Better Late–Sometimes MUCH Better

I had a discussion recently with a horse barn buddy about one of the young lady riders who’d just graduated from high school. The topic we got into was gap years, a pause between educational marathons, a chance to try on adulthood outside the classroom.

Rather than plunge into college, our young friend wanted to wait for a time, focus on her riding, network in her chosen field, give some thought to specific skills she’d need that might better inform curricular choices and so forth. She was nonetheless being pressured to git’ er done! Start racking up credits in addition to the AP classes she’d already taken, dive in, none of this frolic and detour crap.

I am reminded of my dear oldest sister, who did not get her PhD in classics until she was 65. Though she’d met her hubby when she’d first started grad school (in her twenties), he got his Phd then, while she did not, despite wanting to. For decades, she read in her field, studied independently as time allowed, taught Latin, read some more, and when it came time to write a dissertation, she did what you’re supposed to do and what very few PhD candidates actually do: Made an original contribution to the researched knowledge in the field.

My sister, in her vast, varied, and unrelenting reading, had come across metaphors that linked distant aspects of the ancient canon. Nobody had seen those connections before, probably because they were tackling PhD theses topics without having first read whatever caught their eye for thirty years. Some of the metaphors delved into the differences between a politician and a statesmen, and lordy did they illuminate a new aspect of what those old fellows had been maundering on about.

I am convinced that had I not brought years of reading legal contracts to my writing career, I would have been treated much less respectfully by agents, editors, and publishers’ contract departments.

Many of my friends had to “put off” starting a family, but they tell me now that waiting (or being made to wait), meant the finances were a little better organized, the marriage was stronger, the children were more appreciated than would have been the case years earlier.

My daughter is closing in on a master’s degree in social work, but she’s feeling old, because she’s in her thirties rather than her twenties as she approaches this goal. Well, for three years, she taught horseback riding at a juvenile residential treatment facility, where some of the youngest patients deal with some of the biggest, most intractable diagnoses. You can bet those three years of minimum wage, “low skill” work mean she’ll bring reams more insight to her social working than will the twenty-two year old right out of college. (Though hats off to anybody tackling social work at any point in life.)

My argument here is not with stacked educational achievements–momentum has advantages too–but rather, with the assumption that assembly lines are good, success lies at the end of a straight path, and time is the enemy of a happy, meaningful, contributing life. (And for a great TED Talk on the pernicious folly of emphasizing efficiency as a society, go here.)

The best path forward is not always a straight line in foresight, though it can sometimes look like a straight line in hindsight. I didn’t start writing fiction until I was in my forties, and I think the books are better for that, and that my appreciation for the great privilege of publication is also deeper.

Have you ever rejected the assembly line? Gone on what looked like a detour or respite  that turned out to be steps forward? Ever wished you’d taken a breather rather than barreled on toward the next checked box?

I’ve sent out the first batch of e-ARCs for Miss Determined, but if you’d like one, just email me at And PS, pre-order links for Miss Dashing are live!





Stuff My Parents Said

May 17th was the anniversary of my parents’ wedding, and maybe that’s why they’ve been on my mind lately. Stu and Colleen enjoyed more than seventy years of marriage, and I think–for the most part–my verb choice is accurate. They had a traditional marriage in an age when that model could work well.

My dad’s salary as a professor was sufficient to support nine people, not lavishly, but adequately, and we had good medical insurance into the bargain. My mom’s homemaking skills kept headquarters organized and clean, and the kids (along with neighbor children, pets, graduate students, and visiting dignitaries) well fed. We never went on a family vacation, our furniture was hopelessly practical (patio chairs around the dining room table because Mom said they were more durable), and as a young child, I shared a bedroom with three siblings.

Mom and I in Ireland ca 1981.

My dad was a bench scientist in love with his calling, but he was also a guy who’d grown up during the Depression, and served in the Navy during WWII. He was a Republican back when that party espoused keeping government out of people’s personal lives, and when funding public and higher education was a foregone national priority. He kept a little yellow square of paper on the inside of his closet door that said:

Can I fix what I’ve got, do without, or make do with what I have? This one came to mind as my brother was waxing horrified about the corrosion on my kitchen faucet. Agriculture makes for very acid groundwater where I live, and plumbing is cruddy and short-lived. My response to him was, “It’s functional.” What I wanted to say to him was, “Can I fix what I’ve got, do without, or make do with what I  have?”

