Anything that doesn’t go somewhere else.

I Am Author

I am Author, Laura Wheeler. Amazon says so.

I have been writing since the seventh grade. Pretty sad stuff, really, until I began writing instructional materials. And then nothing to send out to all the relatives, just stuff that I wanted my clients to know. Viral books to attract new clients.

Now, it is everything. I write about everything. It spills out of my fingers as though I were talking to someone across the room, trying to get it ALL out in an organized manner. Sometimes instructional. Sometimes fanciful. Sometimes poetic or lyrical. Sometimes just a story that I am compelled to write.

I am never that good. Not really. But I am Author. It is now such a large part of me that it cannot be suppressed, even when I feel my worst. Maybe BECAUSE sometimes I feel my worst.

So now I write THIS. And frankly, it is not because I am in a musing frame of mind. It is more mercenary than that. It is because I am publishing. ALL the writing. ALL the art.

And all this really is, is a puff piece to stand there holding up the sandwich board that says, “Book shop! Come in and browse!”.

Amazon has almost all of it. What they do not have, my bookstore does, at Firelight Heritage Farm. That’s Dot Com to you.

Are You a Geek?

She introduced me to her daughter. She said her daughter was studying computer sciences at the University, and loved web design. I asked her, “Are you a geek?” She smiled and admitted it.

There are two kinds of techies:

  • Those who are embarrassed about it, or think that they need to apologize for the name “geek”.
  • Those who take pride in it, and wear the name of “geek” as a badge of honor.

She was obviously the second type.

People have tried to define what a geek is. They talk about glasses, social ineptness, and a love of pizza. In reality, geeks don’t fit any stereotype, other than this:

They are universally passionate about their area of technical expertise. They speak a language that boggles the mind of regular people. And they can get in and solve a problem that makes other people think they are a genius (we actually like that part!).

The thing I’ve noticed lately is that you can create a geek. At first, the candidate isn’t even aware it is happening. But soon, words like “processor”, “code”, and “compatibility” begin to creep into their vocabulary. It isn’t long after that before they drop their first acronym (HTML, PHP, SEO, CMS, IP, DNS), and at that point, you know that it is only a matter of time before you can hold a conversation with them which will sound mostly like real English, but which will confuse the heck out of any average person!

I happen to like the confident geeks. The ones who fully understand that it isn’t just something they do, it is part of who they are, and they take pride in their ability to comprehend and puzzle out the problems.

It isn’t a closed club. It is populated by people all across the world, of every shape, size, color, age, and lifestyle. If an overweight, middle aged, gray haired mother of eight can be a geek, pretty much anyone can!

The Last of the Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers are a generation that I’ve never particularly identified with. My husband, who is 6 years older than I, never has either.

Recently I read an article about Baby Boomers. It said that they are starting to retire now, and that the next 15 years would see the further retirement of more of them. I thought that was a bit close to my age range. Sure enough, later the article said that the outside date for Baby Boomers is 1964.

I was born in 1964.

Now, I don’t know where that information came from, or whether it is even accurate. Can’t say I even feel any sense of anything at the news. It never meant anything before, and frankly, it doesn’t mean anything now!

The retirement of the largest age group does present some interesting implications for some businesses. I’m not sure it does with mine.

The Baby Boomers were the first to say they did not trust anyone over the age of 30. I definitely don’t identify with that… nor did I ever. One wonders whether they do! One wonders whether they are not now saying they don’t trust anyone under the age of 50.

Personally, I’d trust a 50 something dedicated entrepreneur over a 30 something overeager corporate climber any day. But then, since I am not really a Baby Boomer, and never really tried to be, I couldn’t speak for the real ones.

Pending Growth within the Medicine Bow, Wyoming Region

The name “Medicine Bow” has been known to only a few traditional western fans. It is the fictional site of a book that is renowned as the “first Western” novel – The Virginian, by Owen Wister. It has been the setting of three movies based on that novel, but has never been the SITE of the actual filming.

Recently, the name of Medicine Bow has been bandied about within the government and alternative energy circles. If you Google “Medicine Bow Coal to Diesel”, you’ll find a treasure trove of both factual and speculative information.

DKRW, a relatively new company, is in the development process for a coal to liquids facility which will be located just 10 miles from Medicine Bow. The facility will support a workforce of approximately 300 workers when it is fully functioning (numbers vary according to sources, this is the most often repeated number). Work crews are currently reported as being scheduled to begin construction in the spring of 2008.

The facility will be the first of its kind, and represents freedom from foreign oil, as well as significant advances on the environmental front. It is supported not only by regional government, it has widespread support on the national level. Several other facilities are planned to be built, based on the success or failure of this one. Coal states are watching this one.

Land prices in Medicine Bow are already rising. The last round of property taxes showed a fairly high increase in tax values (nearly double for many homes). Of course, since taxes have been very low here, the increases were not huge by standards elsewhere, but they still ruffled a few feathers.

Medicine Bow has had a depressed housing economy for decades. Where else can you purchase a 3 bedroom home in decent shape for under $100 k? WELL under $100 k. That may change within the next two years though. Even the housing of the work crews will present a challenge in a town that usually has only 4-6 houses for sale at a time, and where finding a rental is as much a matter of luck as it is of timing.

