Archive for » July, 2009 «

July 27th, 2009 | Author:

Usually a storm is where nature unleashes all havoc.  Then afterward you find there was a lesson being tought to you in a harsh way.

I went to Grand Cayman two years ago and this exact situation happened to me — literally.

We were walking along the beach, the sky was blue, and waves were crashing up on the sand.  All of a sudden it started raining and the rain kept getting worse.  We ducked under an overhang of a resort by the beach and waited for the rain to clear.  Anyone who has been to the Caribbean knows that the rain does not last very long.   As we watched the rain pour down around us, I saw something wash up on the beach.  I ran out into the rain to see what it was.  It was a large conch shell, just like the ones you pay 50 some dollars for in a gift shop.  It was perfect, all in one piece.  The rain had polished it nice and clean.  I quickly retrived my findings and ran back to my parents.

100_3876I still have my conch shell and I will never get rid of it.  It will always remind me of what happens after a storm.

Just remember, you may have hard times and you might have to do things you don’t like but in the end you will see things differently.  Just like with nature, after the storm comes the beautiful rainbow.

Category: Personal  | Tags: , ,  | 4 Comments
July 13th, 2009 | Author:

At thirteen, I don’t have the money worries that many adults do and I’m thankful for that.  Having my own business since I was nine has taught me a lot about money though — how to work to earn it, how to spend it wisely, how to save it, and most importantly, how to donate it to help other people.   This is good to learn no matter what age you are.

I’ve been interviewed dozens of times since I started my business.  One of the questions I get asked a lot is how much I’ve made or other financial-related questions.   Even at age nine when I first started, it felt a little weird when people asked about that.  It’s like that was all they cared about.   Sometimes I got the feeling that if they didn’t hear I was making a huge amount, all of my efforts were worthless.  I wondered why they weren’t more interested in the fact that I donated part of my money to help other kids?  Even today, people still ask the “how much” question.   Shouldn’t it be more important “what” the person is doing than “how much” they are doing?

I try hard not to give out specific financial information.  I usually smile and tell them that since I’m still a private company, I’d rather not share that information but as soon as I go public, they’ll know.    I also tell them my main focus is not money.  Most people understand and don’t keep asking.   For some, it’s not so easy to take that as my answer.

Money is funny.  People, even kids, have very specific ideas about how much is enough or what is worth trying for.  If I said I made $500,000 a year, some people might think that was beyond reach and they would be discouraged.  If I said I made $5,000 a year, I’m sure there would be some who thought that wasn’t worth bothering with.   Either way, money does funny things to people.   My biggest thing is encouraging people of all ages to try their ideas.  You probably won’t get rich overnight but at least you’ll be doing something and maybe working toward that goal.  My plan is to make Pencil Bugs into a mega empire so the characters are as well-known as SpongeBob or any other character you see on products.  But all that takes time and lots of work.

My grandpa is 85 years old.  He has some good advice about money:

  1. You don’t have to share your finances with everyone.
  2. Don’t loan money unless you can afford to never get it back.
  3. Don’t mix money and friends.
  4. Don’t buy something just because you “want” it.
  5. Save as much as you can.
  6. If you have extra, make sure to help other people less fortunate.

We all need money to live but I think it’s more important what you do with it than how much you have.

Category: Business, Personal  | Tags:  | Leave a Comment
July 07th, 2009 | Author:

Can you imagine what a 20 ft wave is like up close?   20 feet is equal to a two-story building.  It’s huge!  Now think of being on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean with 20 ft. waves slapping against the ship and making you feel like you were on a roller coaster for over 12 hours.  That’s what I experienced for one day during our Alaskan cruise last week with my family.100_0949

We set sail on Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas ship on Friday, June 26 from Seattle with an itinerary that took us to Juneau, Skagway, and Victoria, British Columbia.   I had been on two other cruises with my family before — the first one when I was eight to the Caribbean and the second one when I was ten to Mexico.   I remember feeling like I wasn’t even on a ship except for a little gentle swaying back and forth. None of us had ever needed motion sickness medicine before.

All that changed on this last cruise.  Apparently, a few days before we set sail, the Alaska/Canada coast had a pretty bad storm and we had to sail right through the remnants of it on our way to Juneau.   We had dinner in the dining room the first night and everything was just fine.  The weather was cold and a little drizzly but we pretty much expected that.    Everything was pretty normal until we got ready for bed that night when the captain announced that we would be going through some rough waters the next day.    He wasn’t specific just how rough it was going to be.   We found out first-hand the next morning as we woke up to bigger waves and a lot of rocking back and forth on our way to getting sea sick for the first time ever.