Another aphorism on the inside of Dad’s closet door read: Look sharp, feel sharp, be sharp. Though Stuey was not what ZZ Top would recognize as a sharp-dressed man, he was fastidious, and he was mighty sharp about his science.

Colleen’s words of wisdom tend to come to me in moments of low spirits: Don’t make decisions when you’re tired. Well, what do you learn on your good days? Not much. I get stupid when I’m anxious. And one that was such a comfort in a very difficult season of my life: Just put it behind you, Grace Ann. Look forward.

Miss Determined by Grace BurrowesI treasure these sayings because they are helpful, and because I hear not only my parents, but much that was good about their perspective. Don’t waste stuff. We only have one planet. Take some time to consider presentation, because you will be judged on that. Let go of what went wrong once you’ve mined it for life lessons. There is courage and pragmatism in these words, and they form bricks in my family foundation and in my personal foundation.

When authors craft characters, we do well to give those characters words like these, that speak to a whole world view, a perspective on life, and generational wisdom. I don’t know to whom I’ll give these words and others like them, but I’m glad my parents gave them to me.

Does your foundation include nuggets of insight handed down from the elders? Are there any wise words you like to pass on to others around you? Look for the ARC files for Miss Determined this week, and if you’d like one and don’t have one by Friday, just email me at [email protected].




Play It Again

My pansies are still going strong, which means the really hot weather hasn’t started yet where I am, but it’s on the way. While I do not like the heat (or humidity or bugs), I do have a lot of wonderful associations with summer that boil down to one thing: Childhood freedom.

When I was a kid, I could leave the house in the early, early morning and not come home until Mom rang the cowbell to signal that it was time for dinner. I was expected to let an adult know my plans if I was going to be gone that long, but my range was at least two miles from the house, and if I was on a bike, farther than that.

That territory included woods, streams, neighbors’ properties, the local schoolyard, and a village about a mile and a half away. I most often explored alone, but sometimes my sister or a neighborhood kid or two would come with me. This was normal. My brothers and sisters enjoyed the same freedom, and nothing particularly bad happened to any of us in our rambles.

When I was on my godparents’ farm, we rode horses all over creation, and the only rule was, if we were riding after dark, we took the farm dogs with us.

What did happen was some basic fitness (I loved to climb trees), some life lessons (what Hurricane Agnes did to my little stream…), lots of imaginative play, some confidence, and some appreciation for the natural world. I still have a good sense of direction, and I think I picked that up while at large without supervision.

I was lucky. I grew up on the edge of the countryside and had access to a lot of time on a farm. But the reality is, children are safer now than they have been in generations (and no, helicopter parenting is not the most likely cause). Moreover, if a child is the victim of a crime, (particularly kidnapping), the threat 99% of the time comes from those who know the child rather than from strangers.

My dad grew up on Depression-era Long Island, and as a kid, he and friends took the trains everywhere. By the time he was fourteen, his version of running away from his father’s  house was to hop the train from Long Island down to Philly, where he showed up on his mom’s doorstep. In his day, a minor traveling unaccompanied even that distance was not in the least unusual.

I gripe about the addictive designs built in to a lot of screen-based products, and too much screen time is for-sure not good for anybody. But I wonder if our kids’ lousy mental health statistics, falling rates of literacy, and declining pro-social behaviors aren’t also related to a simple lack of opportunity to get out and play as their parents and grandparents did, and especially as their great-grandparents did.

The First Kiss by Grace BurrowesHow did you play as a kid? Were you constantly supervised? Not supervised enough? Never allowed outside? Roaming the malls? Was your childhood play done right or do you wish you’d had other options? Because when I look back on my upbringing, I can say without reservation, this is something my parents and the society around me got right. I was encouraged often and enthusiastically, to go out into the big world and play.

PS: I loaded  The Sweetest Kisses titles onto the retail sites, for those who prefer to shop there. (The trilogy e-bundle remains exclusive to the web store.)


A Splash of Joy

My regular commenters will know that Mother’s Day is not my fave holiday. Instead of an all-she-can-eat buffet on Sunday, I’m sure most moms would rather have year-round gender wage equality, family leave, safe schools, affordable medical care, a work place free of harassment, a secure old age, and so forth. But nothing says “I love and respect you” like French toast once a year with ersatz maple syrup and margarine, right?

