We are Not Alone

But I do hope there are a few who find inspiration in my authenticity, connection in my vulnerability,  and value in my narrative, for this is how we, as humans, understand each other. This is how we, as humans, recognize that we are not alone.

wordsmithstudios.org

For as long as I can remember, I have loved to read.  When I was a kid and would spend weekends at my grandmothers, my cousins would give me a hard time for having my nose stuck in a book.

“You’re such a bookworm,” they would razz.

wordsmithstudios.org
Remember Sweet Valley High? I read a few…

It’s true.   I can’t stay awake long enough to read an ACTUAL book these days, though.  Instead I listen to audio books I borrow from the library.  I have listened to hundreds of them.  Audio books are an even better choice for  me since they feed my need to multi-task.  I can listen and drive, listen and fold laundry, listen and paint…It is so satisfying to do something you love while you do something you hate–listen and clean, for example.

I  also really like quotes.  Inspirational quotes or funny quotes, sports quotes…it doesn’t matter.  There  is always a quote out there that communicates whatever message I want to send.  I used quotes to send messages of inspiration when I worked with students in my old job.  I had a student who was in jail at one point and that was our thing; I sent him a special quote, one I thought he would identify with and encourage him to hang in there.

Also at my old job,  I would get a quote a day from this website called Values.com.  If I got a quote I particularly liked, I sent it out to the rest of the colleagues in our department.  You know, I thought it was a nice thing to share.  One day my supervisor was like, “So what’s up with the quotes anyway?  Who do you think we are, Hallmark?”

wordsmithstudios.org
One of my favorite quotes by Nelson Mandela

I stopped forwarding them after that.  Clearly, he didn’t appreciate my inspiration.  Ha!

When my goal of being a teacher crashed and burned–that was during my senior year of college  (a  story for a later blog) I got to experience a fifth year of college.  I’m sure many of you can relate to the 5 year plan, right?

For me,  a 5th year of school was one of the best things that ever happened.   I played another year of basketball, I met my husband, and I enrolled in a bunch of writing classes.

I wasn’t interested in writing, but my  life had just blown up.  The only career choice I had ever known was off the table.  And I was an English major!  The only classes  left in my major were writing or communications classes.  So writing it was.

I also spent extra time in class with my basketball teammate and now world-famous, Andrea Gibson.  If you don’t know who she is, you should google her.  She was awesome in college and I am glad the world knows her now, too.  Granted, we had no idea she was such a talented writer and performer, but we were not surprised to learn of it.  She is pretty awesome.

The discovery that I actually enjoyed writing  wasn’t a HUGE  surprise either.  College was the gift that kept on giving.  I was finding out more and more about myself and I just added writing to the list.

So far, I discovered that on the court I could, in fact, play defense in addition to shooting a helluva 3-point shot.   I sucked at teaching. Not really, but you know, long story.   I was really an extrovert (who knew?!).  Boys kinda dug me, in fact there was even this one boy who really, REALLY dug me (except he was shorter than me), I was going to have student loans for the rest of my life, and I STILL had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up.

But hey, at least I could write.  *sigh*

Well, flash forward 20 years later and here I am,  married to that short boy with 2 kids,  both of whom, at 12 and 18 are taller than he, a topic which is also a fun discussion in our home.

That short boy (he will love reading about himself being called this) also led me to something else I love: My Etsy Shop.

My Etsy shop is something I have grown to love more than I could ever begin to write about.  Maybe that’s because Andrea and I skipped the class that focused on emotional descriptors.  Or, more likely it’s because the description has become way more than words can describe.   Andrea and I only skipped one class and we got in trouble for it. The nuns at my college did not appreciate skippers.  Especially skippers who were on the basketball team.  Welp.

I have told this story before, but pre-Etsy life, Corey (that’s my husband’s actual NAME), was working at the one casino we have in our community.  He  worked there for a number of years. He had been promoted several times, was making decent money, and earned himself decent bonus checks each year.

The money was nice, but the bonus checks, ROCKED.  We used those for our extras.  Paid off a car, went on vacation, remodeled our house… But Corey hated the job.  It was really stressful.  He worked long days.  He was on-call when he wasn’t working.  He worked weekends and holidays–holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.  He put on a lot of weight because he would stress eat.  He wasn’t healthy.  He wasn’t happy.

I encouraged him to look for another job, but he was reluctant because the pay and the benefits were so good.  He was the provider, after all.

Finally push came to shove and Corey had a choice.  The casino was downsizing.  He could take another position or he could be laid off.

