Out of the Closet

https://www.etsy.com/your/shops/worDSMITHstudios/
I’m working on it!

My newfound extra time has allowed me the opportunity to clean out areas of my house I haven’t been able to get to for awhile.  I have closets full of stuff I literally stuck in there so I didn’t have to look at it scattered about in the house. 

It’s ironic really, I mean, we laugh about my daughter and how she cleans her room by throwing everything in her closet.  So when she proudly announces, “look, I cleaned my room.” She is also saying, Do.NOT.look.in.the.closet!   

I guess I have been doing the same thing for years.   Don’t know where to put this basket?  I’ll just tuck it in the hall closet.  I’ll remember where I put it when I need it.  This quart of paint I don’t feel like trucking to the basement?  Hall closet.  The extra printer supplies for the printer with no ink? 
 
Yup.  Hall closet.  Now where did I put that basket that time…?
 
I have a pretty big house.  And the people who built it did a great job with storage.  I have a lot of closets and cabinet space.  Over these years as I picked up behind the kids or found shit I wasn’t ready to donate, I just stuck it in one of the many storage spots I had all around the house. 
 
If I don’t have to look at it, it doesn’t exist and if I don’t have to look at it, I can resume control of my life with a clean house and less stress.  I adapted the ‘Whatever Works’ philosophy.

Except it’s really still there.  The stress, I mean. The stress of knowing the hall closet and the bathroom closet and pantrys and every nook and cranny is full of crap that EVENTUALLY is going to need to be cleaned out.  Those things, piled up, are really still in the back of my mind. 

*Ohhh Dennnissse* (It’s the musical voice from inside my head) when are you going to get to cleaning out those closets and moving that crap to the basement?  And then when are you going to clean out the basement and take all that crap to Goodwill??? I am writing this as I look at my white board that also lists “clean out upstairs closet.” Like I literally need to nag MYSELF.  (As you can see, I also need to clean the top of my kitchen cabinets. They get really dusty and gross. Especially when they haven’t been wiped in like, 10 years…)  

 
And so here I am, again, unemployed and FINALLY I have time to go through all the CRAP I have collected over the years.  And what do I do?  I spend precious cleaning time reflecting because, of course there are so many things to look at as that cleaning out the closet becomes an all-day affair.   There are pictures the kids drew, cards they made for me, old photos, and of course, the old slate book. 
 
The ‘old slate book’?  Well, funny you should ask.  It’s kind of a long story, but it is all connected.  You may also be asking what this WorDSMITHstudios business is all about and why I said I am ‘back at blogging,’ when you only read my first post last week. 
 
Me looking like I can barely
fit through the bathroom door.

Well, a few confessions:

1.       I have a shop on Etsy.
2.       This is not my first painting gig.
3.      This is not my first blog. 
 
Not wildly surprising?  A bit of history for those just checking in:
I first started painting when I was pregnant with my daughter.  That was 1999.  Y2K was a thing and many thought the world was going to end.   My husband and I were happy and healthy,  living at and managing at a small camping resort in Western Maine. (papoosepondresort.com).  

We didn’t believe the world was going to end (sometimes the dangerously optimistic thing can rub off), so we got pregnant. 
 
Not only was I pregnant, but I was ENORMOUSLY pregnant.  Imagine a summer filled with all the ice-cream and candy and pizza you want literally RIGHT AT YOUR FINGERTIPS and available anytime, steps away from your front door.  Then imagine the freedom from guilt that comes when you are pregnant–I mean, you’re going to get fat anyway.  Why not eat what you want?  I spent that glorious summer getting back at every morsel of food that ever made me feel guilty when it crossed my lips.   
 
Actually, I hadn’t been a parent yet, so it was before I knew was guilty felt like.
 
It was *BLISS*
 
The consequence?  60 pounds gained and pre-eclampsia 7 months in.  The doc didn’t go so far as to put me on bedrest, but I was pulled from working and ordered to stay off my feet as much as possible.   
 
Kinda like bedrest, but not bedrest.  Makes sense.
 
As I type this I am 45.  (And unemployed–as if you could forget).   I am a Type A personality, but I would say I have chilled a lot over the years.  Back in my Papoose Pond days, when I was 27, I hadn’t experienced what it was like to have kids.  Kids help you realize there are some things that are worth stressing over in the moment and somethings you put in a closet to worry about later. 
 
These days, my Type A corners are a little more rounded than they were when I was 27.  Experience softens the edges, blurs the lines, makes everything a little less rigid.  When I was 27, I was mad about everything, stressed about everything, YELLED about everything, fought everything. And I wasn’t the type to sit around much.  I was still figuring it out.   I was a happy person… pretty much.  I was fun.  I WAS. 
   
