artsy fartsy,  Buddies,  Life Lessons,  Projects,  Shop Talk,  spilling my guts,  The Desert

The Year of Rejection and all of its silver lining.


It’s been a long time since I was here typing on this blog. I almost gave it up for good. You’ll notice it’s unlinked for now. (Those of you who have found me are genius treasure hunters, and I love you to pieces!) That’s because I’m actively looking for work, and the thought of all those hiring managers looking at me blubbering away on my blog scares me. I’ve always been a really open person, and I don’t think I can change. What you see is what you get. I tell my stories openly here to friends.

I’ve had a lot of failures and hard times lately, and I worry that talking about them might keep someone from hiring me. So I’ve been hiding them.  I’ve been hurting and wanting to come here to share so someone can tell me I’m not alone. I’m not a complete failure, and everyone is having hard times…But I’ve been scared. Twice shy, once burned? Something like that?  I’m always shy and always burned.

A few of you on Instagram recently said you missed me. Those words are like a hug and an invitation to coffee in my favorite coffee shop. I’ve been so alone and scared, and you still care about me. It blows my mind.

I had to get off social media for a little while because I consumed it like an addict instead of a creator. It’s tricky for me. I can stick my toe in, but I can’t swim in the river of social media without getting my own voice drowned out. I want to be online to create, but then I get sucked into home-makeover videos and cute cat videos, and next thing I know, I’m crooked over like the hunchback of Notre Dame in my bed rotting, and I’ve lost hours and hours of precious time.


So here I am. I’m back. Nobody blogs anymore, nobody reads anymore… but who cares! I love creating pictures and telling stories, and this is where I do it. I do it for myself. Some day, all this will get turned off like a light switch, and that’s okay because it was here for me when I needed it. I’ve made so many amazing friends here. I’m so thankful.

Let me tell you about this past month, scratch that, make it: this past year. It’s been one of the worst years of my life. I’m calling it The Year of Rejection. But you know what? It’s also been a year of self-discovery, dear friendships deepening, new friendships forged, old friendships discarded…I’ve been tested in ways I never thought of. It’s just like everyone says: failure is a huge step backward and a colossal step forward simultaneously. I am not the same person I was at the beginning of this year. I’m old and wisened. My heart has grown three sizes.


I met up with three high school friends in the desert a few weeks ago. A friend was in from out of town, so we had a little reunion of sorts. It was so good to see them. They are all artists, and we speak the same language at top speeds. We stayed up until 2 a.m., standing around in the parking lot in the middle of the desert in the light of the big blue moon, just talking and talking and talking. Nobody was tired. No one wanted the night to end.

I almost didn’t go because I was in the depths of despair after not getting yet another job I had interviewed for. My dear friend, Tamie, talked me into going. She covered my gas, my food, and my lodging. We had a girl’s night at a hotel. It was awesome. How am I so lucky to have friends care for me when I’m so down and out? I am thankful. It was healing.

I’ve had so much rejection with work.  I’ve begun to doubt myself, and it’s been hard. Freelancers are only as good as their last job, and the only way we get new jobs is by selling ourselves. Trying to sell yourself when you’re nursing the fresh wounds of rejection and low self-esteem is like going to the dentist repeatedly for ineffective root canals.

That visit to the desert was an infusion of positivity and creativity. I was reminded of who I am and what makes me happy. My friends are struggling, too. Being an artist isn’t all fat paychecks and cool disco lighting. It’s actually blood, sweat, and tears, and hardly anyone ever really “makes it.” I’ve been lucky a lot. I felt like I was with my people, and it propped me back up to go back to trying. I need these kinds of gatherings often. I need my tribe.


Bug has really been here for me in these dark times. She is growing up into an adult. Every day, I see different versions of myself in her. She is so much wiser than I was at her age. She’s working now and spends much of her paycheck supporting us. She’s working at Trader Joe’s and buys us food with her discount. It’s pretty much impossible to live on a single income where we live, and Bug is stepping up to help out. I’m proud of her. I raised a good one despite all my shortcomings.


