It’s All About Me.

I am not a ME person.  I don’t like talking about me.  I don’t like people looking at me.  I don’t like people touching me.  All of that makes me really, really nervous…and twitchy.

If you have spent any time around me, you know “It’s all about me,” is something I say.  In conversations with friends, I say it.  My family jokes about it.  At my jobs, present and past, I have been known to wail,  “Come on you guys! Don’t you get it?  It’s all about me!”  When I worked at Job Corps it  was my slogan, “Look at me. Listen to me. Hang out with me.  IT’S ALL ABOUT ME.”

Obviously the reality is/was NONE of it is really about me.  It was really all about the stories, the work, the people, and the effort to make progress, take action, touch lives.

I am not a ME person.  I don’t like talking about me.  I don’t like people looking at me.  I don’t like people touching me.  All of that makes me really, really nervous…and twitchy.

Ohhh I know some of you might be thinking,  “Bull! I know Denise and she is the loudest, most talkative person in the room! Any room!”  And that’s true, too.  I can be that person. Sometimes I am that person. I mean, get me talking and I will probably tell you anything.  Take a road trip with me and you will know my life story. But having a big mouth and wanting to be the center of attention are two different things.

The real me, the one whom only my closest friends knows, recognize that even the thought of people looking at me freaks me out.  My clothes, my hair, my makeup?  That sh*t’s about anxiety.  If people HAVE to look at me at least I want to feel good about myself while they do it.

Once I found out a guy from another department thought I was pretty.  I should have thought that a nice compliment and moved on with my life.  Instead, it freaked me out.  I went out of my way to avoid that guy AT ALL COSTS.  If I had to walk by him, I may have mumbled a hello, but that’s it.  I never had a conversation with the guy.  I was too damn freaked out.

dont look
You can look at my Etsy shop from here though… Wordsmithstudios on www.etsy.com/shop/wordsmithstudios

When the subject of my Etsy shop comes up I get all twitchy.  Yes, I paint.  I sell those paintings on Etsy.  No, I do not want to talk to you about it and please don’t tell me you love my “work.”  And please, whatever you do, don’t open the gift I made for you (probably agonized over giving you) in front of me or the crowd of people here at your party. ugh.

If I have a medical scare or issue, I am not telling you. Or anyone.  Oh, hell no.  I might say something about it later in casual conversation, cause that’s Big Mouth Denise. “Yeah, I had a melanoma scare once, too” But I am not going to call a family meeting to make a health statement. Or call my mom to specifically tell her about it.  I just can’t do it.

I don’t really even want to share the little things.  My first brand new car on social media? Probably not.  Probably not the pics of the first time I run into something with my new ride either.  Or the 2nd time. Or the 3rd…Ok, there might even have been a 4th, but I’m not going to announce it.

All of those things drive my mother crazy.  She feels like she’s always the last to know everything.  She isn’t always and it isn’t personal. The only other people who know are those I run into at the grocery store or the halls at work, but do they even count?  I know, I know,  she IS my mom and feels like I should tell her stuff.  Or I should at least tell her before I tell anyone else.  I get that.  I just don’t tell people stuff in an intentional way.

I guess for me sharing  happens organically.  You know, stuff just comes out in its own way and time.  Or it gets puked out by my big mouth.  Yeahhhh, organically is a good way to describe it.

P.S. Mom, I also use curbside pick-up at the grocery store WAY more often now so no need to worry about the grocery store people at least 😉 

Four Areas of Focus

After my layoff for the first time in a long time I felt defeated.  It wasn’t just the layoff.  It was years in a toxic, unsupportive environment.  So when I walked away (or was pushed),  I felt like I was leaving pieces of myself behind me.  I was this broken hull of a shell and the pieces were falling away bit by bit all the way home.  Like Hansel and Gretel except I was walking away from the scary monster instead of toward it.

The problem was, what I was walking toward was also scary.  It was a form with no shape, and I was a shape with no form.

I didn’t know it at the time, but Restorative Justice helped me bring my life back into focus.  (See A Rebuilding Year or restorativejustice.org for more info) A restorative plan is broken into 4 parts that address Community,  Family,  Self,  and Victim (those who have been harmed.)  Those were the 4 areas that brought me back to life.

Family  

It started with my family.  It was the perfect time of year for that–smack in the middle of the holidays– and I was completely immersed.  I could keep busy with holiday planning and all the cheer and chaos that comes with the holidays.

