The Price of Hunting Treasure

For four seasons now, I’ve been watching 2 brothers dig for treasure. They constantly find new clues, meet new people with well-thought out theories, and have an endless string of set backs. They get just enough to keep the questions flowing and have yet to find the treasure.

One brother has the passion; he’s wanted to search for this treasure since he was 11 years old. The other, the younger brother, wants to support his brother, wants this adventure with his brother, but looks at the more practical side of the project. They find themselves constantly faced with the question: at what point do you just have to stop? When do you walk away?

The price has been high. Mostly money and time, but don’t discount the fatigue of trying without success. There is a discouragement that can seep bone deep and start to create doubt.

This has been my greatest struggle as we’ve chased our own treasure. No matter how much logic or how many facts are applied to the unknown, a lot of treasure hunting is based on educated guesses. You try. You hope. You work hard, but sometimes all you get is another hole in the dirt. What then?

Would I Really Have Done It Differently?

I hate being a stay-at-home parent and I feel pretty bad about that. For other people, this is their dream. But that’s the thing, I’m living someone else’s dream. My dream was to get my degree, get a job, and raise sheep in a swamp. Betchya didn’t know you could raise sheep in a swamp. So, yeah, I feel a real kinship with Shrek.

But I didn’t do that. Instead I got married, finished classes in December, and walked pregnant at graduation in May. When we chose to have kids, I traded my dream for a commitment; could say I did that when I got married.

I didn’t have to. Topher was supportive, but by then I didn’t have a clear career goal. It would have just been working to pay daycare. Didn’t seem right for me or the family.

Out of the blue the other day I saw clearly how it could have worked. I started to feel a tug of sadness over my choice. Then I realized how useless that was. I was looking backwards through lessons learned and obstacles overcome. I couldn’t see one path without the other. Besides, I’m keeping the amazing family I helped build.

Every Venture Has A Mountain

I used to think that if I did my research, made a logical plan, and worked hard, life would happen smoothly. I used to be an idiot.

(Okay, to be fair, I’m still sometimes an idiot. It’s not really the sort of thing I’ve managed to leave behind.)

As I’ve spent time lately sorting through the events of our life, patterns have started to come to light. I realized that not one thing has ever gone the way I expected it to. Not a single one. There were always good reasons to believe that this time would be the exception and it never was.

But, why? What was I missing?

Today I found an answer. Every undertaking has an unseen mountain that rises up from the unknowns of life. It can’t be planned for because each one is utterly unique, mind-bogglingly random, and full of the unexpected.

Sometimes it’s gentle and rolling; sometimes it’s treacherous and daunting. Regardless, the path changes and I end up with something completely different than I wanted and generally a lot more work than I expected.

And those rare times when the journey is easier than expected?  Simple. I got to start at the top.

My Failures Follow Me Like a Pack of Zombies

I really hate those guys in the Zelda game, the ReDead. They just kinda wander around taking up space until you get too close. Make that mistake and they wrap themselves around you and start chewing on your head. Yeah. Those guys.

I’ve got my own pack of them. They follow me around, generally harmless, until I even think about trying something new. And the last year has been full of trying a lot of new.

The thing about failure zombies: they’re actually rooted in reality. Real memories of real mistakes with real words that were actually said. Events from the past that shouldn’t matter now, but rear their ugly heads when I least need them and fill my brain with doubts and fears.

“How could you think about getting a job, you haven’t worked in, well, ever.” “Why would you deepen that friendship, that last person rejected you.” “You shouldn’t try to help, so and so thought you were too bossy.” And on it goes.

But now it’s time for a little head cleaning. With a baseball bat, Walking Dead-style. Take out the entire hoard. I have plenty of battles ahead. It’s time to be done fighting the past.

My Truths Aren’t Pretty

Writing was easy when I was just recording our journey. It wasn’t all wonderful, but there was a certain distance I could keep from it. But as the story shifted towards my journey, I found I really struggled.

How do I write about the negative feelings without it coming across as whining? How do I share hope without sugar coating life? How do I write about accomplishments without making it seems like I’m bragging?

A few posts ago I wrote about being a warrior. Sounds so glamorous. Everyone wants to be the conquering hero, right?

I am not the conquering hero. I am broken and bloody, dealing with the aftermath of the battles that we’ve fought. It’s like standing in the bombed out war zone. Sure, I survived the battle, maybe my side even won, but at what cost? I survived the battles only to be faced with the monumental tasks of rebuilding.

I’m afraid of what comes next. I see life from a perspective of zero security. I’ve been disappointed so many times my hope is broken. Good news first makes me panic.

But, finally, I’m catching glimmers that maybe what I’ve been fighting for has been worth it.

Building Community

Last March, my grandmother died. She was just a few months from her 93rd birthday. She’d lived in the same small northern Michigan community for nearly 70 years.

To be honest, until I was sitting in the packed funeral home, I’d never really thought about my grandmother and community. She never lead a group, organized a fundraiser, or helped out at the school.

In fact, she had lead a fairly humble life. She was abandoned as a child by her father, was only educated through the eighth grade, and went on to become a working mother of six with an abusive husband who did her the biggest favor of dying young. Not a very auspicious life.

But as I looked around the funeral home that had every available room open and still had standing room only, I realized being a part of a community isn’t about that one thing you did that one time. It’s an investment. It takes time.

You can’t build the kind of relationship that packs a funeral home with one weekend at a conference or even one project. You can become friends in a minute, but it takes time and constancy to build valuable relationships that lasts.

