Sunday, May 26, 2019

So I ate a lot of chicken

Last month, I learned how hard 2019 had been on Joanna. Her brother's illness ... financial setbacks ... romantic travails. She was tired, scared and broke. This was very much not like Joanna. She's a sophisticated Southern belle. She never lets 'em see her sweat. And yet here she was, 63 years old and frankly, obviously worried that she wouldn't bounce back this time.

So I've spent the last month worried about her. I didn't want to hover, but I did want her to feel like she wasn't alone. So we've Facebook'd back and forth and set up a date for this weekend. I wanted to go to the Lake -- I can peer at it from the reception area of the office, but I seldom get to see Lake Michigan up close. Joanna said she'd prefer the Chicago Riverwalk. Not as grand as a Great Lake, the Chicago River has enjoyed a renaissance and is now lively and a lot of fun, with restaurants and bars dotting the walkway and a nice view of the boats and kayaks.

We were meeting at 2:00. Remembering last month, when she couldn't even afford an after-movie drink, I didn't know what 2:00 meant. Lunch? Riverwalk bistros can be expensive because they're aimed at tourists. So before I left, I had a big bowl of Campbell's Chicken Pot Pie soup. Creamy and thick. Positively mediocre, but it filled me up.

As soon as we met up, she said she wanted to eat. "Real food," she drawled. Meaning no pub fare like hummus or artichoke dip. We ended up at a sit down restaurant where she ordered smoked beef brisket sandwich with mashed potatoes! All the food looked delicious, but I'd just snarfed down that $1.89 can of soup. It would have been wasted on me. So I just ordered what was cheapest. And it was, of course, more chicken. A chicken/bacon wrap. It was fine. I liked the margarita better.

Mostly I was happy that her life has turned around enough for a full lunch. Last month, she had a short-term contract to do a single project.* That client has been so happy with her that it's expanded into a long-term contract, meaning income through the end of the year.

And it gets better ...

A prospective client who had rejected Joanna in March, saying she was too expensive and inflexible and he was going another way, just called her. He's changed his mind. Now she's got a contract for an additional three months work. She wants to use that money to dig herself out of debt, as she's been living on her credit cards these past three months.

I don't mean to paint this as too rosy. Her brother is still in hospice, waiting to die. And at 63, she doesn't have a cent left in her retirement savings. And that guy that she's carrying on an on again/off again long-distance relationship with? She isn't sure if right now they're on or off.

But she can pay her rent. She can put gas in her car. She can order lunch. At least through the end of the year. She was feeling positive enough to daydream about a trip to Europe, to visit an old friend in London. I don't believe that's going to happen, but it made me happy to hear her so forward focused.

*With Dana! Back when I worked with The Boss, Dana was my secretary. In the intervening 15 years, she's moved on up and has become an office manager. Her employers asked her if she knew of any marketing consultants who could help them expand, she reached out to me, and I put her in contact with Joanna. I'm a matchmaker!

1 comment:

  1. Glad the second half of the year is picking up for Joanna!