Category Archives: Small business ownership

Second Home


Five years today we have owned this school.

This school that is most-of-the-time our second home full of family and a-teeny-bit-of-time our prison full of responsibility and limitations.


Construction. I made a video for my buddy Sara at the time with a tour of all of it.

This school that we often spend hours in after church on Sundays, exhaustedly working when we would rather be laying on the couch watching football (okay, napping for me) after a long week of actual work days.

This school that we run up and down with our little dog in when nobody else is there, laughing until our stomachs hurt.

This school that we fight in when nobody else is there, stressing until our stomachs hurt.


This school where we’ve seen kids living with Autism or other challenges thriving and where we’ve seen people come together to help others in need more times than we can count.

This school that would completely destroy us if it fell apart because our names are on the lease for years regardless of whether we’re in business.

This school where leaders are created and everyone is unquestionably accepted for who they are, not just by our staff but by the other students and parents.

First MurphyATA website

Forgive me, Internet. It was 2011. I didn’t know any better.

He texted to remind me of this anniversary today, and he thanked me for my part in it. Because he’s kind and thoughtful and he recognizes that building a business together takes two buy-ins, regardless of whether it was that partner’s dream or idea.

Because quite frankly, this wasn’t my dream. It was his. It was his dream since he was 12 years old, and it was clearly not mine by the time I was 19.

Our first actual class as business owners was in a ballet studio while our permanent school was under construction

Our first actual class as business owners was in a ballet studio while our permanent school was under construction

We are both comfortable with that fact; I have my passions, he has his. But it would be easier if we were a couple who ran the school together.

It would be easier for him; he’d have a full-time partner who could truly rock at helping run his business.

It would be easier for me; I could have one full-time job instead of one full-time job and two part-time ones. We’d have more home-cooked meals and a less cluttered house. We might have kids of our own running around the school by now.

It would be easier.

But it wouldn’t make me happy or fulfilled. And he would never facilitate a situation where I wasn’t. I cannot adequately express how grateful I am that he has encouraged me to do what’s right for me instead of boxing me into what is right for him.


We are not a couple who runs the school together.

But we are a couple who runs the school together.

And today he thanked me for that, for the sacrifices I have made to make this dream come true for him. Because he is kind and thoughtful. But what he doesn’t think about when he says that is all the ways his dream has helped me chase mine too.

Being a small business owner has made me more empathetic to my clients. Being a small business owner has made me understand my bosses and co-workers more. Being a small business owner has allowed me to not worry quite so much about what my own salary is when things are going well at the school.


Being a small business owner has given me the opportunity to live with someone who is truly happy to do what he does, and to fall in love with the way he uses it to change peoples’ lives.

We are the small business. It is as much of our identity as our own last name. It is interwoven into every piece of our lives and our marriage and our conversations and our responsibilities and our passions.

Five years ago today, we created a new home together. For ourselves. For his students. For their parents and for the relatives and friends who watch them achieve their goals. For this man, who has poured himself into every piece of it.


Here’s to the next five.

February 1, 2016

There is no cohesive way to title this post.

You know how you ask somebody how they’re doing, and they’re like “I’m SO BUSY.” Or, even worse, when they say “I’m tired.”

I find that irritating. Everybody’s busy. Everybody’s tired. It’s called “life.”

But, you know, if you were wondering why I never blog anymore, OH MAH COW I AM SO BUSY.

See what I did there? Annoying, wasn’t it?

But, true, nonetheless. So, I present to you, bullet-point post. Yay!

