The year was 2006.
My husband (at the time) was in Mexico, and I was here in the U.S. trying to find a way to get him back legally, while raising our two children by myself. He was doing nothing to contribute, and I was wearing myself out.
Life lesson: Sometimes the first marriage wasn’t a marriage at all.
Zion had recently been diagnosed with autism, and Zoë was crying constantly for her papa. I was in a world of overwhelm, and to me, life could not have gotten much worse.
I was only working part-time in the ER, and was lucky to even get there most days. I was mentally and emotionally destroyed. I cried more than I didn’t.
So when one of Zion’s First Steps therapists suggested that I apply for government assistance, I was all about it.
And that lifestyle sustained us for the better part of a year.
But then something happened that woke me up. Someone had been out sick from work, so I picked up some extra hours. That pay period I got a giant paycheck. (giant to me) And lo and behold….when I reported those wages to the government, the next month they cut off my assistance.
Just like that.
And that’s when I realized.
Government assistance is just that. Assistance. It is not meant to last forever. It is meant to help sustain a family for a short period of time, until the person can get back on their feet and provide for their family again.
It is also designed to keep a person thinking small.
So that’s when I decided to turn my hobby into a business.
My dad offered to help, and bought me some new jewelry tools, beads, and some DVD tutorials. I spent every free moment making jewelry.
Within a short time I had made enough money that we were no longer eligible for food stamps and Medicaid. Soon we were able to buy a merchandise tent. And tables. And displays and lighting. I named my business The Glass Beadery. We did 4 festivals that first year. And were able to make thousands of dollars.
The harder I worked at creating The Glass Beadery, the better I felt about me. I became a better mom. I became a better friend. And daughter. I became a better housekeeper. (Who are we kidding, no I didn’t.) I became a better employee. All around, I was becoming a better me.
Life lesson: Hard work builds character.
Just a couple of years later, I was working full-time in the ER. That’s the year the kid’s dad returned from Mexico, I divorced him, and we started receiving an obscene amount of back child support. So… I didn’t have to work as hard to make jewelry anymore.
So I didn’t.
In a short amount of time, I became comfortable living off of my full-time wages and the child support. I didn’t have to work as hard, and I was okay with that.
I deserved the relaxation, right?
(I’m sure you can already see where this is heading.)
Sooooooo…what happens when the child support stops?
Sure enough, eventually the child support payments stopped. I had already discovered ABA therapy, and enrolled Zion. I knew it was the best thing for him, and that I would have to find a way to pay for this expensive alternative to public school.
As I sat one day with my head in my hands, my daughter Zoë came over to me with a box of beads. She handed me a little bracelet she had made. She said, “Mama, I think I can sell this bracelet to help with Zion.”
Life lesson: Sometimes the parents are the students, and the children are the teachers.
I grabbed her up in my arms and hugged her tight.
We sat there for hours that evening talking about ideas. My 10 year-old taught me a hard and painful lesson that day.
Life lesson: It is never a good idea to live off of handouts.
It is okay to rest. It is actually good to rest. But resting and wallowing are two very different things. When you live off of handouts, you don’t learn to provide for yourself. You become expectant. Deserving. Entitled.
And then when that $1,800 doesn’t land in the bank account one month, you become indignant. And what did you do to earn that money?
Nothing at all.
So I have lived a much different life for the past 3 years. I work 10 times harder. We live within the means of what I make at the hospital. Zoë and I started a jewelry business called Zoë’s Starfish, and that money pays for the expenses associated with Zion’s ABA therapy.
This weekend we had our first merchandise tent in 5 years at a little hometown street fair called Riley Festival. We decided to sign up at the last minute, so we only had a couple of weeks to build the display. And boy, did it turn out to be beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, that the Riley Festival posted a blurb about us on their home page:
Unfortunately though, on Friday night, our tent was demolished by wind and rain:
Life lesson: Always be a glass-half-full type of person.
We do not cry over torn up tents. (Okay, maybe a little.) We count our blessings. We give thanks for the beautiful people we have in our lives. We met half of our goal on Friday at the festival. We passed out hundreds of business cards, and made many new contacts. We were blessed with generous and lovely tent neighbors. We received phone calls and texts from a dozen people offering to come back down to Riley Festival and set up a tent that would not be destroyed.
We learned that we are deeply loved. And surrounded.
After we tore down the mess, Zoë and I decided that we would run a sale on social media for the remainder of the weekend, and then take Zion back to the Riley Festival on Sunday to socialize, meet some more people, and pass out business cards.
Life lesson: Business isn’t always about making money. Contacts and relationships are important, too.
Am I disappointed we lost that income? Of course I am.
But every experience has its lesson.
And if I pay close attention, and really use the experience to better myself, my tent won’t be the only thing to be blown away.
You can make a huge difference by spending $15 here: