A Dream Realized: Opening Our Own Store

Some important milestones have recently passed without any acknowledgement here on my blog—my daughter’s 12th birthday and the one-year anniversary of creating a Book for My Daughter. Both of these events deserve their own post—and they will get one—but not today. Instead, there is a different anniversary that I believe needs to be recognized—the 9th anniversary of the opening of our store Zin Home. The opening of this store has turned out to be one of the most significant events in our lives, and I think it’s about time that I told this part of our story.

Zin Home (Exterior)

In trying to decide where to begin, I realized that this story doesn’t actually begin with our decision to start our own business, nor does it begin with the first day we opened our doors. Instead, it begins a few years earlier when we were still living in Istanbul, Turkey. During that time, my husband had a career that he had worked extremely hard for—he was a certified Guide under the Ministry of Tourism. This basically meant that he would take large groups of English-speaking tourists—often from Australia, the United States, England, or South Africa—to all parts of the country for sometimes weeks at a time. I’m not certain which aspect of the job was his favorite—the incredible sights, the freedom it afforded him, or getting the chance to meet people from around the world—but I know that he loved it. That’s why the decision to start our lives over in the United States ended up being a sacrifice for him that neither one of us could have anticipated.

Zin Home (2005)

For the first two years here, my husband had a corporate job—he woke up early, wore a suit, and worked from 9 to 5—which was the complete opposite of his previously chosen career. Although he worked hard and did whatever was required of him to be successful, he was not happy. As time went by, I could see him slowly becoming a shadow of his former self-confident and energetic self. One day, after a particularly miserable night together, I called him at work to see if he’d meet me for lunch. While we sat drinking coffee at a nearby diner waiting for our lunches to arrive, I told him to quit his job. I told him that he should just go back after lunch and give them his notice—which he did. Although I knew that the financial well-being of our family depended on him having a job, I knew that our family would end up being hurt if he continued to work in one that made him so unhappy. I truly believed that once he was free from the company he worked for, he would be able to find a new path for himself, and that would ultimately be better for all of us.

A few weeks later, a close friend of ours—actually the friend who introduced us—told us he was moving to New Jersey and that he wanted to start a business. He had been a rug merchant in Istanbul, and although he had been living and working in Washington, D.C. for the last few years, he now wanted to open a Turkish imports store—and he wanted to do it with my husband. This was not exactly what I had in mind when I told him to quit his job, and I’ll admit, I was vehemently opposed to the idea. At the time, we had no savings, we lived in a rented house, we had a two-year-old daughter, and I was only just starting out in my career—I couldn’t see how we could even be thinking about opening a store. But my husband believed he could do it.

Zin Home

I’m not sure at what point I finally got on board with this new-found dream, but before I knew it, we were signing a lease, picking out paint colors, and deciding on a name. Then, six months after quitting his job, our store, Zin Home, was born.

My husband learned a lot those first few years. He learned that selling Turkish ceramics cannot sustain a business. He learned that a home store needs to have more than just rugs and glass lanterns. He learned that reinvention is what makes a business last, and that taking risks is sometimes necessary. And recently, after redesigning and re-launching our store’s website, my husband has learned what it takes to have an online business. I have also learned a lot since opening the store, the most important of which is to have trust and faith in my husband’s dreams.

Now, here we are, nine years later, and having survived the recession, we are finally starting to see our business grow again. My advice for my daughter is something that I learned that warm fall day when I told my husband to quit his job, and it is something I still try to live by. When the path you are on “hurts” you more than it rewards you, get off of it and try a new direction because sometimes the unknown turns out to be something you never knew you even wanted.

Blame

There are some things that my children do that bother me more than others, like when my daughter doesn’t put away the clothes I’ve painstakingly folded, or when my son brings each and every toy he owns into my bedroom but is then “too tired” to clean them up afterward. As annoying as these things are, they are still somehow bearable. Then there are those things that I have a hard time tolerating, like when my kids choose to blame anyone—but themselves—for things that have gone wrong. They even like to assign blame when none is needed, and more often than not, I am the focus of this negative attention.