Matt’s been down twice since I last checked in. It’s always good to see him. He takes me out to dinner and spoils me rotten, which is such a nice mini-vacation from the grind.


Lots of dinners, flowers, and farmer’s market dates. Sigh…I do love my long-distance relationship.


Bug and I have been going on more little dates together, too. Now that many of her friends and her boyfriend are also working, she’s finding she has more and more home time. That means she’s stuck with me, and I am “Muber, the mom-taxi again.” She’s forced me out a few times, and I begrudgingly went and was thankful afterward. If it weren’t for her, I’d probably stay in my apartment all day long. Rotting.


We love our local museum. It’s only a few minutes away and always great for taking photos and getting a drink. (Virgin, of course, for her!)


I also cut my own hair! I just sawed off the blonde with this razor blade thingy I bought. It’s funny because I did a blind hack job on the back, but because of the two-tone mottled tortoiseshell coloring, it doesn’t look half bad. I never wanted blonde-tipped hair, but it’s better than dull gray hair or bleached-out, stiff-straight cabbage patch doll hair. I’m calling it a win. My hair is an ever-changing art project. I never know what look I will be stuck with, and it’s never boring!


You know what I’m going to say next, I bet. Cody is my constant companion. He has been my faithful friend through many bouts of tears. He follows me around the house from room to room, never leaving my side. Sometimes, I take him with me on little adventures because I love him so much. We go to the beach, we go to the park, we go to Starbucks.


He is probably my biggest anti-depressant. He is a big hairy ball of shedding love, raining blonde hair all over my house, my clothes, and my car…His hair is as abundant as his love. He covers me with it constantly.


I don’t know what I’d do without him. We’ve had a lot of quiet moments of reflection, he and I.



Now I’m to the hard part. My big news is that I must move out of the apartment I love. I’ve officially run out of money. My savings are gone, and my royalties have dropped by three quarters. They were inflated because of the pandemic because so many schools started using my books in their curriculum.  It was awesome. But I made the mistake of being optimistic and assuming they would continue on that trajectory. They obviously didn’t, and now I’m stuck living beyond my means.

I’ve fretted about this exact scenario since I moved here. I’m lucky I stayed here as long as I have. I could say I’ve failed, but I’ve also lasted longer than I thought I could. I’ve been living on hope and faith, and I can’t continue. I have to move home with my parents in the Sticks, and Bug has to go live with her dad. It’s ripping me up, but there is no other way she can finish high school in this expensive town. Nobody can live here on a single income—definitely not an aging out-of-work freelancer with fewer and fewer clients and a Trader Joe’s afterschool wage.

However, there is one more thing I will try before I ultimately give up. I’m going to open up a pop-up flower shop at my one remaining client’s place of business. He has an office on Pacific Coast Highway in San Clemente (a cute beach town) that gets plenty of foot traffic. When I’ve worked there, many people have poked their heads in the open Dutch door, asking if we had anything to sell. We didn’t. The office is the headquarters for a margarita truck catering company. In front of it is the cutest brick patio with a hose and plug-ins for electricity. It’s perfect for a little flower cart. It’s very visible and ideally situated. I don’t have any money to invest in this idea, but my client is fronting me. It’s good for him because it will bring interest to his business. It’s good for me because I’ve always wanted to have a flower shop. We’ll try one pop-up and see how it goes.


I’ll tell you more when it gets closer. Say a prayer for me!




  • Kay

    I have been reading your blog for years, since you lived near the beach with a teeny-tiny Bug. You are one of my favourite writers because you are always so open and honest. I’m sorry to hear you are going through a tough financial time – I know things will get brighter

  • Lauren

    Oh Brenda. I have been reading your words for years and years. Since Bug was tiny and I wasn’t even close to being a mother myself. I remember downloading your alphabet printables for my niece and you designed one of my family’s favorite Christmas cards several years ago. You are so talented and I’ve always admired your free spirited artistic awesomeness. I am such a huge fan and am praying so hard for your success. Sending you so much love, support and positive energy from the burbs of Boston ??

