#SWAAYthenarrative

My Journey From Foster Homes To Fostering Peace of Mind

7 Min Read
Self

We all have experiences in our lives that can influence us forever, even though we may not realize it in the moment. One such event for me took place when I was about 11 years old, about my daughter's age. I was a small, scraggly, malnourished kid that had escaped one bad foster home just to get stuck in another. The main difference was that this foster family just happened to live across the street from a park, so I would run across the street to that park every day to untangle myself from the crosshairs of their dysfunction.

I was a small, scraggly, malnourished kid that had escaped one bad foster home just to get stuck in another.

Oftentimes, there would be an old man sitting on a park bench just passing the time. It started with just a "Hi," then turned into longer conversations. Then, one day, out of the blue he said, "I have a surprise for you in my car!" Of course, my spidey senses woke up, but for some reason, I followed him anyway. He had one of those big grandpa type cars with a huge trunk. He pointed to the trunk and said, "Stand right here and close your eyes."

I know. This is the part in a horror movie when you shout "NO!" at the screen. For some reason, I did as he asked. The trunk popped open, I opened my eyes, and I saw an enormous rectangular cake that had "Happy Birthday Lillie!" written across the top in frosting. At that point in my life, my birthday was just a regular day. I had never even tasted birthday cake, much less had one specifically for me. My name may have been spelled wrong, but no biggie. We both ate as much cake as we could and parted ways. I just assumed that I'd see him at the park the next day, but I never saw him again.

That old man could have had an underlying sinister ideas, but at that moment, it didn't materialize.

The many facets of this event generated different emotions within me through various stages of my life.

The excitement of my first cake ever in my child brain.

The kindness of strangers in my teenage brain.

How I may have cheated death in my single lady brain.

Incredulity at the idea of ever letting my daughter go to the park alone in my new mother brain.

And in my researcher's brain, how something as simple as cake can bring relief amidst the chaos of childhood and the correlation with how we try to replicate that same feeling with alcohol, drugs, and food as adults.

For the next few decades after the cake in the park, as I gathered the ingredients of supposed happiness: education, job, marriage, home, exotic vacations, and charitable acts, I also began to gradually suppress who I was and where I was from. I ended up in an environment where assimilation was paramount. An environment that is uncomfortable with showing pain or voicing an opposing opinion. So, I stifled it all inside myself. I was just a concocted version of me that was presentable to the outside world.

Eventually, a rumbling started within. I wasn't exactly sure what it was, but it felt like a combination of dissatisfaction, irritation, and confusion. I'd lash out at whoever was closest to me thinking they were the source. I would push the rumbling down by getting angry at myself for not being grateful for how far I'd come. I tried to guilt myself into feeling content. How could someone who came from nothing and now seems to have everything feel this way?

I was just a concocted version of me that was presentable to the outside world.

After years of escaping scary situations, and even the authorities, I couldn't escape this feeling that I was not living an authentic life. So I blew up my life in the ugliest way. I'll spare the details with respect to others involved. But after I finished victimizing myself and hit rock bottom through my own self-destructive behavior, I developed a curiosity for why I did what I did and how I could have avoided it.

Technically, my life is no different than millions of others. It's a part of the human condition to experience trauma. We have all suffered in our lives. We've been ignored. We've felt insignificant. We've doubted ourselves and our worth. So we spend years experiencing and then building up a tolerance to pain, and then we spend the next few trying to protect ourselves from it. Somewhere along the way, we have to figure out who we really are and do some real work on ourselves. In mechanic's terms, work on the engine instead of the body. Understanding that process allows a person to work on things gradually rather than just self-imploding like I did.

After years of escaping scary situations, and even the authorities, I couldn't escape this feeling that I was not living an authentic life.

Here's the thing, I have more street cred than anyone in my neighborhood and am definitely more gangster than any of my mom-friends, so it's awkward to admit that I needed to work on myself. Where I'm from, people get beat up for talking like that! To get ahead of it all, my research morphed from how to deal with pain to healing from pain by finding the most efficient way to do the most repair in the shortest amount of time and with minimal discomfort. So, we can all get on with our lives. Afterall, we all have somewhere to go, things to do, and money to make.

I went out and tried practically every therapeutic method out there and when I found what worked, I studied it intensely. The methods that were most effective for me involved going deep within myself to make repairs at the source — usually, this was rooted in reflection, meditation, and hypnosis.

This was a confusing process for me; I am a natural skeptic. How could change really happen by just thinking or not thinking? Everything I did usually required some form of blood, sweat, and tears. I went along with it, and then, much to my surprise, I started to see results. Some were immediate and some were gradual. Things didn't bother me as much anymore. I was more focused on my goals. I felt like I was actually standing taller because I wasn't carrying all that extra baggage.

We spend years experiencing and then building up a tolerance to pain, and then we spend the next few trying to protect ourselves from it. Somewhere along the way, we have to figure out who we really are and do some real work on ourselves.

When I focused on the source within me that had been causing my discomfort, I was able to fix it. I didn't have to deal with it again. I used to just blame someone or something else for my problems. Or I would distract myself with alcohol, drugs, shopping, gossip, or even just zoning out and staring at a screen. All that did was push it to the next day. That's why I started Chunkybrain.

