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.
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.
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.
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).
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.)
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.
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….
…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.
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.