And yet, even I get tired of my maundering on. My bad attitude is not news, it hasn’t yet effected societal change, and a lot of people ENJOY a breakfast buffet even if the maple syrup isn’t extra-virgin vintage Vermont’s Finest.

So this year, I asked myself, “OK, Grumpy Grace, if you were going to celebrate the holiday, to remark the occasion in a manner that made you feel pleased and joyous, how would you do that?”

I thought about it. What makes me happy? What do I enjoy? What would be a Big Treat as summer rolls into view?

I thought about it some more, and I am not buying another horse so help me gawd, and I just got to see my daughter, and I’m not quite ready for a trip to the UK, so what…?

I bought a membership in a small, outdoor community pool about twenty minutes from the house. Where I live, that’s just around the corner. Why did I do this? Because from little up, I have enjoyed freshwater swimming. Pools, creeks, lakes, farm ponds… I like to be in fresh water (not so, the ocean). I can’t think of a time when I went swimming and had a lousy experience (except in the ocean).

Horseback riding has the same sort of taproot for me. I was born loving horses, born loving yard flowers and wild flowers, born loving to climb trees, born loving a good, rich dessert. I haven’t been swimming in forever, so I’m going to try adding that one back into my life. Not because it’s exercise (heaven forefend!), not because it’s social (ye gods and little Gracie fishes!), not because it’s a climate change coping mechanism (not yet anyway), but because I enjoy it.

And when I get stuck in Grumpy Grace mode, I will say to myself, “How about we go for a dip this evening, my dearest self? Dangle our piggies, do a few laps, soar from the diving board? Grab an ice cream cone on the way home, and be grateful for the joy instead of stuck on the downs?” And my self will say, “I’m in!”

Happy Mother’s Day to all who celebrate, hugs to those who don’t, and I hope if you cannot make the day your ideal indulgence, that you can at least arrange a splash of joy!



My daughter passed along an exchange she encountered as part of her MSW curriculum:

Supervising therapist: What day is it?
Intern: Monday.
Supervising therapist: What day is it?
Intern: Monday?
Supervising therapist, exuding just a bit of impatience: What day is it?
Intern: I’m not sure, but I thought it was Monday?
Supervising therapist: It is Monday, and you knew it was Monday, but because I did not acknowledge that you were right, and you value my opinion, you doubted–in less than fifteen seconds–what you knew to be true. Or you began to wonder if you understood the question, and all I did to rattle you to that degree was ignore your correct reply.

There’s a lot to unpack there, and it got me thinking about all the times my correct answers have been ignored. When the Lady Violet series (first six books published on the same day) generated a (temporary!) revenue bump, all my accountant wanted to know was, “Why aren’t I seeing that money in your savings account?” Not, “Gee, can you make this happen again?” or, “So where are the vacation expenses, because you def earned a break?” or maybe, “Guess that 180-year-old house of yours finally got some attention?”(It did, long overdue.)

Lady Violet Investigates — Book OneNope. Just, “But what about your savings????”

When a friend’s auntie went to see the doc, the big takeaway was, “You’d better lose weight, or else…” though Auntie is active, fit, socially engaged, well loved, and only a twitch or two outside the insurance company straight-jacket weight limits. She’s responding to the challenges of healthy aging with fourteen right answers, and the doc pings her on the one that’s not perfect yet.

A few of you have commented on the frustration of bringing home perfect grades, a job well done, a mission accomplished, and being met with, “Where’s the extra credit? The promotion? The cash award?” Your spot-on, unassailably right answers weren’t even a blip on the screen.

When my doc looked at my cholesterol figures–above the prescribed limits by about 25 points–she shrugged. “Your liver numbers are perfect. Your C-reactive protein isn’t bad, and your A1C is within normal limits despite your age and weight. One number taken out of context doesn’t define your health.”

I wanted to hug her, because it felt as if she was seeing every time I got on the dreaded tread desk to trudge off another mile. Every time I set the alarm because that’s what good sleep hygiene required of me. Every time I added soluble fiber to my tea because that can help buff the labs in the right direction too. She saw my right answers, and that means she saw me.

The social workers call it, “Strength based programming,” when the approach to a solving problem is based on what the client is doing well, what questions they can answer correctly without trying. I suspect strength based programming works in part simply because it starts with the client being seen as a whole person, capable in a lot of regards, but in the grip of some difficulties.

That’s very different from an approach that treats a client as somebody who has “poor parenting skills,” or, “anger management issues,” or, “financial illiteracy.”

