Light at the End of the Tunnel

As the world starts to attempt to come out of it’s COVID cocoon, it’s hard to not look back and take stock of the impact this year in isolation has had on my Son and I.

For my Son, who is a junior in college, a year off-campus, with all virtual classes has taken a toll on him in a very negative way. It has induced apathy and put him into a dull state of depression, something I don’t often see with him.

As an online gamer he spends a lot of time in the virtual world, so I figured he’d adapt well, but as the quarantine lingered longer, the lack of in-person learning and time with friends hanging out on campus began to wear on him.

For me though, I’ve found the quarantine and isolation time somewhat invigorating. I love being home, but up until shut down, if I wasn’t at work, I was out running errands, and when I was home, my time was dominated by chores.

During shut down I continued to work from home, but the work was limited because of the nature of the business.

SO, the in-between time finally allowed me the luxury to just appreciate being home.

I could actually ponder things that would be nice to change, or that could use a little updating: nothing over the top like renovation, but something as simple as new curtains, or rearranging furniture.

AND, purge stuff that has accumulated over the years without the necessary time to address it.

PLUS, for the first time in years I could finally start to conquer projects sitting in limbo, like my Son’s high school graduation scrapbook and framing.

In addition, I could take time to relax and read a book, which is something I can honestly say I hardly ever do despite the fact that I love to read. Up until shut down, reading the paper or an occasional magazine article was the extent of my reading.

The most important thing though, I could finally truly focus on my writing as a business. Something I knew I had to do in order to supplement my income leading up to and during retirement, which is a must in order for me to actually retire. 

Yes, this does sound like a lot to cover in any day, week, or month, but considering prior to COVID shut down I was working a 9 hour day, plus travel time to and from work, I now had 10 hours each day, 50 hours a week, and 200 hours a month to play with.

Minus of course whatever work I had to attend to, but that was never more than maybe 5 hours a day, so I still had 5 hours free, which to any mom is a like an entire day free.

Note, this extra time began to dwindle by mid-May, but any time not already plotted into my day was a gift. So I took advantage of it, and jumped head first into exploring my writing as a business.

In so doing though, I discovered monetizing a blog that is a bit esoteric, as this blog is, is not an easy feat to accomplish, without a lot of time and SEO know how, which I do not have, especially being back in the office every day since June.

Fortunately though, by the time I discovered this, I had also unearthed a new creative outlet. An outlet that I would also discover has far more potential than monetizing my blog.

And that new creative outlet turns out is something I could have never fathomed even in my wildest dreams.

Custom designed chalk creations done on my driveway.

What started out as a simple Easter greeting for my neighbors at the beginning of the pandemic has turned into a weekly thing. All it took was a passerby commenting how cheerful the creation was, noting how much we needed that, and adding I should keep it up.

Every week I tried something new, and about a year ago tried my hand with a mandala. 

Once I did that I knew I was on to something. Even during the winter I continued to create new art. Of course on a smaller scale, but I would hang it in my front window and post it on the Facebook page I created to share my art with those not in my neighborhood.

I even came up with a name for my chalk art alter ego “the CHALK Charmer” which is what my Facebook page is titled.

https://www.facebook.com/TheCHALKCharmer/

Upon sharing my creations friends commented that some of the art would look nice on mugs, or t-shirts, or bags, etc…

This got the wheels in my head turning.

Could my creations actually become something more than therapy for me on weekends?

Could they actually become a source of income?

So I began to explore the idea and I’m happy to say I’m on the precipice of starting a business to sell merchandise. 

Right now this idea is very much in it’s infancy. 

Turns out the avenue I was considering, which is a third party company that would host my shop, do all the fulfillment from printing-on-demand, to shipping, to collecting payment, may not be the route I want to take.

Although this seems like the perfect route for someone who works full-time while trying to start a side business, the samples I received may look good, but upon showing my co-workers, I discovered the quality of the base product is not up to par, which doesn’t sit right with me.

Samples of mug, pouch, t-shirt and tank top
Close up of mug

I may work in the print world, but I don’t handle merchandise like some of my co-workers do, and I trust their judgement. The last thing I want is my reputation tarnished by a poor product.