  • I turned 26 on Sunday. I’m supa-old now. For my birthday, I asked for BikeMS donations and I’m linking to that once again because I am intensely shameless.
  • What I did not ask for but TOTALLY GOT was the Kitchen Aid mixer that I tweeted about a while back. Just showed up at my door a few days later with the note “Happy beautiful appliance birthday, mofo.” That kind of super-sentimental note can only come from my brother and sister-in-law. I texted him that he spent too much money and he texted back “I Grandma Barbara‘d your ass!” Haha. So true. So true.
  • I made banana chocolate chip muffins and I think the Kitchen Aid and I are going to be VERY HAPPY TOGETHER.
  • I have been working from home twice a week. It is so ridiculously awesome. I’m a very big fan of the “roll out of bed, walk to dining room, start editing” thing. A very big fan indeed. Plus, I’m at least 50% more productive at home on account of not having friends to play with here.
  • I miss my workie friends. But it’s still not worth putting on real pants to go to work and see them on my work from home days.
  • Jack has started running. He’s all “I want to be in shape, and healthy.” What a weirdo. And you know how the only thing worse than running is listening people talk about running? He and I used to agree on this! What is happening!? Who is this man??
  • However, he runs on the mornings that I work from home, so I have been enjoying watching the show. He gets up, gets into his running clothes, spends about 20 minutes telling me he doesn’t want to run, plays on the computer, and then sings the Rocky theme song for a little while, then finally leaves. It is quite a process.
  • The first day he came back from his run, he collapsed on the floor and sang the Rocky theme song. Now he asks that I have it cued up on my computer for when he comes back so he can do the Rocky “arms up in the air prancing around” thing when he gets home.
  • I took a video of it Tuesday. He would not like me sharing that here. But he probably wouldn’t like that I’m telling you any of this anyway.
  • No really, I’m not posting it here.
  • (He’s so darn cute though.)
  • My nephew, Devin, arrives in about 3 weeks. This is SUCH A BEST CASE SCENARIO. My mom gets her grandbaby, I get to play with and spoil one, and I do zero pushing to make it happen. SCORE. Yay, Cassandra!
  • The other day at dinner, Jack and I started listing off all the trips we have scheduled, and I realized why people are always like “You travel ALL THE TIME!” March is Vegas. April is Colorado. May Jack has Little Rock. June we have Little Rock again. July I have Indiana. August we have San Fransisco. October we have Orlando. Holy wow.
  • Five out of seven of those trips are takewondo-related.
  • The school is going well. People ask me that sometimes – “how’s the school going?” And I’m like “THERE ARE SO MANY STUDENTS.” Because there are. Which is supremely awesome, especially since every one of them are super-nice and amazing. We currently have the largest ATA school in Texas. I mean, woah.
  • So, uh, BikeMS is happening in less than 2 months. I don’t want to talk about it.
  • Speaking of BikeMS, I was scheduling my hotel room for that weekend, so I logged on to Jack’s Marriott account to get his Marriott number, and I saw his upcoming scheduled hotels – one for this weekend. That I didn’t know about. That coincides with my previous weekend’s birthday and the next weekend’s anniversary (4 years, yo!). So, I plan on acting very, very surprised when he tells me to pack a bag this weekend and whisks me away for a relaxing birthaversary celebration. Surprise!!
  • Mah husband rocks.
  • I’m sorry you had to read that last bullet point. And the eleventh one too. That one was gross too.

Um, are you sure this isn’t date night?

He called me today.

“I’m really sorry, but I’m going to have to do some work tonight,” he said.

We have a newish agreement, see – he gifts me one night a week where we don’t have to do karate work after we get home – Wednesdays. We watch TV and eat dinner and chat free of any pressure to get websites and bookkeeping and belt sorting and event planning done. It’s my night. I’m ridiculously blessed to have a husband who drops everything for me at least one night a week. It’s not an easy thing for him to give up for me.

But this is the last week before Christmas break, and I totally understood that he needs to cram in a lot of extra work this week so he can take the next two weeks off.

(Also – “next two weeks off.” HA. HA HAHA HAHAHAHA. There is so much to do during those two weeks.)

“But how about this,” he continued. “I want to take you to Anthropologie and buy you a dress to wear to the staff party. And I looked it up. They close at 9, so I’m going to leave early from work and pick you up, then we’ll go see if we can find you something.”



You want to take me to Anthropologie? And buy me a dress? And you’re LEAVING WORK EARLY TO DO THAT?

