My Mom used to say that things you remember from your past the most are things that had an impact on who you are today. Negative or positive, they affected you in a way that helped create the person you are.
The Early Days
Her father said to her, “Jean, you are always welcome but leave your kids at home.” That I will remember until the day I die. Why? We were biracial. My mother (who was White) left her home in Virginia to run away to Cleveland with my father (who was Black, and from West Virginia) to get married. That was in 1956.
My father left us when I was about 8. Left us high and dry. The only positive thing I remember that he gave me was a typewriter. He said to me, “Teach yourself how to type and you’ll always be able to make a living.” I didn’t realize he “gave me anything” until after he died.
After my second failed marriage, I moved my Mom in with me because she was ill. That was 2005 and that’s when my journey with WordPress began. I originally started using Joomla but found that it was too cumbersome to keep up-to-date because things needed to be done manually, whereas WordPress had this cool way of updating the plugins right inside the dashboard. I was hooked and left Joomla behind.
I went back to work full time at one of the local hospitals. But not even a year into it I quit.
One morning as I am waiting for the home health aide to arrive, my Mom started to cry and said, “I don’t want to die alone.” I stopped and looked at her and said, “You aren’t going to die alone.”
That day, I got to work and one of the doctor’s pissed me off. I thought about what my Mom said and then starting thinking, “I don’t need this bullshit.” I went to my desk and started packing my things. My co-worker said, “What are you doing?” I said, “I quit.” She said, “What?” I said, “I quit.” The doctor ran out, “What are you doing and where are you going?” I said, “I quit, and you can kiss my ass!”
I got home too early and my Mom asks, “Why are you home?” I just stood there. She looked at me and said, “Did you quit?” I started laughing, “Yep sure did and told that doctor he could kiss my ass!” She started giggling! “We’ll be okay.” she said.
At that moment I said I must take this hobby of building sites part time, to a full fledge business. I hunkered down in one of the upstairs bedrooms and started to write out my strategy. I had already completed a few small business websites, so I contacted them and from there and word of mouth, my business started to grow.
But it wasn’t until after my Mom died that WordPress really saved my life.
We were thick as thieves my Mom and me. She almost died having me. I had a sister (she died last April) but she wasn’t close to us and kept mainly to herself. But Mom and I…we were two peas in a pod all the way up to the day she died. I sat with her for five days in hospice and those were some of the longest days and nights of my life.
I felt like someone dropped a weight on my chest. I couldn’t breathe. I felt faint. I felt lost.
Thank God I had Buster, my dog. If it hadn’t been for him, I don’t know what I would have done. There was a night I just couldn’t bear not having my Mom. I had a bottle of Valium and thought, “I should just get it over with, go be with my Mom.” But I looked down at Buster and thought, “No one is going to take better care of him than me. I can’t do that to him.”
I struggled with depression. Slowly over time I couldn’t function to even work on projects. It finally got to a point where my gas was turned off in the winter and I didn’t have food. I was bundled up with blankets and small heaters in my house to stay warm.
Every penny I got, was basically food for Buster. One time I went 5 days without food.
My car was repossessed. It was just crazy. Then I got evicted in mid-January 2013. Yep, evicted.
My sister, who I wasn’t close to, had received a lump sum of money from Social Security. She sent money to me since I had cared for our Mom all that time by myself. I rented a van, packed up what I could fit in the U-Haul on my own and ended up at an Extended Stay hotel – in the middle of a blizzard. Left all my furniture behind because I didn’t have help.
I got to the hotel and sat there in the U-Haul. I looked in the mirror and said out loud, “How the fuck did you get here? You don’t even have a pot to piss in!” Buster sitting in the other seat looking at me like I was crazy. That’s when I knew I had hit rock bottom. Depression led me to the bottom.
But… that was a good thing! I met a lot of wonderful people online. I joined a few WordPress groups, but mainly the StudioPress forum because I had been using their free themes when they were Revolution Two. Then they developed the Genesis Framework. Their old forum was a gold mine of information and the people were awesome. I learned so much from that forum.
Every day from that point on was WordPress and Genesis. Meeting more people, learning more code. I was completely off the grid in that hotel room! No one here even knew where I was that’s how far off the grid I was. But sometimes, you must do that in order to focus and get back on track.
There were a lot of bumps in that road the first year, too many to even write out in this essay, but I learned something from each bump.
My business grew from word-of-mouth, I started getting work from people who needed help who saw me on social media and through the forums. Work from people all over the world. It truly was exciting.
Each day is still WordPress and websites. Learning new things every day. Sitting with Slack windows open and chatting with other WordPress people online. It’s been my entire world since 2013 and pretty much my “Saving Grace” because I feel like I know some people online better than people right here in the same city where I live at. I lived in the hotel for 2 years. Not because I had to but because I wanted to.
The Power of Communiity
The WordPress community is awesome and giving. The Genesis community is the same. It feels like family and I’ve never met anyone in person but care so much about the people! I would hope that those who know me would feel the same.
A friend recently shared a quote by the author Dodinsky that started off, “A lot of walking away will do your life good.” But it was the end that really caught my attention and it said, “The more you walk away from things that poison your soul, the healthier your life will be.”
And that is so true. Healthier in a sense that I walked away from all the bad, negative things and people that were in my space. I was able to grieve and heal. Sometimes bad things that happen to you are good things in disguise.
What’s in my future? Well, one of my dreams is to get a Sprinter Van, have it customized for living on the road and drive cross country with Bella. Buster passed end of 2016 and Bella is my other life-saver. I’d love to drive cross country and stop and meet people I’ve met in the WordPress community. I know I can’t really make that happen, but I can dream, can’t I? LOL!
I’d love to follow you on Twitter. Follow me at @thecre8tivediva and I’ll follow you back!