Saturday, February 8, 2014

Choosing Network Marketing

In my blog I have frequently spoken of my adventures as a teacher, but less often of my adventures as an entrepreneur.  In addition to teaching public school and a few private clarinet lessons each week, I own a network marketing business.

In network marketing, when we talk to each other and train, we speak a great deal about our "whys" and our stories.  While I frequently speak about my experiences with the products I market, I have rarely spoken about why I chose to go into business rather than just become a customer.  Perhaps that is because choosing network marketing was a more complicated decision, with several threads of thought and life experiences coming into play.  

Nearly three years ago I transferred from teaching middle school band for my district, to teaching elementary music.  In doing so, I took a pay cut (but also a huge cut in my responsibilities and time away from home).  At that same time, my husband was laid off from a job he'd held for 5 years, when they sold his division to another company...who decided that they would not offer him a position.  He had regularly made performance bonuses, all of his stats were consistently excellent, and he works in a normally very stable industry.  And yet unemployment still struck, for no better reason than the uncertainty of corporate politics.

Flashback three years before that.  I had just moved to San Antonio, and I had only one year of teaching band under my belt.  I only knew a small handful of people in my field in this area of the state, and none of them with the direct power to hire me for what I had trained to do (although those contacts were instrumental in helping me get my foot in the door and properly networked around here!).  The summer of 2007 found me unable to find full time work as a band director.  So I took the entrepreneurial route and began teaching private clarinet lessons.  It turned out that there was plenty of work available for a clarinet teacher willing to travel all over I did.  I ended up working and commuting full time...for what ended up being a part time paycheck.  That year gas prices hit over $4.00/gallon, and even in a fuel efficient car, I saw my profits eaten through my gas tank.  When you tell people that you make an average of $25/hour, they assume that you're rolling in money.  But that's $25/hour before accounting for gas money, car maintenance, car insurance, instrument maintenance and reeds...and doesn't include any benefits at all.  No paid time off, no retirement, no health or dental insurance.  Welcome to the world of traditional entrepreneurs from all types of businesses.  It's tough.  I diligently networked the entire year, meeting tons of local band directors by teaching their clarinet players.  I gained a very good reputation, and I soon had more offers for work in this field than I had available hours - and I was still broke.  The next year I did a variety of things to make ends meet, and in August of 2009, I took a position as a middle school band director.  A year and a half of intense work and stress later...I transferred to teaching elementary music, and my life changed forever...which brings me back to where I began my Network Marketing story, three years ago...

I met my future sponsor at one of my elementary campuses (I work at 2). She was a fellow teacher who I visited with during our lunch breaks.  After several conversations, reading through all the literature she provided me, and a lot of thought...I agreed to go see a full presentation of the business, where I would meet several other people involved in the business.

My future sponsor had provided me with plenty of samples of various products, and I knew the products to be of excellent quality...but that wasn't reason enough to join the company as an Associate.  There are tons of products in the world that I enjoy using, and I don't sell most of them, I just buy them.  So it begs the question...why Network Marketing?  Why THIS company?

1.  Compared to most businesses, network marketing (regardless of which company you might choose) has a low start up cost and low overhead.  Easy to start, easy to maintain. Even if you're spending a few hundred a month to maintain your business - it is still far less than what you would spend to purchase and maintain a brick and mortar store.

2.  Tax Advantages.  As a network marketing professional, your business is home-based.  Certain expenses become tax deductible...such as your phone, internet connection, purchases from your company, and even some of your entertainment (as long as you discuss business while you are out, and keep good records and receipts!).  That's just a small sampling of the deductions you can be eligible for by running a home based business.  It does complicate your taxes, but it is worth it.  I use an online program that walks me through the whole process each year with ease.  Also, the company I work with has excellent software available to Associates through our online portals, where we can track our deductible expenses as we go through the year, making tax season a breeze.

