folks. That should be common sense but I remember being ten and watching my drunken father shoot his brother in the arm with a Roman candle. They had to drive out of state to get the Roman candles to shoot at each other, as New York was a sparkler only state. Imagine them trying to goof off by chasing each other with sparklers. If it seems dangerous, please use caution or at least hold yourself accountable. My uncle always said he just didn't dodge fast enough.
Consider pets, let neighbors know so they can tuck pets inside if they're nervous. Consider where you are going to set them off. A twenty foot tall fountain under a ten foot tree is a recipe for fire, not fireworks.
Have your water handy. You probably won't need it but be prepared.
Now with safety covered, let's talk sales tactics and options.
Tents. I worked for an excellent company last year in Minnesota. Everyone was trained, professional, and prices were reasonable. Be careful with tents though. Not all companies are as high quality as Renaissance Fireworks. A lot use a few items that are reduced price to seem like a better deal than their competitors- and you get so busy being delighted by a small discount on a few things you don't notice you are getting gouged on everything else.
Buy one get one can be cool, but price compare: the store not doing bogos likely has lower per unit prices. It is okay to price around. Math is your friend.
Second, quality in sales experience. You're spending money to have a special memory with loved ones. Go where the sales staff makes your buying fun, where they can find out what you want and offer you the fireworks that will delight rather than disappoint. At The Castle we gathered and watched a display of the new fireworks we were considering selling. We rated them on quality and price. It shouldn't be like buying fast food. Last year, I enjoyed talking with people and helping them out to put togethet fun displays from novelties to heavy weight show closers.
Don't limit yourself by being lured to a little stand when you can go to a larger location with more options.
I was impressed with the giant display of heavy weight 500 gram fireworks we have at The Castle, tables and tables. The alphabet hardly had enough letters for how many we have available. Not ten, easily over thirty options in 500 gram heavyweights and that's a conservative estimate.
Third, assortments. Assortments can be amazing or lame. Skip the single company assortments for ones good fireworks sellers put together. Mark and Jay put fantastic assortments together with great value. No lame fillers. Various fireworks from multiple companies. Shawn, Jeff and Cory put together assortments at The Castle of excellent favorites starting around thirty dollars all the way up to a thousand dollars- worth far more than what you're paying. They know what's good and they put it together for you to make it easy.
Don't let a cool wrapper or gimmicky name be your deciding factor. Find out what it does. Watch the firework on YouTube, is it what you want?
State laws limit what you can sell. In Minnesota we were often frustrated as folks wanted fireworks we could not sell by law. They knew, asked and we had to tell them over and over that we could not sell artillery. They shrugged, left and drove to Wisconsin to by their artillery. We would have loved to sell them what they wanted but our hands were tied by law. We had plenty of people who still bought our fountains, novelties, and 500 gram fountains; as I said our prices were reasonable and we made it a positive experience.
We're working hard to get the Castle and Children's House ready. We have a great team working to make fireworks buying an experience that starts off your holiday with a Wow and a smile. We love fireworks and want to share that delight with you.
Have a great 4th of July!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Weed Your Garden

The people we choose to be around have an impact on our well-being.
Surround yourself with selfish people and you will find yourself getting tired, feeling lonely and constantly giving without reciprocation. These folks only notice you when they want something from you or they want an audience. They've got nothing to give but superficial platitudes and often when they aren't focused on enough- they will create a situation just to get attention. They feel entitled. They use charisma and drama to make their life a stage you get stuck on if you get too close. They take. Leaving your garden full of a stubborn, thorny weed that consumes all the nutrients and pushes out the healthy plants.
There are false friends who seem vibrant but are actually there on an agenda to use you, to amuse themselves or manipulate you to their advantage. They listen to you for ammunition. You trust them and you bleed for it. They skip merrily along uncaring or even delighted by the drama and destruction. These folks are dangerous. I've learned you can recognize them when they boast of how they've screwed people over or how they "love their boyfriend because he's an asshole", and the love seeing the wreckage. These are the poison Ivy vines snaking through, looking healthy as they strangle other plants and smear their irritating oil all over others around them, contaminating relationships for their own advantage. Usually financial, but sometimes just because. These folks usually have sociopathic tendencies. They don't want the people around them healthy. They often talk about wanting to see the world burn or society fall, chaos lovers.
On the other hand:
In your garden seek out and nurture:
Authentic friends. People who reciprocate. People who demonstrate maturity.
Listen to what they say, how they say it, how they treat others. How they regard others. Do they regard others?
Do not excuse or dismiss toxic behaviors. They do not just affect that individual, if that person is close to you- it will impact you and those around you.
I've been quietly weeding my garden, ripping out the narcissists, self absorbed, enablers, toxic, false friends, and unhealthy. I'm not responsible for those folks and having them around detracts from the health that I and the people I care about and am connected to have.
I'm taking time to assess, to nurture that garden in my heart.
It is not my responsibility to help those folks, but it is mine to be the best me I can be and to nurture the healthiest relationships I can with those I feel are worth investing in- those who invest back.

I hope you tend your garden. Be careful what you let grow there.

What's in Your Narrative?