Anyway, my husband and I were trying to find me something to do to occupy my Type A+ personality and still follow the doctor’s orders.  My husband was trying VERY hard because as you can imagine, I also was still learning how not to take my frustration out on him. (I’m still working on that one.)   
 
Welcome Slate

A trip to the resort’s craft barn resulted in some stone slate, transfer paper, paintbrushes, and acrylic paints. I was to find a picture I liked, trace it onto the slate, and paint the picture. 

Now, I had never done any painting.  Except for walls and I sucked (still suck) at that.  It never fails.  I always roll too high and get an entire roller mark on the ceiling.  Or put too much paint on the roller and drip all over the baseboards.  When I use painter’s tape, paint always gets under the tape–I don’t get that—and if I don’t then, you guessed it, baseboards and trim get marked all up.  I end up doing two paint jobs– the walls and the trim, which of course never looks the same.   

 
Buuuut, hey.  This was going to be different.  And when you’re bored the way that I was bored–the Type A+ way—you grit your teeth and paint as closely in the lines of whatever the heck you traced as you can.  I can’t even remember what I painted, but I remember when I was done, it was pretty good!  
 
Who needs Bob Ross?
So I just kept painting. Corey dug out what was left of those slates in the craft barn and I went to town.  I wrote WELCOME on them and painted one for everyone I knew.  Then I started taking photos of what I made, printing the page, and putting it in a binder.  The binder, aka, The Slate Book or Denise’s Slates, became 2-inches thick. People could flip through and choose what they wanted.  Then, Order UP!  I would make it for them. I charged like $20 a piece.
 

For 2 years I paid for our Christmas and other odds & ends with the money I earned from painting slates.  

A commission I did; a small old photo
transferred to an oil canvas.
Photo is on the right.

Then one day, I was painting 3 of the same slate, side by side sweatshop style.  I vividly remember looking down at those paintings–it was a holiday theme and had a group of  holiday characters together-  Uncle Sam, a snowman, Santa, the Easter Bunny–and saying, “THIS sucks.” 

 
And that was it. 
 

I didn’t paint again for a long time.  Then I randomly started to do a few commissions for people; painting pictures of people from photographs.  Then I messed around with some oil paints.  But nothing consistent. 

 And then my husband got laid off from his job.  And WorDSMITHstudios was born. 

A lot happened in between.  Like how I sucked as a stay at home mom.  How I pretty much sucked as a mom all-around most of my daughter’s first 3 years.  Poor kid.  How I discovered my passion for working with youth.  Had another kid.  Learned I might not have been such a bad mom after all.  Started a blog I LOVED, then used really poor judgement and had to give it up. Read Eat, Pray, Love for the first time and felt blown away. Learned what it means to be a compassionate person. Realized the mistakes and failures I have experienced in my life were not something to be ashamed of, but to embrace because life is about growth. 

Oh wait– *sigh*  I just realized McKenna learned her ifyoucantseeit room cleaning trick from me.  The closet thing?  Great. 

 
Yeah, we can talk about all that. 


So here I am…

Here I am.  45 and UNEMPLOYED. Not the scenario I would have imagined for myself even 6 months ago.  But does anyone? 

I REALLY didn’t think it would happen. Our organization knew our program was in trouble at the state level, but I figured all would be ok.  We were doing what we were supposed to do.  We did good work.  I was really good at my job. (That’s what mattered right?!)  We were all committed to our work.  Our partners and state representatives were in our court, advocating to the Governor.  No one would ultimately take away the resources that provided support and assistance from the vulnerable, yet AMAZING program participants who were benefiting from the services we provided.    All would be right with the world.  

And yet here I sit.  Unemployed. 

I am the opposite of a realist.  I am an optimist in what could be the the worst way. Some could say I am dangerously optimistic.  ( Did you catch that there? )  I try to stay realistic, but in the end I figure everything will work out.  And did I say I was really good at my job?  That my colleagues were really good at their jobs?  We believed in our mission.  We were innovating.  We were meeting our performance measures.  In the world of non-profits, it is all about performance measures.  If you meet your performance measures, you keep your money.  That’s the belief anyway. 

We are fun.

 

You can imagine my shock when we actually did lose the funding. 

We live in crazy times my friends.  I could rant and rave for pages and pages describing how the grant that funded our program was unfairly and unjustly yanked out from under us.  But I won’t.  The fact is there are good people without a job and many, many individuals not able to benefit from valuable programs. 

Myself & co-workers
Aleigh & Nigel

For me, losing my job felt like I was losing a piece of myself.  I was comfortable with my work family. I had a great team. At work. I was the expert.  I was confident. People respected me and I knew the answers to the questions.  What was I supposed to do?  We were a very unique program in Maine.  Maine, people!   I couldn’t just whip up a resume and go down the street to the next non-profit.  I wanted to scream, “What about me? What about MY 5-year plan? What am I supposed to do NOW?”  