In my last post I said I would be talking about dinner again and here it is.  Dinner, as much as I hated it when I was working became my grounding force.  No matter what else had gone on during the day, no matter how sh*tty I may have felt, I knew I had to pull it together and make something for dinner.  Everyone was thankful to be eating and that feedback filled me up.  Seems like a simple thing now, but at the time, it was huge.

I am also so thankful for how supportive my family was throughout my layoff.  Even when it was approaching 6 months, my husband never complained to me about money and my kids always reinforced how glad they were I was home.  My parents and extended family never implied I was being lazy; they all just supported the idea I would find something when I was ready.

Self

I didn’t lay around feeling sorry for myself.  I got to work doing things I wanted to do.  I really wanted to blog, so one of the first things I did was start my blog back up.  In the beginning, it helped me to process my situation in ways I wouldn’t otherwise have been able.  I look back at my posts now and I can see my healing pattern.

I revamped my Etsy site and painted like crazy.  Then I started reorganizing my house and cleaning things out.  I blogged about cleaning out my closets.  When I got to my own closet, I was horrified to realize I had so many clothes!  Some things I hadn’t even worn more than once and not because I didn’t want to, but because of the sheer VOLUME of things I had. (The money and time spent on all those clothes is another blog post in itself.)

Some research led me to a selling app called PoshMark.  I literally just started selling off my clothes. (You can get $5 of free credit on PoshMark if you use WORDSMITHSHOP when you sign up).  I can’t communicate the sense of relief I felt from purging my closet. It was like shedding another layer of stress every time I sold an article of clothing. I am still selling and the feeling hasn’t stopped.

Victim

In Restorative Justice, the victim is the one who was harmed and the work focuses on how to repair the harm that has been done.

I never saw myself as a victim during the time I was employed or unemployed.  I would have described myself as angry, defeated, bitter, or hurt, but never as a victim.

God Friended Me
We watch God Friended Me on CBS and Miles the main character, summed up my life during one of his podcasts.

However, when I look back objectively, I can see that I was “victimized.”  I realize that’s a strong word, but it’s also accurate. There was a significant amount of workplace manipulation and intimidation that happened in the company that I had to manage personally. My unemployment was just the grand finale.

I also accept that I made many mistakes as an employee.  Those mistakes were offset by many more highlights.  I learned more than I could ever write about in any blog and I gained more than I ever lost.  That is my truth.

However, my experiences left me scared and my fear snowballed.  The fear made me question everything and the more I questioned, the more fearful I became.  I put pressure on myself.  What if I couldn’t find a job?  Or worse, what if I couldn’t find a job I liked or that didn’t make a difference?  (I can feel my chest tightening even as I write this and relive those thoughts).   If I found a job opportunity or was approached with a job opportunity,  I would panic.  I was afraid of ending up in a situation like I had just left.

Finally, a part-time position opened at a local university that looked interesting. I did my research, applied, interviewed, and got the job.  It turned out to be just what I needed.

A bonus benefit for working there is free education. While I am part-time, I can take classes for free and if I decide to go full-time, my family can go for free.  10 years ago I started my graduate degree, but life got in the way and I never finished.  It has been something I have always wanted to complete.  The timing was perfect.

The part-time hours would also allow me to continue focusing on the Restorative Justice cases which were coming in consistently.  It was becoming clear to me that my passion for meaningful work would be found there.

Community 

Perhaps the single most important lesson I learned in the past year is that I can make a difference no matter where I am or where I work.  I don’t have to sit on boards or gain national attention or even strategize ridiculous office politics to make an impact.

I’ve made important connections in the local community on behalf of Restorative Justice and youth involved in the juvenile justice system. The work is meaningful, interesting, and fulfilling and I enjoy it more than I ever expected.  It really is magic. Magic that I accomplish in only 10 or 12 hours a week.  And I make my own schedule.

It’s All About Me.

The place I am in now is one of balance.  I honestly don’t feel stressed or anxious on most days. I don’t feel overwhelmed or guilty and I am not dropping balls or ceaselessly apologizing to people for missing something.   I am meeting my needs and the needs of my family.  Not only that, I have time for friends.  FRIENDS!

Bit by bit, I have chipped away at the raw, hard, shapeless form I started with a year ago and am starting to relax into this new life I created.

It’s not perfect.  I still question myself and my choices every day.  I question if I deserve to be here, to be happy, to be balanced, to be in control of my choices.  I question my ability to do my job. I question my skills, my qualifications, my potential…But I remind myself to stay in the moment and embrace it.