A perfect example of this would be when my daughter is running late for school because she can’t find clean socks to wear, she blames me for not washing them. Is it really my job to go through her disastrous room in order to find her dirty socks? Or, when I ask my son to get dressed and he yells at me that I didn’t give him his clothes yet. I mean, he’s seven, isn’t he capable of picking out his own clothes? It seems that the list of things I get blamed for is endless.

Of course, as a mother, I already place this blame on myself—I just call it “guilt.” I believe that it’s a parent’s curse to feel guilty about everything, even when we shouldn’t. So, as I sit here and feel guilty about ignoring my blog once again, I’ve decided to take a page from my children’s playbook and cast blame on everyone and everything that has prevented me from publishing a single word.

  1. My Childrens Rooms In order to write, I need the space around me to be neat, not perfect, but free of excess clutter. Although I don’t actually write in either of their rooms, every time I walk past them, I feel overwhelmed by the incredible mess I see.  That being said, I don’t actually feel compelled to clean them, but I do include them on my mental list of all the things I need to do before I can sit down to write.
  2. Work I’ve worked for the same company for the last twelve years, and although I am lucky enough to work from home, I still have a job that owns my time for 8 hours each day. If only I didn’t have to worry about feeding and clothing my children, putting gas in my car, or paying any bills, I would have plenty of time to write.
  3. Spring Break Because I’ve had a lot going on with work recently, we decided to not to do anything special for spring break this year. When it finally arrived, I felt tremendously guilty about my decision. To alleviate this guilt, I overcompensated. From the moment I finished work each day, I was at the mercy of my children’s whims—from taking my daughter shopping at the mall, to hunting down a new Skylander for my son at Toys R Us—all in the hopes of making their break a little more memorable. Each night, when all of the running around was finally done, I was too exhausted to even turn on the computer.
  4. Alcohol With all of the endless running around, who could blame me for needing a glass of wine—or two—at the end of a long day. And, although wine may be good for creativity when tweeting, I don’t find it incredibly motivating when trying to write.
  5. The Internet Why is it that on the nights when I actually had the energy to turn on the computer, there was always something interesting to distract me: posts from fellow bloggers, Google alerts in my inbox, emails from friends, status updates on Facebook? It was as if the Internet was mocking my desire to capture my advice for my daughter, by tempting me with this or that—and I gave in each and every time.
  6. Shades of Grey Trilogy Five days of my life were lost within the pages of these books—that’s all I’m going to say about that.
  7. Photobooks by MyPublisher Once every six months or so, MyPublisher sends out a coupon code for a photobook with unlimited pages for only $35 dollars. Unfortunately, they only give you about a day and a half to create and submit it—so as soon as the email arrived, I had to get started. In the end, my “2011” photobook was 70 pages in length, and without the coupon it would have cost me $90.00. Who can blame me for thinking about nothing else during that time other than editing, cropping, and sorting images in order to take advantage of such an incredible offer?
  8. DragonVale I hesitate to include this on my list, as I don’t want anyone out there to be tempted to actually play this game—it is a huge time suck. At first, it was something for my son and I to do together—breed some dragons, collect some coins, compete in the colliseum—but then it turned into something more. Suddenly, every time I went to use the iPad for writing, I found myself checking on the dragons. I completely blame the creators of this game for preventing me from writing—wouldn’t you?
  9. Roku I cancelled cable recently in the hopes of saving some money and to attempt to watch less TV. I then purchased a device called “Roku” so that we could still watch TV via the Internet. What I didn’t know was that by subscribing to Netflix and HuluPlus, I was just opening myself up to a world of TV that I hadn’t known was out there—which leads me to #10.
  10. Friday Night Lights This is not a show that I was remotely interested in when it was on TV, as it focuses on three things I can’t exactly relate to—High School, Football, and Texas. For some unknown reason, when I saw the complete series on Netflix, I decided to give it a try. By the end of the first episode, I was completely hooked. Now, a few weeks and 70 episodes later, I am dreading the day—probably in the very near future—that the series will come to an end. Although this was probably the one thing that I blame the most for my not writing, I still think it was so worth it.

Well, there you have it, all the things that have prevented me from writing these last three weeks. And, although I still don’t like it when my kids blame me for things that I don’t deserve—nor would I advise them to cast blame in the future—I do feel better.

