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Jewish World Review Oct. 15, 2002 / 9 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Michelle Kennedy

Michelle Kennedy
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Consumer Reports

How to make a million dollars without really trying (No, really!) | My husband and I were preparing the family for a day trip, and as is our custom, we gather all of the water bottles we have accumulated over the week and refill them for the journey in the vain hope the kids will actually drink said water and not let it boil in the sun and then beg us for soda (I know, I know, silly me).

My husband went inside the house to use the kitchen sink, and I decided I could fill my bottles with the garden hose. After filling them, I took a large swig from one and discovered it had that famous "garden hose" taste.

You remember, don't you? The taste of water from the garden hose on a hot day was the only water I would drink for years and years. As long as you got out of the way and let the hot water that was stored in the hose out first. It had a distinct taste. An absorbing-the-rubber-and-heat-of-the-hose taste that was only rivaled in my childhood by the taste of bathroom faucet water in a paper Dixie Cup before bedtime.

And I had it. Here in a bottle. I tested my theory and kept one bottle sealed for an hour or so and then pulled it from the cooler to make sure it still had the pure taste of garden hose.

It did.

"This is perfect," I said to my husband. "We could bottle garden-hose water and tell people it's a taste of their childhood, and people will buy it, and we will make a gazillion dollars."

"OK," my husband replied. "Whatever."

He didn't have to say another word because I knew what he was thinking. The wavy lines that signify a television "flashback" moment were practically emanating from his head. Because, as my husband knows all too well for my numerous "schemes" over the years, I will usually try to find a way to make money from almost anything.

Let's just say I have had many strange and interesting lives prior to the one I lead now. No, I don't mean that in some freakish, Shirley MacLaine, "I was once Joan of Arc," kind of way. I've just tried a lot of different, shall we say, professions in my mere 30 years on Earth.

It began simply, I'm sure. A late-night nursing a baby and a Carleton Sheets infomercial promising me riches beyond my wildest dreams from my own home office if I only send him $39.95 (not $139.95, not $99.95, not even $59.95, but only $39.95!) right now for a whole kit detailing the plan.

I didn't bite, but I am not sure if that has more to do with my intelligence or the fact that my Mastercard was maxed out at the time.

But it did get me thinking, and it set forth an expedition to the library unparalleled by anyone not currently studying something like Medieval English History in the Modern Era. I checked out every book imaginable about starting a business from home. Idiot's guides, Guides for Dummies, Guerilla Marketing Guides, women's how-to's and books with titles like, "How to make $45,000 a year with a disposable camera."

With one child on my hip, one in a stroller and one in my very pregnant belly I carried my cache home and read with vigor. I resolved to take the interest I had in photography in high school and college and, with my trusty guide as my bible, set about to start a photography business. For several years, I followed waddling toddlers around their yards and snapped their portraits. I took "grip and grin" photos for the local newspaper.

I even got a real assignment to a convention where I took headshots of JFK Jr. and George Will. But alas, photography is an expensive business to run, and barely making enough to develop the film, I eventually abandoned more and more assignments and nursed more and more babies.

My desire to be self-employed, however, would not be broken, and in the succeeding years I started a catalog business, actually make that two catalog businesses, a typing business, took the course to learn how to be medical transcriptionist, a home sewing business, a babysitting service and a lawn-mowing service. I considered so many others that I can't even remember them all.

I have read so many books on how to make a living from your hobby that I can't even remember what it's like to do something just for the sheer pleasure of doing it anymore. Everywhere you turn these days, there is someone touting a way to make money from your needlepoint projects, your woodworking; heck, even your ability to stuff envelopes!

I remember interviewing a woman who has handsewn something like 100 quilts (it's probably more) in her life. I also remember asking her what she intended to do with them. Would she sell them? Put them in a shop? Start a quilt shop or give lessons? To me, the marketing possibilities seemed endless.

"No," she told me. "I work at a factory for my real job. I quilt for the joy of it."

Oh yeah, I thought to myself, the joy of it. I think I'll go and get a drink of water. From the garden hose.

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JWR contributor Michelle Kennedy, who reads and responds to all of her mail, is a reporter and columnist for the Green Bay News-Chronicle. Comment by clicking here.


09/18/02: I am Mom, hear me roar!
08/29/02: The dream of winter, a promise of summer
07/26/02: My Martha Stewart fantasy
06/25/02: Deliver us from Walt
06/06/02: This game fits parents to a tee
05/09/02: "Shut up!" "Stop shoving!" it's Mother's Day
04/18/02: Yes, They're All Mine!
03/25/02: Thrust into a Barbie dreamland
02/01/02: Shooting the 'surplus population'
12/20/01: Zen and the Art of Clutter
12/14/01: Confessions of a serial library fine payer
12/06/01: Too good at my job, I quit

© 2001, Michelle Kennedy