For the past 18 months, I've been unemployed. Unemployment sucks.
My recent unemployment had an added twist, in that my former boss (a.k.a. "Delores Umbridge"), not content to simply fire me, took it upon herself to trash my name on the street. We had creative differences. And by creative differences I mean that I, little Dudley Do-Right that I am, expect that when I'm a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, I'm going to adhere to the professional code of ethics in my business practices. I know, what a prig, right? But even worse, I ALSO expected to adhere to state and local fire code, health department and county regulations for a professional kitchen serving food to a known high-risk population, and standard accounting practices for nonprofits when I have the #2 managerial position in the reporting structure and co-sign the checks. Golly jeepers, I'm just no fun at all! On the other hand, Delores had been there for 23 years, and felt that even though it was a nonprofit, it was Her House, and she was going to run it however she wanted, and what the Board, the grant-givers, the donors, and the Minister of Magic didn't know was nobody's business but hers. So, go figure... creative differences.
Being right and having integrity still doesn't pay the mortgage, though it did make me feel slightly better when, less than a year after she nuked me, Delores was forced into "early retirement" by that same board whose collective asses she'd been blowing sunshine up for so many years. Karma in action. Sadly, her shenanigans meant that once her replacement had time to wade through the financial morass Delores left behind, the damage done was too great, and the nonprofit ended up closing its doors, leaving the people it served without the supports it provided. I have absolutely no schadenfreude; knowing the impact on them turns my gut.
On the other hand, the months of job-searching gave me a LOT of time in front of my computer, and for my own personal sanity, I've been benignly addicted to Daily Kos. I got to step out of the shadows and get a bit more involved than I ever had before, and, while I'm never going to be a shining star, I love this community and think it's one of the best, most interesting, and most intelligent places to spend time in, on the internet. In the accent of my beloved Philadelphia, Youse Guys is Good People. But out of all the friends (and a couple frenemies) I've made here, there were two diaries recently that literally changed my life, in a way that the author could never have foreseen, and I want to thank her.
THANK YOU, smartEpants! GIRL, YOU ROCK!Go here for the first diary. And here for the second.
No, I'm not fighting cancer myself, (thank God!). The thing is, back about 12 years ago, I had my own personal chef and catering business. I loved it, and I was fully booked and very happy. The thing I loved most wasn't the money, but being able to really help people - some of my clients needed me because they were on specially prescribed diets, some had compromised immune systems, from cancer or other ailments, and they needed to have the protection of a professional who would work in their own kitchens, using extremely strict sanitation and food-handling practices. I also had plenty of "regular people" for clients, but the ones who needed me are the ones I still think about the most, and who still hold a warm place in my heart.
But life is nothing if not interesting, and in the space of three years, I had a difficult pregnancy, a new baby, marriage problems, a divorce, a move across the country back to Philadelphia, and then my baby turned out to have special needs. Three years, it was like I had earned the wrath of the gods. And the roughest part was the constant fear and struggle to get my little girl's life set up in a way that was good for her. It took another five years of tests, experts, war with the school district, and trial-and-error to figure out what we were dealing with to then get the right Team of supports, therapists, doctors, school environment, and behavioral plan in place.
And, in the meantime, I had the crazy idea that I'd start a little gourmet specialties shop and takeout cafe here in Philadelphia. It seemed like a great idea: predictable hours, far fewer nights and weekends for a single mom to have to cope with than catering, and best of all I had my share of the money from our house after it sold, and my daughter and I could live in a small two bedroom condo while I got the business up and running. There was also the physical benefit to the idea: raising a young child with ADHD is utterly exhausting, even for someone who was used to being on her feet doing hard physical labor most of the day. Constant vigilance isn't nearly enough; there was no way I could meet the physical demands of mothering her AND work as a Personal Chef/Caterer at the same time. But my little shop wasn't to be, for every step I took forward, I got knocked back ten. My dream died hard, chopped to hamburger on the butcher block of motherhood. I went back to my roots in events planning and fundraising, took an intensive professional fundraising certification program at U. Penn to polish up my resume, and rebooted my career back into development.
Until Delores fired me, and nuked my prospects. Or so she hoped. I was so scared this past fall, as the months dragged past and my Tier 3 Unemployment was getting closer and closer to running out, without having found any job. I was looking at my life, and wondering how I had fallen so far from where I should have been - my home value had collapsed, I was barely scraping up the mortgage, ashamed to be needing help from my parents in middle age, my credit score had withered, my career had dead-ended (and it's not like I'd been getting rich in nonprofit) and my safety net of savings was decimated. Maybe the worst thing that I let old Delores do to me was how my faith had been shaken. Months of closed doors, even after a mutual acquaintance specifically TOLD me Delores had trashed me on the street, had me in a dark, despairing place in my own head, no matter what my past accomplishments had been. But that witch didn't count on Daily Kos, or smartEpants, and the ripples of good that one single person can send out into the universe, without even knowing it.
SmartEpants, in replying to your diaries, and suggesting to look for a personal chef service in your area, it made me remember the joy I used to have, the feeling of being able to directly help people, to nurture and nourish them, to use my creativity and talent to feed them. Once upon a time, back when I was an entrepreneur, I used to have the mantra "If I can't find a way, I'll make one." As I said in my comment in your second diary, you inspired me, you made me take a long hard look at myself lately, and I didn't like what I saw. Negativity. Defining myself by failure. If you can be raising two kids and fighting cancer, what the fuck is wrong with me that I can't get out there and start personal cheffing again - my daughter just turned 12. She's got great supports in place and she's happy, dammit. And I'm not a single mom anymore - I have a WONDERFUL man in my life, who is great with my daughter's issues, incredibly supportive of me, and who is brave enough to laugh in the face of hell itself, and we just got engaged on my birthday. The more I thought about it, and yes, prayed about it (after the LAST time the gods had other plans for my life? I'd have made a Novena over this even if I'd been an atheist, just for luck.) I stopped combing job postings and sending out resumes, and instead, I've been working on starting up my own business again. I promised you that I'd come back and diary about how you inspired me, and this is it.
Over the last month, I've had a momentum that is truly breathtaking. I've been working around the clock, nights, weekends, holidays, every spare minute, to get up and running. Being challenged is so much better than being afraid. I've started a business before, but this has happened faster and better than I could have dreamed. I can't get the business paperwork done fast enough, friends and contacts are coming out of the woodwork, I even had a local radio host who wants to feature me on her program (an hour long!), as soon as I'm ready. My little business has a different name than back in Seattle (the old domain name was taken) one that's both more fun, and more reflective of my life journey to this point. Nobody is going to give me a loan these days with my current credit score, but personal chef services can be started up on a shoestring, especially now with the internet and social media for networking. That, and we have a crowded garage full of furniture, (including a mounted, framed jersey that Howie Long signed, "The LAST Oakland Raider"), and I have a handful of mismatched gold earrings that have accumulated in the bottom of my jewelry box over the years, all just waiting to be sold: enough to cover the cost of par stock and incorporation, licensing, bonding, insurance, and renewing my long-ago memberships in the USPCA and the ACF. My mantra is once again,If I can't find a way, I'll make one.
So, it's all good - but I need to say TTFN. I'll be lurking, I still need my DAILY Kos fix, junkie that I am, but I'm about to be so tired at nights that I can't even write a coherent sentence. God bless you all.
11:23 AM PT: Rec List - Wow, you guys, thank you very much. It's a very nice way to go out.