I didn't have the bandwidth to focus inward until I was able to get a handle on the daily struggles of my life. But along the way of helping myself, I also began to focus my formal education so I could help others. As a result, I blended meditation and self-hypnosis, which I call focused meditation, to share this new technique with my clients so they can deal with their own daily struggles and get in the right frame of mind to do the long-term repairs they need on themselves.

I call it focused meditation because it can get someone to a relaxed, meditative state while also clearing out their mental blocks and focusing on certain goals as in hypnosis. Throughout this process, the more I embraced all forms of myself, intelligent me, street me, scared me, recovering me, authentic me... the more helpful I was to others.

When I focused on the source within me that had been causing my discomfort, I was able to fix it. I didn't have to deal with it again.

Chunkybrain is a twist on regular meditation, and it's not for the faint of heart. You know what they say, you can take the girl off the street, but you can't take the street out of the girl. In the recordings, I have a little fun with some foul language and slang, but it doesn't take away from the purpose. I feel like this connects better with people more like me. I utilize the science behind working with the subconscious, but I do it while using everyday language. It's a little less "woo-woo," and it helps with feeling less like an imposter.

To me, ChunkyBrain is scientifically sharing the relief I got from that cake all those years ago without the calories or the crash. Namafuckenste. (In the most respectful way possible!)

3 Min Read
Business

Five Essential Lessons to Keep in Mind When You're Starting Your Own Business

"How did you ever get into a business like that?" people ask me. They're confounded to hear that my product is industrial baler wire—a very unfeminine pursuit, especially in 1975 when I founded my company in the midst of a machismo man's world. It's a long story, but I'll try to shorten it.

I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up—even if it involved a non-glamorous product. I'd been fired from my previous job working to become a ladies' clothing buyer and was told at my dismissal, "You just aren't management or corporate material." My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.

Over the years, I've learned quite a few tough lessons about how to successfully run a business. Below are five essential elements to keep in mind, as well as my story on how I learned them.

Find A Need And Fill It

I gradually became successful at selling various products, which unfortunately weren't profitable enough to get me off the ground, so I asked people what they needed that they couldn't seem to get. One man said, "Honey, I need baler wire. Even the farmers can't get it." I saw happy dollar signs as he talked on and dedicated myself to figuring out the baler wire industry.

I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up.

Now forty-five years later, I'm proud to be the founder of Vulcan Wire, Inc., an industrial baler wire company with $10 million of annual sales.

Have Working Capital And Credit

There were many pitfalls along the way to my eventual success. My daughters and I were subsisting from my unemployment checks, erratic alimony and child-support payments, and food stamps. I had no money stashed up to start up a business.

I paid for the first wire with a check for which I had no funds, an illegal act, but I thought it wouldn't matter as long as I made a deposit to cover the deficit before the bank received the check. My expectation was that I'd receive payment immediately upon delivery, for which I used a rented truck.

Little did I know that this Fortune 500 company's modus operandi was to pay all bills thirty or more days after receipts. My customer initially refused to pay on the spot. I told him I would consequently have to return the wire, so he reluctantly decided to call corporate headquarters for this unusual request.

My stomach was in knots the whole time he was gone, because he said it was iffy that corporate would come through. Fifty minutes later, however, he emerged with a check in hand, resentful of the time away from his busy schedule. Stressed, he told me to never again expect another C.O.D. and that any future sale must be on credit. Luckily, I made it to the bank with a few minutes to spare.

Know Your Product Thoroughly

I received a disheartening phone call shortly thereafter: my wire was breaking. This horrible news fueled the fire of my fears. Would I have to reimburse my customer? Would my vendor refuse to reimburse me?

My customer told me to come over and take samples of his good wire to see if I might duplicate it. I did that and educated myself on the necessary qualities.

My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.

Voila! I found another wire supplier that had the right specifications. By then, I was savvy enough to act as though they would naturally give me thirty-day terms. They did!

More good news: My customer merely threw away all the bad wire I'd sold him, and the new wire worked perfectly; he then gave me leads and a good endorsement. I rapidly gained more wire customers.

Anticipate The Dangers Of Exponential Growth

I had made a depressing discovery. My working capital was inadequate. After I purchased the wire, I had to wait ten to thirty days for a fabricator to get it reconfigured, which became a looming problem. It meant that to maintain a good credit standing, I had to pay for the wire ten to thirty days before my customers paid me.

I was successful on paper but was incredibly cash deprived. In other words, my exponentially growing business was about to implode due to too many sales. Eventually, my increasing sales grew at a slower rate, solving my cash flow problem.

Delegate From The Bottom Up

I learned how to delegate and eventually delegated myself out of the top jobs of CEO, President, CFO, and Vice President of Finance. Now, at seventy-eight years old, I've sold all but a third of Vulcan's stock and am semi-retired with my only job currently serving as Vice President of Stock and Consultant.

In the interim, I survived many obstacles and learned many other lessons, but hopefully these five will get you started and help prevent some of you from having the same struggles that I did. And in the end, I figured it all out, just like you will.