I mean, like I said, he sacrifices a lot for me, but he also has to sacrifice for the school, and leaving work early on a normal night? That doesn’t happen much.

But he just, offered it tonight. Without being asked. And then had the audacity to suggest that he was “taking my date night away by working later tonight.”


So we went in with 40 minutes to shop. We basically picked up every dress we could find in my size and I headed to the dressing room.

He stood outside and evaluated each dress I tried on.

At the end of it all, I was in love with two dresses.


I mean, that doesn’t happen often. I have a hard time finding clothes I love.

(But, you know, ANTHROPOLOGIE.)

So I had a hard decision to make.

And I looked at each dress. And I looked at him. And I thought…

This sure is a nice problem to have.

A karate wife

When Jack bought the taekwondo school, I had a picture of what it would look like.

He would do his thing, I would do mine. I love my full-time job, and we need both incomes. I’m sure he would ask me my opinion on some things, but for the most part life would continue as it had before we owned the business.

When Jack became a Master, I had a picture of what it would look like.

He would show up in his Silks or Blues to his black belt testings or tournaments, the room would be brought to attention and bow. I would be watching proudly from the audience or possibly from a corner of the gym with a camera. I would be wearing a very cute outfit, perfect just-applied makeup, with not a hair out of place.

I would watch him run his testings or tournaments as I visited breezily with parents, doing my part to help the taekwondo school by being a fantastic, well-put-together karate wife who showed up for every event to watch.

“Gosh,” the parents would say to one another “That Mrs. Hornbuckle is so sweet and supportive, and they have such a wonderful marriage! He’s lucky to have such an alarmingly beautiful woman by his side.”

Stop laughing. You guys are supposed to be my friends.

Over the last few months, though, I have really been learning what a karate wife is.

A karate wife leaves her job every night and comes to his. She files and makes websites and writes black belt curriculum and formats documents and makes charity baskets and does bookkeeping.

A karate wife starts cooking dinner at 10 p.m. after she gets home from her 14-hour work day. She probably doesn’t have time to go to the gym, uh, ever, but at least she’s pretty sure the automatic payment that goes to them burns some calories, anyway.

When there’s a testing coming up, a karate wife may not find out what is needed until the last minute, which will mean a week of hell as she scrambles to try to get everything together that they need.

She will arrange flowers, iron table clothes (that will later be forgotten in the wrong vehicle and therefore unused during the event), print extra scripts, and put together sound files and music.

She already will be running late to that testing, having had a video shoot at real work that day and absolutely no transition time to change her clothes, do something with her awful matted-down hair, or reapply the makeup that wore off hours ago, when she will get a call that the staff is locked out of the facility they have rented until the last minute so they haven’t been able to set up as early as they needed to.

She will help set up tables and chairs, audio equipment, candles, rocks, and tea. She will send people out to get things she forgot at the very last minute, and she will THANK GOD for those people. She will run sound for this event with no rehearsal, all while being very, very nervous something will go wrong.

She will get sent out to the truck last-minute to get a CD after the event has already started, so she will calmly walk out of the gym as people watch, and then RUN WILDLY across the parking lot to get back faster because SHE HAS TO GET BACK IN TIME TO CLICK THE “GONG” SOUND EFFECT IN ABOUT 45 SECONDS.

She will be ripping that CD (because she needs to play it for the ceremony that starts in 10 minutes) while simultaneously paying attention to testing so she can fade sparring music in and out at the appropriate times.

After the event is over, as her husband takes pictures with new black belts and visits with parents, she will help the staff pack up equipment and put tables back, and pick up tiny pieces of trash (and put them in her pocket because there isn’t a trash can around and she’s so classy like that.)

She will go to dinner afterward to visit with the students looking not-at-all like the lovely arm-candy she was hoping to be. She will be disheveled instead of put-together. Frazzled instead of rested.

But then he will look at her, with the look of a man who has been pulled out of the water seconds before he would have drowned, and says “I don’t know what I would do without you.”

And this disheveled karate wife will be so ridiculously proud and honored to be the girl he says that to.

