A Grandaughter’s Promise
The light filtered through the gauzy curtains and bounced somberly off the hallway’s floral wallpaper as she pulled on the frayed rope of the creaky attic stairs, coming down in a thud. Grasping the wooden rungs as she navigated her way up the rickety ladder and into the darkness above, she was jolted into the past with the familiar smell of her grandparents’ belongings. Pulling cobwebs off the rafters by her head, she climbed through piles of cardboard boxes and stopped to glance briefly at her reflection in the faded, antique, mahogany-framed, stand mirror. Wistfully picturing herself, at eight years old, wearing her grandma’s sensible high heels, oversized dress, floppy hat, and pearls. It was a startling contrast to the actual image staring back – her high-waisted denim jeans (fitted well enough to be attractive, but not sexy) and unbuttoned denim shirt over a fitted white t-shirt. Her 40-something face, aged but still beautiful, with high cheekbones and deep-set eyes, showing signs of her recent divorce and the tumultuous relationship with her good, but strong-willed teenaged daughter (who recently got involved with a sullen, tattooed boy). Her long, blonde hair thrown back in a sloppy, but adorable, bun. She crouched to comb through a half-opened box with a giant woven hat on top. She pulled out long dresses, a fedora, her grandfather’s wooden pipe (crinkling up her nose as she sniffed it), and a child’s jewelry box with a rotating ballerina that still played a plunky version of Beethoven’s Fur Elise. Then she saw it. The gorgeous leather cover, patchy and dusty with age. She blew at the dust, coughing and waving it away as the dust wafted up into her face. The cover slipped off easily and the antique typewriter revealed itself in its well-kept glory. A single key missing, but otherwise perfect. She paused. Tears filled her eyes as she reflected on her grandmother’s lost promise and dreams. At that moment, she knew. She would be a writer. She would write beautiful stories on her grandmother’s typewriter. She would fulfill her grandmother’s dreams; dreams which were now her own.
Airing on the Hallmark Channel, Wednesday, February 28th, 6:30pm CST.
(Disclaimer: This is satire, this story is not airing on Hallmark. Mom, put down your remote.)
I spent time at the San Miguel Writer’s Conference this past weekend taking workshops. It was helpful and inspiring, being around people who talk about writing like it’s a real thing to do and learning some useful tips. Unlike the gracefully aged protagonist in my story, I write on a laptop. It’s a more useful tool for many reasons, one of which is the desire to write while simultaneously scanning Upwork (for freelance jobs) and Facebook (for no reason at all). I am now actually getting paid to write; which is the main reason I haven’t posted on my blog – aka unpaid writing – for months. It’s slow but steady. I’ve had to put my made-for-TV screenplay writing dreams aside to focus on actual in-demand writing, but I’m open to whatever it takes to fund our life.
The biggest task Scott and I faced when we moved to Mexico was figuring out how we’d make money. People generally don’t like talking about money; which is interesting because people definitely think about money a lot. According to a very biased and unscientific study by GoBankingRates.com, Americans report spending more time thinking about money than anything else. The study also indicates Americans spend the rest of their time thinking about politics (aka, screaming at their TV, internet news site, or Facebook feed), health (but only if they’re over 35, otherwise YOLO!), and sex. Throw in a grocery list and it sounds like an average Tuesday.
A lot of people have asked us how we’re funding this life of ours, so I’ll bust through the social mores to shed some light on the topic.
Scott resigned from a 15-year career with the US Forest Service (USFS) before we moved and I’d been a stay-at-home mom for what felt like a century but was actually 12 years, so we had to think creatively about how we’d make money in Mexico. How would we support ourselves without a salaried job? Do we have any in-demand skills? How can we cut expenses to float on our savings in the meantime? Why didn’t we invest in Apple 15 years ago?
Scott’s background in natural resource management and forestry did not have an obvious go-to skill, like a nurse, accountant, helicopter pilot, or Zumba instructor. His work with the USFS was mostly in public affairs, communications, and government relations. This means he put out figurative fires (as opposed to literal forest fires) in all USFS matters, developed communications strategies on contentious issues, and represented the USFS to elected officials. After some back and forth, lots of research, and long, thoughtful pauses where he stared into the distance, he decided to launch his own communications consultancy. He is in the process of developing Green Pioneer Strategy – a venture that helps renewable resource businesses (solar, wind, woody biomass, etc.) navigate regulations, and develop and implement strategic communications. (More info to come once the website is up and running.)
Another source of income is our home in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, which we chose to rent out. Luckily, in the Milwaukee-area, Whitefish Bay is the place to be, so the rental market there is tight and we are able to charge enough to cover the mortgage, home owner’s insurance, our rental house in Mexico, and plenty of #5 ranked Victoria.
We also significantly cut back on expenses just by moving to Mexico. We can eat at one of our favorite restaurants in town for around USD $15 for all six of us. I’m talking about delicious, fresh food, with beer and sodas in glass bottles. Scott has also graciously switched to drinking tequila because the good stuff is pretty cheap here. Piano lessons, horseback riding lessons, Spanish tutoring, and private school are all significantly cheaper than they are in the U.S. The kids’ school lunches are 35 cents per item. And the food is all made fresh by two women in a kitchen just minutes before it’s served – tacos, sopes, flautas, enchiladas verdes, and tostadas. The kids overeat for less!
So there you have it. Between using savings as a buffer, income from our rental, freelance writing, and Scott’s new venture, we are surviving in Mexico without selling our platelets, participating in experimental medical studies, or selling origami to schoolchildren (all of which were suggested when I googled “how to make money fast”).