He chose to be done.  It was the best choice.  But that left us a little out of control.  And that’s not good for me.  I like to fix, remember?   I’m a fixer.  I am the Olivia Pope of the Smith family.

Side note:  Except I am not this season’s Olivia Pope.  I am not Command.  I wear and will always wear the white hat.

My fixing brought me to Etsy.  I had done a little research.  Quotes and words on signs was just becoming big; there wasn’t much of it being done by hand.  I had done a little painting here and there.  I had nice hand writing.  I figured, what the hell?

wordsmithstudios.org
One of the first 8 paintings I put up on Etsy. No one ever bought it. Hahaha

And I launched WorDSMITHstudios.

The first paintings I did were horrible.   I look back at them now and I can’t even believe it.  I think Corey was thinking I was a little crazy, too.  Crazy like, whothehellisgoingtobuythatshit, crazy.   Even still, I sold my first painting the very first day I went live.  And I have been painting ever since.

The biggest surprise, and I continue to be surprised, is that I expected Etsy sales to be a transaction on a website, a sale between 2 people who never meet, talk, or interact. However, it has been so much more than that. 

Etsy is about relationships.  It has been about sharing stories about loved ones or about love lost.  It has been about connecting over children and the challenges we have in raising them, about being moms and feeling guilty when we work, or when we don’t.

wordsmithstudios.org
Some of the work I am doing now. MUCH better.

Etsy has been about supporting each other in our craft, looking out for each other and the work we do to create  a community of talent and sharing it with others across the world.

I am not going to get rich off my art.  That’s ok.  But I will be rich in my soul from the tremendous amount of fulfillment the love of this craft brings me.

It’s the same kind of fulfillment writing this blog brings me.  I won’t be a famous writer.  Thousands of people won’t read my thoughts.  I certainly won’t be going on tour with Andrea any time soon, sharing her stage with my spoken word.  But I do hope there are a few who find inspiration in my authenticity, connection in my vulnerability,  and value in my narrative, for this is how we, as humans, understand each other.

This is how we, as humans,  recognize that we are not alone.

This is how we create relationships and relationships are where we find meaning in our lives.  It’s where we find love, happiness,and hope.

Because life is about relationships.

You Love Winter? I Call Bulls#&t.

Sure, sledding is fun.  I used to have fun sledding, too.  But I also remember being cold and wet and peeing my pants.

wordsmithstudios.orgWell, we just endured another Nor’ester in Maine.  This one, THE worst of the season,  came on the heels of last week’s “worst of the season.”  I have been  thinking  about how much I hate winter.  I especially hate it this time of year, when we have already had our fill of Nor’easters and are just ready to put our feet on some soft green grass, look up at clear blue sky, and hear the birds sing.

Then out of nowhere, I  heard someone say, “I loooovvve winter!” in my head.  I jumped and looked around because I don’t even know who said it!  It just trilled in my head and knocked around a little, you know, like the ball in a pinball machine?  Maybe it was Big Mouth Denise  trying to antagonize me or maybe it was some ghost from the past, but it freaked me out.  Because seriously,

who the hell in their right mind loves winter?

wordsmithstudios.org
My front yard after the storm. Yeah, it’s pretty.

I mean, I get that it can be pretty when the snow  comes down and if you are a skier or snowmobiler you get to do those things, but come on, really?  When push comes to shove, do you like winter or are you just making the best of a shitty situation?

Here are a few things I’d like  to remind you of:

  1. Shoveling & snow-blowing. Ok, pretty obvious, we know they suck. If you have to shovel more than a few feet of heavy snow, your back feels it pretty quickly no matter who you are or what your age.

And listen, I call bullshit to those of you out there who say they PREFER snowblowing to plowing.  I understand paying someone to plow can be expensive and purchasing said plow can be an upfront expense many can’t afford.  Hell, I couldn’t afford it.  My Dad bought the plow we have.  He bought the plow and then promptly bought himself a winter home in Florida.

Now as I write this, I even wonder if that plow purchase was a pity purchase?  “Sorry, kid.  I’m going to Florida, but here, I got you your very own plow!  Enjoy!”  Or perhaps it was purchased out of guilt.  “Hey so, we just bought this great place in Florida.  But don’t worry, your Old Man didn’t leave you with nothing.  I got YOU a PLOW!”

In any case, we have it and we appreciate it every time my daughter tells us to get our asses out there and get to plowing. <insert rolling eye emoji>

Anyway,  snow-blowing is not fun.  It’s cold and wet.  And it takes FOREVER.  I don’t care how bad your OCD is, perfectly snow-blown  driveways  or walkways are not worth frozen toes. And if someone were to offer up a warm plow-truck, hot coffee, and sports talk on the radio like my dad did, I find it hard to believe none of you yahoos would accept it.