Mom was feeling bad right away so stayed in bed but Dad and I made it to lunch for a little bit.   The ship was pretty deserted already by then because so many people had gotten sea sick and were either in their rooms or sprawled out on the deck chairs in the cold air.  I guess they thought maybe the fresh air would make them feel better but being on upper decks made the rocking and rolling much worse.   I found out the caesar salad I had for lunch wasn’t such a good idea. It didn’t take too long before I joined Mom sprawled out on the bed in our stateroom.   Dad wasn’t feeling as bad as we were yet so he made several trips to the cafe to get any food that might help.   Several crew members suggested green apples to settle stomachs but within a few hours, every food area was out since so many people were sick.   As Mom and I got worse, Dad went to the shop to buy motion sickness bracelets but they were all sold out too.  His next stop was the doctor’s office.  They gave him a few sample packets of some pill that we all ended up taking.   It helped a little but not enough to get us out of bed for the entire day.  I guess they work better if you take them BEFORE you get sick which wasn’t an option for us by then.   I watched a lot of  TV show reruns and a few movies throughout the day which helped me keep my mind off my stomach sloshing.  I was glad when that day was over and the ocean had calmed down the next day.   After not eating or drinking much the day before, we were all glad to get to the dining room for some real food and not be sick anymore.

rock-wallEven though there weren’t a lot of outdoor activities on the ship because of the weather, I was able to climb the rock wall one day. I’m not sure how high it was but I made it to the top to ring the bell.  Then on the way down, the guy lets out the rope so you go flying down really fast.  It was very cool and a lot different than the first time on our cruise when I was eight.

On Sunday morning, we docked in Juneau.  It wasn’t at all what I expected.  The ship pulled into the dock which was surrounded by the town in a U-shape with small mountains around that.   It was weird to think that you can’t get to Juneau except by air or water — no roads go into the town.  I couldn’t live in a place like that.

glacierWe took a small sea plane tour over five glacier areas.  It was pretty cool to see different things like that but we were sort of expecting to see glaciers breaking apart too which didn’t happen.   I guess those things don’t happen that often.

GazeboThe next day we docked in Skagway, Alaska.   A tiny town of about 800 people but mostly tourist businesses.   The dock was within walking distance to town so we checked out things on our own.  On the way into town, we passed by a gazebo near a park.  Not so weird except that it had a toilet sitting right in the middle.   We forgot to ask someone why it was there but couldn’t imagine anyone really using it since it was right in the middle for everyone to see.   After we looked in many of the shops and bought a few souvenirs, we took a horse & buggy ride back to the ship.

icebergVery early the next day, we sailed into a fjord where the captain let the ship idle for awhile right in the middle of a million icebergs of all sizes which had broken off a big glacier at the end of the fjord.   We could see the glacier but it was pretty far away.  They announced that he couldn’t take the ship in any closer for safety reasons.  So in a wide part of the water, the captain slowly turned the ship around which took about 45 minutes but it gave everyone a lot of opportunities to take pictures of all the icebergs.   It was really amazing to see all the different designs and colors of the icebergs.  Some were perfectly see-through like glass.  Many were white and looked like snow but most were what you would expect an iceberg to look like — white ice.  It’s hard to say how wide or tall the biggest ones were  but all of us had thoughts about the Titanic for a second.

doubledecker-busAnother day just cruising at sea on our way to Victoria, British Columbia for the last stop of the trip.  Even though it’s only a three-hour drive from Seattle and about 90 minutes by ferry, it is really different from the rainy, cloudy Seattle weather.  Apparently Victoria gets a lot more sunny days per year.  It was the first day on our whole trip that we actually had sun and were able to wear shorts and no jackets.  It actually got pretty hot (around 85 degrees) in the afternoon as we were walking around town.

Double-decker buses are pretty normal for tours but I had to take this picture since it had Titanic written on it.  Thought it was ironic.

bug-zooWhile we were walking around, we ran across this Bug Zoo.  Naturally, I had to stop in to see what it was.  I had taken some of my Pencil Bugs bookmarks with us so I gave them one and told them about my business in case they wanted to order any of my products for their gift shop.

Alaskan bearThe only bear we saw close-up was this one.   We did spot a bald eagle sitting on a post in one of the ports but it was too far away to get a good picture.  We met people from all over the world and saw some pretty amazing sights.  When people asked why we chose the Alaska cruise, we jokingly said we wanted to see it before it melted away.   What we learned is that it’s been melting at about the same rate for over 200 years and local scientists who have been tracking and monitoring the conditions there apparently have different information than the people who talk about global warming melting the glaciers.  It makes you wonder who to believe.

If you made it this far and finished reading my vacation blog post, thanks for hanging in.  There was just so much to say and I didn’t even include everything.  So if you have questions, feel free to send me an email at and I’ll try to answer them.  You can also tweet me on Twitter.

For a limited time only (July 7-21)

I will have many pictures posted on a SmugMug account. Feel free to look through them. I thought I could make them available for purchase and I was going to donate 20% to the Wyland Foundation, but I found out with SmugMug’s 14-day trial, selling photos isn’t an option.  Maybe at a later time . . .   You can always leave a comment just to let me know how you liked the photos I took.  Thanks.