Tag: Self-Employment


The Bramble Squad

Joining Seth and Amber again for Marriage Letters: I Knew You Loved Me When. It’s a tender topic for me this week, so please read gently.


Dear husband,

You’re probably not expecting another marriage post this week given our stalemate conversations over the past few days, and honestly, I wasn’t planning to write this either. Our decade together has been one long series of transitions, yes, but this, learning how to share an office as two dream-chasing freelancers, is a big one. It remaps our individual orbits, and the gravity of being so near each other so much of the time pulls issues out from under the tide-pools. We knew it would be like this, but we’re still taken by surprise when conversations take a nosedive into territory neither of us particularly wants to visit. When we’re down there, neck-deep in brambles, it’s hard to see what we’re doing as progress.

But do you remember all those hours we used to talk perched on the dryers at our university laundromat, and how one evening, you looked at me across the low rumble and I knew? You caught it in my eyes too, weeks later across a tiny restaurant booth, and I didn’t need to say anything. We loved each other, and we knew it.

Yesterday, when you walked in with bits of sky still reflected in your eyes, and I was head to toe in flour rolling gnocchi as a peace offering, we knew it again. Everything shifts when love is the perspective, doesn’t it? With one look, we remember that we’re teammates on the bramble-clearing squad and that this hard work is all part of landscaping our future. We love each other still, and knowing it helps us sweep the stalemate off the board and plop down on it to continue our conversation.

The dryers might have been comfier, but I’d rather be here, now.



Previous letters here and here.


Above Expectations

My first reaction to sleeping in this morning was anger at myself. I feel like I’ve had enough post-trip adjustment time, and I had stored up big plans for this week, big deadlines with equally big hopes, big expectations of myself. Prying my groggy limbs off the mattress at 9:30 this morning? Not part of said expectations.

My frustration continued as I scrambled eggs for a family breakfast, fuming all the while at the steady ticking of time and my own weakness against it. But then, probably certainly thanks to the sanity-sparking effects of coffee and an unhurried chat with my husband, the truth began to dawn on me—this is what I had been so afraid of wanting.

During our time in the States, I let my boss know I wouldn’t be returning to work. There were a variety of reasons why I couldn’t continue at my teaching job, but it was still an extremely hard call for me to make. With Dan freelancing now, mine was the only guaranteed source of income, and I surprised myself by how reluctant I was to let go of that security blanket… even if it was only the size of a handkerchief.

Our lives needed some major changes for the new year, and even though leaving my job was a clear step, I had to do a lot of soul-searching before I found the courage to turn my resignation in. What finally convinced me were the guiding values I wrote about here: flexibility, generosity, authenticity, beauty, courage, creativity, community, intention, art. It would take every one of these to make it in an all-freelance, all-the-time household, and I was terrified of what could happen. But at the same time, my soul began to soar every time I imagined unrushed days with the freedom to let my fingers loose on the keys and opportunities to love well.

Days pretty much exactly like today.

 Freelancing(It’s hard to stay frustrated when you’re soaring.)



Out of Hibernation

The sun is channeling her inner bear these days, rising in a fogged stupor to growl at the world for a few hours before slinking back to her cave. Even the rain is half-hearted, and Christmas decorations are trying in vain to look like they belong.

I need to stop letting December catch me off guard every time, but this year is especially disillusioning. Dan’s switch from a salaried position to freelance work has been a wonderful thing, and we’ve watched a series of small miracles unfold over the last few months as he’s been offered projects that make him light up. However, we went through a hell of time to get here, and we still haven’t found stable ground. The last thing I want to do is throw a pity part when we have so much to be grateful for… but not being able to attend family Christmases or shop for gifts this year makes me want to join the sun in hibernating.

Of course, I’m still a mom and a wife and a teacher and notably not a woodland creature, so the mark of this December is putting one foot in front of the other in the dark dawn to the leaking coffeepot and then inhaling cappuccino steam with a cinnamon candle if I have time or scalding sips with a hairdryer if I don’t. (Usually the latter, but only because I love the snooze button too much.) It’s taming the school-traffic-work blitz with Sufjan hymns and baking cheese bread with my girls when I’m inclined to despair. It’s training myself not to panic when I check the mail, intentionally setting aside the problems I can’t fix. It’s fiercely loving this little family of ours, stumbling into prayer, and trusting, despite the impossible view from here, that we’re on the right path.