3.  Reliability.  My husband getting laid off three years ago, and my own difficulty getting my career back on track after moving across the state, highlighted for me the necessity of having a stream of income that did not rely so strongly on the whims of the corporate marketplace and demands for labor.  Owning a network marketing business is a smart move - even if you love your day job and have no intentions of leaving it.  When you own a business, you aren't worried about getting laid off or fired.  Of course, as with any business, you get out of it what you're willing to put into it!  Putting in the time and effort to be successful is crucial.  Perseverance is crucial too.  What about companies that are here today and gone tomorrow?  To that, I can only say that if you look to join this industry, then it is important to complete your due diligence before you sign any agreements.  Look for a company that has staying power.  Maybe you want to get in on the ground floor of a new company, and that's your thing...but really do your homework to see if their business plan has the power to take off and stay put.  Personally, I opted for a company that has a long enough history to show stability, and is listed on the NYSE.

4.  Compensation that is not computed based on time.  I know, I just mentioned that in order to be successful you have to put in the time and effort.  But as long as your compensation is based on the amount of hours you personally put into it, there will be a definitive ceiling on how much you can earn...and it often isn't very high.  This lesson I learned the hard way when I taught private lessons full time.  I did not run out of demand for my services - I ran out of time to add more clients.  And if I was sick, or a client was sick, or if anything went wrong that caused a weekly appointment to cancel...then I lost income.  I thought I was selling my expertise, but I was wrong.  I was selling my time, and I only had so much of it available to sell.  Network marketing pays based on product volume sold, not on how long it took you (and your team) to do it.  And since you work as part of a team, you get paid on not only your efforts and time, but those of your team as well.  This is time-leveraged income, and there are no ceilings!

5.  Flexibility.  Network marketing is a business that you can conduct anywhere that you happen to be, at any hour of the day, any day of the week.  It doesn't matter if all of your available hours to work on your business are on the weekends, or at night, or the middle of the day.  If you aren't going to be around people face to face, you can conduct business online too.

6.  Direct Sales and Network Marketing are the future of sales.  Companies that operate through direct sales associates often (admittedly not always!) offer a higher quality product line, the convenience of delivery to your doorstep, and exceptional customer service both by their corporate offices and your local Associate.  Start to finish, when you deal with a reputable direct sales company, it is a more personal, higher quality experience.  You know that the person who sold you these products honestly believes in their quality, and greatly desires for you to be fully satisfied with your purchase.  Associates want you to have the best possible experience with their company, and have every reason to be motivated to do make certain of it.  They are most often your friends and family, who want you to think well of them and their enterprise.  They also want their small business to thrive with repeat orders and loyal customers.  This arrangement really can be a "win" situation for every party involved. The corporation who makes the products makes a profit by selling their wares.  The associates get paid commissions for those sales.  The consumers get personalized customer service experiences with people they trust, along with exceptional products that meet their wants and needs.  

All of those are great reasons to join the industry.  So what goes into choosing a particular company to associate with?

1.  Choose a company who creates products that you believe in, products that you truly enjoy using.  If you love it, you will find it easy to strike up conversations about it!

2.  Really study the compensation plan.  If you don't think you can make it work, you won't.  A great compensation plan is a must-have!

3.  You will almost certainly have the opportunity to meet several established associates before you decide - ask yourself whether these are people you want to be around, to be associated with professionally.  This is important, because these are the same people who should be helping you get started...who you will be going to for help, training, advice, and support.

4.  Look for a company that has staying power and integrity.  If you choose a newer company, that means really analyzing the chances that their products are going to be able to gain market share - and hold onto it.  There's a good deal of research that goes into this part, and should not be neglected.  Choosing a more established company makes your research easier, and is less risky.  But every company, and every associate, has to start who knows, maybe you find the next big thing early on!  So do your homework and your analysis before you take the plunge.  Then commit to your choice!

In broad strokes, that really is about all there is to it.  Mostly, it is about choosing a company that really speaks to you.  Passion is THE driving force in this industry!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Life Changes

When I last wrote, I was beginning a series of posts exploring the intersection of the Christian faith with American political policy & philosophy.  I had a whole set of topics I wanted to research, explore, and discuss...

And then my life priorities took a major shift.  A planned shift, but just how profound and how immediately it would affect me...well, that part took me by surprise just a little bit.