Update: In Defense of My Children

I want to thank all of you who reached out to me via email, Twitter, Facebook, and this blog with your words of advice in response to my previous post—I was humbled by the response. The overwhelming consensus was that something needed to be done—something I knew and yet wasn’t certain of how to proceed. So, in the end, in my non-confrontational way, I decided to send an email directly to the principal explaining the situation. Here is what I wrote:

I wanted to talk with you about a concern we have been having recently regarding lunchtime. Last week, I received a call from the school nurse telling me that my son had come to see her during recess. He had been complaining of a cough, but she soon discovered that he was actually trying to hold back tears. He told her that he had gotten in trouble during lunch and was told to sit on the stage. He was devastated, and deeply embarrassed—he didn’t want to “face his teacher or friends.” The nurse reassured him, and was able to return him to class a short time later. My daughter also came home from school that day in tears as she told me how she had witnessed her brother getting in trouble during lunch. As you probably know, both of my children are very respectful, and follow rules to the extreme. They are also deeply sensitive and care (sometimes too much) about what others think of them. That day at lunch, my son had brought a football to school to use during recess. He accidentally dropped the ball on the floor, and when he went to pick it up, he was yelled at by one of the lunch volunteers. When he was sitting on the stage, he started to cry, so my daughter went to check on him (she was volunteering for lunch-bunch that day), she too was yelled at and told “get away from him.”

Yesterday, my son came home and told me that he “hated school”—words I have never before heard said by either of my children. He loves school, he loves to learn, and he loves his friends, and after he admitted to those things, he told me that he was just so nervous about going to lunch he couldn’t think about anything else. He also told me that he no longer talks during lunch, as is too afraid he is going to get punished.

I understand that lunch-time must be a period of heightened stress for teachers and volunteers, as kids have a tendency to act up when they are all together. I have no issue with discipline when needed, however I do have an issue with an adult yelling at any child—not just my own. I also think that it would be incredibly helpful—not just to my son, but to all of the younger children—to have a meeting to go over lunch-room rules. Since my son is only in 1st grade, he learns from the older kids and is honestly confused as to how to behave. This is one of the main reasons he is so anxious about going to school now. He is afraid that he will do something wrong, and not even realize it (he was also told to sit on the stage by the same volunteer when he went to the bathroom during lunch without asking—something he sees many of the children doing, but didn’t realize it was actually a rule to ask). In addition to talking with the children, I think it would be necessary if those who are there during lunch would also participate so that the kids can ask questions about what to do—and what not to do—and everyone can be on the same page.

I wrestled with saying something to you about this, but in the end, I decided that I needed to be my son’s advocate, and I hope that my words are more beneficial than critical.

I received a response a short time later, asking me to come in to speak with him. Maybe it’s my years at Catholic school, but I still get a bit anxious when being asked to come to the principal’s office. So, when I arrived a few hours later, I was relieved by his initial words: I want to tell how impressed I am with your son. He went on to explain that he had met with him earlier in the day, and talked with him about what had happened. He told me of their conversation, how he had proposed a similar solution to my son regarding the explanation of the rules—not just for him but for all the younger students. The principal said that my son expressed himself extremely well for someone so young, and he was especially struck by what my son told him at the end of their discussion: “I’m so glad you are doing something about this.”

The most important thing I took away from this whole experience is that I was able to show my son—through my actions and not just my words—how to stand up for yourself—and or for others. The fact that the principal wanted to hear my son’s point of view, showed him the importance of speaking up. I also learned that this blog is more than a place for me to capture my words of advice for my daughter, it is a place for me to voice my concerns, worries, fears, and hopes for my children—and to receive incredible words of advice back from you. Thank you!

In Defense of My Children

Most people would probably agree that I am not a confrontational person. In fact, I will do just about anything to avoid conflict. Even when it involves my children’s well-being, I am not quick to attack. Instead, I gather all the details, spending endless hours running through all possible scenarios until I have either decided on a plan of action or I finally come to terms with whatever it might be and put it to rest. This is why I am having such an issue deciding on what do about something that recently happened with my son.