And sometimes, it’s taking a Sunday morning to catch up on desperately needed sleep, play Legos with the girls, sneak handfuls of caramel corn when no one’s looking (shh!), and remember to come out of my cave walking on my hands:

What does your December look like so far?


This Calls for an Apéritif

Once upon a time, my husband suggested we pack up our preschoolers and drive to Ireland, and I made the mistake of laughing. Several thousand kilometers, one hurling match, and a collection of impossibly beautiful memories later, I had to concede—the man knows a thing or two about dreaming. (He also knows a thing or two about teasing his pessimistic wife until she can’t remember what she was protesting in the first place.) The next year when he suggested we pack up our kidlets and drive to Scotland, I remembered not to laugh, and I hardly blinked when Portugal showed up on our road trip radar this summer. We wouldn’t have experienced any of our family adventures to date without Dan’s creativity and optimism, and I’ve learned better than to doubt his big ideas.

Not that I don’t still try.

For example, when he recommended I give notice at work so that I could devote the first half of the new year to writing a book, I laughed. After all, we’re a two-freelancer household now, and as delightful as it sounds to trade in teaching for typing, we wouldn’t last long on a one-freelancer income.

And when he suggested raising the funds to make it possible, I rolled my eyes. I mean, we’re barely a month away from 2012 (!!!!) , and these things—if they are actually possible and not just hopeful delusions—take time.

And when he insisted that we could launch a website and a Kickstarter page the same weekend we were hosting Thanksgiving dinner for a houseful of friends, I choked in an extremely dignified and ladylike way on the cheesecake batter I was swiping. Because……no. Just no.

Evidence A: 31 lb. turkey

Evidence B: Chronic fear of taking risks, relying on others, and/or getting my hopes up only to have them dashed against the cold hard face of reality

It turns out that the moral to this story is the same one which Dan has been gleefully reminding me of since Ireland: “Thou shalt not doubt thy husband.” For all my skepticism and worry and spontaneous freak-out sessions, I am completely thrilled (and probably more surprised than anyone) to be announcing…

Aperitifs and Sippy Cups

(I’ll wait while you check out the video; can you tell it was a blast to make?)

In case you’re not familiar with how Kickstarter works, we have until the evening of December 23rd to raise $10,00 in support. ($10,000 because that’s the minimum I’ll need to replace my current income for half a year, and December 23rd because we’re insane.) If the total pledges meet our financial goal by its deadline, our book will be funded, each contributor will receive rewards and lots of warm fuzzy feelings, and creativity will live long and prosper in our household. The mere possibility of it is buzzing like caffeine through my veins. I am so excited about writing this book that I’m having trouble focusing on other, less important concerns right now… such as food. And sleep.

I’ve already waxed epic about the book’s background and content on the Kickstarter page and our shiny new website, so I’ll let you head over there in a second. I just wanted to end by thanking all of you who have relentlessly encouraged my writing over the years, all of you who are willing to pre-order a book on Kickstarter (or simply spam everyone you know with constant and increasingly annoying reminders to check out our project), and all of you like my husband who see awesome possibility where I would just roll my eyes and continue eating cheesecake batter. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And now, it’s about time I started getting my hopes up.


Finally Free[lance]

The thing about a season of wild change is that every new morning feels truly new. It’s like we’re starring in a coming-of-age movie about our own life (with a moving indie soundtrack hand-picked by Zach Braff, of course), and absolutely anything could happen just around the next scene change.

One of my school-mom friends told me the other day about her brother taking an incredible high-paying corporate job in the States ten years ago. He and his pregnant wife uprooted their lives here and moved to the US… just in time for September 11th. The corporation who hired him went under in the aftermath, and he and his wife suddenly found themselves income-less in a foreign country. (Oh how sinkingly familiar this sounds.) Instead of just snatching the first menial job he could find to get back on his feet, though, my friend’s brother took advantage of the upheaval and enrolled in a photography program with a small stipend. One decade later, he is doing what he truly loves instead of dashing to endless meetings in a company car. He and his wife are still living out their dream of raising their children in the States, and they’re doing well enough to spend summers vacationing in Italy.

