Archive | January, 2015

A Year of Living Precariously: What is Success?

22 Jan Road in the woods

By Rosemarie Fitzsimmons

What does success look like?
This week marks one year since I traded my 9-to-5 job to start a freelance writing business from home. Naturally, I find myself reflecting and wondering if it was a good decision.

Financially, one could argue it was a disaster. I made one tenth of last year’s income (and much of that came from working 20 days in the old job), and my writing has yet to achieve confetti-strewing victory status. However, I hadn’t expected great riches in the first year.

So what measuring tool should I use? How about the divided paper list of minuses (regrets) and pluses (encouragements).

Do I have regrets? Absolutely. I regret missing out on the office Fantasy Football league this past fall. Every Sunday, every highlight, every game promotion—pretty much every time I saw a football on television, I wondered about the ol’ gang. Like, who had Demaryius Thomas (my money’s on Rob) and who in their right mind would had the good fortune to pick the Eagles defense?  More than that, I miss the Monday morning recaps and Friday trash talking. Big regrets there.

And I regret being away from people I came to love over my 12 years there. I miss the get-togethers, the Styrofoam rocket wars (probably shouldn’t mention those, but it’s not like I would get in trouble) and the electrifying brainstorming sessions, especially those first moments where we’d see a solution forming and ideas would just burst forth, each one building on the last. I hadn’t anticipated how deeply I’d miss my coworkers. I miss the creativity, the humor (the cat rarely laughs at my puns the way Albert did, although the cackle is eerily similar), and the practical jokes…knowing I’m potentially alienating a sizable portion of the PW readers by not giving the entire story here, I feel compelled to tell the gang that I STILL giggle when I think of mailing the Justin Bieber doll to Puerto Rico.

Surprisingly, that’s it.

On the positive side, I’ve been greatly encouraged by the way my family met many financial situations head-on this year and emerged, not only okay, but with far less debt than we’ve had in many years. How is that even possible? Well, to be honest, we did kick a few cans down the road, but every time there was truly a need (broken vehicle, vet bills, oven replacement), the money just seemed to show up. I realize the Bible teaches us that this is just God’s way, but it’s still a concept that surprises me every time I witness it. One day, just as I was starting to panic over our empty fridge, my neighbor came over out of the blue and handed me a check for walking and caring for her dog. I hadn’t asked for payment, nor expected it, and she wouldn’t take it back. It was just enough for a trip to the commissary.

Last year I wrote one book, 15 short stories, and about 30 blog posts—all fulfilling, fun work. The short stories provided enough income that I could keep writing, and now I’m looking at the possibility of having a book announcement for you by the end of next month.

I also met many new people through the freelance work I took on this year. They’ll never replace my gang, but they keep me from talking to myself and I enjoy them immensely.

Best of all, my heart is happy. I’m doing what I love and the peace of mind is incredible—not to mention the short, snow-less, and traffic-free commute. Despite what may look like (and at times feel like) stalling, I know I’m on the verge of something. I’ve learned to be content in the waiting, even though I don’t know what or when it will occur.

As I look at my list, I’d have to say the plus side is the weighted side.

Yesterday I sat at a table with some friends, and we were discussing how you know if you’re on the right track. Becky pointed out that the apostle Paul, who penned many of the letters in the Bible, and who we all know was on the right track, died with no clue that his letters would still be around more than 2,000 years later, changing lives by the millions.

I can wait a bit longer.

Road in the woods

Can’t see where the road leads, but I’m loving the walk.

So, what is success? I still don’t know. But in my annual State of the Rose report, I can say with confidence, I’m at peace, I do believe I’m right where God wants me to be, and I’m ready for another year of this.

Also, if the fantasy league ever decides to open the roster to non-employees, I’m there. I still won’t take the Eagles defense, but I’m there.

To My Hero, on the Occasion of Our Anniversary

13 Jan

I’d been on mess duty about a week before I noticed him. Really noticed him. At the time, women Marines made up only four percent of the Marine Corps population, so it’s not that much of a stretch to think I didn’t notice yet another hopeful face in the sea of men at Camp Lejeune.

Such a dashing young man...

Such a dashing young man…

Jerry was a line cook. He’d made me a cheese omelet once or twice. As he tells the story, he joked and smiled as he cooked—all he wanted was for me to make eye contact. I did not.

I had no idea when I received orders to report for 30 days of mess duty that they would change my life. The work itself was rather mundane. As part of my responsibilities, I checked identification cards at the front doors during mealtimes, which also meant doing some minor record-keeping in the office. For me mess duty was an annoyance; for Jerry it was a 30-day window of opportunity.

