May 23, 2012

Avoiding the edge

Last week, I received my first 'real' freelance check in the mail. This was a partner company I'd worked with in California. They asked me to refresh their logo. Simple, straightforward and not too creative. I sent a contract. They agreed. I did the work. I sent a bill. They paid within 30 days. It's how it's supposed to work, but I've rarely experienced a client relationship that works that smoothly.

As a result of that check, I've set up a DBA ("Doing Business As") and have a sole proprietorship in [My Name] Design. The name is nothing creative (though I like my idea for a logo), but it's simple and straightforward. I've reached out to people in the neighborhood and have a list of web coders I could work with to make my site. They're also potential collaborators if I do the freelance road and need web resources.

A couple months ago, I contacted a woman who is friends with our realtor. She got back to me last week and we met today for lunch. Here in Dallas she's one of the leading event planners for events in the 300-500 person range. She's got a few contacts if I'm interested. She works with a designer in the area and might connect me with her.

I've just finished creating the brand for a dear friend who is going into Executive Coaching. Along the way he's had various people ask if I'm available.

When I reached out to a former co-worker now freelancer extraordinaire for some ideas, one of her contacts then reached out to me.

I know that one of my former creative directors would like to work with me. I think my current company would be willing to work with me as a contractor.

So, the issue is, do I opt to make my life hellish for a while and go for the freelance gig until it takes off and I can quit my current job, or do I play it safe and keep plugging along as is?

I would like to be doing freelance by the time Brex is in kindergarten and it takes a couple years of hustle to get it moving along. On the other hand, I'm now 40 percent vested in my company and the money gets fairly big now each year I stay on as a full-time employee.

Paving stone by paving stone I keep laying the path, just in case. I set up a business account today thanks to that freelance check. I emailed those clients to thank them and tell them I'd happy to work with them in the future. They emailed back right away to say they may have more work later in June.

It just feels like those paving stones are leading to the edge of a cliff. I can get to the edge, jump and hope to fly, or risk crashing hard, or not risk anything and stay where I am. Yikes!

May 17, 2012

What wasn't there

After years of posts about Mothers' Day and countless conversations with friends about hoping to be a Mom someday, the obvious question of the week has been, "How was your first Mothers' Day?"

It should be an easy answer, right? Well, sure, it was a good day, but it didn't feel any better or worse than most days. We went out for brunch and had to wait half an hour for a table. By the time we sat down, we were into Brex's naptime so we didn't get to linger. We managed to keep him happy with bread shreds, but once those ran out, so did we! Home for naps for all three of us. After playing with Brex and then putting him to bed, Jrex made a lovely dinner of fresh halibut and tomatoes accompanied by roasted veggies from our Urban Farm basket. We chatted and then watched a movie.

All quite lovely, but not earth shattering or life changing.

Last night I shared with Jrex my struggle to put words on how Mothers' Day felt. I'd just had a conversation with a friend who adopted a sibling pair three years ago. Over the years we've bonded over emotionally supporting depressed husbands, being childless, and waiting and praying and waiting some more. Obviously she wanted to know what it was like now that I've borne a child. I tried to share that in a good way, I'm finally able to take Brex and motherhood for granted. That I'm very grateful to have such ordinary splendor. It didn't come out right.

After listening to me, Jrex said, "This Mothers' Day wasn't about what you felt, it was about what you didn't feel."

Click. Finally! He put words on my emotions for me.

For the fifteen years of our marriage, every Mothers' Day (except last year) has been sad. First because my Mom had cancer, and then because she was dead and then because I wasn't yet a mother. NO fun. Going to church became excruciating since they usually did something Mother-friendly.

This year? I felt contentment. Bone-deep and 'take it for granted' solid contentment. Despite the cliché I thought was propaganda by women trying to convince themselves, I DO love every minute of this gig. I miss the little guy when he's sleeping, I'm excited to pick him up from day care. So Mother's Day was just another good day in 7 months of good days (let it be acknowledged that a huge reason for all this is that Brex is one of the most mellow kids on the face of the earth; proof that it's not just me being a fond mother is that the nanny in California said he's the most mellow baby she's ever worked with. If I had a tempestuous, energy-draining kid I know I'd be grateful, but whining a lot).

For a Mothers' Day that was quietly, deeply good, I'm more grateful than I can say. And for tempestuous emotions that I didn't have to endure, I'm grateful. For a husband who knows me well, obviously grateful.

Flowers from my Dad

For the fact that my blog has devolved into a Mommy blog? Slightly embarrassed, but still grateful.

May 9, 2012

Geek land and Competitive Parenting

The hard part about returning somewhere you've left is the reminder of richness.

Not anything economic, rather relational wealth. In 4 1/2 years I made and deepened wonderful friendships. For many of them, we happened to also be working through fertility issues and getting pregnant around the same time. It's hard to make new friends as a parent. There just aren't as many hours in the day as when I was 'single' (Jrex works long enough hours that I could get together with people for lunch, dinner, coffee, weekend walks, etc). Therefore, being back with good friends where we could maintain our contact while chasing kids around the room works. Building new friends while doing the same? Creates tenuous bonds that just take more time to deepen.

We stayed with Lovey and Dovey and their little girl Spark. After a wonderfully empty plane with a row to ourselves, Brex did a great job staying up 2-hours past his bedtime and doing his normal routine there. Spark has had a nanny and few play dates, so she was FASCINATED with Brex. In particular, she really, really wanted to grab his helmet (which, now painted, looks like a really BIG toy). Since she can crawl faster than I can move, we had an interesting time trying to keep Brex on a higher plane so she couldn't reach for his face. If he was sitting on the floor (with no ability to crawl yet), he learned to cry when he saw her coming. If we had him in our laps and she popped up to stand next to him, he was fine.

The sad thing is that long-distance, Lovey and I talk on the phone, but Dovey and I don't get to chat much. It's somehow strange for a wife and husband of other people to call each other to catch up. Anyway, he and I enjoy discussing design, home decor, counseling and many other topics, so it was fun to get time to catch up with both of them together.

This trip made me realize that I'm opting into a game I'll call Competitive Parenting. It's not something I'm doing with other parents, just trying to buck the system and compete with Jrex. Knowing that most baby's first words are a variant of a hard sound (Dada, Baba, Tata), I've been working hard with Brex to get him to say Mama first. Every time I change him, I look at him and do a long exaggerated "MmmmmmaaA" sound. After watching me in fascination, he'll often try to do it, "Na Na Ba Na Blah" (really, he says Blah Blah Blah, cracks me up!). Well, after a couple days in Lovey and Dovey's house, I had to tell Dovey that his daughter was a bad influence. He looked horrified, "What is she doing?!"

"As you are gleefully aware, Spark loves to say 'da da' and after only two days here, Brex is mostly doing hard sounds! All my effort down the drain..."

Jrex was delighted. I told him it wasn't personal since we call him "Appa" and the baby wasn't making any P-uh sounds.

Do you think this makes me a Western version of a Tiger Mom? Forcing the child to do something they wouldn't normally do for reasons of my own? (Laughing an evil scientist laugh) I'll manipulate him anyway!!!

The other thing I realized on the trip is that Silicon Valley is full of geeks. Which is why I fit right in. When I told people there that I should have painted the helmet silver so Brex could look like Magneto, they all laughed. When I say that here, I usually get blank stares. Maybe it's not that I'm strong meat (though I am that, I think), maybe it's lady culture vs geek culture? In either case, it's hard to be back where I'm at the early stages of building potential friendships rather than immersed among people who know me well.

All I can do is keep pressing further up and further in. It may take longer, but we're likely going to be here longer, so we'll get there.