because life doesn’t fit in a file folder

Things We Should Never Assume

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 POST-PUBLICATION NOTE: WordPress automatically changed the title of my piece to “Things Pro-Choice Proponents Should Never Assume,” — which feels creepy to me. I have manually gone in and changed the title back. I hope you will will read to the end for the larger purpose of this piece.

The beauty of our country is that we have the right to agree to disagree. We can resolve things through voting and debate, but some topics strike such a tender chord with people, it is sometimes difficult to have any dialogue at all.

When I was in college and graduate school in the late 1980s – early 1990s, I believed that every educated person was Pro-Choice.

It seemed obvious.

I didn’t recognize it at the time, but this assumption was actually built into the course syllabus.

Folks with higher degrees were The Smart People.

And Smart People were, of course, Pro-Choice.

Pro-Lifers were religious zealots.

Duh.

In 1991, I landed my first job teaching 3rd grade English as a Second Language. I worked with a teacher whom I adored. Kathy was smart, generous, kind, and warmhearted. She treated every child equally. She arranged the desks in neighborhoods and talked about community responsibilities. She bedazzled her bulletin boards and spent a lot of time doing little things she believed mattered to her students.

And her students loved her.

In the spring of 1992, as the debate over Roe v. Wade heated up, an event was planned in front of Buffalo’s GYN/Women Services. My friends and I agreed it was our obligation to ensure that women were able to make their appointments free from harassment from the notorious rabble-rousers who were coming to town. After all, GYN/Women Services provided prenatal care and regular obstetrics appointments for its many patients. It was not a killing field. It was a medical office that mainly provided routine office procedures like breast exams and pap smears in addition to providing legal abortions.

I went to the rally with two friends.

It was pandemonium.

People screamed at each other from both sides of the street. On both sides of the issue. I didn’t like the things the Pro-Choice people were chanting: things like “Keep your rosaries off my ovaries,” and offensive rhymes which dragged religion into the issue. My friends and I didn’t have a problem with anyone’s religious practices, and we didn’t want to be associated with all that noise. So we wandered across the street to CVS and bought some electrical tape.

And we taped our mouths shut.

Truth is, we had been just as offended by what people on “our” side of the street were chanting as we were by the 7-foot images of partially formed fetuses that the folks on the Pro-Life side were holding.

And we wanted to separate ourselves from the rhetoric.

Symbolically.

It would have been nice to have had an opportunity to express that. But no one asked for our story.

Reporters and photographers were busy looking for one cool image.

And their camera lenses landed on us.

When our picture was published in LIFE magazine, I brought a copy to school to show Kathy, my teacher-friend. I wanted to talk to her about the caption which read “Women tape their mouths shut to represent The Silent Majority who favor safe, legal abortion” — and how that didn’t quite capture the whole story.

I wanted to tell her about how proud I was for standing up for my views, but how — at the end of the day — when the news vans with their giant satellite dishes had driven away, I felt a little like a pawn in someone else’s chess game. How it had occurred to me everyone had an agenda and we, women, had been pitted one against the other by religious leaders and politicians, by media spokespeople who encouraged participants from both sides of the street to shout louder when their cameras were rolling.

Kathy looked at me coolly and said:

“I guess we were on different sides of the street that day.”

Honestly, it was the first time I realized that intelligent people — really intelligent people — could be on the “other” side of the issue.

Kathy and I worked side by side for the rest of the year, but our interactions were different. I learned so much from her: how to treat children with dignity, how to walk the fine line between friend and disciplinarian, how to integrate non-native speakers of English into the larger class: so many things. One afternoon, I tried for the umpteenth time to discuss the the topic with her. I so wanted to make things right.

“Let’s just agree to disagree,” she said.

I never realized an issue could be so divisive that it could destroy a friendship.

But it did.

Kathy taught me to keep politics and religion out of the workplace.

To be silent about “personal” matters.

But the personal is always political, and thirty years later, we are seeing what happens when people stay silent.

I still believe women must continue to have the right to make their own decisions regarding anything that impacts their bodies. I still believe that abortion must remain a safe and legal procedure for women who find themselves having to make difficult, life-altering decisions.

And I also realize that many other people still believe something 100% different.