I want to do better, going forward, at seeing and acknowledging where other people are already getting it right, and I want to do a better job of staying away from the people who insist on defining me exclusively by my faults, failings, and wrong answers.

Who sees your right answers? Has there been a time when your one wrong reply was allowed to define you?





As the Label Goes…

My daughter is closing in on the final laps of a master’s degree in social work, and in the course of a recent conversation, she reminded me of the power of labels, particularly when applied to children and other inherently less influential entities.

As a kid,  I often heard that I was “big for my age.” I wasn’t particularly big, but the sister two years my senior was petite. Because I was bigger than her (I’m still three inches taller), my most frequent playmate and companion, the “big” label stuck, and I grew up thinking I was the wrong size. What a surprise, I am unequivocally too much of a good thing as an adult and have been for decades. (Though of course,  a fondness for good chocolate and other comestibles has also played a role in my avoirdupois.)

The self-fulfilling prophecy often rides in on a label of some sort–a “strong-willed child” might simply be a child whose parents have no radar for when the kid is tired or overwhelmed. A “stubborn” toddler might have been stuck with parents who lacked skill when it came to giving a child a sense of reasonable control over her life. The label goes on the child, not on the parents. And it sticks.

The upside to this process, though, is that we can also be labeled in a positive sense. I suspect that as a kid, I picked up some vocabulary a few years above grade-level simply because I have five articulate older siblings. When I whipped out those words, I got affirmed for it, and the “verbally inclined” label affixed itself to me from a young age. I then started listening for interesting words, remembering them, and trying them out in company. I pay my bills be wrangling words now, so maybe that label was a great gift, because neurologically, I don’ test as being all that naturally verbal.

In most fiction, part of what makes a story interesting is how the labels a character wears evolve and change as the tale troops along. The washed up detective becomes the canny outsider with a unique perspective. The acerbic spinster becomes a duchess who can knock the chip off the shoulder of an uppity dashing duke.

The transformation of labels is always challenging and messy, and takes a while. I am casting around now for labels that I like and that feel organic to me. Instead of “big,” maybe… stalwart? Vigorous? Substantial? Hmm. This will take some thought, but I suspect will be time well spent.

Have you handed back any labels from childhood or earlier in life? Have you taken on any new ones that you like better? I’ll add three commenters to my ARC list for A Gentleman Fallen on Hard Times.

PS: Miss Devoted and Miss Dauntless are now available from the web store as audio books!

And Yet She Persisted…. Reprise

I’m writing a story now due to come out in September–Miss Dashing (links coming soon)–and our heroine, Miss Hecate Brompton, has a problem with persistence. Once she makes up her mind what the right thing to do is, by gum, that gal sticks to her word. She holds up her end of a bargain long after any other party to the deal has ghosted, bowed out, or quit. She will not break a promise once given or even implied, she will not shirk a responsibility.

Clearly, she means well, but. Our Hero has persisting of his own to do when it’s time to show Hecate that some hills aren’t worth climbing, much less dying for.

My oldest brother recently came through for an overnight visit, and conversations with him reminded me that I am prone to persistence in the name of honor too. I did not want the children I represented in foster care court to have to change lawyers–they dealt with enough upheaval–so even when I was tempted to fold up the law office, I persisted. (And having the income and being able to practice what I knew well was certainly comforting.) It did not occur to me that a new lawyer might have been a better lawyer for having a fresh perspective.

I was not going to give up.

I’ve done the same thing with relationships, where I knew I was pitching a lot harder than the other party was catching, but I had made a commitment… Fortunately for me, the other party invariably walked, and I was free to repeat my mistake, but maybe not as badly.

When I was eight years old, my mom sprang for my brother and sister to get piano lessons, and she offered the same deal to me. I informed her that I would “teach myself.” I stuck to that decision for two years, until my sister began to get good, and I met the marvelous woman teaching her to play. Then I allowed as how I’d “try a few lessons,” though my uppity little self-teaching efforts had gone exactly nowhere and a half. The piano turned out to be my first source of income, and how I supported myself through college. I’ve often wondered where I’d be if I’d seized the opportunity for lessons when it was first offered. But noooooo. I was going to teach myself.

My propensity for persistence is also a propensity for fearing change, for too much pride, for a preoccupation with not wanting to look dishonorable. I have good reasons for persisting–and bad reasons. I know this, and yet, the persistence trap still haunts me.