In addition, this third party company would also handle the customer service, which makes me twitch, because as someone who does customer service for a living, I know how critical it is to making or breaking a business. In general the CS reviews I’ve read are pretty good for the company I was considering, but it only takes one bad experience to screw your reputation.

With all this in mind, I’m now looking into my own e-commerce site. Of course this means I need to stock inventory, do all the shipping and payment collection, but I would be able to control all aspects of the business, starting with selling a quality product I believe in.

Starting a business is not something I take lightly, and to be honest is very scary, yet exhilarating at the same time. It is also something I would not venture forth to do without guidance, which is why I have reached out to my local Small Business Council.

After all, this is my future and I want to make sure I do everything right from the very start. I don’t want to half-ass this in any way.

SO, although this means my actual shop for the CHALK Charmer will be delayed, my vision for the future is getting clearer every day. AND, after speaking with the Small Business Council, I know it’s a valid vision, which means I can look to the future with great excitement knowing as long as I put the work in, my dreams will come to fruition.

AND, the kicker is, without my quarantine time, I could have been spinning my wheels for years trying to monetize my blog and in so doing been forced to give up on the hopes of retiring at any age, let alone 65.

As for my Son, knowing he’ll be back on campus for his Senior year has been enough to help lift him out of the funk that consumed him over his year in isolation.

Come August I’m sure I’ll be going through withdrawal having an empty house again. BUT, I’ll have my new adventure to focus on, and I’ll know my Son is where he needs to be to fulfill his dreams.

PLUS, I’ll be able to look back over our year in isolation together knowing despite all the anxiety and stress we became closer, and faced the challenges together.

AND, all of this made us stronger individually and together. 

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Woman, 2021. All rights reserved.

Goddess Masthead © Pamela Danko-Stout and Waking the Woman, 2021. All rights reserved.

Photos from my personal collection

Look Back – © 123rf – Pracha jaruprateepkul

Home – © 123rf – Vasvas

Free Time – © 123rf – Rabina Elif Aksoy

Business Start Up – © 123rf – Iryna Liashenko

Clear Vision – © 123rf – Zachery Blanton

#WakingtheWoman

#MomMemoir

#Isolation

#TollOfQuarantine

#NewVision

#LightAtEndOfTunnel

#ChalkTheWalk

#theCHALKCharmer

MONTHLY MEDITATION – SOOTHING MY PANDEMIC ANXIETY

“Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.”  –  Confucius

Music is an essential part of my day. I can’t imagine an entire day in complete silence. Even when I write I have music playing.

Every day has a rhythm of it’s own, and the music playing can impact the course that day travels.

Being home more now, I’ve found music to be the comfort I need on days that can be emotionally more challenging. Especially when the pandemic was just unfolding and my anxiety levels were off the richter scale.

Putting Pandora on shuffle was and is the magic I need to traverse my day. I never know what genre will pop up, and what song within that genre. I have a very eclectic taste in music and can go from classic rock to jazz to blues to contemporary country in a matter of minutes.

“Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul.” – Plato

There are some songs that can take me on a journey to another time and place in my life. Sometimes it’s like ripping the bandaid off a wound, which can be difficult, but necessary to healing.

BUT, most of the time, hearing those songs releases an endorphin that makes everything around me melt away.

AND, often the music will spur spontaneous dancing.

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” – Friedrich Nietzche

Dancing around my kitchen while cooking is pretty commonplace for me, but to randomly start dancing at any given time of the day can be truly liberating.

You might even find me dancing to theme songs to TV shows sometimes. Don’t get my Son started on my whacky dance to “The Walking Dead” theme. It started as a joke, but now I do it just to spite my Son when he’s home from college.

My whole family loves to dance, but I never thought of my spontaneous dancing at home as something more than just that. Now however I’ve realized it’s a means to release anxiety and let the outside world disappear, even if just for those few minutes.

“Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances.” – Maya Angelou

With a song in my heart and a rhythm in my feet, my spirits are lifted and all is well with the world. Which means a lot right now.

Our lives will be forever changed by this pandemic. Some good, some bad, but it’s what we bring out of it that matters most. How we process what we’re feeling and how we handle the ever-changing rules to survive a trip outside our home are key to surviving without a negative impact on us.