Growth within Carbon County in general is already strong. Housing in the surrounding towns is becoming increasingly difficult to get. The spillover is already affecting the ‘Bow. If a person had planned to purchase land low and sell high, the opportunity is already all but gone. The feeding frenzy is already on, and houses that you could not give away last year are being priced at twice their current value. In a year, they’ll get it.

For now, the small and isolated feeling is preserved. And even with growth that doubles or triples the size of the town, we’ll still be considered unbearably small to most people. When you are starting with an optimistic estimation of 300 people, the anticipated growth still won’t move us beyond “small” or “rural”. Most people in town really just want to regain a small grocery store, and it would take doubling or tripling the town size to make it feasible. It may no longer be an unrealistic goal.

Some of the atmosphere that brings people here will undoubtedly be lost. But it would be lost due to stagnation and neglect if the growth does not occur, and loss due to growth is infinitely preferable to loss due to attrition. Things will change. But we hope to find progress within the change.

Take a look at the town website for more info about Medicine Bow: http://www.medicinebow.org


A Radical Change

Well, yesterday was an interesting day. We finally got the funds together to do some really cool things – High speed internet is coming in on Thursday, a laser printer has been ordered along with Quickbooks Pro (to manage the corporate finances), and we started the paperwork yesterday to incorporate. It should be done by next week, if not sooner.

Just hours after all this, I learned that Kevin had been laid off. He went to work that day, and got blown out of the water by that. So he filed today for unemployment.

I find the timing of this all very interesting. I believe the Lord is in control, and I can see that we were actually well prepared for this. We have been talking for several weeks about Kevin coming home full time to work as my office, finance manager, customer service rep, and technical assistant. But this is not quite how we thought it would come about!

My first instinct was to pull back – I mean, those things that I put in motion were about $1200 – we can live on that for two weeks or more. But then, I really started thinking about our needs. We NEED the printer if we are to produce the promotional materials we need to promote our business (we have a new service line that requires mailers, but not enough to justify professional printing). We NEED the high speed internet, or I cannot develop the two service lines that I feel have the best potential for ongoing income. And for complex financial reasons, we need the incorporation if Kevin is also going to work from home – besides which, that Inc on the end of the business name really does help inspire more confidence than the name without it. It will also force us to be better business managers.

So now Kevin is having to make the transition to working at home. And it is different than he imagined. He has to be self-directed. Sure, I give him a lot of his assignments, but as far as managing the office and finances, he has to do it without me telling him how or when. He has to learn to do payroll, and he has to decide to keep up with it (he will, he is very well suited to this job). He cannot have any down time because there is nothing to do – when you are self employed, you do not wait for someone to tell you, every minute has to be spent doing something that benefits the business. If you do not have tasks that earn money right now, you do things that get you more money later. If you have a sense of ownership in your business, you do these things. If you do not, you just slack and never make it. It is a change for him, but it is a cool one.

The next few months are going to undoubtedly be hard as we all learn a new way of working together. But for me, this is the realization of a long hoped for dream, though I’d have preferred to choose my timing! I sort of feel like I am flying without a net.

But the bills are caught up, we have contracts progressing, and we have a property management contract that we can work on when there is no paying work from anywhere else, so I think it will be hard, but we’ll weather the storm. And I can really see the potential of our business coming into realization.

Projects in the Works

I’ve been working hard on an idea for about a year. I finally got the bugs worked out to the point that I know it can work. Now I am having to write instructions for it. This means producing about a dozen instruction books, each having anywhere from 6 to 30 chapters. I am halfway done with them, and of course, the easy ones are finished!

The really cool thing about this project though, is that when it is ready to roll out, it will form the foundation for a host of other projects. In the current form, it provides a benefit to one target group. Modify it a little, and add a few specific instructions, and it will form the basis for a totally new product to a completely different audience.

Some of the things I have attempted during the last year or two have been abject failures. But it is interesting how those failures have contributed to the potential for building a project now, into something better. I have learned a lot, and I have a lot of bits and pieces, instructions and explanations already written. They just need polish to apply them to a new use. Beats the heck outta having to rewrite them.

Not exactly pulling a phoenix out of the ashes of disaster, but feels pretty good anyway!

How Self-Image Affects Direction

With all the changes in my life lately, I’ve had to make some choices about what direction I want to go to further develop my business. My self-image has influenced those choices to a certain extent.

I’m faced with the choice of how to involve myself in community development, and how to position my business to take advantage of growth here. In some areas, I can see exactly what I can do, and know that I can do that successfully. In other areas, I just do not see myself functioning in certain capacities.

Today, in an online conversation, someone took my questions about direction, and put to words some of the deeper feelings I have had, but which I had not fully articulated. It was cool when I read her comments and felt that response of rightness that went right through me.

Part of what touched me in what she said is that her comments brought the whole picture around to where it fit my goals and my perceptions of who I am.

