This last year brought a lot of changes for us. Including both Ace and I moving from more traditional employment to self-employment, Mark learning and growing a lot, and lots of dog challenges.
In January I worked hard on planning my first (and very large garden). Ace found out that he would have to buy a new camera or loose his job with Millennium doing exterior home inspections. We chose to let the job go and rely on my income as a nanny while Ace focused on music for a while. His primary goal was to grow his YouTube channel to 10,000 subscribers by the end of the year. We had no idea if he would be able to make a good income from his music, but it was worth a real shot. Ace took his first trip to a convention going to Music and Gaming Fest (MAG Fest). We had no idea how much that would change our lives by making so many new friends through YouTube.
February was relatively uneventful, I was busy working and we were saving money to visit Illinois. Ace was learning the ins and outs of YouTube and getting deeper into mixing, editing, and collaboration. We started working on the garden by having the area tilled and putting up the fence at the end of the month. It was a very hard two days of work, but it was worth it!
In March Mark surprised us by starting to read simple words all on his own! I continued work on the garden by starting seedlings indoors. We also happened to find our new church home by chance. I was driving home from the grocery store when I saw a sign that said, “Sellwood Faith Community.” I went home and found their blog though the power of the internet. We visited just before Easter and loved it. They very much aligned with our values, and are a wonderful group of people that we are so glad to call our friends now. On Easter we had a small easter egg hunt in our backyard for Mark and our friend’s kids. At the end of the month we celebrated Vincent’s sixth birthday, Isaac’s second, and Mark’s half birthday.
In April we started even more seeds for our garden and took a much needed trip to Illinois! We got to stay and Barb and Carl’s house and visit with many other family members. Unfortunately my mom was pretty sick the entire time we were in town (and for many months to follow). While we were in town we explored the Woodstock Square, got to go on a date, and visited the natural history museum and the children’s museum in Rockford. Mostly, we just got a chance to relax for a few days! When we returned to Portland we enjoyed one of our first bonfires of the season with our amazing Portland friends.
May was a very busy month. I took an overnight trip to Seattle to skate with tons of other girls and woman for the annual Wheels of Fortune contest at All Together Skatepark. This event re-inspired me to pursue opening an indoor skatepark. Then we went to an unschooling conference in Vancouver, WA where Mark had an amazing time playing with other kids all weekend. We enjoyed exploring parks, restaurants and markets that the city had to offer. Later in the month we had an amazing step forward, we refinanced our house from an absolutely terrible loan (that allowed us to move to Portland without jobs), to a more standard loan with a very low interest rate and much lower monthly payments. I signed the paperwork on the morning of my 29th birthday! Throughout the year I focused hard on making more money while lowering all our bills in order to give us the best shot at Ace succeeding in his pursuit of making Music his career. This was a huge step forward in that pursuit. At the same time I was starting to have some frustrations in my work as the job was getting increasingly more difficult and stressful, yet I loved being with kids all day.
June was a challenging month, my Mom got a lot sicker and was thousands of miles away, we were darn near broke with no money for anything beyond food and bills, I was working like crazy in the garden hoping to grow our own food, Aiden was battling an ongoing UTI and bladder stones (a battle that still continues), I was very busy between my day job as a nanny, working skate camps with Skate Like a Girl, and working car seat checks on the weekends. In our little bit of free time we were enjoying our Zoo Membership we had received as a Christmas gift the previous year. I was just holding on, trying to just keep going, just keep going. It was also the hottest weather we had ever experienced in Portland. It was a drought and keeping the garden happy though it all was a challenge. We didn’t have A/C and our house was HOT all the time. We would go walk around the mall to cool off on the days it reached 100 degrees. Every extra dollar I made that month went to Aiden’s vet bills. Though all of this, Ace was slowly growing his YouTube channel and music career. There was a glimmer of hope it was going to work.
July brought more heat and more work. Ace released his amazing Sizzler video on his channel, collaborating with several of his new friends. Soon after he released his 3rd album of Video Game Music Covers. The growth was becoming tangible. The garden was starting to produce lots of food! My efforts were paying off in a big way! Squash, lettuce, beets, chard! And there was only more and more from that point on. More food than we could eat, we gave away lots to friends and neighbors, and fed it to our friends at our bonfires! In Portland there was talk of the unrelenting heat, dildos hanging from power lines, skyrocketing rent, and the impending earthquake. Ace visited his second convention SGC (Screwattack Gaming Convention) where he made even more friends in the the world of YouTube and Gaming. I was starting to experience Anxiety without knowing what it was, my chest would hurt, my heart would beat harder and harder. My stress levels were high, and I wasn’t sure what to do about it but to just keep going.