Our situation is much nearer the beginning of that story than the end, but I couldn’t help nodding enthusiastically because we’re already seeing how unemployment is the best thing that could have happened to my husband. He is already set up as a freelancer and doing support work in a field that makes his brain light up with ideas, and he’s turning some of those ideas into the start-up he’s been dreaming of for years. Finances are a day-to-day tango right now, but there is always just enough, and it’s becoming ever easier to leave tomorrow in the future where it belongs.

Our coming-of-age movie probably looks like a surf documentary put on by the Jackass crew—our family clinging to a tidal wave of uncertainty for all we’re worth and hurtling toward anywhere—but I can personally confirm that it feels like liberation.

The red flag side
(Photo from the beach in Porto this summer.
More coming soon to a blog near you.)


Alasment Period

This is it—the Adjustment Period. I didn’t expect the choppy swaying to hit quite so soon after I announced we were cutting our financial mooring lines, but we’re riding full on the swells now and stumbling our way to sea legs. It’s fantastic having my husband working from home and so, so good to see him energized rather than deflated by work, but I’ve gotta admit, being the one to leave in the mornings with the car keys and a briefcase is… strange.

Our days have an unfamiliar cadence to them now. We’re using new vocabulary and penciling appointments into uncharted waters, and while I’m utterly grateful for the possibilities ahead, I’m also utterly discombobulated. No matter how good all of this change is, it’s still change, and I’m responding with my best impression of a hungover sailor. It’s quite attractive, I’m sure.

Even though the rational side of my brain assures me that an Adjustment Period is necessary and that it’s only natural to feel like I’ve drunk a captain-sized stash of moldy rum at any given time, my emotional side is wallowing in alas… as in, Alas, I’ll never find my groove! and Alas, I  shall never write anything meaningful ever again! Like I said, attractive.

So here’s my counterstrike to all the “Alas”es sloshing around my unsteady feet—
5 sources of home-front happiness this week:

  1. Having my dearly bearded husband back from a business trip
  2. The accompanying backrubs
  3. Tag-teaming on everything from dirty dishes to dirty kids
  4. Rearranging rooms and letting clutter go without regret
  5. Enjoying these last few days with the girls before school starts

Your turn!


I Was Born Not Ready

I was going to start with It’s Thursday; how did this happen? when I realized that the last official month of summer had slipped out of my open window during the night, ergo…

It’s September; how did this happen?

Last week was a long blur, some moments punched into sharp focus by worry or hope over our shapeshifting future and others stretched timelessly over evenings at the table with friends. This week, Dan is off bringing possibilities into the present tense, my worry has officially lost out to hope, and I should be floating now that the weight of so much unknown is out of my arms. In reality though, I’m simply feeling heavy, fingers numb.

Though it seems incongruous with the adventurous streak that trotted me to this corner of the globe in the first place, I always have difficulty adjusting to new circumstances, so this lull… okay, funk is probably just the natural result of my perspective playing musical chairs. Combined with my introvert personality and social opportunities overlapping without recharge time,  it’s made for a bewildering week so far. The space-time continuum is dragging against my feet like gravity, and despite a light work load, I’m plumb worn out.

That justifies singlemouthedly demolishing half a pan of Rice Krispie Treats, yes?

I’m not ready for it to be Thursday, and I’m certainly not ready for it to be September. I’m not ready for the early work morning tomorrow or for the day trip on Saturday or for church on Sunday. (I think my reluctance over that one is especially justified considering last Sunday when I, unwillingly presiding over the piano, butchered a hymn request. In my defense, the song was an unforgivable 9/8 time signature with meter and tempo changes halfway through, but I was clearly spattered with gore by the end. This may also be a contributing factor to the dearth of Rice Krispie Treats around here.) I’m so very not ready for the deluge of personal expectations waiting for me once the girls start school the following week, and it’s all compounded by the list of things I planned to do ahead of time. (I know summer break looks long and carefree at the start, but seriously—what form of substance abuse inspired me to promise the other moms I’d plan a group picnic???)

Incredible disappearing Rice Krispie Treats (Probably this kind.)

All this to say sorry for mybusily-out-of-sorts radio silence, and please, if you have any idea how it got to be September, let me know so I can bribe it back into hiding until I’m properly ready.

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