  • Lisa

    I am so sorry to hear that you are going through hard times. You are so talented and hard working that I know this will turn around for you! Sending you and Bug big hugs in the meantime (plus a scritch scritch for Cody).

  • Sonja

    You’ve always been so good at muddling through, being super creative, and having fun while you do it. The San Clemente flower cart sounds amazing and I can’t wait to see the pictures. ?

  • Super Sarah

    Oh my beautiful amazing internet friend, I’m so sorry it’s been so tough. I am filled with empathy for you and your huge creative heart. Since separating and repartnering with an artist, I have so much more of an understanding of how hard it is. I used to be so confused as to why he was behind with his tax? Mine just gets paid out of my salary before it gets deposited in my bank account at the same time every fortnight. Not so for the freelancer who hustles from week to week, month to month. I’m sending you all the positive love and hope I have. A flower very with passing traffic and your vision, it’s going to succeed!!!!

  • J.C. Wing

    Hello, friend! Just like so many of the previous commenters, I, too, have been reading your blog for years. I am an author. I write many different genres and have just published my seventeenth novel this summer. I have a steady following … of probably a couple dozen readers. I do everything on my own. I have been an editor with several companies for the last twenty-something years, and owned my own editing business for a while as well. I do all of my own cover design, formatting, marketing … the whole shebang. I have yet to make money in publishing, but I keep writing because I love it. Maybe someday I’ll hit it big. Who knows? I homeschooled my two beautiful kids for fourteen years … and that’s when I found you, when they were little. I have been reading your adventures with Bug for a long time, and I check this blog on a weekly basis, ready to read your posts. I suffer from chronic pain. I have had five surgeries on my right hand/wrist, all of them happening since 2015. I get down a lot. The pain gets really bad, and your photography has always been something that has made me feel a bit brighter. I enjoy your illustrations and the stories you tell. I just wanted to say hello, let you know that your blog means something to so many people. Most of us have been on your journey with you, and would miss you terribly should you decide to stop posting. I’m sorry for this rough patch. I believe you will get through this, that you will prevail. I am sending you positive thoughts and lots of love and I can’t wait until you post again. Please take care of yourself and know there are people out here who think an awful lot of you.

  • Cathy

    Another internet friend here sorry to hear you’re having tough times. But, that flower cart sounds awesome! Is that the branding for it – love it already and can’t wait to hear/see more about it. Wish I could head down to shop it! I love how Bug is being so supportive, but of course she is. I want to ask about her after HS plans because she is so artistically talented as well, but I understand if you don’t want to post about it (you have my email though hah.) And the Cody love, so sweet and hey that’s not Kady. Also have to mention the great clouds – keep looking up. You have many riches in your life, now we need to manifest them into your bank account! Hugs. Hope you don’t disappear, blogs aren’t dead! Just ask substack. :)

    • Susie

      Oh Brenda, I’m so sorry you’re struggling. I have been following you since before Bug was a glimmer in your eye! You have always been that artist I look up to. From afar, I have watched your ups and downs, and I have always been so impressed with your ability to be vulnerable with your audience during the difficult moments and then pick yourself up and make the most of what you have to work with. Your creativity extends beyond your professional life and even beyond your artwork. You have used your creativity to make a beautiful and meaningful life for yourself and for Bug. I have no doubt you will do the same in this next chapter. Hang in there, you’ve got this. ??

      • Susie

        Sorry, the above was meant to be its own comment, not a response to the one above it. Also, the question marks were a heart emoji that got garbled. <3

  • Sara in Canada

    Add me to your list of loyal readers. I have been wondering how you are doing and hoping for an update. I hope you find the financial security that you are working so hard for. I’m rooting for the flower shop (looks beautiful!) and I would instantly sign up for your substack if you go that way.

