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That’s what it’s always been. That’s what it will always be.
It’s hard to know where to begin this post. The short story is I got a job, which inspired me to refocus on branding. The long story is a lot messier.
I guess that 2018 was harder than I thought, when I look back at it. I took 10 credits in the spring semester, 4 of which were biology. That really did me in. We had a pretty low-key summer that I honestly barely remember. Then school started back up – both for me and for Ezra. I had cut back to 6 credits in the midst of taking him to multiple appointments to have him tested for autism. We had just received his non-autism mood disorder diagnosis when a hurricane hit, a tree fell on our house, my husband came down with vertigo for a month, and Little Brother was starting to not succeed in preschool either.
When I wasn’t watching hours upon hours of ice skating or working on school, I was trying to remember to breathe.
The LB preschool thing was a bigger deal than I let on to anyone.
I just kept thinking…I can’t go through this again. I can’t go through this again.
Every time I would walk in for pickup I would dread the report. It was a physical tightening in my chest. When it got to the point that he was spending half of the preschool day in the school administrator’s office, I knew there had to be a change.
I can’t have another kid expelled from preschool.
Call me selfish. Because I know it’s not about me, its about my child succeeding. But in those moments, I realized that what I had lived (and was now reliving) was a trauma. The pain was still fresh. The hot tears still rolled down my eyes as I started crying in the preschool lobby. I walked away with a lump in my throat when I left him, knowing that we were going to have to find an alternative.
Much like everything relative to Little Brother, this experience was far better than that of his elder sibling. This time, I didn’t wait for suspensions and expulsions. I didn’t wait to get help. I didn’t ignore the voices in my head that were nudging me to find a better option before a better option was absolutely necessary.
Here’s the thing about Little Brother. He’s far less of a pretty-much-normal-but-maybe-there’s-some-extra-needs-there-too kid than Ezra ever was. He’s always been more normal, more typical, and less challenging. He doesn’t really have too many sensory challenges, and he was able to self-soothe from Day 1 of his life in ways Ezra still can’t. He’s my easy(er) child.
But he still wasn’t succeeding in a typical classroom environment.
With him, it’s lots of layers – just different layers than Ezra has. He’s exposed to a lot of conflict within the home due to having an older sibling with a mood disorder and defiance problems. He doesn’t really have calm, obedient, and compliant modeled to him. He mimics a lot of behaviors that I don’t think would have ever occurred to him otherwise.
There’s so much on his tiny shoulders. While his looks mimic those of his father, his heart and personality are truly mini-me. He’s empathetic and sweet and calm and very much the emotional glue that holds this family together, yet is strong-willed enough to hold his own in the midst of an oft-tempestuous environment. He also carries a hefty dose of anxiety (often over very irrational things) and a wee bit of obsessive and perfectionistic behaviors.
I toured a second preschool – the only other church-based preschool within a two-mile radius of our home. I felt like it would be a good fit for him. Maybe. Honestly the idea of pulling him from one preschool and putting him into another made me sick to my stomach. So did the idea of going back to him being home all day every day with me. So did the idea of keeping him where he was and waiting for him to get kicked out.
I was sitting in the outer lobby of our YMCA when I made a call to the administrator of his current preschool, really just to clear the air.
We are considering a move…what’s the process if we decide to pull him…how does the finances work… etc.
It was then that she asked me if I had heard of such-and-such a program or talked to So-and-So. It just so happens that I was familiar with So-and-So because we had mutual friends who were also our neighbors, and I had actually been on So-and-So’s website a few weeks earlier because this mutual friend of ours had sent me links to sensory stuff on Pinterest that was housed on So-and-So’s Pinterest account.
It was really strange because I was like, “Oh yeah…her…wait, she does what?”
I immediately pulled up the website, right there at the Y.
“…a sensory friendly class for children with social delays ages three and four…Classes will maintain a low student-to-teacher ratio as we integrate social skills through a preschool curriculum.”
So like, a program for special needs kids who aren’t quite “special” enough to get special education but not quite normal enough to succeed in a typical classroom? Where was this program 5 years ago?!?!