In comics, there is a narrator who communicates the pertinent nonverbal information to the reader. In life, we each have a narrator in our heads.
How we are feeling, what we are perceiving: it changes the narrator's focus. The narrator sticks with what we linger on.
I've been fighting anxiety this spring. Fighting anxiety is like trying to beat up a swimming pool full of water. The water splashes, moves out in waves, gets unbalanced but remains mostly in the pool. In the end, you stand there feeling frustrated and exhausted and still anxious- and those closest to you have retreated out of the splash zone. Looking out and realizing you're making no progress, you try harder. The hard work isn't working. The water remains.
The narrator tries to shift perspective but you don't leave the pool. You've got a fight to win for peace of mind. The narrator becomes negative as that part of you knows you are going about this backward but you know if you just push through...
You're soaked.
Some folks rewrite the narrative here. They can't bear the weight of failing and they decide anxiety will always be a part of them. They come up with justifications and long ways of living that take them around every pool in their path.
I stopped fighting the other day, sitting and watching butterflies with a friend. My narrator had a chance to be heard. My narrator said "Flying not falling."
Swim instead of panic. Float. I went out, found myself a little black kitten, knowing I feel better with a little fuzzy companion.
My narrator backed off. Kitten distracted and mind finally not spinning through the worry hallway of my mind. Anxiety grows when it's fed. Confidence grows when you feed it. You can feed one but not both. Float.
Silly as it seemed, instead of fighting the fear and anxiety, I let go and just focused on the positives around me and the things I can change and address. Feeding confidence instead of uncertainty.
The anxiety lessened. Then it lessened more.
My narrator could have been destructive, admonishing me further into a worse state of mind. My narrator could have swept the anxiety under the rug to try to make me look superhuman.
My narrator prefers to stick the neutrality as much as possible. That person you are frustrated with today may turn into an amazing person over the next five years.
Each of us has our own story, it's as healthy as we make it.
I'm enjoying the relaxed muscles and returning appetite, the refreshed confidence that comes with anxiety release.

How does your narrator talk to you?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Finding Balance Again

Balance, it takes constant work. Walking across a low wire, only a few feet off the ground, you still fall if you get distracted.
You can practice low elements like a low wire with minimal safety gear and logical spotting. Off balance? Step off and start over.
In my youth I spent a lot of time practicing skills on low and high elements. Two line bridges, Cat's cradles, giant ladders, high wires. 
High elements over ten feet up, sometimes over twenty or thirty feet things are different. We did not practice these skills to perform for audiences. We faced them as challenges to overcome trust issues, develop communication and listening skills, to problem solve, develop self esteem, confidence, and teamwork. We all came from broken places, sharp edged children who could cut you with words and who carried emotional wounds that colored our worlds stark.
We learned when you are working with a partner, keep reaching, keep trying to communicate and listen. Instead of taking affront that the anxious person cuts in verbally, understand and sooth. Instead of getting annoyed at the slow speaker, keep catching yourself when you interject. Apologize. Trust. Everyone shares the work. Everyone succeeds together.
We joked, "That which doesn't kill us makes us stronger." The time I shredded my arm catching a fiberglass cargo net, but not quite well enough. The heavy rope I was on pulled me back. Thanks, Physics. The cargo net kept a good chunk of my arm. Bandage on. I went back up.
The last three years, I've spent a lot of time and energy focusing on trying to be healthy in a partnership, trying to encourage my partners to choose to heal as well.
Not everyone wants to heal. Not everyone wants to be what you see they could be, if they were brave enough. Low hanging fruit, habits.
I own that I am working through issues of anxiety, esteem, and that in the two relationships I felt insecure. Why?
Internal? External?
Part of it was knowing my partners weren't interested in anything more than temporary. Sometimes, to feel more secure temporarily, I put that thought on the backburner and kept planning and working forward. The abusive behavior and gaslighting of the first. The second waiting until he was done to communicate issues that we could have addressed months before. We both failed to communicate as well as we should have from the start.
It hurt to realize we had been out of sync for a while. That part of the hurt was not doing the fun things couples do when they love each other, the laughing, flirting, surprise gifts, wanting pictures of each other. We had bypassed that for routine and gradually spent more time in our heads. Resentments build in such a place.
Trying to put pieces back together that were flawed from the start, the pieces seemed to fit better. Hurts were still there.  Feelings of under appreciation, different priorities.
I'm tired. I'm taking time to go back to friends and memories, to look at where old wounds still hide. To address them.
I can trust my friends with the ropes. I've learned that. Giving the ropes back to the people who inspire me, who encourage me.
In turn, there I am, taking the ropes sometimes for them. Because. Trust. Love. We achieve more, we can face daunting tasks easier when we do it together.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Assumptions versus Communication

Many too good to be true sales pitches rely on assumptive logic. The nitty gritty details would get in the way, so only the ones that serve as bait get dangled. You know you should be wary, should ask more questions but you don't.
How often do you count your change when it's handed to you? How often have you been surprised to find out an assumption was wrong? Drive time doubled because of traffic, relationship stressed due to varying assumtions in both parties, faced frustration of trying to undo damage?
When we meet people we make assumptions. We observe and decide how we are going to interact based on appearance and behavior, communication sitting on the sidelines saying "why won't you let me start Coach- seriously?"
In a world as diverse as ours, this can lead to friction and misunderstandings rather than respect and understanding.
What can we learn or grow with if we communicate. Open minded.
Stress drops away. Trust can have a place. Relief and appreciation are revitalize you.
You can't get anywhere in relationships with others if the relationship is based on assumptions. You can start over. You can create a real, healthy relationship if you are willing to participate and heal.