Yesterday, I received a call from the school nurse. Her first words were “No one is sick.” My first thought was “Then, why are you calling me?” She went on to explain that my son had come into her office during recess complaining of a cough. She was concerned that he may have been having an allergic reaction to something because his face was red and splotchy. After asking a few questions, she soon discovered that he was very upset and the splotchiness was due to fighting back tears. He told her that he had gotten in trouble during lunch and had to “sit on the stage” (it is a multi-purpose room, and the stage is a place for kids to sit and ponder what they might have done wrong—the equivalent of public humiliation for my son). He had gone to the nurse because he was too embarrassed to face his teacher or his friends. When she asked him why he had gotten punished, he told her that he had accidentally dropped his football on the floor. The nurse did her best to make him feel better, and within a short time, she was able to walk him back to class.

On my way to pick him up a few hours later, I decided that I wouldn’t ask him about what happened unless he looked upset or if he mentioned it to me. When I finally laid eyes on him, I was relieved to see that he seemed fine, and I thought that maybe he had put the whole thing out of his mind. When my daughter got out of school, however, I could immediately tell that she already knew what happened and wanted to talk to me about it. I stopped her before she said something that would have reminded her brother, and instead waited until we were alone to find out what she wanted to tell me.

As it turned out, she had witnessed her brother getting in trouble. The way she explained it was that as he went to pick up his football, the woman screamed at him “What are you doing?” and immediately told him to sit on the stage. My daughter, seeing her brother holding back tears, went over to check on him. Just as she asked him how he was, the woman yelled—this time at my daughter—telling her to “get away from him.” This made my son cry, and as my daughter relayed the details of how she had no choice but to walk away from him, her eyes filled with tears.

The detail in all of this that made my maternal protectiveness kick in was that the woman who punished him was not a teacher, an Aid, or even someone who worked in the school—it was a mother, a woman whose daughter attends the school and who volunteers during lunch. It wasn’t the fact that she punished my son, it was that she screamed at him, and that this was the second time this had happened. It is not that I expect this woman to know the personalities of every child in the school, nor do I expect her to somehow treat my son differently. However, the very idea that an adult would actually yell at my child just seems to somehow cross a line.

Something very similar to this happened to my daughter a few years ago. During lunch one day, the kids were directed to sit with their own classes. When a boy in her grade—who wasn’t in her actual class—tried to sit at her table, she told him to sit somewhere else. This boy’s mother was volunteering that day, and witnessed her son being told to move to another table. It’s possible that my daughter may have given him an attitude, it’s even possible that she may have been rude, but she didn’t deserve what happened next. This mom yelled at my daughter, calling her “rude” and a “brat” in front of her friends. She then continued to rant about my daughter to the other table of students, and even to some of the other mothers who were volunteering—all while my daughter was listening to every word. The moment she got in the car that evening, she burst into tears. I had never seen her cry about school, and for the next few hours, all she could talk about was what had happened. Her main concern was returning to lunch and seeing this mom the next day. I had never seen her so distraught—filled with so much anxiety—that I realized that I had to do something.

I was able to find the woman’s email address, and I wrote her a letter. I did not yell, or swear, or write down empty threats. Instead, I tried to make her see things through my daughter’s eyes—my sensitive, kind, loving, and compassionate daughter. I reminded her that she is an adult, she shouldn’t have humiliated my daughter, nor behaved no better than the 4th graders she was serving. I told her that even if my daughter had done something wrong, she should have gone to the Principal or a teacher—she should never have taken it upon herself to publicly berate my child.

I received a response back from this woman that same evening, but nothing could have prepared me for her words—she apologized, and she thanked me for being so candid and heart-felt in defense of my daughter. She told me that she was ashamed of how she acted, even if it came in defense of her own child. We ended up writing back-and-forth over the next few days, and when she saw my daughter at school, she apologized to her as well.

I wrote about finding my “Village” in a previous post, and I am left wondering if by writing that email a few years ago, I might have—even in a small way—altered the way this mother may have since interacted with other children. Now I feel I am faced with a similar situation—here is a mother who is acting in a way that is hurtful to my son—should I reach out to her, a woman I do not know? I normally end my posts with my words of advice, but today, I am asking for your advice. What would you do in this situation, as doing nothing feels as if I am waiting for it to happen again? I am at a loss.