Dancing in the Minefields

Jack and I didn’t have the best week together.

You know how some weeks are just off? Yeah, that.

He and I have so many “on” weeks that an “off” week is really jarring. I get annoyed and naggy. We both get tired. We need a break from life but there’s no such break in life, or in marriage. And on these kinds of weeks, it’s even more important to pour effort into watching my tone and reactions when I’m communicating.

(I’m not always good at that.)

It’s not fun, but God didn’t promise us “fun” all the time, did He? I guess that’s the thing about “for better or worse.”

Sometimes there’s “worse.”

It’s interesting, though – I was ready for “for better or worse” in a different way than this. I am and will always be committed to powering through those “really bad” times when we’d rather not be married, and I know he feels the same way.

What I didn’t expect, though, was that sometimes my “worse” would be his “better.” And it wouldn’t be at all about us not getting along or not wanting to be married. It would be about life throwing us different stuff than the other one gets. Simple as that.

He is winning World Championships and purchasing taekwondo schools and becoming a Master Instructor. Every dream he has ever had has come true within the last 12 months. He spends most of his time elated, and I am so, so happy for him. And so, so proud of him.

Rejoice with those who rejoice.

In the meantime, though, I am losing grandparents and dogs and extremely close friends, and working through problems at work, and trying to cope with shouldering a lot of the responsibility of keeping up with the house and my part of the business and losing my husband’s attention in general. It has been a hard year. Probably one of the hardest of my life.

Weep with those who weep.

It feels terribly selfish to say that. To have had a hard year, partially because all my husband’s dreams came true? How selfish am I?

(Extremely selfish, to answer that question, though not exclusively for that reason.)

Weep with those who weep. Rejoice with those who rejoice. Simultaneously. Because not everything in life comes presented in a really organized boxes wrapped in butcher paper and a tulle bow, evidently.

Really, it has been a relief to have this much good coming from his side – I believe God put that in our lives not only because it’s where He wanted us to be, but also because it’s a relief to have something to rejoice about when we also have something to weep about.

But it still feels a little unbalanced sometimes.

I would love to tell you that I have it all figured out now, that I figured out to essentially weep with those who rejoice.

But I don’t.

What I do know, though?

It’s worth figuring out.

It’s worth fighting for.

And I’m really, really thankful that he’s the one I get to weep and rejoice with.

Eric’s Question

“What do you think you’re really, really good at? Like, probably better than anybody you know at?”

My friend Eric asked me this question on Monday.

I didn’t quite know what to say.

I mean, obviously the first word that popped into my head was “RIVER-DANCING!” but after the river-dancing, it was a difficult question to answer.*

Because the thing is, I don’t do most things long enough to become better than anybody else at them. I go in cycles where I need to do something until I burn myself out on it (See also: couponing). I do come back to it eventually, but I haven’t quite perfected any one thing because of this, I think.

I ended up sitting there silently stumped for a few moments, and then (heaven help me) I quoted my dad to him, who always says “life is a collection of experiences.” And I have been collecting.

I’m learning to sew. I have gotten good enough to sew fancy little camera strap covers and make curtains and pillows and alter dresses and hem pants and things. Most people my age can’t do that.

I am loving learning to cook. Thank you, Pioneer Woman. And thank you, pretty kitchen that I want to be in all the time. I’ve made some dishes I can be proud of now, and I’m always getting better.

I’m getting better at photography. Partially because it’s a part of my job, but mostly because I love documenting memories. That’s the point of all of this blogging, tweeting, and scrapbooking, really. I love documenting memories.

I’m a good editor. I make things they put on the radio, so I must be good enough. I know many technical things and can talk super-nerdy about storage solutions and RSS feeds and the proper way to coil an XLR cable and which DSLRs are on the market right now and the ridiculousness of Final Cut Pro X. I’m really good at figuring out how to automate things using technology. I am willing to work hard, and I know my way around a studio just as much as the boys do. I kind of like that about myself.

