Falling

I haven’t allowed myself blogging time for over a year.

Too many demands on my time.  Falling short in too many areas.

I’ll write…

When the big work project is done…

When my home is orderly, organized…

When family needs are fewer…

Time invested does not fill. More time is needed.  Another project looms.

Time is limited. Demands urgent.

I haven’t allowed myself blogging time.  It’s unnecessary. Just a personal pleasure. There is so much I need to do.

Guilt.

I’ve gotten so much done this past year. There will always be more I need to do.

False guilt.IMG_3321IMG_3322

No need to blog.  But I miss the time thinking and assigning words to express my thoughts.

And a part of me falls away when I do not write.

 

 

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The Business of Caring

We bought a zoo daycare in 2004.
We are currently licensed to serve 96 children, with more than that enrolled due to part-time preschool classes and before/after school programs. We employ between fifteen and twenty-five people, depending how many are full or part-time.

With all those people, nine classrooms, five bathrooms, two workrooms, two playgrounds, two entryways, an office, and a kitchen, little things go wrong all the time. A very partial listing from over the years includes: 3 broken aquariums(the fish were all saved!), a half dozen broken windowpanes, 3 employees’ keys broken off in the door locks, and numerous plumber visits to retrieve UFO’s (Unidentified Flush-able Objects)from our pipes.(The latest was a yellow marker. $200.) We have worn out more vacuums and toasters in ten years than I will have owned in a lifetime, if I life to 100.

At home we occasionally need to repair or replace larger appliances and fixtures. At our center, fifteen sinks, nine toilets, four furnaces, four air conditioners, three full-sized refrigerators, two freezers, two hot-water heaters, along with office and playground equipment, greatly increase our odds that something needs work. Monthly, if not weekly. Though not a handy-man to tackle the big repairs, much of my husband’s “free time” goes to the many smaller repairs, painting, snow removal, etc.

I had worked many years for this business as a preschool teacher, then as administrator. We knew some of what we were getting into. In 2004, we were sure we had weighed all the possible scenarios that would complicate the venture.

Oops.

Two of the biggest unexpected challenges we have faced:
1)Several years ago,our state suddenly increased minimum wage well ahead of the federal rate, with a built in annual increase. (This thwarted our desire to see most of our employees working well above minimum wage.) We are in a small town market that will not support what businesses in Ohio’s larger cities are charging to cover this increased expense.
2)The “Great Recession” hit some of our neediest families the hardest, as temp workers and new hires were often the first let go by their companies. Almost every family felt the crunch, with fewer work hours and lowered salaries if not with lay-offs. There was less need for childcare and preschool during 2009, and slow growth as jobs returned to our area in 2010. An unusual result of this recession was an increase in the number of people offering childcare in our state, our area included. Though we are back towards “normal” we have never returned fully to our numbers prior to 2009.

Surprise expenses have come in many forms, such as the city breaking a gas line when working on our road ($3,000 to redo our gas line to meet new regulations after the break) and the Federal government requiring all new cribs in 2013 to meet new safety standards ($2500).

Less surprising are the increases in food costs, shipping costs, energy costs, all those things that keep the cost of living going up for everyone. Educating staff, paying for more highly educated staff, providing educational materials and toys, all add to the expense of providing quality care for the children.

We are a business that provides care. Our challenge is to provide quality care at a fair price for our families, while making a fair income to cover our costs and pay our staff.

These are the nitty-gritty (boring!) details of our life as child care business owners. They tell such a small part of our story. Motives, plot-twists, and seeing God at work – that’s what I like in a good story. I’ll share some of that next time.

Bumblebee Breakfast

It’s a slow start summer Saturday
.
Our dog is sprawled on the porch, still guarding the door, daylight her chance to rest after active duty all night. I joined her with my book and bowl of cereal, the cat coming in as I stepped out.

Bright sun spotlights the porch this morning, so I trade sunglasses for my readers and put the book down. The dog woke to watch me eat. The cat stares plaintively out the door, regretting his quick choice to go in. Quite an audience for a simple breakfast.

Edging the porch the Black-eyed Susans and Hostas are abloom. Bumblebees methodically work from one purple trumpet to another on the hosta. A white butterfly hovers. My husband saw a hummingbird here yesterday, but it is just the bees at work this morning. The Morning Glories I planted recently are beginning to climb the trellis. Funny I get such joy from these little things. Slowing is a luxury for me.

The wind chime above my head rings lazily, a backdrop for the constant bird sounds. I hear the mourning doves and quail (Bob White!), and a high pitched, but gentle warble I can’t identify. My father-in-law used to know most birds by their call – wish I’d learned more. We’ve had the fun sounds of cat-birds and mocking birds from time to time, and often woodpeckers to add percussion to the chorus. I spotted an Indigo Bunting twice this week, a rarer treat. I wonder what they sound like?

The cat races outside as I take my empty bowl in. I am heading to town to get some work done at our business. Saturdays are good for that without the interruptions I face when we are open. Before I leave, my husband and I walk the yard, admiring new growth, new blooms. We confer on what to pull and what to leave as he shows me some of the gardening he plans to do today. He’s found more pleasure in the yard in recent years. The visible signs of accomplishment as he mows and weeds make a welcome break from financial decisions and bill paying.  He waves, as always, as I drive away.

So much to treasure in this quiet start to the day.

It’s not just summer. It’s a slowing season of life for us.