You see, this past year I became a Mom.  I learned that I was pregnant right around the time of my last post, and soon thereafter I encountered a fatigue unlike anything I have ever experienced before.  I began routinely going to sleep by 7:30, which left not much time for researching topics or writing about them...because what I really needed was tons of sleep.  My pregnancy was mostly symptom free aside from the need for so much sleep, I am happy to report!  I enjoyed being pregnant, at least up until the final week.  The final week I was placed on a very restrictive bed rest order to keep my blood pressure down, and I'm not terribly great at staying that still for extended periods of time.  Thankfully, my mom came into town to help out.  She did all sorts of things around the house, kept me rooted to the couch, and our conversations kept me entertained (and my mind off of all the things I was suddenly not allowed to do).

And now I have a completely adorable, very sweet, very happy baby boy.  He is almost 5 months old now.  My husband and I are totally enamored with him, of course...

So I trimmed down many of my activities this past year in order to focus on my health and my new family life, and that included a very long break from my blog.

Upon returning and reviewing my posts, I am going to wait on that series of posts exploring Christianity and political policy until later. I'm not sure when I'm going to return to those thoughts, but of a certainty, my life is not currently stretching in that direction.  But when I do turn back to that line of musings, I'd like to explore ideas on gay marriage/marriage equality, the drug war, welfare & other government poverty assistance programs, public education, and certainly not least...1st Amendment rights.  It may be a long time before I get to these topics, but thoughts will return to how I might responsibly exercise my voice as a citizen in ways that are consistent with my faith.

For now, my thoughts turn towards my family, my health, and my time-finance reality.  The New Year is a time for reflection and a renewed focus on improvements and commitments.  I am personally looking forward to the growth that I hope to achieve this upcoming year.  Last year was a pretty great year for me - I have a good feeling about this one too.

Best wishes to all for a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2014!

Monday, December 3, 2012

I'm still here...I promise!

The next topic that I really want to discuss in my series of posts on political philosophy has required more research than usual, coupled with these few weeks being among the busiest of my year at school. So I'm not abandoning this idea of exploring where philosophy meets policy...but it may be another week or so before I have time to sit down and write my findings and thoughts.  Thanks for your patience!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Pro-Life or Pro-Choice?

First, let's make one thing clear:  of all the people I know, who fall in every spectrum of this debate, not a single person I have ever spoken to thinks that abortions are a good thing.  No one really wants them to happen in the first place.  The real question isn't whether purposefully ending an unborn life is moral.  I think most people agree that it is's a messy, ugly, nasty topic at best.  (I won't say that ALL people find it immoral, because there really are all types out there, but I think saying "most" people consider it immoral is safe enough.)  It can be argued that abortion is, in rare cases, the lesser of two evils.  The real question ends up being whether or not the government can make the decision for you, and if they can, to what extent and in which circumstances.

Personally, I feel like life is precious and that murder is wrong.  I am a Christian, and the Bible is pretty clear on the whole "don't kill people" thing.  On top of the Bible saying so, my conscience finds the idea really abhorrent.  I consider my conscience to be one way the Holy Spirit speaks to me, so that is practically as important to me as seeing it in scripture.  The fact that those two agree only confirms for me the truth of it.  Killing people, even the unborn, is not good.  On every level, killing people screams to me "THIS IS A TERRIBLE THING!".  I cannot see ever bringing myself to have an abortion.  I couldn't bring myself to end a feeble life that was conceived out of the love I bear for my husband, even if it were at the worst of times.  Even before we were married, I would have said the same...I could not kill a child conceived through love.  We're resilient folk, we'd find a way to make it work.  If it came down to my life or the life of my unborn child...if the child had a good chance to survive even if it killed me, I think I would choose their life over my own.  I would only regret that I'd be leaving my husband to cope with the aftermath alone.  I hope I never have to find out whether I have the guts for that choice (I am certain that my husband also fervently hopes that we never face such a terrible situation!).  In this sense, I consider myself very Pro-Life.  When it comes down to me, no matter what else is going on, abortion just isn't an option considered.  If someone were to ask me if they should have an abortion, I would certainly urge them not to do it and try to help them find another solution.  Abortions are something to be avoided if possible.  (The best way to do that, I think, is better reproductive education, encouraging and educating parents on how to provide great but realistic examples of moral and responsible adulthood for their children, and easy access to contraceptive methods without stigmatizing their use...fewer unwanted pregnancies = fewer abortions)

