Previously published on Yahoo! Contributor Network (Yahoo! Voices/Associated Content) March 15, 2009, later published on and then removed from Persona Paper.
Anyone who knows me knows that the one career choice I would have made, if I could have supported my children with it, would have been writing. As I awaited recognition and opportunity, as I scribbled ideas, poems, screenplays, books, and articles in my numerous notebooks, I traveled many paths, several of which were closely related to the writing field, none of which allowed me recognition, stability, or support so that I could make money with my writing.
From a magazine to printing companies to a newspaper to a video production company, from insurance companies to hospitals to a nightclub to a radio station, positioning myself in such diverse roles as secretary, outpatient admitting officer, cocktail waitress, graphic designer, and daycare provider, among others, my work day was spent doing everything but writing. Forced to put writing "for a living" on hold I sought jobs that paid the bills while I anticipated the day my career would take off.
The most recent job I held was working as an "idea" person, writing commercials for a radio station. At least that was why I was hired. The man who hired me, however, left the station prior to my first day. He was replaced with a new manager and a promotions director. The director would be my supervisor. The new manager and the new director decided that since the promotions director would be performing tasks I was hired to do, I should sell advertising.
During my first week, I realized I had become part of a new reality TV series, The Edge of Twilight Zone. Or so it seemed. While we were on our way back from a business function one day, for example, my new supervisor, whose language would have made a pornographer blush, "mooned" a coworker on a busy road in broad daylight. I slouched in the back seat in horror.
In the three months I worked there, my coworkers and I were informed during sales meetings every time she was "f-ing bleeding like an f-ing pig out of her f-ing v…” It appeared that my new supervisor's goal was to make her employees feel uncomfortable; her joy came from being as outrageous as was humanly possible. I'm no prude, but I think that people who use f-bombs to describe every noun are either deliriously stupid or just plain lazy. The job proved to be more than I could (or wanted to) handle.
I immediately sought relief in the Help Wanted section of the newspapers - in print and online. My numerous physical problems made finding an appropriate job a challenge. A swollen right foot (a problem even doctors at one of the highest skilled teaching hospitals couldn't figure out) and scoliosis that caused persistent back pain limited me to jobs that didn't require me to stand for long periods of time. Asthma and borderline COPD prevented me from working around certain types of fumes, perfumes, and cigarette smoke, and carpal tunnel syndrome sometimes required me to wear a wrist brace that made typing difficult.
My long-term goal had always been to write when I retired, but retirement was more than a decade away, and I needed to find something that would sustain me NOW. Once a daycare provider, I wondered if I should return to caring for children. After all, children wear no fragrances, and I could probably contend with the limited exposure to smoking or perfumed parents. I could lie down on the floor when necessary, and I could sit often. I could also write up until the minute the parents arrived with their children and soon after they left to take their children home. But income from daycare never paid the bills.
And so I did what I always do when I grapple with a problem I have to solve - I prayed about it. And I asked God to give me a sign to let me know if I should set up a daycare while I continued to pursue my writing career.
Because this method has worked for me on many occasions, I knew to ask for a specific sign. I chose a butterfly. But not just ANY butterfly, a UNIQUE butterfly, something so unusual, it would grab my attention. If I saw a UNIQUE butterfly, I would know that I should return to daycare.
On my way to work at the Gates of Hell Radio Station the morning after my prayer, I saw a sign with a butterfly on it. However, I reasoned that I had driven by that sign every day on my way to work; I just never noticed it before. Therefore, I couldn't count it as a sign from God.
The following day, because my job required me to travel, I decided to test the limits of the radio signals to see if they matched the area the radio station claimed was included in its map (it didn't). I met my mother - who lived more than fifty miles from where I worked - for lunch. I wanted to tell her about the horrendous job I had and to ask her opinion about my leaving it to return to childcare while I worked on my writing.
Mom, who believes there is no worse job than caring for children all day, was surprisingly supportive. She brought along a tiny shopping bag that she placed on the table as we ordered our food. I wanted to tell her about my prayer, but I felt her support was enough. I would wait patiently for my sign from God if childcare was the job I was supposed to pursue while I wrote. Only after I made my career decision would I share the prayer with my mother.
Before she opened her bag, Mom placed her hand on top of it. "I don't know what you're going to think about this," she said almost apologetically.
She continued to tell me about a friend of hers who had to quit her job to take care of her mother. In her spare time, the friend crafted and painted all sorts of projects. My mom thought of me when she purchased this tiny trinket.
Worried that it was "just a little something - nothing big or expensive," Mom added, "If you don't like it, it's OK."
Whatever Mom gives me is special. On this day, as on any other day, it wouldn't have mattered if it were a scrap of linen from her dresser drawer or a poem she wrote. I would have treasured whatever it was. But I was curious. And so I opened the brown paper bag and unfolded the paper. Inside was a rock painted with a butterfly on the top, its wings folded.
As I was thinking that God had answered my prayer, and as I was about to share the prayer with my mother, I heard her say, "Isn't that the most UNIQUE butterfly you've ever seen painted? Most people spread out both of the wings, but these wings are folded. Isn't this one UNIQUE!"
"Yes," I told her. "It is unique. It's also the answer to my prayer."
Afterword: In September, 2009, I was struck with cancer. Unable to handle chemo well, I had to quit day care. Because I provided daycare from 2007 to 2009, and because it never paid enough for me to live comfortably, the Mills Breast Cancer Institute filed paperwork for me so that the government would put me on short-term disability. After two years on disability, possibly because of my age, the government put me on social security. As a result of those circumstances, I was able to retire early. I now live simply and within budget thanks to my youngest daughter, who pays me to provide care for her children a couple of days a week. As you might guess, I firmly believe in the power of prayer and in miracles. And when I’m not caring for children or crocheting, I’m writing!