2. Snow down your boot, back, mitten, neck, pants.  I cringe and get goose bumps even now as I think about it.  It never matters how high my boots are, every time I walk out to my car, snow gets in my boots.  I could wear waders and I would get snow in my boots!

But here’s the thing, in the summer if you stand under the sprinkler or someone douses you with water– THAT  doesn’t feel like you were just stabbed in the foot with 1,000 tiny needles!

wordsmithstudios.org
credit: word porn

3. Snow flying off someone else’s car and onto your windshield.  I had a friend who actually caught a full windshield of ice from the car in front of him.  It busted his windshield all up.  He wasn’t hurt, fortunately.

Sunshine doesn’t fly off the car in front of you and bust up your windshield.  Enough said.

4. Heating your house, well, unless money grows on trees for you. This is a real issue for us, Mainers.  Where I live the option is oil or electricity.  My parents did just get one of those fancy heat pumps and that seems to be working well for the small apartment they don’t use in the winter.  (Florida, remember?) And of course, there are the alternative forms of energy like solar or wind.

Like I said, reality in my neck of the woods is oil.  My house is pretty new,  making it relatively energy efficient.  It would be even more energy efficient if my husband would just listen to me already and do some simple winterizing in the fall.  Or even in the winter for that matter. (I can’t do everything, ok?). But it still takes a good chunk to heat this place. And I try to keep the thermostat at 69 or 70. Still, my daughter is always complaining she is cold.

The shorts and t-shirt probably don’t help.

What double sucks is our driveway is right in front of where the oil intake is.  So every time there is a snowstorm and we plow,   we (my husband) also have to shovel a path through that gigantic snow pile for the oil guy.

Winter sucks.

5. Raking the roof.  We have a porch on the front of our house.  I love it.  It’s charming and cute and nice to sit and rock on in the summer.  Ya know, when it’s warm?  In the winter, it’s a snow collector.  After a snow storm like the one we just experienced, it holds 2+ feet of snow up there.  My son, whose room overlooks that porch, can’t see out his window.  That porch, which my son views as an escape route in an emergency, becomes a source of fear because if anything happens, he AIN’T getting out.

Wordsmithstudios.org
Snow pile in front of my house with      snow on the porch roof

So we have to rake the roof.  Well of course, we don’t have a roof rake. (That’s how we roll at the Smiths.)  One day I called every hardware store and big box store in a 25 mile radius looking for a roof rake and EVERY SINGLE ONE was sold out.  So I did what I should have done in the first place:  I called my Aunt Bev.

“Of course I have a roof rake,” she said.  Of course she has a roof rake, I said.  DUH.  So I picked it up and promptly spent the next  3 torturous hours pulling and yanking heavy, wet snow from our porch roof, only to have the weather turn warm the next day.

Literally, it was 45 degrees and everything melted.

F’n Maine winters. It’s like Mother Nature just rubbing her power in your face.

I mean, I see all your sledding photos on Facebook with your smiles and happy faces.  Sure, sledding is fun.  I used to have fun sledding, too.  But I also remember being cold and wet and peeing my pants. Yeah, I peed my pants!  I would get to laughing so hard that whoops there it is pee in my pants.  It’s a thing.  Maybe I will write more about it someday, but all you need to know now is that no, I’ve never gotten over it.  Maybe I am a little bitter.  But it definitely isn’t influencing my feelings about winter.

So there.  I listed 5 reasons that winter sucks.  Perhaps I listed 5 of the most obvious reasons.  You could say, “Yeah, Denise, when you say it like that, winter sounds so bad. But you did list like 5 of the WORST things.”  (Spoken in that kind of nasally, whiny voice some people use when they want to argue but they really know they have LOST the argument.) 

Not true my friends.  I left a lot out.  I mean, I could have written about dry skin, chapped lips, getting stuck (that’s a big one), falling on the ice, potholes, slippery roads, ridiculous commutes, dirty cars, dirty snow, iced up windshield wipers…

Do I really need to go on?  I mean, didn’t I have you at bulls%@t?

I Used to Be Somebody

I used to be somebody.   I was challenging people as if I had everything together and knew it all, had it all, had The Universe by the balls. What do I do now that I am a nobody?