And I do things to remind myself to stay true.  Like, I got a tattoo with my friend Aleigh.  Something I NEVER thought I would do- the tattoo, I mean.  It was a great day.

Until next time…

Did You Even Know? It’s a Crisis!!

I left that day and thought, “my GOD.  This cannot be over.  We are on the brink of so much greatness. This cannot be the end of my story here.” Until it was.

wordsmithstudios.org

Friends, I have been struggling with  this blog post!  I try to post something once a week.  I would love to do it more, but I just can’t pump stuff out that often and still maintain the rest of my life, which believe it or not, is incredibly busy for someone who is technically not working a full-time job.

Corey calls it the Type A personality in me.  “Denise, you have already gotten yourself into Type A mode again.  You’ve stressed yourself all out and this time, you’ve done it TO YOURSELF.”

True story.

Be that as it may, I have been working extra long on this post.  When I made Corey read it the first time, it was 2500+ words.  Most of my  posts are around 1000-1,500 and many out there are less.  When he finished reading he looked like I had smacked him around a little.  His eyes were all glassy and he was blinking a lot.

“Wow,” he said.  “I might need a little time to absorb this before I can comment on it.  I’m a little overwhelmed.”

Welllll…  Major changes and here we are.  I’ll get right to the point.

Maine, what is happening to us?  Here are some facts about Maine I bet many of you didn’t even know.  If you were aware already, you probably didn’t think much about it.  I know, I am making some assumptions, but frankly, I wouldn’t have thought much about it if I hadn’t been in workforce development for the last 15 years.

The Numbers

 Maine is in crisis.    We are the oldest state in the nation and more people are dying than being born.  So many people are dying that the birth rate can’t keep up with the death rate.  The baby boomers  are nearing retirement age, so we have more older workers in the workforce. As the baby boomers retire, employers can’t find  employees to fill their jobs.  We have MANY great colleges and universities in our state, but those graduates are leaving the state upon graduation.   They are heading out of Maine to pursue what they think are better jobs for better pay.

And they might be right.

Why would new businesses come to Maine without employees to fill their jobs?  Why would a business STAY in Maine without employees to hire?

We need to talk about it because Maine is such a great place to live and raise  a family. I am not alone when I say I believe in our communities and I care about our state.  There is unlimited potential we have yet to tap, potential living within the nooks and crannies of our mountains, along our rivers,  in the valleys, via the highways and byways that make up this state.

Here’s part of the problem and what prompted this post.  The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Grant.  It is a $9 million, federal, job training grant.

WIOA focuses on disadvantaged populations and dislocated workers seeking education, training, or employment.  It can fill in a lot of gaps for people that financial aid or other grants can’t always provide.  There are support services for childcare or transportation.  It pays for books.  It can also pay for adult ed courses like C.N.A or welding.  Classes that can help those who need a boost or aren’t ready to commit to college.  WIOA is the funding that pays for re-training for  dislocated workers; many of the laid off paper mill workers benefited from WIOA training funds.

There is a lot to the grant.   I don’t need to bog you down here (remember 2,500 words? ) If you want to learn more, you can google it.  I will also put a link at the bottom of this post.

I worked under the youth component of WIOA and focused on youth ages 16-24.  Anyone who knows me knows I loved my job, my team, those with whom I worked.  I did damn good work and was recognized for the various contributions I made locally, regionally, and even nationally.

Our organization did great work under that grant.   Everyone I worked with LOVED what they did.  They worked incredibly hard to serve a challenging population and busted ass to do it.

The problems arose when Governor LePage wanted control of that grant, then refused to disburse the funds.  It is why many people who worked under WIOA were laid off, both at my organization and throughout the state.  LePage was later ordered to release the funding and the service providers are now in the process of rebuilding their programs.

My initial draft of this post tried to explain the account in detail; it’s what made it so long.  The moral of the story is Governor LePage has no right to control the WIOA funding because it is a federal grant.  He was ordered to disperse the funds because holding them was illegal.

Why is WIOA and Maine’s employment crisis linked?

The goals of the WIOA grant line up quite nicely with the needs of our state: Work with employers to understand the job market.  Get people trained or get them  credentials that employers say they need. Get people hired.   Make sure they are hired at a livable wage.  Make sure they stay working.

Our  job was to work with individuals, assess their needs, remove their barriers, and  find them viable employment.

ULTIMATELY: Move disadvantaged populations off of state systems.  You know, like welfare?