Every afternoon during a break time between meals I’d settle at a quiet corner table with a cup of hot tea and a book. Soon he started to join me, and I set my book aside in favor of a daily chat. I didn’t learn until years later that he wasn’t exactly a fan of hot tea.

Then came the day I misplaced the cashier keys, and a disciplinary-minded sergeant hid them to teach me a lesson. I probably would have gotten into a lot of trouble. However, Jerry saw where he hid them and snuck them back to me just as I’d noticed they were gone. The sergeant came into the office grinning like a Marvel Comic villain.

“So…are you missing anything?”

“Why no, I don’t believe I am.” I pulled the keys from my pocket and opened the cashier’s box in front of him. The look on his face was priceless.

Jerry has been my hero ever since that day. We married 31 years ago today, on Friday the 13th at a Justice of the Peace office in South Kingstown, Rhode Island. I wore black because that’s all I had with me.

We survived the first 19 years of marriage on our own, despite gale-force winds and buffeting storms. We almost didn’t make it.

Then God became part of our lives and helped us through the next 11 years. I highly recommend the “with-God” approach to marriage. It’s not without storms, but the winds don’t cause near as much damage, and the sunny days are so much more rich and beautiful than I could have ever imagined they would be.

There’s no way I could tell you everything I love about my husband in one meager little blog post. So instead, I’m going to tell you one small story that I carry in my heart because it epitomizes his character. On top of that, I’ll bet he doesn’t even remember this occasion. Why not? Because it concerns an argument, and he never remembers those days once the disagreement passes (sometimes, much to my frustration).

We rarely argue, but on this particular day, it was a major deal, and on a night he had to go to a meeting somewhere. We were giving each other the silent treatment with every subliminal inch of our bodies. Then I remember him putting on his coat and going outside without even kissing me goodbye. (To be fair, I was being petty enough, I probably would have turned my head.)

He came inside, went upstairs for only a second or two, then came back down and left again. I didn’t ask.

An hour later, when I went up to bed, I figured out why he’d come back—to turn my side of the electric blanket on.

He’s like that. All these years later, he’s still my hero. And my rock. And my love. And my best friend. I’d do it all again in a heartbeat—including the buffeting wind days.

Because, yes, I still do.

Happy Anniversary Jerry. Here’s to 31 more.

Love isn’t Seasonal (No Need to Pack it Up)

8 Jan "Deflatables"

Of course, some things should be packed away…it would make everyone happier

Monday was the Twelfth Day of Christmas. It is time.

My kitchen table is piled high with green and red remnants of the season—an empty candy bowl, a stack of greeting cards, a bow that didn’t get tossed on Christmas day. In the napkin holder, the handful of poinsettia-design dinner napkins no longer stand, but flop over like a dying dandelion. In the red tin are three, way-beyond-stale cookies—the prettiest ones, which we couldn’t bring ourselves to eat. Now they’d break teeth if we tried.

Over at the Christmas village, a lamp post lies on its side. I’m tired of turning it upright. The cat wins.

Sigh. It’s over. Tomorrow I start bringing the boxes upstairs.

When I was a child, I wanted to keep Christmas up forever. It made sense, considering the time spent unpacking and arranging decorations. Besides, there was such a magic to it all. It always felt so festive just to walk into a room freshly adorned with sparkle and light. The smell of pine, whether from the tree, a candle, or a can, mingled with the hint of secrets in the air. And people just seemed nicer at Christmas.

Now, I get it. I understand why it all has to come down. In the first place, the cat needs to rest. The poor thing’s been over stimulated since the second week of December.

But more importantly, if we left them up, the decorations would become ordinary. We’d become so accustomed to them that we wouldn’t even notice they were there. In the same way we tend to appreciate health more after a troubling illness, or a working car after getting it out of the shop, part of the magic of the Christmas season lies in opening boxes we packed away in January and rediscovering their contents.

Still, I’ve been thinking about how to preserve parts of Christmas, particularly the “people just seem nicer” part. It occurs to me, that’s the love part, and that doesn’t have to be packed away. Love isn’t seasonal, and it’s never ordinary, so let’s try something new.

Every month I’m going to put a suggestion at the end of my blog called “Christmas, Year-round,” in which we’ll take a loving Christmas tradition and keep it going. For example, in January, let’s all choose three people who would least expect it and send them each a card. Not a Christmas card, but an “I’m thinking of you” card (letters work too, but I won’t push my luck). If something interesting comes of your endeavor, I’d love to hear about it.

Something tells me it’s going to be a good year.

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”  Colossians 3:15