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I used to be somebody

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

When I was working it was a question I asked of  the young people who sat across from me.  These young, insecure, anxious kids were afraid–afraid of failing and afraid of succeeding.  Often I would challenge them with what seemed to me like a simple task, perhaps it was to make a phone call or to arrive to class or work on time or to ask a question during a meeting.

I would say, “Why don’t you ask that question at your next meeting?” or “Why don’t you call your caseworker/RA/supervisor/landlord and ask?” So often the answer would be:

“I can’t.”

What would you do if you knew you could not fail? 

I have challenged my son the same way, though probably not with the exact same question.   He is is smarter than both my husband and I and very outgoing and articulate.

Frankly, being smarter than me isn’t a huge accomplishment, but my husband, HE is pretty smart.  He won’t admit it, but he kinda has a photographic memory.  I say ‘kinda’ because he often forgets when I ask him to do something, like pick up the shit he leaves laying around or that yesterday I told him why I had to leave early today.  But he remembers almost everything he Googles and reads on Facebook.  And judging by the time he spends on both of those, he has A LOT of stuff stored up in that absorbent, photographic brain of his.

Corey’s excuse about not picking up his mess or remembering my schedule is that I never told him in the first place.  That’s stupid and totally his way of messing with me– if I am questioning myself, I can’t blame him.  (Smart, right??)

Did I really forget to tell him to pick up his crap or did I just say it in my head??  Well…who cares!?  He is a grown man;  he should know better.  That’s my go-to argument anyway.  All the while I am questioning myself in my head because I do have a memory problem and forget just about everything I don’t write down on my hand.

Anyway, Kobe is really smart.  The kid loves documentaries and has watched everything he can on Netflix.  So between that, YouTube, and his iPhone, he has harnessed the internet to educate himself and man, he just KNOWS things.  I shake my head in amazement everyday.

He is also incredibly articulate.

Me as keynote speaker during a local chamber awards dinner

And he does really great in school except for one subject: writing.  There is a reason for this, but it’s a long story and doesn’t really matter.  What matters is he hates his class and doesn’t like to ask for help.  The teacher will specifically ask the students if anyone needs help and he won’t ask for help.  If I ask him why,  he just says,

“I can’t.”

*sigh.*

wordsmithstudios; I used to be somebody
When I was in NYC to present at the Federal Reserve

“I can’t,” is so hard for me to hear.  I’m a fixer.  If there is an issue, I hate not being able to FIX IT.   If a challenge comes up in conversation, ANY conversation, I immediately shift  into fix it mode.  My friends will want to vent to me and will have to preface the venting session  with, “Denise, I don’t want you to fix it.  I just want to vent.”  Because they know.  They know for me, it hurts to not SOLVE THE PROBLEM…to take action… to just fix it.

And so here I am, 45 and 3 months into unemployment.  In so many ways I am at peace.  I feel settled at home and continue to enjoy creating a relatively stress free home for my family.   When my husband leaves for work, he even asks what we are having for dinner.  Because he is excited about eating what I make.

Like, when has that ever happened in my 20 years of marriage?

(The answer to that is NEVER, friends.  It has never happened.)

Well, I recently listened to Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert.  I am an audio book listener.  I can’t read anymore.  I just fall asleep.  But I can listen to audio books while I am painting or cleaning or cooking or driving.  So I have listened to a bazillion books.  I LOVE Elizabeth Gilbert.  I loved Eat, Pray, Love.   I connected with that book so deeply. I read it maybe 3 times.  I felt she was literally speaking to me when she wrote it.  I loved her take on spirituality, on God, on life.  I feel like we are friends.

In Big Magic, Liz also asks the question.  She asked me, “Denise, what would you do if you knew you could not fail?  Would you trust yourself, your talents, your work?  Would you put yourself out there and trust that The Universe will provide for you?”

I cried.  I have been busting my ass writing a blog barely anyone reads, marketing mediocre talent in an Etsy shop with mediocre sales.  I just started a PoshMark closet .  I work 10 hours a week for a non-profit that helps juveniles stay out of the justice system.  The most positive feedback I get in a day is that my dinner tasted good.

I used to be somebody.

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

I think that’s what hit me the hardest.  I was asking that question to others and I was asking it while on some pedestal in a holier than thou spot in The Universe believing I was all that and a bag of chips.   Challenging people as if I had everything together and knew it all, had it all, had The Universe by the balls.

Because I was somebody.

What do I do now that I am a nobody?

We’ll need an arsenal if there is a zombie apocalypse.

America, gun violence is a thing.  Having too many guns IS A THING.  And America is known for it. Guns cannot be more important than human beings. Life is about relationships. Let’s start creating some.

