Sunday, March 25, 2012


I really wanted to sit down and write about something I lack the backbone to dish out. It's something that has stewed and bubbled for years, and rises to the surface every now and again to let me know I haven't dealt with it yet, then it moves to the bottom of my Ocean where it lays dormant and secretive. Part of it is, I just don't know how to start. Where do I start? There are so many components to it, and I lack the eloquent nature it needs to breathe from my core, and it needs to be finessed before I gut that fish. I will and do need to write about it, I just need a bit more time to gather the tools. And, maybe get a little stronger in my soul.

On other news, I haven't chose a paint color. I haven't done my taxes. Bad form, I know. I don't even have a good excuse. March has me swimming in this vitamin D deprived haze, and I do this every year at this time. I fall. I really, truly believe it is lack of sunlight, and I know I am not alone. This is the sludge month of the year where I feel like Atreyu from "The Neverending Story", slogging my way through the swamp of sadness. If I don't keep moving, it will swallow me up.

The sun did come out this weekend. It wasn't warm, but it was very pleasant, and it was just enough of a reminder that sunshine is on it's way to save the day. It didn't take long for that swamp to become a lush green oasis, and I took my girl out for a photo shoot in the sunlight amongst the spring daffodils and made us a treat.



To toast the sunshine that so graciously came our way, I made us a smoothie. When Grace was a wee one in ballet class, we came home one day, and she was hungry and wanted a snack. More specifically, a smoothie. I dug into the fridge and came out with a handful of stuff we normally have around the house, and threw it in the blender. My scrawled recipe I wrote down all those years ago still hangs on the side of our fridge, but I make it so often I only have to glance at it every once and awhile to make sure I'm doing it right. It reminds me every time I make it of three year old Grace sucking it down in her pink leotard giving me the thumbs up. Here is the recipe:

                                Gracie's Afternoon Snack Smoothie

                           1/4 C Orange juice

                           1/3 Cup Vanilla soy milk

                           1/4 Cup Frozen blueberries

                           6   Medium sized frozen strawberries

                           3 oz. Tillamook Vanilla bean yogurt

                           1 Tbsp. Honey

                           1/2 tsp. sugar

                           1/4 Cup baby spinach

                   Put all ingredients into a blender, and blend until smooth. Make sure the berries are completely frozen, and not fresh, so the smoothie will be of smoothie consistency. The spinach adds a nice back flavor, and if I don't have spinach on hand, I'll swap it out for Kale. Sometimes I'll put in frozen mango and pineapple in place of the berries, and that is good too. Add what you want, be creative. If using frozen strawberries form Costco, they are mondo berries, so use only four.

I highly recommend getting this little Bella Cucina machine. I bought mine at Macy's a couple years ago thinking it would be another cool kitchen gadget I would hardly use, but I use it all the time, and in the summer, it stays put on the kitchen counter to whirrr up salad dressings and marinades in a millisecond. I love this little machine, and Target sells them for around $20.


By making one of these smoothies, you may be able to coax the sun out of hiding. If not, it might make you very popular with the animal crowd, which may be sunshine of a different kind.


In any case, grab it with both hands, bask in it, drink it, let it course it's Midas touch through your body. Even if it means sleeping on the kitchen floor to soak it up. Have a good week, everyone.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Odds and Ends


That about sums up the week.

It takes me about three weeks to step into the running shoes of daylight savings and accept the fact that the precious hour of sleep yanked away will not be given back until we plunge back into the dark when fall rolls around, so these bags under my eyes have set up camp and will stay a bit, I suppose. Can you say, run on sentence? Sorry.

I shouldn't blame the lack of sleep and puffy circles only on the time change, tho. I do blame the Hunger Games book series for a solid 70% of it. I charged through all three books from the hours of 10pm-12:30pm for the last three weeks which I ended up trading for sleep letting a gross cold get the best of me. Oh well. At least I had good reading for it. Great series, by the way. Violent, but great.