Which is annoying.

And frustrating.

And this is what happens in a democracy.

It is, however, possible to be vocal & respectful when expressing oneself with regard to a controversial topic.

If nothing else, Kathy taught me there are many legitimate sides to every issue. It is essential we understand that in acknowledging the opposing sides of the argument, we are not weakening our own stance.

Unfortunately, I believe that we are in for many more dark days ahead as for as the political situation in our country. That being said, we can only control ourselves, and while *certain leaders* may be normalizing disrespectful behavior and uninformed rhetoric, it behooves us to sift through the rhetoric of our politicians and remember to be civilized with each other.

Ever lose a friend as a result of political or religious differences? Which, if any, of your core beliefs have changed over the last 20 years? 

tweet me @rasjacobson

Get Well: An Interview with Musician and Benzo Warrior Kraig Rieger

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As many of you know, I was profoundly injured by long-term benzodiazepine use. In 2014, while disabled and mostly homebound, I began writing about my experience with benzodiazepine withdrawal in my online blog.

Five years later, Kraig Rieger found my blog.

Suffering from hundreds of horrifying symptoms, he read that I’d healed and reached out to me via email for support. Though we live thousands of miles apart in completely different time zones, we’ve been communicating for close to a year, and it brings me great joy to share this interview I did with him about the CD he has managed to produce despite the fact that he is, in fact, very sick.

GET WELL chronicles the horrors associated with a syndrome that is not recognized by most medical professionals. Like so many of us who have been harmed, Kraig hopes to raise awareness about the dangers associated with medications commonly prescribed by physicians.

…………………………………………………..

RASJ:  What were you like pre-benzos? What were your interests?

KR:      Most of the interests that I had pre-benzos have stayed the same. I’ve always enjoyed NBA basketball, pro wrestling, reading, different genres of rock music, exercising, movies, etc. I played sports in high school, including basketball and soccer, and I have continued to follow basketball throughout my life. The hard thing about life pre-benzo and life now is I find it much harder to connect with hobbies and interests and mustering the energy to care about things can be difficult at times. I sort of have to force myself to care about things. One of the most difficult things for me is my interest in going to concerts has completely disappeared. I always think about buying tickets, and then I worry about how I’m going to feel on that particular day and decide it’s not worth it.

RASJ: What brought you to benzos in the first place?

KR:      About ten years ago, I had some sleep-related issues that were a result of anxiety because of a job I took after college. Initially, the medication helped, and then it didn’t.

RASJ:   How did you end up deciding to go off the drugs? How was it handled?

KR:      I was off and on benzos for many years, and I quit taking them cold-turkey several times not knowing you aren’t supposed to do that. At one point, after I abruptly stopped taking them, I became terribly depressed. I started having crying spells and feeling like I was genuinely losing my mind. Looking back now, I would do things very differently.

RASJ:   What is your life like now? What are your greatest challenges as you move thru this weird healing?

KR:      It’s been about two years since I quit taking the medication. I still struggle with inexplicable anger when forced to confront any stress and oftentimes for no discernible reason; I also have bouts of severe depression for no apparent reason. I have burning sensations in random places on my body, most noticeably my face and my calves, and my vision is blurry. Anhedonia – the absence of joy — is another tough symptom I’ve had the entire time. I bought a new guitar during this recovery, and my wife was like: “You’re not even excited.” The lack of joy and happiness has been the hardest thing to cope with on top of other tough mental symptoms.

RASJ:   What motivated you to create this CD?

                         *Kraig Rieger, 2020

KR:      I tend to gravitate to a guitar regardless of feeling good or bad, so I just started working on songs regardless of feeling bad. It took me about a year after quitting the medication to even have a tiny spark of desire to compose anything new. While going thru this process, people tend to become completely consumed by terrible, dark thoughts, and I figured it would be a good chance to write a concept album all about the same subject. Overall, playing guitar and writing songs has been a good distraction throughout the misery.

RASJ:   Which songs do you connect with most deeply?

KR:      I wrote “Walks” in about a day. It’s a really simple song, but the bridge has a pretty interesting chord progression that is fun to play. The opening line references taking walks outside, which I’ve done throughout this process to ground myself and feel some semblance of normality.