Dear America,

I don’t know what’s happened to you. I watch the news and I see chaos.  I watch CNN and see clips of protests—protests I am used to watching happen in other countries—I read my Facebook feed and read friendships and families divided.  People are being deported, politicians can’t do their jobs, women are outing their harassers after (sometimes) YEARS of inexcusable behavior.  And our kids are afraid to go to school because they might get shot down as they learn their ABC’s or algebra.

Admittedly, America looks and feels a lot messier than we want it to, but I am thankful we still live in a free country.  It is nice to know that unless I am on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, just broke out of jail,  am criminally connected to the mafia or in some other gang related occupation, it’s unlikely I will ever NEED an assault rifle of any kind.

My son and I talk about that sometimes—how lucky we are.  We could have been born in a country at war like Afghanistan or Syria.  We could have been born into a country where we have NO rights like North Korea or even somewhere in Latin America where people just get murdered all the time (Wikipedia has the stats if you want to fact check). Those are places we would need an assault rifle. Multiple assault rifles and an arsenal of guns in our basement or better yet in the coat closet by the front door.  If we even had a door.  That would be a luxury too probably.   In one of those countries, we would be fighting for our family’s survival every day.

Oh, and we would need an arsenal if there were a zombie apocalypse.  I’m sure that is an argument someone will make.  Fortunately, it is still general consensus that the zombie apocalypse is not real despite how awesome the tv show is.

I know what I have described is mostly just reasonable thought and lacks statistics, so here is a short video my husband found on Facebook.  He spends a lot of time there watching cat videos since he is getting tired of the crazy shit going on in the news.  I encourage everyone, whatever you believe, to watch it BEFORE you revert to your standard go-to opinion on the gun debate.

https://www.facebook.com/Vox/videos/841874856000118/

Finished? If you are, and I hope you really did watch,  because you saw that yeah America, gun violence is a thing.  Having too many guns IS A THING.  And America is known for it.

And before you revert back to that go-to argument, America, think about how you would feel if it were YOUR son, daughter, wife, husband, loved one who was a victim of the violence?  Would you still say guns don’t kill people?  Would you still say we don’t need to change our situation?  Would you REALLY?

What are we going to do?

Desensitization is also a thing.  I dare say I speak for many Americans when I say I feel like I/we have become a bit desensitized to violence or to situations that don’t effect me directly.

I don’t play video games by the way, so we can’t blame them.

I do tend to compartmentalize things.  Sometimes that is THE only way I can manage my emotions—I put them away in a box in my head and lock them up.  My kids are safe and happy.  My world is safe and happy.  So my strategy has been to look at the TV, feel bad…and move on…

Until a few days ago, I am not even sure I would have written about something like this. Something so controversial and emotional.  Writing  about something so raw rattles at the lock on my compartment.

Except that during the news coverage of the Florida school shooting, I saw the news clips of students talking to the news and they said things like, and I am paraphrasing, “We knew he was going to shoot up the school one day,”  and  “I wasn’t surprised when I found out it was him.”

And that BLEW THE LOCK OFF THE COMPARTMENT.  My eyes bugged out of my head.  I got mad and sad.  Mad at myself.  Mad at the media.  Mad at a system who puts guns into the hands of anyone who wants one.

Quote from Parkland School Shooting survivor, Emma Gonzales

Sad for a system who let a young man become so angry he resorted to violence to be seen…to be recognized…to be heard.

Mad at the culture who just keeps chanting that guns don’t kill people.

Except that there are too many lives lost and too many guns.

I mean, REALLY?  This is where we are now?  We have become so complacent about our fellow classmates, students, friends, humans, that this is where we are?

Can’t we all just SEE each other?  Can’t we just LISTEN to each other? Can’t we put aside the radical thoughts and look at what is best for everyone?  What is best for the vulnerable?  What will keep people safe?  (and we know it’s not more guns). 

From Author Tom Digby https://www.facebook.com/tomdigby3/posts/1445953932167458

The victims of these crimes must be heard and must be examples on which we base our future.  “I hear you” needs to be far more than a talking point on a list held on a piece of paper by our President.  We need action that creates change and change that saves lives.

I am not pointing fingers and I don’t have a solution.

But I know people aren’t evil.  We have created these situations and we need to start looking at ourselves to fix them.

Listen to the victims of the crimes.  Listen to the broken.

America, guns cannot be more important than human beings.

Life is about relationships.  Let’s start creating some.

Respectfully,  A dangerously optimistic citizen feeling dangerously close to giving up on America’s ability to do the right thing

 

 

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.