That afternoon I talked with So-and-So (did I mention that I discovered she lives down the street from us) for almost an hour in the midst of breaking up sibling squabbles. I sat on my back steps and poured my heart out to her. How tired and exhausted I was. How hopeless I felt. How divided my time, attention, and energy are – all the time.
She listened and empathized, and I felt heard and understood. She shared that she had a heart and vision not just for special needs kiddos (like our Ezra) but also their siblings who often fall through the cracks and need real help and attention too.
Then she shared with me how their organization had programs for BOTH of my children to attend at separate times and days of the week that would assist them in their emotional regulation and social skills with peers their age – and ultimately within the home.
The only drawback was the cost. The cost. The cost.
I wrestled with how to break this news to my husband, because I was sure that he would say no. To my surprise, his answer was yes yes yes…I don’t care how much it costs…it’s a no brainer.
I felt both a relief and a weight hit me all at once.
Okay. Let’s buckle down. Let’s cut the budget. Let’s make this happen.
The boys started the following week as we stepped out in faith not knowing where the money would come from to pay for these programs.
The first few weeks were an adjustment, but they both started thriving. One of the wonderful things is that these programs share staff members, meaning that the staff work with both of our boys separately, at different times, but have truly gotten to know us as a family.
I had a flash of genius and decided that if…maybe…I marketed myself as a virtual assistant to So-and-So that she would put me to work for the organization in an administrative capacity.
That morning at the Y – a different morning, this time I was on the treadmill – I dictated the bare bones of a resume into a Google doc. By the end of the day, I had sent it to her. The unfortunate reality is that she already had a pretty great team and didn’t really need my services.
I decided at some point in the fall that I was burned out from school and needed to refocus my attention on my family and also invest more time and effort into my affiliate marketing gig – which does produce some income if you count about $30 monthly in Amazon credit and a random $100 here or there for other companies an income. I also made a friend who needed some part-time VA work, but that’s was kind of hit and miss as well.
But as our debt continued to climb and we tightened the belt even more, I knew it wasn’t going to be enough.
In a state of desperation, I wrote a blog post about money, and I started accepting donations from friends and family.
In the month of March, we spent $757.59 on therapies, medication, & counseling for our family plus the $515 for preschool and after school programs for the boys.
We had six donations and/or gifts given to us to help with our family’s challenges. The total for those donations (after some processing fees) was $749.07. Four of those donations were from complete strangers. The other two were from family.
I was able to bring in about $200 of extra income via affiliate marketing and on-the-side VA work. We also got our tax returns, which is always a plus.
For a moment I felt like I could breathe again…if only for the month of March.
I put in some job applications on Indeed.com. Not because I really wanted a job, but because I wanted to try to contribute more to the income. I also designed a second resume – this one a bit more “official.”
On March 13th, in a random local Facebook group for moms that I never participate in, a “Business Monday” post popped up on my phone. What’s interesting is that this particular group’s post are “hidden” from my news feed on desktop, but I still sometimes sporadically see posts on mobile.
I went into the comments to post about my new blog endeavor (Triad North Carolina Special Needs Support & Services). Two comments above mine, there was a local business owner looking for a virtual assistant.
I sent her my social media resume and portfolio – which I already had prepared – see above. The next evening she emailed me back and set up a phone interview. I had the phone interview the following Tuesday, March 19th. That went so well that she set up an in-person interview for March 21st. I signed the employment contract that afternoon.
I’m working for a marketing company part-time from home with no set hours, allowing me to still do all the mom and wife things my family needs me to do. I can work whenever I want – as long as the work gets done and I meet the deadlines. I’m doing the same things I do for my own blogging endeavors (creating graphics for Facebook and Instagram, scheduling posts on social media, and other design work), but getting paid for it. It’s a perfect fit, and I totally LOVE my job!
Money doesn’t fix everything, but having a new income stream on top of the donations we received really took me out of the panic zone.
I never would have looked for a job if I had been in school this semester. I never would have taken a break from school if I hadn’t been so overwhelmed with life. So it’s a very real-life example of God working something very beautiful out of something messy.