“Seasons” is one of my favorite songs on the album. I almost didn’t record it because we had nine songs done at that point. I like how my voice sounds on this track, and the song details how long the process of feeling better can take as you pass through season after season, year after year, not feeling well.

“Mirrors” is the first song that I wrote for the album. It details how devastating an invisible illness can be. I look at myself in the mirror, and the bizarre thing is that I don’t look like anything is wrong with me at all. On the outside, I even look pretty healthy physically. It’s amazing how appearances can be so deceiving.

RASJ:   What else do you want people to know about this CD?

KR:     The most interesting part of recording this album is I worked on it with Nate Smith, another person currently going through benzo withdrawal himself, someone I met on a forum. I would send Nate the recording with rhythm guitar, vocals, and sometimes bass, and he would finish the songs by adding drums, vocal harmonies, and other instruments. He made the songs sound really good. I would send him the bare bones stuff thinking ‘these songs aren’t very good,’ and then he would return them to me, transformed. It’s been a cool collaboration.

RASJ:   Tell me about the awesome cover art.

KR:      A friend of mine from high school designed the cover art which depicts a man standing in front of a mirrored medicine cabinet. The viewer understands that this man is exhausted and his reflection reveals the face of a skeleton. The cabinet is filled with empty bottles, and the man knows that nothing can really save him from the misery. That’s what we were going for. Mundi’s work can be found on Instagram @mundi.art.

You can listen to GET WELL on BANDCAMP, AMAZON, SPOTIFY  & YOUTUBE.

And if you search Come Back K! on iTunes, you can buy the entire CD there.

………………………………………………..

Thank you for letting me share a little of your story here, Kraig. I’m incredibly proud of you for finding a way to transform your horrifying experience into something beautiful and relatable. I hope you find yourself on the other side of this injury very soon. Trust me when I say that healing is possible. It just takes a very long time.

Feel free to contact me if you’d like to share your Benzo Warrior story on my page.

 

 

 

2019 YEAR IN REVIEW

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THE YEAR IN REVIEW – 2019

In 2019, my word of the year was HOME, and I moved into my space and worked to create better relationships so that I feel more at home in Rochester, and I do.

As this year winds down, I figured I’d take a little time to take inventory regarding how I did with realizing the intentions that I set for myself in 2019.

THE SUMMARY IN NUMBERS

5,139 – combined numbers of followers on all social media outlets

962 – people on my mailing list

843 – unique pieces of artwork sold this year

479 – unique client sales

24 – number of new people I spoke with who are going thru a drug-induced brain injury.

23 – art classes taught

8 – number of shows/festivals in which I participated

6 – lectures I gave

5 – number of first dates I went on

0 – number of 2nd dates I went on

In 2018, I said I was going to and in 2019 I actually did:

    • TAKE AN ONLINE CLASS. Nora Tay Gelb and I painted together for 38 weeks, and I completed every lesson — except the last 4, which I plan to complete while I am on vacation.
    • COMPLETE MY KITCHEN RENO. Chuck Hajec transformed my kitchen into a functional and inviting space.
    • PAINT LIVE MONTHLY. Made it 10 out of 12 months.
    • PLAN A WARM WEATHER VACATION • Last year, Christmas was miserable for me. I was cold and by myself without anyone with whom to celebrate. As a result, I decided I didn’t want to ever be in that emotional space again, so I researched and figured out where I might want to go during Holiday Season 2019 — and I worked the entire year to make this a reality. At the time of this publication, I am enjoying the sun and will have numerous visitors during the month I’m in Florida — and I know I’m going to meet a lot of people while I’m down there, too.
    • DATE/MEET NEW PEOPLE. I’m a homebody by nature, and I don’t like going out late or meeting at bars or clubs — but in 2019 I said YES to events, invitations and networking opportunities. I took dance classes and starting singing regularly at an Open Mic in Canandaigua and joined an all women’s barbershop group. In 2019, I decided not date and “dinner” with people instead. That feels better for me on a thousand levels. Do I still wish I had a boyfriend? Hell yeah! I miss the companionship and the intimacy…but I’m not going to settle until the right person comes into my orbit and makes me a priority.
    • WALK EVERY DAY. I mostly managed to do this…and I even did a month-long gym membership at the end of 2019 – just to see how I liked it — and I plan to rejoin when I return to Rochester in 2020.
    • HOST FOUR SISTAH SUPPERS. I hosted 3 and the Annual De-Gift/Regift Potluck Gathering will take place in February 2020.
    • GET A KITTEN. I decided against the kitten thing. I like having my freedom and having the ability to pick up and go at a moment’s notice. Also, a lot of my clients are either afraid of cats or allergic to them, so this is not a good business plan until I secure new gallery space.

