Year Ten: 2009I just realized that somehow this decade review is going to end up being eleven posts long, with eleven years, which caused my mind to explode.
My first business license for photography is dated January 1st, 2009. With the purchase of that, and my recent advertising expenses, we were more broke than ever. The word “broke” gets thrown around a lot these days, but my definition was solidified in 2009. Broke means you can’t pay your mortgage, your bank accounts are overdrawn, you’re pulling unemployment, you don’t qualify for a credit card, and you’re writing hot checks for groceries. That’s broke, buddy - and we were flat broke.
That’s not to say we weren’t getting help though. My folks helped us pay our mortgage for a few months and some gracious friends had slipped me an envelope one day with $1,500 in it and a verse written on the outside, which was embarrassing, but not as much as you’d think when you have a wife and kid to feed. You take what you can get. I was still working for my buddy doing some light remodeling, but he couldn’t keep me as busy as I needed to be.
Strangely, during this time, I became both more confident and more vulnerable than ever. I knew I might need some confidence before long, because I wasn’t above storming into a McDonald’s and asking for an application. In fact, I came pretty close. I actually interviewed for a position at Starbucks because they offered full health coverage, but when the manager said they paid $6.50 an hour, I quickly realized I was better off pulling unemployment and working for my buddy John a little longer.
Things started to look up, however, when my photography advertising started paying off. I was getting some calls and emails and had actually booked a few weddings and portrait sessions. If my clients had known I was taking their calls while standing on a twenty-five foot ladder in the January cold with a paintbrush in one hand and a near frozen rag in the other they probably wouldn’t have believed me when I told them I’d been shooting weddings full time for almost two years, but somehow, I must’ve sounded pretty convincing. At that point in my life I’d have lied to the Pope if I thought it would help get me out of the hole.
As the year chugged on I kept booking weddings and we stayed more or less broke the whole time. In March I had enough photography jobs booked to allow me to stop drawing unemployment, but I kept working for John whenever I could. It was a fun job, and although tiring, it felt like an honest living. I had sold my truck and was driving the old Volkswagen Bug that had been parked at my parent’s house for the last ten years. We were back to paying our bills relatively on time, although I had grown certain that the math for our bank account couldn’t possibly be working out logically, so I just stopped looking at it altogether. I thought I might accidentally see some miracle deposit that would disappear as soon as I laid eyes on it.
By the time summer rolled around I was so baffled by what was happening and how we were somehow being taken care of that I had finally accepted the irrefutable truth that “all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” I was leaning into the heart of Jesus and he was leaning back. At times I wasn’t sure where he ended and I began. Everything became rose colored, even the day I got in my Bug to run an errand, drove thirty feet and looked up into the rear-view mirror to see five feet of flames and black smoke billowing out of the engine compartment. I jumped out of the car and ran to the house to fill up a water bucket, which takes an incredibly long time when your car is on fire, and looked up just in time to see some Entergy workers hit it with a fire extinguisher from their truck. I dropped the bucket and stood in the road sweating and heaving, watching the old dinosaur smolder and sizzle under the hot summer sun. I thought back to watching the giraffe run in slow motion and a smile crept across my face.
I inherited another temporary car from my in-laws which kept me company for the rest of the year. My photography business was actually picking up but we were by no means resting easy. I stood to make around $20,000 that year. Pre-tax. In the fall we actually refinanced our house just to skip two mortgage payments. We set up the closing date for a week after our payment was due and rolled the next month’s payment into the note. Things were starting to get pretty funny actually. We scoffed in the face of hardship. Then in November we found out Micaiah was pregnant again.
By the end of the year I was shooting a lot of pictures and still working for John, but he was running out of work for me and we were starting to grow worried about making it through the slow winter months when out of nowhere a friend from Construction School called and asked me to supervise and manage the remodeling of his house. He said he would pay me $10,000.
We broke ground just before Christmas.