Bob and I decided to have another baby three years later, and I went off my medications and out of counseling. That was the beginning of one of the longest successful times in my life since graduate school. We had Amber in 1999; by April 2000, I started doing freelance writing for three publications in Jackson, and within a year I had earned enough money to get us out of debt and replace my current salary at the agency with freelance money. I left the agency for good in August of 2001 and started freelancing in earnest, turning in a story per day somewhere in the world.
Not even the economic slump after 9/11 hurt us much; I had earned my editors’ confidence and did feature stories on everything from extraordinary people to performing arts to food, to religion to gardening. At my peak, I was working for ten different news organizations and making around $20,000 a year after taxes and expenses—a cell phone and an internet connection. I had made a name for myself in the area and won an award for my first foray into political reporting, a series I did on people under forty making a difference in Mississippi politics.
Looking back I can see signs of slipping—my back would cut out on me when I had multiple deadlines to meet. I started to think nothing could go wrong for me. I rarely made mistakes, but when I did, they were doozies. (I once reported a local symphony organization had scored a $50,000 grant when it was actually only $5,000. Other arts organizations cried foul to the granting agency, who called my editor.)
What should have tipped me off was my work on the religion beat I was doing. I found incredible stories but was a cynical reporter—I took the easy way out of reporting on personalities rather than on their religious experiences. I had contempt for people that didn’t return my calls. How dare they blow me off like that? That sort of thing. I was a food writer who didn’t cook much beyond microwaving, a home and garden writer who couldn’t clean house, and a religion writer who wasn’t close to God anymore. I thought I was doing God’s will for my life since I was so successful. I am thankful that God blessed me when my children were young with work that made me happy and made me feel valuable so I could set an example for them of a Proverbs 31 woman who not only worked for her family but worked for pay as well. But I wasn’t working for the Lord as much as I was for my own self-satisfaction. I took pride in not working for free and in doing only articles I personally enjoyed. I kept up with the pace I set for myself for five years before my big breakdown in 2006.