And it’s Christmas for goodness sake!! (December 1st was my last day).    
*cue temper tantrum*

And so here I am.  Still 45 and still unemployed. 

Once the dust settled, the tears were all cried, and I had time to just BE, I started to examine my situation.  

Actually, that’s a lie.  I think that’s what I thought I was supposed to say.    

What actually happened was I became so busy shuttling my kids around, running errands, cooking dinner, creating new art for my website (wordsmithstudios on etsy.com), re-connecting with friends…I was running my ASS off.   I was just as busy as I had been when I was working 40+ hours a week.  

My first epiphany was How the HELL did I ever WORK?  How did I do everything, including Etsy stuff  AND work?  

The difference was, without the full-time gig, I didn’t feel as stressed or anxious.  I actually started being a mother.  And a wife.  I was devoting more time to my Etsy shop.  And it didn’t feel all wrong. I was busy, but not CRAZYTRESSEDOUTFULLTIMEJOB MOM busy. 

When I was working, stress was constant. I would be driving like a maniac to pick my son up for an appointment  because I had left my office 15 minutes later than planned, only to stress my son out because he had been waiting for me to arrive during those 15 minutes.  Had I crashed?  Would we be late for his appointment?  Would we crash on the way TO the appointment because I was then speeding to get to the appointment on time? Then in the waiting room, I would be talking to him while checking emails and planning for what I would cook for dinner by way of the microwave.  Leaving the appointment meant booking it back to the office real quick to sit in on a final meeting, sign paperwork, check in with staff, and grab my laptop so I could do whatever work I needed to catch up on because I had been out of the office for that appointment.  Then home I would go.  I’d walk in the door to my house and my stress would spike because there was the messy living room littered with dishes from the morning. Grrrrr.  Keep going to the kitchen and the dishes were overflowing the sink and counter because the dishwasher was full and my daughter won’t unload it unless I remind her 3 times….

*inhale*

…and guilty.  I always felt guilty.  Guilty for going to work. Guilty for staying home.  Guilty if I needed to be home for my kids for something.  Guilty for being at work and not home.   Guilty for not paying attention to my kids. Did I say that already? Guilty when I was relieved they didn’t want me to pay attention to them. Guilty I wasn’t one of those parents who volunteered hours at school or made special signs for athletic events or whipped up cupcakes for the class party. Guilty for not playing more board games. Guilty for not just unloading the dishwasher instead of making my daughter do it.  Guilty that unloading it would not teach her responsibility and that I thought about giving in.  Guilty for paying too much attention to my kids and not enough to my husband. I felt guilty for feeling guilty!   

Whenever I tried to articulate the anxiety to my family and plead for help, the answer was always, “You just have to let some things go.”  “Stop letting the little things get to you.”  

Ok.  Well, what would I let go?  Do I stop doing laundry, because it is surely going to pile up.  And then what?  More stress and anxiety?  What would be a little thing?  Perhaps I stop cooking dinner?  Do I stop working?  Do I stop cleaning? No one could answer those questions.  And so the cycle continued. 

Until  The Universe intervened and decided  for me that the thing to let go was work.  I had no choice,  so I kept moving forward.  And you know what?  I started to feel better.  And pretty soon, I started to feel really good. 

Dare I say stress free?

My family and our yearly crazy Christmas photos in front of the tree.  
I think I look a little less stressed than previous years. 🙂 
My 2nd epiphany came with the realization that for the first time in years, my family was coming first

https://www.etsy.com/your/shops/worDSMITHstudios
A reminder to stand true to myself.
Original art from WorDSMITHstudios on Etsy.com

And by default, so was I.  The Universe had handed me a gift. A blessing in disguise.  For the first time in years, I was present while in the waiting room at the doctor’s office with my kid.  I could listen to what he or she had to say.  I could cook a meal I didn’t feel guilty about serving.  I still hate cooking said meal, but at least my family wants to eat it now.  I could pick up the house a little at a time to avoid walking into messes.  That entire layer of stress I had been experiencing because I had no time, was gone. 

And so here I am.  45 and STILL unemployed. 

And everyday, I am here to say goodbye to my husband when he leaves for work.  I am here to say goodbye to my daughter when she leaves for school.  Some days she even says “bye” back.  And everyday, I drop off and pick my son up from the bus.  Some days, I pick him up after school and we go swimming at the YMCA.  I hate the swimming part, but when we leave and he says, “That was fun.”

Angels sing. 

And so I will blog.  Because I am unemployed.