Anyway,  last Monday I read in the newspaper that Governor LePage is  targeting WIOA funding again.

I get so fired up every time I think about it…About the time  we spent prior to being laid off, working to PROVE our worth to someone who, as our “leader,” should already know what we, as WIOA providers, were doing to work with employers, industry, and individuals.  In some cases, we were doing ground-breaking work.

Yet, he didn’t care.  Instead,  we wasted capacity to run reports and provide the same data over and over.  Internally, we analyzed data, asked questions, reviewed information, double checked files.

I remember our organization hosted this really great economic development conference with fabulous national speakers and great breakout sessions.  It was really well attended and just so freakin’ awesome!  I left that day and thought, “my GOD.  This cannot be over.  We are on the brink of so much greatness. This cannot be the end of my story here.”

Until it was.

Shame on you, Governor LePage

We just can’t lose sight of the most important aspect of our state: the people.  We can’t lose sight of what has made Maine  so great.

wordsmithstudios.org
Is it really?

Having worked with youth for so many years, I am also empowered by the amazing voices young people have raised over the issue of gun violence in the schools.  The march in D.C. and across the U.S should be a wake up call and a reminder that

OUR YOUTH ARE OUR FUTURE.

We cannot afford to let one single youth slip through the cracks of the system.  WIOA is a bridge and a lifeboat for many of those youth.

We need to do everything we can to empower  individuals to develop educational awareness, to learn to navigate systems, and to engage in their communities to become leaders and champions of their own lives and their own futures.

We need to train Mainers.  We need to re-train them.  We need to educate them.  We need to EMPLOY them and keep them employed.  We need to keep them in Maine.  We need to bring people TO Maine to stay.

We need to be helping people reach their potential.  We need to do the right thing.   Perhaps doing the right thing is holding our leaders accountable.  Perhaps it is holding our friends accountable.  Maybe it is listening to our subordinates.  Listening to our co-workers.   Maybe it is just working to keep our kids in Maine.  Or maybe it is organizing a million person march across the state or across the nation.  I don’t know what your right thing is…  But we all need to figure out how to make our contribution because our state, and so many other things,  is spiraling.  And that might sound a little melodramatic, but let it be so.

It is my story after all.

……………………………………………………………………………………….

For  statistics and percentages that back up my facts or for more info about  state, visit these websites:

www.maine.gov/labor/cwri       www.northeasternwdb.org

For the articles I refer to about Governor LePage and the job training funds, please go to:    bangordailynews.com

For information about WIOA, check out:http://www.doleta.gov/wioa/

Why I love the Super Bowl & Surprise! I am not an awesome wife.

Oh the Super Bowl.  So much hype!  I like football. Kinda. My husband, he LOVES football.  Well, aside from softball, but that will be another blog closer to softball season and will be chock FULL of sarcasm and taunting comments about watching reruns of games posted online from 2005. (Rolling eyes now.)  In fact, as I type this I hear an announcer on TV welcome him to the Australian Softball Championship!

Back to business.

My husband LOVES football.  He is a Pats fan.  Probably not a surprise.  We live in Maine…they are the best…Tom Brady is the GOAT…Belichick is someone we love to hate…They have 5 Super Bowl Championships.  What’s not to love? 

During football season, everything is scheduled around football. Every year it takes me awhile to get used to it.  I’ll plan something on Sunday and go about my business while my husband just gets grumpier and grumpier.  What the hell? 

Oh yeahhhh.  It’s football season and the game is on at 1.  Well, why didntcha tell me ya fool?  Ya Could have saved yourself a bunch of grumpycells.  So we adjust.  Kobe wants to use the Playstation?  Nope, it’s Sunday.  Dad’s watching football.  McKenna wants to watch Riverdale?  No (thank God), Dad’s got the TV. And Corey spends the rest of the day almost giddy, yelling and screaming at the television. 

That’s just how football season works around here. 

Super Bowl Selfie

I watch if I am not doing anything better.  I know all the player names and numbers.  As you read earlier, I know Brady is the GOAT.  I know who was traded and Gronk is on the injured list.  Not just because I follow them on Twitter or Instagram (I do) but because my husband just likes to share the information with me. 

I like to believe he cares that it’s me with whom he shares his precious football intel.  Being the awesome wife I am, I step up and nod my head at the right times and ask the appropriate questions.  Some of it just stays with me. 

Especially the info about Amendola and Edelman.  Cause they are hot.  Right ladies?