I know musicals inside and out and so, so appreciate live theater. And even though I can’t sing, I can quote and reference most any Broadway Musical you throw at me. That’s probably not really all that important of a trait in the scheme of things, but it does fall under the “things Mandy is good at” category, so I’m counting it.

I feel like I finally “get” fashion. Not that I can afford the things I want, or that I’m always dressed right, but you know, I’m at the age where I at least understand what looks good and what doesn’t and I just don’t give a crap what people think about me anymore as long as I feel good in what I’m wearing. I like this age.

I’m good at managing money. I’m good at staying within budgets and saving, but I also know how to spend the money I need to to enjoy life. I think that’s important.

I can make pretty things out of not much of anything, really. I’ve always enjoyed scrapbooking, cardmaking… creating anything really. It makes me feel relaxed and loved and centered.

I don’t care what people think most of the time. I have a self-deprecating sense of humor and I think that’s probably healthy. I am a ridiculously bad dancer, but I do it anyway. I am awkward and silly and nerdy and I think that’s just fine.

In some ways, I’m a really good wife. I get excited about making dinner for my husband, and I make sure we have the things we need in the house, like batteries and light bulbs and toothpaste. I think ahead and always remember to bring his phone charger on trips when he forgets it. I make him laugh, and I try to tell him often that I’m proud of him and how much I truly adore him. Our relationship is far from perfect, but I do some things right.

I can communicate clearly through writing, which I think is an incredibly important asset to have, especially for a person of my generation. I love to tell stories in writing, and hopefully, people think I’m as funny as I think I am.

I try to make other people feel good as much as possible. I don’t hold back compliments and I hardly ever forget birthdays of friends or anniversaries of close friends’ loved ones’ deaths. I do my best to let others know they are important.

I’m good at getting things done behind the scenes for our business. I’m efficient and useful at Whatever-My-Title-Is at our karate school, and I like to think I improve it with my web design and bookkeeping and office work and marketing. Or, at least, I improve Jack’s quality of life by relieving some of the pressure for him at work (see point above about sometimes being a good wife).

I am really good at raising money for the MS Society. I lead my BikeMS team as best I can, and I am absolutely shameless when it comes to asking for money to cure my mom’s disease. (You can donate here. See? Shameless!)

I don’t know if I can answer Eric’s question, really. At least, I can’t answer the part about what I’m doing that’s better than anyone else. But I can answer the first part at least. Those are some of the things I’m good at.

And really, it was a nice question for him to ask. Because it’s probably a good exercise for everyone, especially women, to think about sometimes. We spend a lot of time thinking about what is wrong with us, and God made us into pretty fantastic people in so many different ways. It’s nice not to focus on our faults sometimes.

So, now it’s your turn.

What are you really, really good at?

*No, I’ve never river-danced. Let me just remind you what happened the last time I was near a river, okay? There will be no dancing in this place.

Master Stapler

I have a new schedule.

It will, of course, solve all of my problems and stress. Because that’s what new schedules do. New schedules are full of hope and structure and magic.

It’s one of the many things that I have decided will simplify my life and relieve my stress. Along with:

  • Carrying a smaller purse (Less clutter!), 
  • Making a meal plan and shopping ahead of time (Dinner? No problem! I planned ahead because I am super-wife! HEAR ME ROAR!), 
  • Paying with a debit card or cash (No credit card bill coming this month! Weee!), 
  • Talking about serious subjects to friends via awkward word vomit (I’m an open book, ladies and gentlemen!),
  • Listening to the Bible on the way to work in the morning (I mean, LISTENING to it! Like an audiobook! WHO KNEW!?), 
  • And of course, refusing to be mad about anything at work (It’s just work! It’s not life!)