If I were raped...well, that may be another story.  I've never really come to a conclusion on that extreme instance, so I actively avoid situations that would increase my risk for having to face that choice in my life.  I'd rather not find out how I really feel about this.  What I do know is that as hard a time as I have even imagining making that choice in the event of rape...if I can't make that decision in my own mind and heart - then as a voter, I have zero business making that choice for the thousands of women who are faced with that choice in real life every year.  At that is a matter that is between them and God that I have no place in, except to pray that God gives them wisdom that I don't have, and abundant mercy and compassion.

Which brings me to my legal view.  My personal decision is one that I made after a lot of thought and prayer - and I would resent my government telling me what to believe about this.  I celebrate the fact that my country grants me the freedom to reach that conclusion on my own, without the government forcing my actions regardless of my beliefs.  Of all the parties in this world that have a say in whether an unborn child may be born...the government just isn't on that list to me.  And there are very extreme circumstances out there, where you have to weigh the value of one life against another because you cannot always save everyone.

From a legal standpoint, Pro-Life says to me "We, the government (and a host of total strangers), know what is best for everyone in every situation".  I don't think most Americans feel that the government knows best for everyone in every situation about...well, ANYTHING.  I know that I don't feel like my government knows best about much of anything.  There are a few things they manage to get right, and from what I can tell, I am privileged enough to have a government that gets it right more often than a lot of others out there - things could be a great deal worse, I'm sure.  Anyway...Let's face it, we Americans a contentious and stubborn lot of people as a culture, and we like to have the freedoms to make our own mistakes if we must.  As a people, we're really terrible when it comes down to authorities telling us what we must do.  Most of us will end up making good choices most of the time, but we have an instinctive cultural reaction to rebel against others telling us how to think and how to act.  On the whole, I think this is a good thing.  Independent thought breeds wisdom eventually, even if it is a hard road of bad experiences along the way at times.  So it seems weird to me that this debate even got off the ground here in America - and weirder still that the political party that has taken Pro-Life as a banner the party that claims to also champion smaller government and greater personal liberties?  (I love the idea of smaller federal government and greater personal liberties - that's something I can get behind!  But how does Pro-Life fit into that platform?  I just don't understand that at all.)  Because...

Pro-Choice, legally speaking, is saying that the government cannot and should not make that call for every woman in every situation.  Pro-Choice is the legal stance that some things should be tightly regulated to minimize the harm it will cause anyway if it is made entirely illegal.  Pro-Choice is recognizing that for the evils we cannot eliminate by banning it entirely - we can minimize by providing better education, counseling, and popularizing less traumatic options whenever possible, but leaving some types of abortion legal for the circumstances that necessitate such a terrible deed.  Pro-Choice is legally respecting that some issues are best determined between a family and their faith and their relationship with God...and that we are not so wise as to know what is best for everyone all the time, that they must make their own peace if they go down that road without the interference of the law.

I don't want to stand in the seat of judgment for someone else on an issue so personal - I don't feel like I have either wisdom or the legal right to do so.  I am willing for my government to spend some of my tax money on programs that minimize the problem through preventive programs, and to minimize the myriad pains caused by the remaining abortions that could not be prevented by allowing them to be medically supervised (not paying for them, mind you, just letting it happen legally in a hospital at their own expense) and providing counseling afterwards with the hope of preventing the same mother from going through it all again and paving the way for positive mental health after the trauma.

I am Pro-Choice because I believe that legally, the associated policies and legislation protect more lives in the long run, and because I refuse to make a choice for others that I would not want others to make for me.

Thoughts, anyone?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Stretching the blog (and myself) in some new directions....