By finding the things that bring us peace and joy, and allowing time to escape the mayhem around us, we will become stronger. And in so doing be able to find ways to adapt to our new circumstances in a healthy and happy way.

NOT letting this situation take us down, or should I say take us to the dark side is important. (Sorry watching way too many Star Wars movies with my Son lately.)

When this all started in March, I can honestly say I felt the pull of the dark side starting to swallow me up. Leaving the house felt like a supply run on “The Walking Dead” and my adrenaline was on overdrive.

Two months later, I’ve found myself in a much better place, and can attribute that to being honest with myself, facing the things that were triggering those emotions and allowing things like music to ease my soul and chase the negativity away.

“When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s to enjoy each step along the way.” – Wayne Dyer

SO, find that thing that soothes your soul. If you don’t know what that thing is, experiment. Give dancing with abandon through your house a try. If that doesn’t do it for you, keep searching, and in so doing I’ll bet you’ll find a new part of yourself or maybe one that was lost over the years.

Use this new world we’re all adapting to as a means to grow, not stagnate. Then, we will really come out of this situation stronger, and better than when it all started.

Most of all though, be kind to yourself.

AND REMEMBER –

“Every day brings a chance for you to draw in a breath, kick off your shoes, and dance.” – Oprah Winfrey

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Woman, 2020. All rights reserved.

Goddess Masthead © Pamela Danko-Stout and Waking the Woman, 2020. All rights reserved.

#WakingtheWoman

#MomMemoir

#StayAtHome

Clipart – ©123rf

Dancing at Home – ©123rf – Arina Voitenko

MID-WEEK MEANDERING – Finding Purpose When Classified Non-Essential

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had major mixed emotions about falling into the category of “non-essential.”

On one hand I’m grateful I can stay at home, and limit my time out of the house to trips for essentials.

BUT, on the other hand I feel guilty and wish I had more of a purpose other than to be at home.

Continue reading “MID-WEEK MEANDERING – Finding Purpose When Classified Non-Essential”

The Best Laid Plans

As each new month starts, I tend to take the first couple days to ponder the theme for that months post.

Sometimes I know exactly what it will be because of some epiphany I had or something that happened.

This was particularly the case when I was writing “Waking the Walker – a Mother’s quest to survive her Son’s zombie years – aka his teens.” When raising a teen, there is always something happening.

https://wakingthewalker.wordpress.com/twd-apocalyptic-parenting-tactics/

Other times I can spend half the month tossing ideas around, seeing what sticks, even struggling to make something out of nothing.

Which is kind of odd when this blog is about self-rediscovery. 

Am I so lost I don’t even have a clue which way to turn?

Continue reading “The Best Laid Plans”

Signs of Growth

Last month I met an old friend for dinner. This is something we had tried to do for years, but between raising kids, and caring for our aging Mom’s, time just got away from us. BUT, with both of us now having our children back at college for their sophomore year we knew we had to make it happen

OR, it may never happen.

Once seated at our table, my first words to her were “How are you doing since the girls went back to school?”

Without any hesitation she stated sophomore year has been tougher than freshman year. I agreed, confessing I was downright depressed the first week or two.

I hate to say it, but it was refreshing to find out it wasn’t just me feeling this way. 

Freshman year I had many texts, emails, and even a somewhat regular Sunday afternoon call from my Son. Plus, I had a few runs to the college to aid with roommate issues and moving. And, bring things he discovered he needed for the dorm. 

This year however has been drastically different.

Which is good for my Son. It means he’s becoming more independent, self-confident and self-reliant.

For me however, it has been beyond challenging. The feeling of not being needed was overwhelming at times.

Before I let it get the best of me though, I knew I had to put my energy into something positive. I needed to be proactive and not dwell on the void.

With an endless list of unfinished projects staring me down, I set my sights on those, and created a plan of attack based on the time I had till my Son’s first visit home for Fall Break.

Continue reading “Signs of Growth”

Finding Peace in Every Day

With my annual exodus to the beach to recharge my soul now behind me, I’m working hard at carrying the calm that comes from the sea air and surf with me as I face each day in the real world.