I'm not pondering too much in my brain, and what I do ponder, you'd probably find a bit boring. Paint wall colors. What's for dinner? I love my new black boots but they hurt. Is that snow? Yes. Frown. Nope, now its gross sleet. Awesome. Did I have coffee today? I don't remember. Wow. My eyebrows look like a werewolf. What do I pack for Grace's lunch? Paint wall colors again. Did I just spend $40 on paint samples and not like a single one of them? *cringe*  Do I really have to get out out of bed today? Yes.  I will do my taxes today. No I won't. Are the daffodils out yet? Struggle on, my yellow friends.  Ugh, the weather. Why do I live here, again?  Oooo, Ben and Jerry's is on sale... See?? Boring, right? BTW, that was a millisecond of what really goes on up there in my brain where all those crazy thoughts buzz about on a daily basis. I need an office manager and a nice desk clerk up there to help me keep my thoughts in place. Or, 75 degrees and sunny would do the trick. A nice melting away of the mind to make room for only one thought: Sunshine.

On a totally different note, here is what made it in front of my lens these last couple weeks:

It was off to the races last week. Grace has won 2nd place for the past three years, and her eye was on the prize this go around.

She had the need..... The need for SPEED.

 I can't go to these races without almost donning a pair of shades, giving out corny high fives and bouncing to the cheesy Tom Cruise movie soundtrack I hear in my head. It may be a highway to the danger zone for some of these derby cars, we'll see. BTW, Grace's car is in the green slot, #77, the Cupcake Racer.

Tires flew off some cars, some jumped the tracks, but after a couple of heats for the Cupcake Racer, it was smooth sailing to number one. *cue the guitar riff from the Top Gun anthem. I think I will request them to play that next year as the trophies are handed out. It will add a nice touch, I think. High fives!   : ) *

 Good job, Grace!

It was a weekend of Birthdays too, which meant lots of cake, and cupcakes, and bellies full of good food. Have your cake and eat it too, girls. Happy Birthday's Mom and Bets!

Mmmm....Boozy cupcakes...Chocolate cupcakes with Bailey's Irish Cream Butter cream frosting.

It was also an opportunity to toddle around with Jazzy and get some pictures of her being her cute little self.

Look mom. Magic kisses!  I kissed a frog and he turned into my grandpa!

It was a weekend of cousins for Grace. Here are some with Jaren and Alyssa.

Have yourself a good middle of March, not quite spring, light in the evening, dinner in the light, soggy sleet filled, umbrella carrying, wear your rain boots kind of week.

Must. Do. Taxes. Wait, no, paint colors. Must. choose. a. color...wait, no. What should I fix for dinner??? and it goes on, and on, and on.....

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Woman, for hire

I think it's funny when one asks "What do you do?"

I usually act confused, and say "You mean for a job?" and whoever is asking usually looks mildly annoyed and says "Ya."

The question "what do you do" makes my mind spin in so many ways I have to clarify the statement just to get an answer out. I used to answer, "I am a full time mom", rather than a "stay at home mom" , because it felt more honest. I didn't stay at home. I went to the grocery store, playgroup, beach, post office, library, etc... There was not that much staying at home, so I liked the term "full time mom", better.

Nowadays, what comes out of my mouth is "Photographer." I chew on the words slowly before I spit them out because I am still so new to the field, I am afraid that some random person might pop out of the bushes, point their finger and yell "Poser!" I have no degree in photography. Most of the stuff I've learned has been from hundreds of hours spent reading, trying to absorb all the information I can about software, technique, and trial and error. Learning by handling my camera in as many situations as I can, taking thousands of pictures, picking them apart on screen, and learning from that. Lots of hands-on, and learning from other photographers, too. I do love to learn new things, and that drive has sped up the pace for the love of this art form.

I am settling into that title, and am slowly feeling more and more confidant and prouder each time I say it. Although, ask me that question in another ten years, and the answer may be different. It may be "Novelist," "Cupcake bakery owner," " Children's book author," or back to "full time mom." These are all things I'd like to add to my life resume someday, and if I put it out there for you all to read, it may just come true.

My "work" resume might not be all that impressive, but I suppose it's all in who is asking. I usually don't offer it up much, since I feel a little guarded about it, but last week I ran into my neighbor on a walk and she was telling me how much she liked the fact that my interests take me all sorts of places. I started thinking, and she is right. It may not be impressive on paper, but the richness of all those little bends in the trails of life have offered me a resume that has made me feel rich inside, rather than in my pockets.