LOOKING AHEAD at 2020

In 2020, my word is CLARITY.

‘Cuz 20/20 is all about seeing things clearly.

In 2020, I will continue to pay attention to my personal, financial, spiritual & emotional wellness and…

    • SECURE NEW GALLERY SPACE: I have an application in at The Hungerford, and I’m hoping that to secure a great space for myself in 2020.
    • IMPROVE PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS: I’d like to show my gratitude to the people who I care about regularly and have a better relationship with my son. (I’d like to find an awesome boyfriend, too.)
    • COMPLETE FIRST DRAFT OF MEMOIR: Because finished is better than perfect.
    • INCREASE THE NUMBER OF FESTIVALS 12 in 2020.
    • MEET THE CHALLENGES I FACE WITH MORE GRACE.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy new year!

What are YOUR intentions for 2020?

 

FESTIVAL SCHEDULE 2019 + A FLORIDA APPEARANCE

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For those of you who live in Western, New York, below is a list of my last festivals of 2019.

If you can’t make it to any of these events in real life, I can also take credit card orders via my secure website.

NOTE: Order by December 7, 2019 to ensure receipt in time for the holidays.

November 22-24, 2019 • HOLIDAY BAZAAR

Rochester Museum & Science Center• 657 East Avenue, Rochester

Friday -11/22 •  5pm-9pm

Saturday – 11/23 & Sunday 11/24 • 10am-4pm

• • •

November 30, 2019 • TINY TRUNK SHOW JUBILEE

Sylvan Starlight Creations • 50 State Street, Building C, Pittsford, NY

10am-4pm

• • •

December 7, 2019 • HANDMADE HOLIDAY IN THE SOUTH WEDGE

St. Boniface Church • 330 Gregory St, Rochester, NY

10am-4pm

• • •

I’ll be in Florida in January 2020, and I’m so excited to have the opportunity to show some of my work at Gallery 2924 in St. Pete! During ArtWalk Night, galleries & studios on Central Avenue extend their hours into the evening. Special events include exhibition openings, live demonstrations, meet-the-artist evenings, charity events and special sales. The Central Avenue Trolley, Looper Trolley & a special art trolley connect many of the galleries. Free and open to all. I’ll have a selection of snacks and I’d LOVE to see local peeps (including any and all my snowbird friends) who are inclined to stop by!

January 11, 2020 •  SECOND SATURDAY ARTWALK

Gallery 2924 • 2924 Central Avenue • St. Petersburg, FLORIDA!

5-9 pm

Can’t make it to any of these venues in person? No problem! Check out my website and use a credit card to make a secure payment.

THE CUDDLE CONUNDRUM

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I know that from the outside it looks like my life is back on track.

And for the most part, it’s true.

Professionally, I’m checking all the boxes, attending shows, teaching art classes, and taking on projects that speak to my heart. Intellectually, I’m feeling challenged again – reading, writing, teaching memoir classes and handling independent editing clients.

I have a good relationship with my parents and a few close friends upon whom I can call if I’m struggling.

But, the one thing that’s missing — the void that cannot be filled so easily — is in the area of physical touch.

Y’all, I can go for days, weeks, even months without anyone touching me.

And for a girl who thrives on touch, I can tell you, it’s really hard.

Sometimes I actually feel like I’m losing my mind because of the lack.

(((thank goodness I can afford occasional massages!)))

I know people will say: “You should get a pet…,” but having a dog or a cat or a ferret is not the same as having another human close to you.

Luckily, these feelings only seems to overwhelm me at night, so my solution has been to stay out as long and as late as possible after dinner, but not really a great solution.