With a little help from Our Hero, Hecate Brompton will wake up to the folly of over-persisting, but how do you know when it’s time to walk away? To give up on a promise? To break your word? What keeps you stuck when that voice in the back of your mind is wishing you’d just bail?

Lord Julian’s Advanced Reader Copy list for A Gentleman Fallen on Hard Times is queuing up!



Mirabile Dictu

A friend and I got to talking this week about miracles. She had been a nurse for 25 years, and had seen plenty of medical miracles, while my experiences with “I cannot explain how that wonderful thing happened,” have been fewer in number.

One stands out though. A long, long time ago, when I was still working for a Fortune 100, with all the lockstep misery that entailed (dress codes, time clocks, a sea of cubicles meaning no privacy, awful commute, handsy bosses and no corporate policies to call them  out…. ptui!). I was also in the early years of single parenting, and given the resulting time and budget constraints, I had to cadge exercise on my lunch hour. I’d do a quick change, jog for thirty minutes, do a rinse off, and be back at the desk in 59.9 minutes.

Something was better than nothing… or I so reasoned.

I was also in therapy at the time, up to my elbows exploring how family of origin issues impacted my adult decisions and behaviors. That was hard work, involving a lot of tears and shifts in perspective, but I had a good therapist and enough benefits (thank you, Fortune 100) that I could stick with the process for several years.

I was not enjoying therapy at all, because to get anywhere, I had to start with, “Where does it  hurt?” and then go looking for a why. The why always seemed to point to, “Because I made a foolish, short-sighted, decision that I regret and can’t do anything about. Because I am not very smart about… Because I am not as grown up as I look… Because even though I knew better, I didn’t do better…”

So I’m out jogging my allotted thirty minutes on a summer day, through a quiet and leafy DC suburb, and for no reason, I felt lighter, then lighter and lighter… I felt as if the whole sky was trickling into my chest, and my mind’s eye rose above me. I could see myself thump-thump-thumping along the hot pavement, resenting every step, but knowing a kid needs a healthy mom if that’s possible, and knowing that it was a lunch hour jog or nothing. I was sweaty, I was bright red in the face (Irish genes?), and I didn’t want to jog ever, much less go back to the office ever, much less do the same thing over and over.

But as I was imaginatively rising into the sky and becoming light and air and altitude, I also got deluged with compassion for that chubby, sweaty, tired, determined single mom doing her dogged best to be a decent human being. It was as if some emotional force put its hand over my grouchy, judgy, negative mouth, and said, “I admire the Grace I see. She has faults–we all do–but see look how hard she’s trying and cut the woman a break. She’s doing the best she can.”

Sweetest Kisses Series Collection by Grace BurrowesAnd somehow, this shift in perspective on myself was delivered from a loving rather than a lecturing place. The voice in my head pleaded with me to grow some self-compassion, and lordy, did I need to hear that voice. The miracle is that I could hear it, and believe it, and change my perspective in the space of that one outing. The love got through to me, the joy, the hope… a light came on, and I cannot explain why then or how or what the physical sensations were about, but I have been a different person–happier and kinder–ever since.

I can’t explain it, but I can accept that it was real and good. Having genuine compassion for others became much easier since that day, as did having compassion for myself, my family, my world.

Has life ever walloped you upside the heart that way? Has it happened to your friends or family? I’ll send three commenters the trilogy bundle for The Sweetest Kisses series, which is now on sale in the web store for $9.99.





The Wealth of Notions

Amid all of life’s whoopsies and woes, I came across the UN’s annual report on world happiness. For the fifth year in a row, Finland has earned top honors.

Finland? Where it’s cold and dark six months of the year? Finland, whose economy ranks down around 45th in the world? They pay $9.00 for a gallon of gas over there, and their GDP per capita ($50,613) is much lower than ours in the US ($76,683).

Those blasted Fins have no business being this relentlessly happy, so I went down the rabbit hole looking for explanations. The same points were made in one article after another (one suspects they were written by the same chatbot, but you didn’t hear that from me). To summarize:

First, Fins value cooperation over competition. The tall poppy isn’t simply distasteful to them, but rather, disgraceful.