As I told a co-worker “I’m trying hard to hang onto my vacation shine.”

This is something I tell myself I’m going to do every year, but a month or two into the real world post vacation I’m working my way back into the “when is my next day off mind-set.”

I don’t mean the weekend; I mean an actual vacation day, a day with no real schedule, a day to play.

Like a day off is the cure all for the every day stresses we all endure. Granted it helps, but there has to be a way to find peace throughout every day, not just on a vacation day. Especially when they’re so few and far between.

Continue reading “Finding Peace in Every Day”

Trust the Universe

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s you can’t force things into being. Sometimes you just have to be, and let things fall into place as they were meant to be.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s you can’t force things into being. Sometimes you just have to be, and let things fall into place as they were meant to be.

You also have to learn to “trust” that everything is as it’s suppose to be and the universe will let you know when it’s time to make a move. As my Mother would say “God’s time is not our time. Be patient.”

I have learned however this is easier said than done. It’s human nature to want to find an answer or resolve a dilemma as quickly as possible. It is not that simple to “just be.”

There have been periods in my life when I truly lived this though. Sort of working at something I wanted to change, or resolve, but allowing things to flow, not forcing anything. And no freaking out when things seemed to stall.

I have also had times when my frustration with my situation had my mind constantly spinning on ways to force change or find a resolve. All this did was bring on more frustration and anguish. And, even polarization. I was so consumed by finding an answer just achieving day-to-day tasks was daunting.

To be honest, just going with the flow can be very challenging, especially when you want change or an answer so bad you can taste it. 

When I look back over the roads I’ve traveled thus far, I realize the times when I did just go with the flow, my life was more pleasant and actually more productive. Being fluid and flexible, even bending when necessary is what brought results.

At this time though, I find myself somewhere in between these two. 

Continue reading “Trust the Universe”

Confused Self-Image

Self-Image –
one’s conception of oneself or of one’s role
the way you think about yourself and your abilities or appearance

One of the key things I’ve discovered since my Son went off to college is the fact that my self-image is very much tied to being a Mom.

Not that there’s anything wrong with this. Being a parent is at the same time one of the most difficult and rewarding jobs anyone can take on.

As a parent you’re responsible for molding a little human. For me I prayed every day I was making the right decisions in guiding my Son on the right path to become a competent and compassionate human being, capable of standing on his own two feet.

I put my heart and soul into being a Mom, working tirelessly day and night never looking for anything more than a hug or an “I love you.”

My life revolved around my Son’s needs. I took a back seat.

Who I was before having my Son became a distant image in the rear view mirror of my life.

BUT, what happens to me when my position as Mom is downsized because my Son went off to college?

Continue reading “Confused Self-Image”

OUT OF SORTS

So, after my ever-optimistic “Dare to Dream” post last month I headed into March feeling really good about everything. All seemed right in my little world.

I had direction and an end game when it came to my writing. Even if I wasn’t sure how I was going to get there.

I was adjusting to being an empty nester and even looking forward to free weekends that I could start to fill with unfinished projects.

AND

I was in a rhythm at work, busy, but not overloaded. I felt like I was firing on all cylinders.

UNTIL

The first week of March when I started to feel ”out of sorts.” Everything seemed out of whack. My mojo was seriously off and I couldn’t put my finger on it.

OF COURSE THIS MADE ME WONDER…

Continue reading “OUT OF SORTS”

DARE TO DREAM

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”– Eleanor Roosevelt

This is one of my favorite quotes. I used it often when discussing college with my Son, and his dream of becoming a video game designer. Having a child just starting out on the path to pursue their ultimate dream is both invigorating and scary

I know first hand the passion it takes to truly hang on and persevere, even when all the odds are against you. You most certainly need to believe your dream is attainable. If not it’s much too easy to give up.

When the spark to become a screenwriter ignited in my mid-thirties, many people thought I was nuts. And to be honest, they were probably right, but it didn’t stop me. I dove head first into learning everything I could about screenwriting, from concept to finished script, to all that goes into actually seeing a script become a finished film.

It truly became my passion. I could see nothing else but the dream of seeing one of my stories come to life on the silver screen. To say I was driven is an understatement.

Continue reading “DARE TO DREAM”