“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
So that’s the messy story of how I got my new job.
Branding and rebranding…it’s all kinda messy…
One of the things at which my new boss excels is branding. All of our clients have set colors and fonts that we follow when creating everything for them. As I have followed her branding guidelines in my work, I have been blown away by not only how much time it saves, but also how much more cohesive everything looks.
As I was working, I kept thinking, “Why am I not doing this for myself? It’s so much easier!”
I guess looking back, though, I really have branded.
When I chose the name Beautiful in His Time (January 2011)…
When I wrote my not-so-mission-y mission statement (April 2012)
When I migrated to WordPress, changed my blog header, and wrote the post Everything…Beautiful in His Time (October 2012)
When I kept up with the monthly blog series Beauty in the Mess (2012-2015)
When I made my own branding sheet (March 2016)
When I switched social media icons to a watercolor set I found and make a white logo for easier watermarking (can’t remember when!)
I’ve pretty much stuck with it as far as home page design. (I actually take a lot of pride in the fact that I’ve had the same header for SEVEN YEARS.)
But when it comes to social media (Facebook memes, Pinterest graphics, etc.), I gave up on it and really let the whole idea of branding fall to the wayside.
Meh. I’m messy. It is what it is.
That said, I may or may not have spent countless hours on Etsy over the weekend looking at blue-and-purple-watercolor-themed products to share until I had a massive headache and my eyes hurt.
I woke up this morning conflicted.
Am I just wasting my time? Am I trying to hard to pursue a perfect image instead of embracing the messy?
But I kept thinking about this image and possibly trying to update it.
You can’t recreate the past. But you can freshen things up a bit, don’t you think?
I decided that I totally can brand / rebrand while staying true to who I am and what this blog is all about: God’s beauty in our messy lives.
This morning, rather than agonizing about branding any further, I got my butt off the computer.
I cut the baseball embroidery off of a white top sheet and broke out the watercolors.
Like all things I ever try to do as a mom, I immediately began micromanaging.
A certain mom wanted to do an epic branding project was going for the whole Etsy-esque purple and blue messy watercolor look.
A certain three-year-old who moonlights (and daylights) as “Fireman Sam” insisted that he HAD to use RED in my lovely purple backdrop.
Finally, I gave up and let him have free reign (after a quick jaunt to Dollar Tree for more spray bottles). We spent all day splashing, spraying, and painting all sorts of messy colors at the white sheet. Yes, even red.
We sprayed and sprayed and sprayed some more. He was so happy once I let him paint with the red:
LB: I’m so happy!
Me: Why are you happy?
LB: Because you and me are painting together. Because you and I are friends. And friends share!
My original plan was to have Ezra contribute to the project after school and get pictures of both of the boys for a new blog header. Unfortunately, it started pouring about the time that Daddy was pulling in to pick Ezra up at his school. I started spraying the last of the watercolor as the downpour washed over me. To save time I opened up the spray bottles and just started splashing it on. The rain started blending everything together, and I was afraid it might wash off all the color completely. I bunched it up in a ball, placed it – dripping – into the dirty, broken bed of a toy dump truck, and hung it up in the garage to dry.
I came inside soaked and messy, and hopped in the shower. I spent the rest of the day editing photos and writing this blog post in between homework battles, making macaroni and cheese for dinner, and getting the boys in bed.
So I’m branding…or rebranding…but not really. You’ll probably see more consistency in fonts and colors going forward, and see more purple and blue in my social media accounts. I have a new header, although it’s not exactly what I had originally envisioned.
But isn’t that the point, really? Because you can brand a website, but you can’t brand your life. You can create a style sheet for your blog, but you can’t create a style sheet for your kids.
They are gonna be who they are and do what they are going to do, regardless of the perfect plans you have for them.
Because God knows what He’s doing way more than we do. And He’s making something beautiful out of our messy life.
It’s still messy. It’s still beautiful. Beautiful…in His time.
That’s what it’s always been. That’s what it will always be.