I know everyone is feeling it. The lack of sunshine directly contributes to the lack of serotonin in my brain and so many of my fellow warriors in the trenches of mental illness. We are fighting a monotonous, endless war against depression and the human condition. Every day is a battle to see the bright side. But there are bright sides! They still exist! I’m spinning as fast as possible to turn every negative thought into a positive one. Let’s keep up the good fight! Let’s find the sunshiney glimmers between the dark, dreary winter storms!
I’m lucky enough to have a big birthday to celebrate after Christmas and New Year’s. It was good planning to have a kid in January to give myself something to look forward to in the dark days of winter.
Bug, however, does NOT like having a winter birthday. All she wants is a pool party with sunshine and friends splashing around in bikinis. And every year, we have to fret about whether or not her party will get rained out. I mean, yes, we are lucky that these are the problems we have to worry about when other kids are just fortunate enough to wake up alive and not to the sounds of bombs going off. But you know what I mean. Real-life problems in my small world are weather and paying rent.
This was probably the first year in her eighteen years that it rained, and we had to consider a plan B: cramming all twenty of her high school buddies into our tiny apartment. We opened the weather app daily and discussed the predicted rain percentages. On Monday, there was a 40% chance; on Tuesday, there was a 60% chance; by Friday, there was an 80% chance. It was not looking good, but the plan must go on!
Because the plan was a good one! This year, Bug planned her birthday party from the invitation to the location of our local park to the bounce house and the piñatas. It was painful to step aside and let her make all the party-planning decisions, but I had to do it. I had plenty of opinions, but just like I’ve had to step aside and let her do her school art projects, I’ve learned that there is a time for the teacher to be the student, and now is that time.
Her theme was impeccable—”Party like when you were little.” It was such a good idea! Her friends dressed how they dressed when they were little. She made cupcakes and took them to school (the day before, which was a great way to hype the whole event). She had two Minecraft piñatas filled with all their old favorite candies and party-city-craptastic toys. Cheese pizza, a pink castle bounce house, bouncy balls giant and small… sticky hands, sparkly crowns and glow bracelets. It was brilliant!
It was an absolute hit. Bug had hyped it up so much at school the day before, and because teenagers will congregate anywhere under any circumstances, EVERYONE SHOWED UP! And THEN! At the last minute right before her party, the rain stopped for the exact hours of her birthday party!!!!! Everything was sludgy, muddy, and cold, but the rain stopped! Can you believe it?
The bounce house was so fun. The kids didn’t really bounce in it much until the rental company showed up and told them it was time to deflate it. Then they all crammed in, and it deflated on them because bounce houses are not made to hold twenty full-grown bodies. It was hilarious. All the weight shifted to one side, and no one could hoist themselves up and out of the descending castle. Photos were taken, and everyone bonded in a huge laughing heap. It was amazing. We all relived our little kid dreams, and this mama was happy.
Let’s talk about another glimmer during winter: Winter light! Winter light is the best on the coast because the usual foggy, humid marine layer goes out to sea somewhere, and the skies are clearer and brighter than ever. Sunsets are beautiful with colors you never see any other time of the year. Golds and scarlets, pinks and purples. It is a beautiful thing to be by the sea during winter. Cold as heck but beautiful. I mean, comparatively speaking. We don’t know about snow or freezing temperatures, but our blood is thin, so we shiver when it’s 60 degrees and below.
Shiver, shiver, shiver. But look! So pretty!
I also traveled to the desert to check on the Rasta Rita Cantina. Since my little flower business has a few weddings coming up in April, I thought I should get reacquainted with the venue.
The wall is slightly faded but not bad, considering it’s been through a severe summer (118F) and winter (30F). I might have to do a few touch-ups.
Mario and I also visited the billboard we worked on. I was so NOT a part of this creatively (Mario and his buddy art-directed it; I was just the hands working the software), but it is my first billboard, so I’m slightly proud. I thought we’d get sued by U2 for blatantly ripping off their album cover, but since I didn’t have the correct photo or the right font, it wasn’t close enough to flatter myself. So hey! Billboard! Woot. It’s too bad I’m not proud enough to put it in my portfolio.
A few of you have commented on my winding ways lately. Yes, I’m throwing everything at the wall, hoping it will stick. Flower business, behavioral therapy for autistic children, job hunting and travel… I suppose it’s not often a mommy blogger continues to tell tales and document her humdrum life after her children are grown. But the thing is, this never was a mommy blog. I just happened to be a mom for a big chunk of it. Mommy blogging made me famous briefly, but I’ve been journaling, sharing, and creating my, for lack of a better word, *digital magazine* of my “little life” since I was ten. Except when I was ten, my dad and I were in our converted back patio office punching out columns of copy on his Texas Instrument computer and pasting them into a newspaper format that we copied on the Xerox copier and I then handed out at Thanksgiving. Crazy. I guess I’ve always wanted to be a journalist writing “puff pieces” about my own life.
I say all that to tell you about my latest whim. I’m trying out something new. Something new to throw at that wall, let’s say. I call it my 100-day project. I will spend 100 days putting all my energy into my own business. This might sound strange since I’ve been working for myself for the last twenty years, but I’ve spent a lot of time and energy making other people wealthy while living paycheck to paycheck myself, and lately, those paychecks have NOT been enough. I’ve created so many campaigns, logos, and business plans for others, scrubbed toilets, fetched dry cleaning, organized closets, and bought coffees… I’ve decided for the next 100 days, I will put as much energy as I’ve put into others into my own business instead. I’m not paying myself, but I’m paying it forward. I will clock in at 9 am and work straight until 2 pm on my books, my art, and whatever crawls into my idea-popping head. If I can make other people successful, why can’t I make myself successful?
I realize I’m all talk, but it’s only 100 days. Today is day four. Let’s see how it goes. It’s got to be better than everything I’ve been doing that has been failing so miserably, right?
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!