I have avoided discussion of politics and religion on here rather studiously, and very intently.  My blog is about personal growth and inner journeys...not about public policy or dogma.  However, after some reflection through the election season and a great deal of listening to all manner of comments (in personal conversations, over facebook, on the phone, a bit of TV, reading articles online), I have reached the conclusion that as an American citizen, political views certainly fall under the realm of personal growth.  Our political views are a reflection of ourselves.  What do we value?  What do we want?  Which values are most important, and which ones must take a backseat sometimes to a greater ideal?  These are not questions for the faint of heart.  When we speak of values and ideals, it is hard to separate one's spiritual life from their political ideas.  After all, so many of our values spring from our spiritual beliefs about the nature of the universe - and the nature of people.  Yet we have a system of laws that respects spiritual beliefs without being subject to any one person's interpretation of spiritual matters.  It is a fascinating interplay, and a tricky one to navigate.

You would think, that with the election season over, that this would be an inauspicious time to start all that now.

I beg to differ.  You see, now that we know who we have to work with at each level of our government, now is an excellent time to reflect on what we truly want to accomplish as a people - because who is in office really should not be that important, if they are truly doing their job of representing their constituents.  However, most people take their duties as a citizen seriously only once every two to four years, and think that by voting for the person that most closely resembles their current ideas, that they have given their opinion sufficiently.  The truth is that the reason we have such a disjunct between what our government does and what the constituents really want is a severe lack of communication coming from the constituents.  Once our representatives reach their state and national legislative offices, mostly they hear from special interest groups and lobbyists.  They are left to their own conjecture on what their people really want, and left listening to corporate and special interests lobbyists for years at a time before be conclusively give them our opinion on how they have done.  They do not know us, and we do not usually (really) know them either.  How can they represent people who they never hear from except on election day?  The answer is simple:  they don't.

Most often we do not trouble ourselves over our representatives when it isn't election season unless we hear about something that really angers us...then we send our representatives some form of angry letter telling them not to vote for something (or just venting at how angry we are at them for voting for something already that we don't like).

I suggest that we all take it upon ourselves to write positive, encouraging letters of introduction to our representatives.  In a polite, positive manner, write a letter informing your representative of your stance on the top three to five issues that most matter to you.  Explain and justify your position on each of those issues in your letter - why you support or oppose something matters.  After all, there are a lot of grey matters in the law, and those underlying reasons can help them navigate difficult decisions when they arise.  Some issues are just not as simple as "I don't support __________ under any circumstances".  Most issues, in fact, are not that simple.  So write a positive note and introduce yourself.  Give them your contact information and invite them to respond in case they seek clarification on your opinions - because sometimes they will.  Maybe if we, the citizens, open the lines of communication, then our government can begin to truly belong to us.  Then we can perhaps live up to being a nation "by the people, for the people".  Our representatives first duty is not to their party affiliation, but to their constituents.  We should gently remind them that they represent all of us, whether we voted for them or not, no matter what party they associate with.  They work for us, and we have a duty to inform them of what we'd like them to do on our behalf.  Regardless of where you fall on each issue, establishing clear, positive, and consistent communication with our elected officials is something we can all I agree on (I think).  I think we would all rather have them hearing more from their constituents rather than corporate lobbyists all day long.

You cannot get what you do not ask for.  Silence does not help them.

And if you are the praying type (regardless of religion), sending prayers for them to have wisdom in their decisions is helpful too.

In the coming days, I will be addressing - and challenging - my own political ideas.  The point is that none of our views should go unexamined, and that we should begin that examination within ourselves.  I am choosing to examine mine on a public forum, and that invites discussion.  It is my hope that through questioning, explaining, and justifying my own views, that you may look inward and begin that journey as well.  It is a voyage of self-discovery, of finding the deeper truths of what we value and why.  At the end of this little series within my blog, I will write my own letter to my representatives, in the hope that they will listen and respond.  You may agree with some of what I say, you may adamantly disagree to your last breath with all of it.  I will at times reference my spiritual beliefs where they intersect with my political ideas, as will be necessary to explain why I think or feel a particular way on certain issues.  But please, since my blog centers on the idea of personal growth, be respectful in how you write your comments.

Thanks for reading - and comments welcome!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Commitments, Integrity, Balance

The very first of the qualities that Brian Klemmer discusses in his book "The Compassionate Samurai" is Commitment.  He says that without it, one cannot be a samurai.  He also mentions that commitment, properly applied, makes all goals possible.  We can do anything we dare to dream - if we are truly committed to that dream.