I desire to have a positive influence on people, and to use my skills to better their lives. I want to use my skills to strengthen families. Suddenly, in what was said, I could see how a change in my thinking could align the opportunities presented by growth in our town, with my goals to help others succeed in a way that helps their families succeed better also.

I do not see myself as doing huge things. I have always sort of operated in the background, doing small things, and reaching people one at a time. Some of that perception is gradually changing as it is made clear to me that I can reach people in a different way. But when it comes to setting a course for myself that involves contacting senators and congress persons, and becoming an activist for change, I just feel tired at the thought!

On the other hand, I think that someone who just keeps doing a consistently good job at what they do, even if they never get the attention of very many people at a time, can move mountains through determined small efforts. That is a role I am very comfortable with, partly because I don’t need to see huge things to feel that it is worth it. I only need to see one small thing happen from the work, and I know that other things happened too.

I think that in order to really take action in a specific direction, I have to be able to envision myself becoming the person who could do the things it would require. Sometimes I just cannot stretch my mind that far. But just as often, I can find an alternate way to accomplish a similar goal, through things that I CAN see myself doing successfully.

I wonder if that has held me back sometimes – that I’ve been stopped from going in a certain direction because I just could not get my mind around something that I really was capable of doing. But I also have to wonder if perhaps that is a blessing, which helps me realize a potential in another direction, which, though perhaps less noticeable, is none-the-less worthwhile and good.

The Old West Takes Center Stage

It was a shock to me when I first started working in the Medicine Bow website, to discover that this little town here was known world-wide. Oh, not by everyone, but by people who felt drawn to the old west. Medicine Bow is right up there with Deadwood in evoking images of cowboys, ranchers, pioneers, and hardy survivors.

We are perhaps on the verge of some major changes here, and they could bring new life to a town that has been slowly stagnating and regressing for the last 20 years. Some of my contracts are deep in the effort to bring change whether the planned power facility goes in near here or not, but lately we’ve been talking more in town about promoting the town more aggressively as well.

So my latest website is http://www.medicinebowbusiness.com/. It is ready for launch after three days of hard work on it (it is a small site, so it took half the time it usually takes me to build a new site with original content). And this one is an effort in a new direction, because it is not ad-supported, nor is it specifically there to promote my own services or products. But it still has to support itself.

People here won’t pay for advertising, so sellling ad spots on it is not an option, at least not yet. Google’s are out, because I don’t want them competing with the focus on our town. So I have to hope that it will bring in enough peripheral traffic for my other sites, that it will pay for itself long term.

The website for the town of medicine Bow brings in increasing traffic each month, about 3500 visitors. Not bad for an obscure little town in the middle of nowhere. That is more than ten times the population of the town.

It has been a constant amazement to me the things that people find themselves drawn to about our town. They see it as a warm, nostalgic place where they can be somebody just a little different than they always thought of themselves as being. There is something very marketable in that, if you can echo their expectations in the kind of presentation you make.

We really have just a few things here that people want: The old west, dinosaurs, and, to our surprise, the wind. The old west is pretty obvious – Owen Wister and the Virginian, and all that. Dinosaurs are less obvious unless you happen to be interested in them, in which case you’ll know about Como Bluff – which is visible from our diningroom window.
Everybody here knows about the wind. But it’s attraction is a fairly new one. Rows of wind turbines are taking up residence across our hills though, and for good reason. We are one of the most consistently windy areas in the US. It not only blows all the time, it blows hard. We have jokes about the wind here. People who first move here find it very irritating, and have a hard time coping with it. Later they ignore it, and sort of take pride in surviving with it. You don’t expect your hair to stay neat though, and you drive with both hands hanging on tight to the wheel (just to keep the car on the road), and you take sealing up drafts in your house very seriously. We take the wind for granted, and often wish it were not so persistent, so the concept that it is actually a marketable commodity takes some getting used to!

I happen to believe that many other things we take for granted here also have scope for being highly marketable. And I intend to promote that idea. Because I have web design skills, I always start things with a website – if I can plan out a website, the concepts for the whole idea is pretty well mapped out by the time I’m done.

This time there is international interest in what our town is doing. That, again, takes some getting used to. But we’ve lived here a long time. We’ve paid our dues in commuting 60 miles or more to work, and living through hardships because we had a house that had such a low value nobody wanted it. We want a piece of what is coming. And we want to make sure that other people here benefit in a way that makes our town better too.
The new website is part of positioning my business to make sure that if growth comes, I’ll be in a position to benefit our family. And so that if it does not come,  I’ll be well positioned to encourage slower growth here.

And that is partly why I am doing business on Christmas afternoon. Because time is short, and there is a lot to do this winter if we intend to see things happen this spring, and through the next few years.

I think we are on the verge of exciting change.

Grow a Garden!

Gardening doesn't have to be that hard! No matter where you live, no matter how difficult your circumstances, you CAN grow a successful garden.

Life from the Garden: Grow Your Own Food Anywhere Practical and low cost options for container gardening, sprouting, small yards, edible landscaping, winter gardening, shady yards, and help for people who are getting started too late. Plenty of tips to simplify, save on work and expense.