Fall is in the air!

Fall, my favorite time of the year. Up until 1 year ago it’s always been a huge transition time for me. Growing up fall marks back to school, the transition from the summer fun.

I always enjoyed summer vacation. Growing up our family always took 1 big road trip every year. We went to places such as Disneyworld, Toronto, Portland, etc. The real adventure was usually in the car ride. We never flew, we always drove. It was fun, real fun. Like all families of the 1980’s, we slept on the floor of the mini van, windows down with no AC, driving 55 on the 2 lane highways. Playing games with different colored cars, pointing out billboards and always looking for a Waffle House sign to know we are in the south.

I grew up in Monmouth, IL. Population 10,000. Surrounded by fields of corn and beans. My mother use to say we have a wide variety here, corn and beans then sometimes beans and corn. I really appreciated the getting out and seeing the country, meeting people who may not look or act like our family. Always a good thing!

Getting back to Fall. I love it, but I think one of the things I loved about it is change. Going to school, then after college I worked in Minor League Baseball. The change of the season to the “off season” or winter work. I liked that for about 4 weeks, then wanted the baseball season to start up!

After working in Minor League Baseball I spent 10 years working in Public School Districts in Wisconsin. I was a Director of Buildings and Grounds. My journey of this blog really starts when I was in Fort Atkinson. The summer of 2017, we were living in Fort, but I knew things had to change for our family. Just not sure how to make the changes. The real truth is, I was scared to figure out how to make the change.

School started in the fall. Malix was almost 1 year old, he was fresh off a heart surgery in January. Michelle was going back to work, Malix had to go into daycare. We basically know no one in Fort Atkinson where we live. We find an in home daycare for Malix. We’ve dropped off kids before at daycares and it’s not easy. But this sucked, really sucked. The lady who provided the care was great, I just knew deep down, I need to make a change where we didn’t leave our almost 1 year old (with Down Syndrome) and a heart surgery with a stranger and other kids. In the end, we needed to work to provide for the family.

The Fall came and went. I was 1 year into this little side baseball card business of Real Breaks. I also was teaching a night class for Madison Area Technical College. Both things I loved to do. I was working non stop, but not getting ahead. The baseball card business was starting to show some real promise. What if I never had to go to “work.” What if I could provide for the family with this side gig and Malix didn’t need to go to a stranger’s house? What if!

The winter came and then spring. I never hated my job, never . I liked it ok, was passionate about it for sure. Really enjoyed a lot of the people I worked with, couldn’t stand some others. Basically a typical work environment. 🙂 We have lived in this community for almost 4 years. I have a crazy idea. Let’s move to wherever we want to live and I sell baseball cards in the basement! Done.

June of 2018, I resigned from a completely secure job with ok pay, great benefits and as stable as one could have. I was going to sell baseball cards on Facebook. We put our house for sale and in July moved our family of 4 kids, 2 dogs and Michelle and I into a 3 bedroom apartment in Lomira, WI. Oh, one of those bedrooms was an office for my business! 3 kids in 1 bedroom, Malix in ours. Let’s do it.

I’ve left jobs before, but this one was especially different for a variety of reasons. The journey with our family (Malix). Looking back on it, I should have taken a long extended leave when he was born and had his surgery. Instead, I worked non stop. I felt I gave everything to the school district and put my families needs second.

Fall of 2018.

In a school district, we were under contracts. My contract was a 2 year contract. The weird part is your contract never really expired. I would get a new 2 year contract every year. So as an administrator I would always have another year on the contract. Essentially anytime you would leave, you would have to break the last year of your contract.

July 1 of 2018 was the start of the second year of my 2 year contract. In the June school board meeting, I was asking for release of my contract effective July 20, 2018. The school board had the option to enforce “Liquidated Damages” up to $1,000. Doing my research the school district of Fort Atkinson never enforced those damages. I understand the idea of doing this so an employee doesn’t leave you “high and dry.” I let gave 6 weeks notice of my leave, so I thought it would not be an issue.

The June board meeting my resignation was before the school district. The wording was read that I wanted to leave. There was nothing discussed, nothing. Then they voted to allow me to quit. Then they voted 6-0 to enforce the $1,000 liquidated damages. I was mad, disappointed, and shocked.