Of course, all of this has lasted about a week and a half, and yes, that week and a half was blissful and all, but you know,

  • I’m not taking as many pictures when my purse doesn’t fit my DSLR (sad), 
  • We’re out of milk so maybe I’ll skip tonight’s meal (and we can’t even have cereal! Because, no milk!), 
  • Really I just haven’t had time to find my new credit card (did I mention I lost my credit card overseas? Am responsible!) 
  • I am so not mature enough for serious conversations sans joking around and ruining it (also, talking about feelings makes me panic. See? Panic. That’s a feeling. I’m growing.),
  • That data connection for the audio bible app goes in and out in the car so I will probably die in a car crash trying to reload it someday, 
  • And, you know, not much is happening at work to be mad at yet.

But the new schedule! Will surely stick. And will be the secret to my happiness for sure. Hope! Structure! MAGIC!

Part of this new schedule of mine includes working at the taekwondo school after work a few times a week, which may sound like more work and stress (it is!) but I think it’ll actually relieve some of the time I usually spend working (it probably won’t!) by allowing me to get everything done those evenings and having the rest of the week for myself (I’ll find more things to do!)

So Jack has been training me in areas of bookkeeping (Man, there are a lot of k’s and e’s in that word! Look! Look at all the k’s and e’s!) and data entry and all the other Things Which Keep the School Running (which in turn keeps me eating and buying pretty things like shampoo).

It has been… fun. My husband? He is good at what he does. He is an excellent teacher. He is an excellent salesman. He makes really good burritos. And he is one of the kindest people I know.

But learning this job from him? Reminds me of um, how very different God made us!

You see, he is a details person. As in “open this dialog box and type the student’s name, then change the date in this box and then type a four in this box and then check this box and save it by pressing these keys.”

I? Am a “big picture” person. Because in the meantime I’m like, “Oh hey, what are we doing here? Bookkeeping? Is this an invoice? Are we entering an invoice?”

It is an interesting experience.

Especially when he is so detailed about the things he does that, had I been teaching somebody in that manner, I would have been incredibly condescending.

“Now, you’re going to staple these two pieces of paper together. To do this, you will line up the front and back pages, making sure you line up the very edges and the corner, and then you will reach into your drawer, grab the stapler, and put a staple in the top right corner of the two papers, making sure that it is completely straight and not at all angled.”


(See also: HE HAS THE CRAZY.)

I’m keeping my mouth shut (as a good wife should!) because I know this is how he thinks and it’s really not condescending at all coming from him, and really, when it comes down to it, I am getting ALL of the information I will need (and then some).

Plus, by the end of this training? I’m going to be a Master stapler.

Just like him.

Five minute Friday: On Forgetting

Ironic that this Five Minute Friday topic is forgetting, huh? Since, you know, I keep forgetting to blog.

Life is wild right now. The really, really, really good kind of wild. I really thought I never saw my husband before because of our schedules; now I know what really never seeing your husband is like.*

*I realize that many of you have deployed husbands right now, and if that’s the case, feel free to think “She’s a stupid jerk-face. I’ll tell HER what never seeing your husband is like!” if it applies to you.

I used to be really good at remembering everything I had to do, but as more things pile on the to-do list, I have to work extra hard at keeping up. And lately, things have been falling through the cracks. The business website hasn’t been updated in a while. I can’t seem to remember to bring things to work when I mean to. I forget about digiscrap pages I’m supposed to make. And every time we think we’re catching up, we get buried again.

It’s enough to make anybody forgetful.

Jack will forget to bring home some paperwork that he needs (he’s forgetful too these days, you see), so we’ll drive the 20 minutes back out to the school at midnight on a Tuesday to pick it up. We’ll take the dog too, because, why not? We can. We own the place, after all.

When we arrive, the dog will run around the school, tail wagging wildly, and we’ll laugh at her and run around with her in our dark school for a few minutes.

We’ll eat drive-thru fast food for dinner at 1 a.m., talking and laughing while we sort belts and cut students’ pictures for the black belt wall. Finally, we’ll kiss goodnight and PASS OUT.

In the morning, he will get up and make dinosaur noises at me while I’m getting ready and tell me to “have a most wonderous” day as he kisses me goodbye.

And I will be happy. So, so, happy that I’m living this exhausting life with him.

And that? Is the kind of stuff I’m not going to be forgetting any time soon.