I've been contemplating the nature of commitment this week in part because I am beginning to honestly believe that I don't know when to say "no" and back off.  To those who have known me for many years, I'm sure this comes as no surprise.  Y'all have been trying to tell me this for a long time.  This past week was a prime example of me not knowing when or how to back off.  On a week when I had a weeknight concert (and therefore also an extra rehearsal), I did not reschedule or cancel the private lessons I normally teach, instead I added two extra sessions because it was the week my high school clarinet students were going to their District level auditions in the All State process.  I also volunteered to roast two turkeys for a faculty luncheon at one of my schools.  I practically collapsed by the time I got home on Thursday, and proceeded to wake up (after nightmares) so miserable and ill feeling that I called in for a substitute for Friday.  Even though I only needed to make it one more day until a week vacation for Thanksgiving...I couldn't do it.  I was spent, and had nothing left.  I had worked 12+ hour days and barely slept for a week, all after being really sick with a cold the weekend before.  I didn't know when to quit until I quite literally collapsed from exhaustion.

Which brings me to commitment.  I don't know whether to say that I have a lack of it, or an overabundance of it.  Or perhaps I have just enough, but I fail to allocate it in a healthy way.  For now, I'm going with option number three - I have failed to allocate my time and commitments in a healthy way.

That being said, I honestly don't think I would go back and do this week any other way.  As exhausting as it was, each of those things was completely fulfilling to me.  The concert was fabulous and I enjoyed playing in it immensely.  My clarinet students were up against a deadline and I helped them polish their preparations (they did well, by the way!), which I also enjoyed.  No one else volunteered to cook the turkeys for our faculty luncheon, so I did - they turned out delicious - and I am glad that I did that too.  I do wish that I had had enough energy and stamina to endure until Friday afternoon, but apparently that was the cost of me accomplishing everything else before that.

What bothers me about that cost is that it cut into two different commitments I have made - to the students I see during the school day, and to my personal health.  Which tells me that this week I really was overcommitted.  I spread myself too thin and was unable to keep all of my commitments, and in the end, doing that over and over again weakens my integrity.

You might think I am being too hard on myself, after all, I did help out a lot of people this week.  But it comes down to integrity and sustainability.  What I did this week is not sustainable for more than a few days, at best.  My actions came at a high cost to two of my higher, longer term commitments.  Ultimately, if I can't keep my word, at any level, then I have caused myself a problem in terms of integrity.  I want people to be able to count on me when I say that I can do something for them.  In order to do that, I need to know my own limits better.

Sadly, knowing my own limits has never been a strong suit.  I tend to assume that I am Superwoman, and capable of anything at nearly any time.  As weaknesses go, it's a nice one to struggle with, honestly.  Since I push the boundaries of my capabilities, they tend to expand to meet my needs (eventually).  So we finally come to the crux of the matter:  Balance.

My dad has been telling me since I was a child that the key to everything in life is balance.  "Balance is a good thing" is something of a motto for him.  He usually followed that sentence with a terrible joke about balance being a salty snack in one hand and a sweet snack in the other...but there was always an element of seriousness in that statement too.  I need find the balance of commitments that stretches my current capabilities without causing me to break some of them along the way.  It won't be easy, but as an old teacher of mine would chide me, "If it were easy, we'd have kindergartners doing it!"

Finally, this week (and the fact that I really wouldn't go back and change it) tells me where my true values and personal commitments lie.  Apparently I am very committed to helping motivated students reach their goals, to contributing to the success of the band I perform with, and to volunteering for tasks that others won't step up to accomplish - and not very committed to my physical (or mental) well being. I am also not as committed to my day job as I probably should be, even though I do enjoy it.  Those last two can be hard truths to hear, even from myself.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Running Reflections

Summer is traditionally the season of the year that I am serious about my physical fitness.  Growing up, summer was the season of Swim Team.  My hometown didn't have a natatorium, so we only practiced and competed for 6-8 weeks of the year.  