Why was I mad? Because of $1,000, not really. I just poured 4 years of myself into a job and not a single person from the district could even speak up and say thank you. At the board table sits the Superintendent, my boss and some of my colleagues. Not a single one said thank you. Crickets.

I keep the letter from the HR dept confirming the receipt of my liquidated damages as a reminder. Reminder how I poured everything into a job and community. In words of Gary Vee, “no one owes you S*it”. I tell myself I’ll never make that mistake again. I’ll never work for someone who doesn’t appreciate me and more importantly I’ll never not appreciate someone who works for a business I own and run.

The next 3 weeks at “work” were actually ok. My colleagues were very nice to me. I do have some great friends from working there. I found out later that most everyone I worked with thought I was lying about what I was going to do and they “heard” I got a job with another school district. I can see why they would think that. Leaving was fun and scary at the same time. I do miss a couple people I worked with for sure. On my last day, some colleagues brought me donuts and a jar of “well wishes.” I’ve never opened the jar to read the. I almost threw it in the dumpster when I left, but thought I’d keep it for another day.

I just opened a jar I received when I left with phrases from people I worked with. Here are some for good measure. Note, I have never read these. I’ll add my thought for good measure.

1) “I appreciate your sense of humor and open honest spirit.” I’ll take that one.

2) “I appreciate you calling B.S. BULLSHIT” That is hilarious. In school districts people are full of BS a lot of the time. I tended to call them out.

3) “It was great getting to know you and your family. You did an awesome job of bringing new ideas to SDFA. You will be missed” I don’t think I’m missed, but I did bring some awesome ideas.

4) “I hope this move is just what your family needs. Take care and be well.” They clearly don’t believe I’m going to sell baseball cards.

5) “I appreciate your passion for kids and commitment to our mission. Your sense of humor and joy in your work is awesome. I also appreciate how you’ve been a friend to me.” I believe this person. She was very nice to me.

6) “Be your own boss! I hope you find what makes you happy and follow your passions and dreams. Best of Luck!” She’s calling me BS and thinks I’m working for another district.

7) “I wish you happiness and that you may be a blessing to others as you have been to me and so many others here.” I think this one is sincere, that was nice of her.

8) My wish for you is to find happiness and peace with your family. I truly believe you are doing the right thing at the right time for your family’s lives. I wish you the best of luck.” The truth is I should have done it much sooner!

9) “I hope that your next adventure allows you to do what you love, weather it’s baseball cards, a similar position, or something new. I know that we will miss yo and your amazing family A LOT! Thank you for all you’ve done for us!” Clearly she doesn’t believe I’m going to sell baseball cards. Lol.

10) “I wish you amazing success in your new path and abundant joy with your family” That is nice.

11) “I appreciate your love for food!! You were fun to work with. God bless you, Malix, and all your family.” I do love to eat!

12) “I hope your move takes you on a great adventure. Praying for god’s very best for you and your family!” That is very nice.

I’m excited for the change fall is bringing here. The business in going great, I’m buying a 5,200 sq feet building in Historic Downtown Waupun, WI in 2 weeks. The business is going to move out of our house! I love change and growth! So much more on that later!

3 thoughts on “Fall is in the air!

  1. Look forward to seeing your new shop! Always scary to go out on your own and start a business, even a bit scarier when you have a stable business and decide to branch out, expand, add expenses, no longer be working from your own home. You’ve always impressed me and I mean that. You have a great support system with Michelle and your kiddos are awesome. I’m sure you’ll dominate in your next venture! Ironically, I was going to send a message yesterday to find out how Malix’s journey has been, but my computer was being difficult and I gave up, hearing about your adventures is also very interesting! Keep it up!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Tom, Thanks for sharing your story. It was wonderful and really tells us about the joy you have made in creating your own business.  Love, Dad


  3. Hi Tom: It was a pleasure meeting you. Your excitement, energy, passion and vision for YOUR new business is an inspiration. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m looking forward to meeting your family and employees.. and being your neighbor. Welcome to Waupun!


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