I have written an update to this post, which you can read here. I want to thank you all for your incredible words of support and advice—they mean more than I can say.

A Mother’s Rant Against the TV

As a mother, the list of tasks I have to do often appears endless. Although some I don’t mind doing—helping with homework, cooking dinner, vacuuming—I actually consider many to be less than appealing. Now that my children are older, you won’t find me longing for the days of dodging projectile vomit, cleaning up a baby whose diaper has exploded, or getting up in the middle of the night—multiple times—to feed a ravenous infant. That being said, just because the infant and toddler years have passed, it doesn’t mean that my children are any less demanding.

Each day, after my meetings are over and it’s time to turn my thoughts away from work and back to my kids and the evenings’ demands, I am bombarded by requests, from making chocolate milk to finding the forever-missing remote control. Depending on my own mood at the time, these demands might be met with a quiet acquiescence if I’m feeling relaxed and easy-going or—God forbid I’m feeling over-burdened—they will more than likely be met with a deluge of complaints about “no one helping me—EVER!”

I’ve noticed that it doesn’t really matter what my reaction might be—calm and understanding or raging lunatic—the demands never stop. As long as my children are awake, it seems I only get to sit down for five-minute intervals (ten, if I’m lucky). By the time I attempt to turn my attention back to whatever I had been doing—finding where I had left off in the book I was reading, un-pausing “Grey’s Anatomy” for the eleventh time, or recapturing my train of thought so I might actually finish writing a new post—one of my children will inevitably yell “Mom?” in the hopes that I will once again stop what I was doing to come to their aid.

The problem is they are still kids, and they honestly do need me to help them—sometimes. Like when one of the kids gets in the shower without grabbing a towel or bathrobe, and they are standing in the shower shivering waiting for me to materialize with robe in hand. Or, when my son needs something to drink and he can’t reach a glass in the cabinet—I mean, is it really worth the risk of him falling off a chair just so I can find out what’s going to happen between Meredith and Derek? I think not. So, I stop what I am doing, and I go—and I try not to get frustrated with them.

There is one thing that I absolutely hate doing, and I would, on some days, trade a thousand messy diapers not to have to do it any longer—

Finding something for my son to watch on TV.

I know, you were expecting something gross, like picking up dirty socks from the laundry room floor (which I really do hate doing), but honestly, being a “human remote control” is the most annoying job that I do on a daily basis.

Up until this year, my son couldn’t read, so at any given moment when he would ask me what was on TV, I would have no other choice but to sit down and read him the titles. I would scroll through the guide, reading each title, as he repeatedly said “No” to all of them. Then, with nothing to watch on “live” TV, I would turn to the On-Demand titles. Ten, sometimes twenty, minutes later, after having exhausted every title in the entire cable box, he would finally make up his mind and I would then have to remember where we had seen it listed.

As he has gotten older, and he can now read—or at least, recognize—the titles of the shows he likes, it seems I only have to help him find something once a day when “there’s nothing on.” No matter how long it takes, I find it to be a tedious and frustrating task—and by the time he has said his twenty-third “No,” I will have completely lost my patience and will have started ranting at him about how much I spend on cable, how his sister only had seven channels when she was young, how he should be happy, blah, blah, blah. Needless to say, this time spent with my son usually deteriorates into tears or hurt feelings.

Even as I sit here and write this, although it hasn’t made me hate being a “human remote” any less, it has made me realize something other than the fact that my son probably watches too much TV—my son needs me. As he continues to grow up, there will be more and more things that he will be able to do on his own, and although I know he will always love me, he will not always need me in the way he does right now. So, my advice today is for myself to remember this, and the next time he swears that even with three-hundred-and-seventy-five channels, THERE’S NOTHING ON, I will have the patience to know that it’s just his way of telling me he needs me.

I’m linking up this week with YeahWrite.me—check out lots of other great blogs!

The Bribe

I learned an important lesson this week. It’s one that many parents have already learned—possibly the hard way—as I did. I did something that should have been prevented by common sense, but unfortunately it was nowhere to be found.

I BRIBED MY CHILD.

Specifically, my son.