I would start the season a bit flabby and end it really fit.  I'd be able to swim a mile continuously, and practice sessions by the end of the season were frequently close to 2 miles if you tallied all the laps and exercises together from a single session.  I loved it.  Which was important, as I had very few other athletic inclinations.  I liked to ride my bike, and when I reached high school, I adored marching band as well.  Since leaving my hometown, being on a swim team again has not been feasible (in fact, finding one that even accepts anyone over the age of 18 seems to be a challenge in SA).  In college I was a swim instructor and lifeguard for awhile.  My favorite part of that job was the weekly inservice workout required by state law.  I got paid to swim laps - what wasn't there for me to love about that?  After I stopped lifeguarding, I once again fell into a slump of not exercising enough.  I did yoga for a bit.  I still love yoga, and it does wonders for my flexibility and balance and sense of peaceful well-being...but it isn't enough to keep me trim and fit.  Maybe I just haven't been doing the right kind for that.  Not all that long ago I found hooping (or hoopdance), and I love that too.  

But lately I've just gotten in a rut, and as a result I stopped doing it as much.  My fitness goals stalled when I stopped hooping enough.  Maybe I just needed to learn some new tricks to mix things up, but I needed a break from that, I think.

So running.  In my life, I've had a bit of a bumpy relationship with running.  As a child, I hated it, but I had a good reason.  In elementary school my toes turned in just enough to trip me when I ran, so I equated running with falling on my face, scraping my nose, scraping my palms, and scraping my knees.  So I developed this terrible fear and loathing of running.  Between these feelings about running, and my lack of ability to consistently catch, kick, or throw a ball of any sort can see why Swim Team was so important to me.  Pretty much every other sport was right out, and they didn't interest me that much anyway.

Fast forward to me at 18 years old.  I met my ex that year, and one of his passions was running cross country.  To his credit, he was very positive, patient, and encouraging when trying to get me to try running.  After all, my toes didn't point inward anymore, so there was really no reason why I couldn't do it except for my irrational fear.  I went to visit his family in WV that summer before starting college, and it turns out that he's not the only one in his family with a passion for running up and down country roads for great distances.  Both of his sisters are into it also.  They went on daily runs together.  It comes out that I somehow managed to escape running a mile consecutively for any sort of gym class for my entire life.  I could swim a mile consecutively, but had never run one.  I had already been invited to run with them, and now they kindly insisted that I accompany them at least part of the way.  And really, I could not have asked for kinder, better coaches for that experience.  After my week in WV with them, I returned to my hometown for the rest of summer and I kept running.  I had gained enough progress that I didn't want to lose it, and at the time I was also trying to understand a family I wanted to be close to.  By the end of that summer, I could run over a mile consecutively...if I remember correctly I actually got closer to 2 miles.  When I arrived at college, I did not keep up with it.  I had accomplished my goals, which were to stop hating running on principle and to be able to run over a mile without stopping or slowing to a walk.  I turned my attention to other endeavors.  My ex and I did run together a bit while I was in college, but it was an off and on thing.

For most of the last decade, my attitude towards running has been indifferent.  I no longer hate it, but running has definitely not been my first choice for exercise and fitness either.

To the present...

Even though I haven't been on a swim team in 10 years, I still choose summer as my time to get in shape.  Last year I did yoga every single day of summer vacation.  One year when I had a gym membership I did swim laps regularly.  Another year it was racquetball.  Last week I finally reached the conclusion that running was the way to go for this summer.  I'm feeling a bit burned out on yoga and hooping, which are my favorites still, and my other favorite options all require a gym membership to have access to special facilities like lap pools and racquetball courts.  I don't want to pay money to get in shape, and I don't like having to drive somewhere to get exercise.  I like being at the gym once I'm there, but my motivational trouble with gyms is actually driving to the gym.  Sometimes when I feel like getting exercise, I want to be able to do so at the spur of the moment...before I have time for that motivation to wane.  If I have to drive, then I might end up at a bakery instead because that fleeting moment of motivation flittered off on my way there.  There are miles of trails in a mostly undeveloped park right behind my house.  I can throw on a sports bra, a t-shirt, some yoga capris, socks, my trusty yellow Chuck Taylors (an old gift from my ex's little sister, interestingly enough), and a pedometer...and go.  No further equipment, no further expense.  So running.

I started on Monday.  So far it's more walking than running, but I'll get better.