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/

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?

wordsmithstudios
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

 

 

Do I Really Have an 18 Year Old??

Stories of love, laughter, and inspiration. Read about what moves me, frustrates me, and most importantly EMPOWERs me as I learn how to rewrite the script of life by blending art and words.

My daughter turned 18 Sunday.  18.  There are so, so many things that run through my head that correspond to that sentence.  I mean-  The first is, She is 18; she is an adult!  But then  my mind goes a little crazy, ya know? Like:

  • She is 18. I can kick her out anytime I want with no consequences.
  • I just blinked and she is 18!
  • She is FINALLY 18.
  • She is damn lucky she made it to 18.
  • My baby is 18???
  • I am old enough to have an 18-year-old?
  • Really? I am really old enough to have an 18-year-old?

And that is where I sit. Obviously, 18 has been coming.  I know how to count.  We have been preparing for this for the last 18 years.

It really sunk in a few weeks ago, when she and I went to a doctor’s appointment.  Lately, she has been going into the appointments by herself.  It’s new, but no big deal.  Less for me to worry about and more independence for her.   This time when she returned to me in the waiting room she had one of those sh*t-eating grins on her face and proudly announced she had gotten her tetanus booster during her appointment.  While I was in the waiting room. And I hadn’t heard any screams or cries.

She had gotten a shot allbyherself.  This child…oh man…this child has helled me over the years with shots.  She has been DEATHLY afraid of needles and has gotten herself so worked up and hysterical that half the time I had to  BEG the doctor/nurse/C.N.A/ whomever had the needle in hand,  to perform the procedure and get it over with because said  doctor/nurse/C.N.A/ whomever had the needle in hand was so freaked out by her reaction THEY didn’t dare administer the injection.

And that was  barely 3 months ago when she had her wisdom teeth out.

McKenna after breaking her wrist at age 2

When McKenna  was 2 she fell off the jungle gym and broke her wrist.  At the ER, they tried to give her a shot for the pain and she was so strong she shoved two nurses off of her. One was just starting the injection and wasn’t prepared to be hefted aside so easily.  The nurse dragged the needle down the side of McKenna’s thigh as she was pushed by that angry 2-year-old.   She still has a scar!

Back to present day injection completed.  Sh*t eating grin meets WTF? face.

“How the hell did you manage that?” I asked incredulously.   She shrugged and said, “Well, I told myself I couldn’t be 18 and still need my mom to hold my hand while I got a shot.”

That was when it hit me that I have an 18-year-old.  This child…this child whom I can still feel inside me, rolling around kicking, all the time kicking, and whom I always imagined was always just bursting to GET OUT into the world and start – This child who was almost literally pooped out in the toilet just yesterday, is 18.

1 week old & not looking at all like a toilet baby. 🙂

Ahem.  Pooped out in a toilet?  Yup.  She was born almost 2 weeks early and almost in the toilet. I didn’t know what childbirth felt like.  I just knew I felt like I needed to poop.  So by the time I got to the hospital, I couldn’t imagine why I needed to poop SO BAD and WHY wouldn’t it just come out already!!??  Then imagine how upset I was to learn my carefully written birth plan, which included an epidural, was null and void because my baby was already crowning!

And I had been trying to poop her out.  Nobody tells you that stuff!  Am I right?  Except now I do.  If you are pregnant and I halfway know you, I will tell you.  Because no one told me and look what happened.  I almost had my baby in the toilet.

Then I think.  Holy sh*t.  She is almost 18.  She is leaving for college in New Hampshire in 7 months. and counting.

Hallelujah!

Did I say that out loud? Now I feel guilty again. *sigh* You just don’t understand.  Let me explain.   McKenna has been a little challenging.  We joke about it now.  She and I.  Corey and I and just about anyone who sits beside us at an athletic event.   Or at any event.  Or in line at the grocery store.  Or anywhere really. Sorry strangers.  We aren’t really crazy.  Or bad parents.  I don’t think…We just TALK about it.  It’s like our therapy.

There was this time when she was about 3 or 4 and she broke down a wooden door when because we put her in time out.  Yeah, she kicked it.  It cracked right down the middle.  She had temper tantrums like that.  Really bad ones and the only way to get past them was to wait it out with her in time out, in her room, with us holding the door closed.  Really tight.  Sometimes for a REALLY long time.

When she got older she would stay in her room for time-out, but she would scream bloody murder at the top of her lungs.  Sometimes she would throw stuff at the door or the wall.  Really big stuff cause she was always really strong.  It’s a good thing we live in the boonies because people would have called the cops.  They would have thought we were killing her.  Sometimes I felt like killing her, but I never tried.  Really.  Corey and I would walk to the end of our driveway and wait.  Sometimes for a really long time.

She has always been very persistent.

Our biggest challenge came elementary school. It was a different kind of challenge, though.  McKenna began struggling with crippling anxiety.  There were days she wouldn’t go to school or get on the bus because of the noise.  There were MANY days she would call me with headaches because the anxiety would manifest itself into a migraine.  She didn’t want to leave me at all. (And frankly, some of the school staff were a**holes.  That didn’t help!)  Ultimately, we had to go through tons of testing to make sure she was experiencing anxiety and didn’t have a brain tumor or something else medically wrong.

It was a terrible, horrible time for all of us. And I am thankful I had an understanding employer and a wonderful psychologist friend who snuck us to the top of her therapy list.  Through individual therapy and family therapy, we got through it.