Yes, I am guilty of the age-old parenting sin of using bribery to get my son to do what I wanted. The long list of potential pitfalls of this approach didn’t come to mind in my moment of desperation. Before I explain my reasoning for using this particular tactic with my son, I should state that I have (somewhat) successfully used it on more than one occasion with my daughter in the last eleven years without any noticeable side-affects. Although. as I write this, I am now concerned that I should possibly look a little closer at her current behaviors (in particular, the less-appealing ones) to see if bribery could have been the root cause. But that is for another day . . .

Back to my son.

The incident happened two weeks ago. I have probably mentioned that my son does taekwondo, and he absolutely loves it. When he first began eighteen months ago, he asked everyday if he could go. Because I got tired of hearing his complaints on the days he couldn’t go, I decided to sign him up for a three-year commitment that would allow him to go as often as he wanted.

Since then, rarely a day has gone by without him eagerly going to class. In fact, he loves it so much that he even joined the school’s performance taekwondo team, called SWAT. With a big competition approaching, the Master has recently begun spending more and more time working on the routines with the older kids. My son and a few of his friends have been sitting on the sidelines watching. Two weeks ago, he told me that he thought the Master didn’t think he was good enough, and he wanted to quit the team. Because I didn’t want him to give up, I decided to talk to the Master about how he had been feeling.

Although it seemed he understood the point I was trying to make, because the Master is not fluent in English, I couldn’t be certain. He smiled, and told me that he would talk to my son. He then pulled him out of class to talk in the back room. This is when things started to go downhill. My son thought he was in trouble, and within minutes of returning to class, he began to cry. He was then sent out of the class in order to get himself together—which then prompted a complete meltdown. He sobbed into my arms; he was inconsolable.

The meltdown lasted for the rest of the class, and continued on into his SWAT practice. Even when the tears finally stopped, he refused to practice with the team, but instead chose to sit in the back and pout. It was horrible—both for him and for me. I felt powerless to help him because I knew that if I took him out of the class that it would just make things worse. I needed him to get through it. When we finally left two hours later, his breakdown had turned into outrage. He felt betrayed by his Master, and he swore he was never going back.

NEVER!

I tried to explain that he wasn’t in trouble, that no one was mad at him, but he wouldn’t listen—he was too busy screaming in the backseat. I tried everything I could think of to make him understand what had happened, but it was to no avail. This was on a Thursday—his next class wasn’t until Monday—so I decided to stop talking about it, in the hopes that he would calm down and (possibly) forget about it.

Come Monday evening, when I told him to get dressed for taekwondo, he refused. He told me that he was “too afraid to go.” I tried the same reasoning I had used on Thursday, even going so far as to explain the details of a contract. He didn’t seem to care that I’d be obligated to pay the school whether he went or not. He was going!

We were at an impasse.

Because I knew that if he just went he’d be able to get over his fear, in a moment of desperation, I told him if he went to class, I would get him a toy afterward. The bribe. He thought about the offer for a few minutes, and then agreed. And of course, class was just as I had expected. Within a few minutes of it beginning, everything was back to as it was—he once again loved taekwondo. And after class, we found ourselves walking up and down the —very small—toy aisle at CVS until he settled on some ninja accessories. He was over-joyed, and I thought to myself It was worth it.

Then the aftermath hit.

Since that day two weeks ago, he now thinks he should be bribed for everything. He had Strep and needed to take medicine—he wanted me to bribe him with candy. He had extra homework to complete because he had missed school, he thought he should be rewarded for finishing it with an extra hour of bedtime. When he takes a shower, he thinks he deserves a cookie. He has actually used the words “You have to bribe me,” in reaction to me asking him to do something. I have created a monster!

If he had been a little bit more subtle about it—possibly refusing to take his medicine or going days without showering—I may have resorted to using this tactic once again. But, because he obviously thought that this was an easy way to cash in on his everyday obligations, I began saying “No” to every demand. Today, he only asked me to bribe him once, and that was to get dressed for a playdate—a reward in itself.

What advice can I possible have after this? It’s simple: use bribery only under the most dire of circumstances, the rest of the time, stand firm and just make them do what I want. We’ll just have to wait and see how it goes.