This emphasis on cooperation and cohesion shows up in a lot of ways. The education system is fair, high quality, and well funded. Anybody–rich, poor, immigrant, pagan, elder, whatever–can get a good, free education and higher education. Aptitude and effort are the limiting factors, not real estate taxes or legacy privileges. Public services are well run, from mass transit to public health to utilities. The taxpayers expect and get value for their money, the public sectors earn and rely on support from the voters.

Second, Finland’s emphasis on inclusion and cooperation means they have very little crime or poverty. Their poverty rate is one the lowest in the developed world, about half what the far “wealthier” US experiences. Their child poverty rate(4%)  is one fifth of ours (20%). Nobody needs to steal to eat, nobody needs to be homeless. Corruption in high places is not tolerated, much less expected, and conspicuous consumption is cause for tacit shaming. (And no, once you add in free health care, free education, lower real estate taxes, and other Finnish perks, the taxes really are not higher than in the US for most people.)

Trust among Fins is earned and well guarded. In the dropped wallet experiment, eleven out of twelve wallets dropped in Helsinki were returned.

People feel safe in Finland and they are safe. Much easier to be happy when you aren’t worried about basic necessities or bodily safety.

Third, one thing Fins do consume voraciously is a connection with nature. The average Finnish family might use much of the minimum four weeks of annual leave to spend time in a summer cottage, where amenities are non-existent, but natural beauty is inescapable. Finland consistently ranks near the top internationally on every measure of environmental protection.

I ponder these qualities–cooperation, cohesion, fairness, trust, and deep respect for nature–and it occurs to me that this is a blueprint for how to successfully wrangle climate change. One article in fact attributes the happiness of Finnish society to the traits listed above, and characterizes them as “hunter gatherer” qualities.

What a comforting irony, if the traits that sustained us through millennia of paleolithic challenges turn out to be the way home–to a planet that’s cherished and thriving, and to our own happiness. We know how to cooperate rather than compete. We know how to be trustworthy and fair. We know how to limit our consumption. We know how to treasure the natural world. We can get to a sustainable, happier world with wealth we already possess.

If you had a fortune to invest in one industry, or to propagate one value for the betterment of society and the planet, what would it be?

PS: In case you missed it, after more than a year on hiatus, The Sweetest Kisses contemporary romances are available for $3.99 each in the web store, and in print from Amazon.


Whistle While You Work (in the Dark)

Maybe it’s just coincidence, but I’ve come across three people who were recently offered a job, and then the offer evaporated because the company decided to do lay-offs instead. Another friend was fired from an organization where she’d worked for fifteen years, and yet another friend has been told (by her third manager in 90 days), that her position is being outsourced soon.

I did not realize when I bounced into the government contracting industry after college that I had chosen a chronic-job-loss field. When a contract ends, when a major program is taken over by a competitor, it’s standard practice to lay off your people and hope the next contractor picks them up. Security clearances can help, but I had those, and as an administrative resource, I was among the first to go.

Four times I’ve been told, “You do a great job, but you are surplus to requirements. Buh-bye.” No severance, no COBRA coverage. In each case, I was already pretty broke (see single parenting), and in each case, I was terrified, angry, and intermittently despairing. Family would have taken me and my daughter in, provided I was willing to move thousands of miles away to places I actively loathed living.

I learned that part of a successful job search is simply patience. The day you send out a hundred resumes, there might be only five truly appropriate job openings. They get filled, but next week, five more open up, and your resume is still near the top of the queue.

Persist. Do some job searching, some informational interviewing, something every day. The dots often don’t connect in a straight line, and taking productive action helps tame despair and worry–and the shame–while it bolsters the patience.

I also learned that job loss is not something to keep to myself. I learned to tell everybody that I was on the hunt and what my quals were–my daycare provider, my neighbor, the other people in the choir. Friends of friends are the most likely source of a great new job, and every lead was grist for hope.

And the last thing to come from my various job searches is that I keep in better heart if I can indulge myself in small ways despite looming homelessness and worse. Library books. A single piece of excellent chocolate. A few yard flowers. A half hour sitting in the sun with a cup of tea. If I took a moment here or there to cherish myself between rounds of job searching, I went back to the fight with more determination.

All that aside, I was raised with the axiom, “Never leave a job unless you have already have the next job.” The sheer terror of unemployment when I had a child to care for still haunts me. In the end, I was lucky–I found good enough jobs, and then I had enough skills to become self-employed. But those weeks on unemployment, or contemplating foreclosure or eviction, were among the scariest of my life.

How do you cope with the scary times?