And we learned that McKenna struggles with anxiety.  Once we knew that, we knew how to get through it and life got a little easier.  We had strategies and support.

Over the years, I have viewed that experience as a defining family moment and probably McKenna looks back to see it as helpful as well.  I think she has learned to adapt in her life to see that despite feeling anxious, if she does [whatever she is concerned about] she will get through it and be ok.

She continues to manage the anxiety.  It has bubbled up in pockets.  The fact remains that she is still a teenager and a pretty high-strung one at that.  I haven’t fantasized about kicking her out because life has been perfect.  I mean, she is perfect on the outside.  And sometimes I will share some of our challenges with people who know McKenna and they will be shocked.  She saves her ugly for us because we are the safe space for her. That’s a good thing.

Doesn’t make it any easier for us when the ugly comes out.

After winning the conference softball title

But the fact remains.  For all intents and purposes, my kid is perfect.  It cannot be denied.  She is a gifted athlete—Softball is her sport and last year she won every award in her conference Pitcher of the Year and  Player of the Year.  Then  she was chosen as the top softball player in the state.  Her team won their state championship trophy for the second year in a row.  She is going to college and will play softball at the Division II level and plans to be a Dermatologist.  She plays other sports and excels in those.  She is also an excellent student who ranks 4th in her class.   She has a 4.0 GPA.  She is in National Honor Society.  She volunteers.  She holds down a part-time job and pays for her own gas for her car, all of her own extras like food or fun.  She has never gone to a party.  In fact, her kind of party is to have her friends over HERE to have a fire and play Manhunt on the back lawn.  She has never had a speeding ticket.  Or a detention.

One of her many beautiful senior photos

Oh, and she is beautiful.

And we argue like crazy.  I am the task master.  I make her do her chores, hold her accountable, ask her questions.  And what teenager likes that??  I can’t help it.  I’m the mom and that’s my damn job.  But why is it when I ask her a question she can’t just tell me the answer?   Why do I get snapped at when I ask innocent questions?  Why can’t she just do her chores without me having to nag?  Why can’t she turn off the lights or put away her clothes or pick up her trash?!  Why does it feel like she is only nice to me when she wants something?

Why? Well, she is a teenager for one.  And she is just.like.me.

There.  I said it.

She is just like me.  She looks like me, she acts like me, she gets stressed out like me.  Her baseline disposition is like mine.

Twinsies!

Why is that a problem?  Because most days I have to convince MYSELF to like myself.

So, when she walks in the door demanding someone go outside and plow the driveway cause, hello? It’s snowing!  I look at her and think, “who the hell do you think you are?”

Or when she is doing her homework at the dining room table and she insists the entire house be quiet because SHE is trying to concentrate, I look at her and think, “who the hell do you think you are?”

Ohhhh, I know.  Me.  I remember being that teenager, the strong-minded, verbal, everything revolves around me personality full of emotion and ready to fight.  I remember  expecting everyone to adapt everything they were doing to make my life work.  HELL, I kind of do that now.

When she walks out of the softball dugout, dirty, sunburnt, and pi*sed off because she knows she could have played better and she is crying even though they won the game, I look at her and think, “who the hell do you think you are?”

Oh, I know.  ME.   Every missed shot or attempt and competitive bone in her body.  I can have experienced it.  It’s why I yell so loudly on the sideline.  Because it’s the only thing I can do now to contribute.  I feel the grit, the sand, the anger when she misses.  I want to kick the dirt, the bag, the chair.  I want to cry with her because I have been there.  I want to yell, “CRY! Go ahead! Jump up and down and scream.  I completely get it.  Kick that glove across the field.  That girl should have totally caught that ball!”

But I can’t, because I am her mother, and being a team player is more important.  Losing with grace is more important.

When she tells me how she spots drivers texting and driving on the highway and purposely drives past them and calls them out  by making the universal sign for “shame on you” with her fingers or how she “mothers” her friends by scolding them on their poor choices.

I know.  Every time I know.  I am there in every moment she is speaking and demanding and mothering everyone.  It is me.   She only got it from me.  I want to say, “You are so right.  They are making poor choices and let’s call their mother.”  Or “Honey, you aren’t their mother and they are going to resent you for trying to be.”

But I can’t, because I am her mother and she needs to learn how to communicate and navigate her relationships.

18-year McKenna doesn’t yet have the life experience of 45-year-old Denise.  Her edges are a little bit sharper. Her tone a little bit tougher.  But that’s ok.  When I was 18, my edges were also sharp.  I learned as she will learn and I grew as she will grow.  All those edges and hard lines will soften. Because one thing she has learned is she can do anything she puts her mind to.  That’s not something I taught her.  That’s a lesson she learned all on her own.

What she doesn’t know is that SHE has been my gift.  Watching her struggle and learn and conquer and become the adult that she is now and will be has been the ride of a lifetime.  Oh, I know I crab and I bitch and I cry about all the things that make me CRAZY, but that’s in the moment.  In the moment, things are different.  In the moment, every edge is sharper.  It is in the moments of reflection that I really appreciate the complexity of McKenna.

from WorDSMITHstudios on Etsy.com

Those who truly love her also appreciate her complexity.

McKenna is perfection.  McKenna wouldn’t be the same if she wasn’t all of herself packed into her great big personality.  McKenna is beautiful.  Inside and out.

Yup, I have an 18-year-old.

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.