Anyone have any suggestions for this conundrum? How do you handle the void, the loneliness that comes from wanting something you don’t have and may never have?

 

ON MENTAL TOUGHNESS

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At Corn Hill Festival, the vendor in the space next to me is a Chinese man who spends most of his time sleeping and smoking. While I am packing up, he steps into my tent for the first time to look at my work.

Seeing my photograph on the cover of a copy of Rochester magazine that I have displayed, he scrunches up his face with confusion.

“What is this word? ‘Courage?’“ he asks in broken English.

I try to explain that courage is a kind of mental toughness. “It’s strength on the inside,” I say, pointing to my heart.

The man makes a guttural sound, a grunt of sorts. “You not look strong to me,” he says, pointing at my face in such a way that indicates he isn’t talking about my face so much as my personality. “You just look. . .  tired.”

It’s an odd moment.

Because he’s not wrong.

Wearing crazy pants, space buns on my head, and a big smile, I’m sure I don’t look like the most courageous person in the world.

But the truth is I’ve survived some really difficult times: rape, a brain injury, the loss of my marriage, my home, my neighbors, my community, the people I thought were my friends.

For many years now, like an ant in a storm, I’ve worked to rebuild.

I know that people see me as creative and resilient. They see my house, my car. They see me pushing myself to meet new people and try new activities. They see I’m making money and running a business — and they assume I’m ‘fine.’

And most of the time, I am.

But the truth is I am exhausted.

Exhausted by a lifetime of trying too hard, of not letting go, and too much looking back. Exhausted by the stupid things I do — the accidents I cause, the poor choices I make. It weighs me down.

It’s tiring having to be strong all the dang time.

I know everyone is going through something, that I’m not special.

But I’d gladly trade all this mental toughness for a good long cry, followed by a nice long nap in the arms of a lover.

If you ask me, courage is overrated.

What’s got you feeling weighed down and what would make you feel better?

xoxoRASJ

JULY WINNER OF FREE PRINT GIVEAWAY

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To see the July Free Print Giveaway Winner announced, check out the video below.

Wanna be entered in next month’s free giveaway?

Send your contact information, HERE.

PS: You can also enter in person on August 3, 2019 at Jack Craft Fair at The Outer Harbor in Buffalo, New York — 225 Fuhrmann Blvd. I’ll have all the things — prints, masonite tiles, magnets and coasters — there for you to purchase.

xoxoRASJ

 

REFLECTING ON MY 30th COLLEGE REUNION

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Hobart & William Smith Colleges

When one of my former roommates suggested a bunch of us “girls,” get together for a weekend, I jumped at the idea. Monique found an adorable, affordable B&B in the middle of Geneva, an old house that was big enough for each of us to have our own individual bedroom with enough shared space to make for a communal experience. And it was wonderful reconnecting with my old friends, women I hadn’t seen in nearly three decades.

We curled up on couches, stayed up late in our jammies, catching each other up on our lives, our loves and our losses, our successes and our failures.

And that part was wonderful, intimate and restorative.

But then it was time to venture out to the “larger” campus to connect with other alums celebrating their reunions as well.

In general, I think I do pretty well socially, but last weekend, I was forced to confront something that I don’t think I processed until this weekend.

While Hobart & William Smith Colleges was a good fit for me intellectually, socially, I was a complete misfit.

I grew up in a family where alcohol did not exist. With the exception of a very infrequent glass of wine, neither of my parents drank alcohol. We never had beer in the house, and their basement “bar” still displays the same unopened bottles of liquor that were there when I graduated from high school. We just didn’t drink. The few times where I’d tried alcohol in high school, I ended up feeling afraid and alone. It just really didn’t agree with me, so I evolved into the designated driver and avoided most social activities that revolved around alcohol.

And then I went to college.

I remember my first night on campus. It was a warm September night, and all the girls in my dorm dressed up in pretty summer dresses to attend a fraternity party.

“It’ll be fun,” someone told me.

This one is not done yet. Follow me at RASJACOBSON ART to watch me finish her.

So I put on a dress and followed along.

That night, in that frat house, I was ogled and objectified. Men made unwanted advances, touching my hair and my body — which was bad enough — but watching my female classmates consume so much alcohol that they were literally falling down drunk was worse.