August was one of the hardest months of my life, my job was the hardest it had ever been. I was starting to have panic attacks. It was SO DAMN HOT OUT. We broke down and bought a portable A/C to keep in the living room. It was well worth the $300. The garden needed so much work and under the weight of ever growing anxiety I was ready to throw in the towel. I knew I needed to quit my job, but part of me really didn’t want to. I had my last day of work at the end of August. I also scheduled my first visit with a therapist at the end of August. Anxiety was taking over my life and the last thing I was going to do was let it get worse. We planned a trip to San Juan Island (my favorite place in the world) as a vacation to let me have a real break.
Early September wasn’t much better than August. I felt like I lost those months to anxiety and then depression. Was I failure for quitting my job? How were we going to get by? Would this ever end? I sold my Motorcycle, I sold my McDonalds stock (Thanks Grandma), I sold everything I could so I could continue to take time off work and work on myself. It was the right the choice, but it was really really hard. I spent some time finishing my rough draft of my skatepark business plan. Soon Mark was turning 5. He was a fluent reader by this point and a Minecraft expert. For his birthday we got him a 16in bicycle, which he loved! He’s a very good bike rider and jumped right on the new bike for a ride down the road with Ace. Late in the month we took our trip to San Juan and Orcas Islands. It was wonderful getting away for a few short days (it was too short). We got to see the new baby whales in “J” and “L” pods as well as a lot of other wildlife. I injured myself at the famed Orcas Island Skatepark, we read though “The Mouse and the Motorcycle” with Mark at the campsite and did light photography as a family.
In October I started planning an in-home childcare business, it was my new idea for doing childcare in a less stressful way, it was a very slow start. Mid October brought one of my most favorite events of the year, The Portland Retro Gaming Expo! We had several friends come stay at our house and we all went to the convention together to roam the con floor, see panels, and most importantly, play video games in the massive arcade! It was a great weekend, but I was still struggling pretty bad with Anxiety and this weekend was no exception. I often had to escape the chaos of the convention and the crowded restaurants to catch my breath and slow down and try not to freak out. At the end of the month we celebrated the rainiest Halloween I’ve ever seen in my life. It was insane. Mark dressed as a creeper, becuase he wanted “A clothes costume.” Becuase most store bought costumes are too itchy and uncomfortable. After trick-or-treating we had our, now traditional, dance party and Chinese food.
November brought the real start to my new business doing childcare in my home for other unschooling families. I spent most days at home with Mark and many days we were joined by one or two other kids close to his age. I was finally making an income again! It felt good. At the same time I was starting to see the real benefits of going to therapy. I was having far fewer episodes of panic. We spent November mostly at home. It was honestly a pretty uneventful month, which is exactly what we needed. By this point Ace was starting to make real money on composition jobs. He was writing music for YouTube shows and podcasts and had several other opportunities on the horizon. Aiden has continued to have health struggles throughout the year, allergies, chronic UTI’s, and a leg injury that had us supporting his back end with a towel to help him walk. He is healing, but its slow.
In early December we were blessed with a visit by Ace’s Parents Barb and Carl. They stayed with us for 5 days. We had a lot of fun with them seeing Christmas lights, eating lots of food, and just hanging out. Ace and I got to have a whole date day. It was so awesome! I can not wait to have another. We already miss them and hope they can come back soon. In December Ace had an amazing opportunity. He had been covering music from the successful independent video game, Undertale, when his friend Rich preposed they release all their covers together on an album. Ace worked an insane amount to make this happen. He worked more hours in two weeks than I’ve ever seen. Getting 12 songs arranged, recorded, mixed and mastered. The album was released on December 21st, and was huge success. By the end of the year we had accomplished our goal, for Ace to be making enough money from music for us to pay all the bills. Not only does the money keep coming from the Undertale album, but Ace has a few composition jobs lined up for January as well. He will also be launching his Patreon page in the coming weeks. This is amazing.
Christmas was wonderful, filled with good times with family and friends. We mostly stayed at home, inviting friends to join us for Christmas eve and celebrating by doing a lot of nothing on Christmas day, exactly how we like it. We built Mark’s new lego sets, read lots of books, and played plenty of video games. We closed out the year by having some fun around Portland and having a very quiet New Years at home.
If you want to keep up with our adventures in 2016, keep an eye on this blog, and follow me on twitter @AWatersCPST
(And Ace hit 7,777 subscribers overnight on New Years Eve. Not quite 10,000, but a number we are very very happy about none the less.)