What Are You Willing to Lose

A friend recently asked: how do you tell the difference between fear that stops you and fear that protects you? How do you know which risks to take?

I’ve had a lot of experience with this. Some days it feels like more than my fair share.

I grew up afraid. It’s not the same as unloved, but it’s certainly not…comfortable. I’m predisposed to be cautious. I’ll pick safe every time, even more so after I became a mother. But not my husband. He’s not reckless, but he embraces risks more easily.

Because of this the last seven years of life have been full of chaos and risk. We’ve made a series of choices that will likely build a solid future, but at the cost of any sense of normal and safety. If it had been solely me, I wouldn’t have made these choices. You know why? They hurt. Every single one.

So why did I keep making them? Because I couldn’t find a good reason not to. We evaluated each decision with one primary questions: what are we willing to lose? If this thing completely fails, can we recover? My perspective shifted. My focus narrowed, but I am less afraid.

Why 200 Words?

I came across the idea from a designer friend of ours. I can’t speak for all his reasons, as I am not in fact a mind reader, but the primary one was for the creativity of it. When there are constraints, I think differently about my craft.

It’s actually one of the things I like about Twitter. Sure, there are times when I wish I had all the characters I wanted, but generally those are the times when the words I want to say are really better kept to myself. When I’m limited to 140 characters, I have to really think about how I’m using them.

I’m not just flinging words about, again we’re speaking generally, I’m actually crafting them. As the limit looms, I have to focus more on what I’m actually trying to say. What’s most important? Is there a cleaner way to say it?

While boundaries make me sharper, they also make the task more manageable. Right now, my world is busy. The last year has shown me just how hard it is to find time to write. If I’m adding something else, it needs to be both encouraging and possible. 200 words a day? I can do that.

Life in 200 Words

With yet another year came yet another commitment to myself to write consistently. A year and a half ago when I started writing, I would have thought nothing would stop me. Writing had always been a dream and here was my opportunity. I’d never squander that, right?

Then life happened. 2014 showed the weak spots in our marriage. 2015 showed the struggles our teenagers were having. Some normal. Some as a result of our chaotic life choices. 2016 showed how really unreliable life is. Three job changes for my husband. A surprise trip to Vienna. I was paid to write, something I never in my life thought would happen, sent the girls to Brazil, and my 93 year old grandma died.

Nothing was going to the way I hoped it would. When ever I thought I had found a stable normal, it vanished. The chaos was terrifying. I was exhausted from constantly fighting the unknown and my “day job” kept me from a computer.

Looking back, it’s easy to see why it’s been nearly a year since I’ve written regularly. But it’s time for that to change. 200 words a day. I can do that. I won’t make it every day, but it’s a start.

Next

Just as the magazine ad was a catalyst for my first revelation, T’s job situation sparked the next. His project was wrapping up and unemployment was looming. It’s always weighed on me that he has carried the financial burden of our family alone. Too, I was nervous for me personally. Our marriage was shaky, though seemed to have stabilized, and if I needed an income I wanted to be prepared.

But the big question was: were we actually in a position where I could consider taking on a job without adding to the stress and chaos that we were already exhausted from?

This wasn’t the first time I’d considered working outside the home. I went to college with the soul purpose of not staying home. When the girls were younger I took on two different part time jobs before they were old enough to start school. Both jobs paid too little to make them worth the time and effort of having them. They were both intended to provide enjoyment and simply ended up hurting us all.

However, factors had changed and surprisingly the answer was yes. The girls were old enough to manage more of the school and household responsibilities. That didn’t just free me up to look for at least a part time job without putting added strain on the family, but also provided them the opportunity to practice some of the adult life skills they were going to be needing soon. 

While those changes were optimistic, I still needed to approach what I would do next with careful thought. The right job would help, but the wrong job could really disrupt our fragile progress.

As I evaluated what I wanted and what my skills were, three options seemed to float to the top: get a local brick-and-mortar job, go back to school, or find something in the WordPress world.

A brick-and-mortar job held some instant appeal and was an option I’d been mulling over for a while. It was the quickest way to generate income and relied on skills I already had, mainly breathing and the ability to shower. However, it also tied me to one place and wouldn’t fill any creative needs.

Going back to school seemed the obvious choice. I enjoy learning and adding a Master’s to the degree I already had seemed perfect. Until I did some research. The first article I came across specifically said getting a Master’s in the field I was considering was a waste of time. Even if that article was wrong, I wasn’t sure the timing was right. It would take years and create more chaos, stress, and limits to my time when the girls needed more flexibility in our schedule.

Neither option was ruled out, but neither fit as well as I would have preferred. That left WordPress. I knew about WordPress and of the community, but wasn’t actively using. I’d volunteered at our local wordcamp, attended a few meetups, and, about 6 months before, had attended my first wordcamp: WordCamp Chicago 2014.

WordPress for me had always been a development tool, a pre-built content management system that allowed small businesses and non-profits a way to have a dynamic website with out the added expense of costly hours of custom work. While all of that is true, I had completely forgotten that WordPress was originally created as a blogging platform.

I literally had a light bulb moment when I realized that WordPress was actually intended for writers. I could fulfill what had always seemed like an unrealistic young adult dream of being a writer simply by writing.

Not only had my perspective changed yet again, but a shift was also happening in the business of websites. Quality content was in demand and my English degree that seemed so useless 15 years ago finally had job prospects. It was now possible to either freelance or find a remote job.

Work in the field I’d always loved? Be location independent? Still be flexible to the families needs? I’d found my starting point.