I didn’t know how to talk to people who were drinking so excessively, people who were so over the top sloppy that they didn’t respect my boundaries.

Meanwhile, they all seemed so comfortable — drinking & laughing & talking about lacrosse.

It was like that most weekends and, eventually, I stopped attending those types of parties altogether, opting to study in my room or in the library.

Last weekend, I had to confront my social anxiety around alcohol consumption.

While most people were much better behaved then they were thirty years ago, at one point, I was so overwhelmed by all the drinking and so underwhelmed by all the small talk, I retreated to the basement to regroup.

While I was hiding out down there making friends with a row of washing machines, a former classmate approached me aside to remind me how I’d helped him to edit several English essays which were difficult for him. (Though I have no recollection of doing this, it sounds like something I’d do.) He said that with my help, he went from earning C’s to A’s. I was stunned.

We continued to talk about what we’ve been doing since graduation – our families, our work – and eventually we went back upstairs. Though he disappeared back into the throng, and I stayed on the fray, I felt seen and heard.

I imagine he has no idea how much that interaction meant to me.

During that conversation, my former classmate told me I’d made a difference in his life.

And it rocked my world because, quite frankly, most of the time I don’t feel very significant at all.   

When I left the party shortly thereafter, it was dark outside. There was a rabbit on the lawn, sitting perfectly still on the grass. Her fur was grey in the moonlight and she looked alert and a little afraid. I don’t know if anyone else saw her, but I did.

I often feel like I move through the world like that rabbit — off by myself, on alert, ready to skitter away, secretly hoping someone will notice me.

Back at home, I was eager to get into my studio.

I knew I wanted to honor the weekend, that moment in particular.

This piece isn’t finished yet, but when it is, it may have to live with me for a little while as a reminder that all creatures, great and small, are here for a reason — and that we are all truly connected to one other.

Do you attend reunions? Why or why not? Has anyone ever said something to you that moved you to tears — in a good way? What was it?

 

THE TALE OF A TRAVELING ARTISAN: THE BACK STORY

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“How can you justify charging $20 for a print,” a lady asked me last weekend at my first outdoor festival ever. “Seems like a lot,” she added.

I know this woman probably doesn’t deserve an answer, and I certainly don’t need to justify my prices — but I thought people might be interested in knowing what exactly goes into one of my $20 reproductions at a festival.

1. Create the artwork.

That means coming up with an inspiration, and then turning that inspiration into reality with paint, vintage papers, colored pencils, crayons, oil pastels and other ephemera. I don’t know how to put a price on creativity, but I can tell you that part alone takes between 20 and 30 hours, no matter the size of the canvas.

2. Convert the original artwork into a high-resolution photograph.

To do this, I set up a photo session in my house. Because my house doesn’t get the best light, I use three white poster boards curved in such a way as to accentuate the colors without throwing any shadows. The lighting has to be just right.

3. Email the high res image file to my printer across town.

4. Pick up prints. Check quality.

5. Hand slice each individual print into the appropriate size.

6. Inventory & order additional magnets, coasters & masonite squares from another out-of-town vendor.

7. Slide all reproductions into individual cellophane wrappers. Remove the plastic strips that protect the adhesive tape and seal each envelope individually. This does not take into account any of the marketing I do (which I do by myself), or the fulfilling of orders (which I do all by myself), or the packaging (which I do by myself) or the trips to the post office (which I do by myself).

8. Many months in advance of any show, I have to apply to be juried in & pay the application fee, which ranges in price from $45 to over $300, depending on the venue. I have to remember to bring and display my Certificate of Authority, which I applied for and paid for. This allows me to legitimately collect taxes (which I pay someone to file).

9. Purchase/create a display & practice setting up — tables & tablecloths, tent & tent weights, banners & racks, signage & business cards — the list goes on. I have to make sure I have duct tape & binder clips & clamps & pens & scissors & bandaids & all kinds of other random things that I might need. I even pack my own lunch!

10. Make sure the card reader is working and set up pricing for each individual item. Research and apply the local sales tax in every county in which I plan to show.

11. Go to the bank to get change.

12. Enlist help. I don’t have any single designated person to assist me, and my tent weights are 40 pounds each…so I need peeps with stamina. At this last show, I was helped by my father & an old friend from high school! I am beyond grateful to them both!