In reality, Corey just does everything out loud and often times, loudly.  He never stops talking.  Ever.  He walks around the house having conversations with himself.  He talks to the TV.  Talks to FB. He talks to his phone.  If I am in the kitchen, I can hear him down the hall in the bathroom yakking away. I don’t even want to think about who…or what…he is talking to in there. If he watches a funny video on his phone (he does this all.the.time) he laughs long and loud.  I am forever saying “are you talking to me?”   Probably half the time he is not.  Half the time! 

And it doesn’t stop there.  He is constantly asking questions. Which he directs at me, mind you, like I have the answers.   Out of the blue he will ask me things like, “What’s so weird about prime numbers?” “What’s the world’s population at now?” “What is the glacial melt rate?”

20 years ago, I probably would have humored him, engaged in these conversations.  “Jeez, I don’t know. Blah, blah, blah, I read somewhere, heard somewhere…”  Now my answer is more like a look.  An incredulous look that says, “Really, you’re asking me?  Because I know the answer to that?” If anything comes out of my mouth it is usually. “Google it.” or “I bought you an Alexa for that shit.”

He could also just want to share some amazing fact with me.  He’s a really smart guy.  The smart phone has opened up his spongey-fact hungry brain. He is always learning new things and impressed by the information that comes across the amazing machine in his hot little hands. 

I am not as smart or as impressed by my smart phone.  I like shoes and pretty things.  So when he does his impressive intake of breath, ready to impart the impressive fact he just learned–I know it’s coming. I can stop that shit right there– I don’t even have to look up when I say, “NOPE.  I don’t care.”   

So, full disclosure, I am definitely NOT the awesome wife stated earlier. That sentence was all about me feeling good in the moment.   

But I digress.  This is not about me or my man.  We are talking about the Super Bowl here.  The game of games!  

I only kinda like football, but I love the Super Bowl. 

There are actually many things NOT to like about the Super Bowl.  The commercialism.  The obscene amount of money invested in making it happen and keeping people safe and advertising.  All of that money could probably feed several third world countries. 

But, put that aside and look at your FB feed, Instagram, Twitter.  Look at the news, pictures on your phone, the selfies you might have taken with your families.  Then take your magic wand and delete the rioting Philly fans from after the game. They don’t count in this scenario. 

I bet what you see are lots of smiling faces, food, beer, comradery.  Perhaps some of those friends haven’t seen each other in awhile, haven’t watched anything together in awhile, haven’t gone out in awhile and the Super Bowl was an excuse to do all of those things.  I think that’s what makes it special. 

Superbowl Party 2017

It is for us. We usually do something for the Super Bowl.  The past couple of years we have had people over to our house.  Do you know how often we do that?  I think I can count the number of times we have people here on one hand.  We live in the boonies on a private road in the woods.  We don’t even really know HOW to entertain!  We have people over and it’s like the sky is falling.  Corey is running around talking to anything in his vicinity and I am a cleaning maniac.  We don’t know what to do with ourselves. But we do it for the Super Bowl, it’s fun, and it takes us a year to recover.  

And this year’s broadcast was weird.  All of it.  I don’t think it was in the cards for the Pats to win anyway.  The commentary was bad.  Chris Collinsworth and Al Michaels?  Annoying.  Not to mention they got every call WRONG.  If they said the call should be one way, it would undoubtedly be ruled the opposite. Then they would spend the next five minutes trying to justify their bad judgement. 

And the commercials…there were a few funny ones; however, there were a few which left me  scratching my head.  How exactly does driving a Dodge Ram compare you to Martin Luther King, Jr?  Our friend drives a Dodge Ram and he couldn’t tell us either.  Sooo newsflash!  Buying one won’t enlighten you. Or earn you a special day. You have to ACTUALLY be awesome for that. 

Brady didn’t catch that pass.  Then the Eagles ran the exact play perfectly.  I don’t know…seemed like an omen.  And Malcom Butler didn’t play?  Man, that was a conversation we got to have every time the camera flashed to him standing on the sideline. 

And hey, the Pats didn’t win, but they’ve already won 5 times. 
A piece from WorDSMITHstudios
on Etsy.com

Their loss was our gain, because we got to see our friends and we had so much fun talking and laughing about all those weird things.  Oh, how we laughed!  And that’s all that matters to us in the end.  

The laughs and the smiles and the food and the fun. 

Because in the end, we were together.  I forget the rest.  

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.