  • Debra

    Long time reader here and I’m sending all my positive wishes for good things to come around the corner for you – I know it will happen! And your hair looks great. Pls. keep blogging and hang in there. xo

  • Katherine

    Yet another long-time reader, who always appreciates your honesty in writing about your life. I’m thinking of you & hope you find your financial footing soon.

    • Jules

      A long-time reader from New Zealand here… the world is in a topsy-turvy place right now, but I know that you are far more than your income and your housing – you are Secret Agent Josephine! A person of great creativity, ingenuity, resilience and love. You will come through this. Kia kaha.

  • Irina

    I want to be part of this wave of warmth that the comment section of this post has become. I also started following you when Bug was a baby and when I was somewhat of a baby myself. I once won a postcard from you that you sent all the way to Germany – and I still cherish it dearly. There is something about your storytelling, your openness and vulnerability that is intriguing and comforting at the same time. Because: yes, I am also struggling: upwards, downwards, and back up again. I feel less lonely because of people like you who are willing to share their experiences. This is something that I am deeply afraid of, so I kind of just vanish in the wallpaper behind me. So I am very thankful for your voice and at the same time – you owe me and us nothing. I know I will be worried about you once you stop writing, but that is okay. You decide what you do here and I can absolutely understand your reasoning on hiding this blog (kind of proud of my stalking skills here!).
    You have such a strong and unique voice that I wonder why you are not one of those prominent content creators. But then again: I understand nothing about that business and this comment comes from naive admiration.

    I wish you the best and as English is my second language I don’t know how to better word it besides that. Because I really wish you the BEST. Starting with success with your flower stand, I am rooting for you!

  • Nancy

    Another faithful follower in MD. I’ve been following since Bug was a baby. You have always been an inspiration; a fresh space on the internet where everything else is the same. So many of us sending positive wishes. Thank you for not giving up!

  • Tiffany

    I noticed that you unlinked and that sounds like perfectly good logic given how vulnerable you’re feeling right now. Thankfully I still get you on Feedly – mixed in with all kinds of news and nerdy blogs, but yours is one I’m always excited to see updated. If I don’t see one in a while, I’m a bit bummed, BUT you don’t owe anyone content! Your flower pop-up looks amazing and I hope it brings you some joy (and also some money). Also – aren’t kids amazing? I’m wowed by what a kind, generous adult my stepson has become. Sounds like Bug amazes you in similar ways.

    I refer to you as “my online friend” to my mom, who is definitely not up to date with tech or blogs or understanding how people can feel connected via only pictures or words on a screen. I know for you, that has to seem one sided since you’re the content provider and I’m only the reader, but please know that I see you and I hear you and I wish nothing but the best for you. Please consider this one more virtual hug of support!

  • Claire

    Another loooong time reader (pre-bug!) delurking to join in with the sending of all the positive thoughts, cheery comments and general feelings of sorry this sucks, you’re awesome, etc!

  • beck

    Saying a prayer for the pop up flower shop! (And for you.) So sorry about all the hard things all at once. Thank you for trusting us with your musings on life. Rooting for you!

  • Jenjen

    Found ya! I’ve mostly been a lurker here but have been reading since Bug was a baby, eagerly awaiting the new posts and cheering for you from afar. I just wanted to say my thoughts are with you. I hope things will turn around for you and I’m sorry for your struggles. Sending all the best wishes your way. Please don’t stop writing and sharing if it helps you! Of course, do what’s best for you, but count me among those who would miss you if the blog was gone. Virtual hugs!

  • Jenny

    Rooting for you! What a great idea to give the flower stall a try… If I weren’t an ocean+continent away I’d definitely come and buy the flowers. Love to read what you’ve been up to and see your gorgeous photos.

  • Kristen

    Long time reader! Any chance of you being able to stay in your beach town if you had investors in your flower cart business? I’m sure many of us would love to chip in. I’ll be the first. Please let me know how I can help. XO from Texas

  • Brigid

    Another long time reader happy to have found you- popping in with warm wishes for financial success sooner than later. You have so many fans and people who care!

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