13. Set up tent & display. At this particular show, my load-in time started at 7AM. Which means I was up waaaaay before that.

14. Sell. Stand for roughly 11 hours  — in any kind of weather, rain or shine. Be professional & fully present while talking to anyone who wanders into my tent. Answer questions, take orders & hold down the fort.

15. Handle unforseens. On the first night of this particular show, there was a torrential downpour. Many tent canopies had not been weighted properly, so they toppled over or — literally — blew away. My tent was okay, but the high winds toppled my tables, soaking my tablecloths, signage & some of my merchandise, which I hadn’t thought to put away. I had to make an executive decision to close-up show, packing everything up in the middle of the night in a heavy downpour.

15. Tear down. At the end of a show, I do everything in reverse: box up, tear down, pack up, drive home, transfer everything back into my garage until the next festival.

So yes, lady in the white leggings. My prints are twenty dollars. And, now that I think about it, it doesn’t sound like near enough.

How would YOU respond to a comment like this? What do people not know about the work YOU do?

HOW PLAYING CANDY CRUSH HELPED MY BRAIN HEAL

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Many people believe that playing video games rots people’s brains. But what if playing video games – in moderation – can also help people to heal from brain injuries?

When I was going through physical withdrawal after coming off of clonazepam, I was so impaired that for many years, I could not read or write.

For a time, I couldn’t bear to look at any electronic screens. There was something about those blue screens that I just couldn’t tolerate. If you’ve ever watched a TV show on a broken television screen, that’s kind of how I experienced screens: the picture appeared pixilated and it was just too stressful for my poor, injured brain to handle.

At some point, someone suggested I start trying to “retrain my brain” to handle stress by playing simple video games. They suggested that I would be able to measure my distress tolerance by seeing how long I could play, that it would be a fun way to chart my healing process.

The game seemed easy enough to play: you simply try to get three or four or five of a one color candy in a row and try to blow up a certain number of translucent gels or collect nuts and cherries. No one was being shot at or injured, and – for some reason – the colors and shapes didn’t bother my eyes.

And while I’ve never been particularly interested in video games, I downloaded the app.

At first, I could barely play for even a minute. It was impossible for me to tolerate all the action on the screen; my eyes watered and I found my pulse rate would increase to the point of discomfort.

Instead of quitting though, I decided I would challenge myself to play every day for as long as I could.

I mean, if someone said playing video games helped him to heal, well… I was willing to give it a try.

After a while, I found I could last for one full life. Then two lives. Eventually, I was able to play long enough that I actually ran out of lives and had to wait to play another day.

Strange as it sounds, this is how I began to measure progress.

As I became more successful at the game – I could play longer with better results and less physical distress – I found a little place inside myself that reasoned that I was actually healing and that I could apply the same principle with everything.

There is something about the immediate and concrete feedback in video games (e.g., through points, coins, dead ends in puzzles) that served to reward my continual effort. In fact, research has shown that the extent to which individuals endorse an incremental versus entity theory of intelligence reliably predicts whether individuals in challenging circumstances will persist or give up, respectively (Dweck & Molden, 2005). These implicit theories of intelligence have implications for how failure is processed and dealt with.

Being immersed in Candy Crush taught me an essential basic lesson: persistence in the face of failure reaps rewards.

And my experiences of failure did not lead to anger, frustration, or sadness; instead, I responded to failures with excitement and interest and a motivation to improve my performance. When faced with failure, I was motivated to return to the task of winning, and I felt optimistic about reaching my goals.

Shortly after I started playing Candy Crush, I started painting.

At first my paintings were primitive – simple hearts and words. Over time, I tackled imaginary monsters, portraits of pets & people.

Six years later, my brain is nearly healed.

I still have some trouble with long-term planning and some memory loss between August 2013 and September 2015.

But I’m reading again.

Teaching again.

I’m painting & participating in art festivals.

I have friends again.

A social life.

Rituals.

And I still play Candy Crush every day.

(PS: I’m on Level 1197, in case anyone was wondering.)

What weird thing do you believe helped you to heal when going thru difficult circumstances?