After high school I was sure I wanted to be a nurse. I signed up for prerequisite classes in the fall of 1995, and commuted off the Island every day to TCC.  After a few quarters of knocking down the list of prerequisite classes, I heard rumblings of "wait lists" and "full" in terms of entering the Nursing program. Sure enough, Nursing was a hot ticket that year, and the wait list was long, long, long. My heart sunk as I realized I didn't want to wait. I was in the office feeling glum after learning this news, and picked up a turquoise paper that had the words "Respiratory Therapist" program on it, eyeing me back. I scanned the prereq's list, and it was nearly identical to Nursing. So was the length of the program. All I had to do was finish my year of prereq's, apply to the program, and be one of the twenty chosen to do the two year intensive program. I was accepted, and started in the fall of 1996.

During this time, I made sandwiches. And, lattes. And, desserts. I worked at a little restaurant called "Mary Martha's" while I did my schooling. Some days, I would be making rice crispy treats, and steaming cappuccino's, and the next day, I'd be washing blood off of me from working in the ER, or taking a sample from the inside of someones lung. Studying, took up most of my time, though. The classes were hard, and along with it I had to put in my time doing clinical rotations at many area hospitals.

I graduated in 1998, getting my certificate of completion and AA, then took my board exams, passed and became legal and got my licence to practice.

Luckily, I was hired by a hospital that I really liked, and wanted to work at, Harrison Memorial Hospital. I quit my job as sandwich maker, and switched to donning scrubs, and worked there, up until two and a half months before Vanessa was born. I also worked at Bel Air Rehab Center where I worked with chronic ventilator patients, and people who needed advanced long term care.

It was a hard job emotionally for me, and took a small toll on my psyche. I cannot begin to count the number of souls I watched leave this earth. The suffering of people. The sad stories. There was also happy ones though, but they seemed too far and in between. It was a hospital, after all. I can't say it wasn't worth it, though. I met some extraordinary people and feel so fortunate to have known certain folks and friends who have left permanent imprints on my heart. Also, I feel as I was meant to do the work, as it was preparing me for the long days at the hospital with Vanessa, and bringing her home on oxygen, and other medications. I was very familiar with it, and was able to understand her care and what it took, so all those years spent learning I have no doubt, was to prepare me for the care Vanessa was to need from me.

It wasn't long before the creative monster inside was scratching to get to the surface. For some reason I had the intense urge to learn how to make bar soap. And Candles. And lip balm. And bath salts. So, on my days off, I read anything I could get my hands on, and taught myself how to make soap out of water, lye, coconut oil, palm oil, and olive oil. Lip balms, bath salts, and candles, too. It was fun, and made my house smell fabulous. They had scents like "midnight in tunisia," "autumn harvest," and "china rain." I sold them mainly to co-workers who snatched them up and put in large orders, then I expanded to selling them at our local Pharmacy and at a craft fair one year. Soon I officially launched "Paper Moon Soap Company." At work, my nickname changed from "Island girl," to "Soap lady", and soon, nurses and such from other parts of the hospital were tracking me down to put in orders also. What was weird, though, was when people would come up to me and say "I think of you everytime I take a shower!" Then they would quickly add, embarrassed,"You know, because of your soap." I would giggle and say "Ya, I know," but still blush. Those were the smelly years, but in a good way.

I was sick a lot though, catching the nastiest flu's, fevers and colds, not being able to fight off the grodie hospital germs. I was planning to take a year off when Vanessa was born, continue to make soap, then go back to work at the Rehab center once or twice a week, but that never happened. Instead a black hole swallowed the next three years of my life as I died.

The next job I had, I was no good at, but it saved my life. To be very honest, after Vanessa died, I felt living to be too much of a burden. I wanted to die. Badly. My family, would have none of that, though. My mother worked, and still does, at our local Pharmacy. She is the "toy lady," and makes that area of the store beautiful and well stocked. If you live on the Island, you probably know her, or have seen her, so next time you run into her, say hi, she'd love it.

  As I was dying my slow death, the owners of the Pharmacy generously offered me a job. My mom worked there and they knew just how much  I was needing her, so they offered me a job right next to her, and I very reluctantly accepted. Those dark days were indeed dark. I remember sobbing, pulling my legs to the side of the bed because they were so unwilling to go, praying hard for the strength to get into the shower, and go to work. Some days I couldn't, some days I'd make it 45 minutes then had to go home, some days I made it my full shift, but barely.  I didn't do them any favors by being a cloudy, ghostly version of a human behind the counter, but they were so kind to give me that job, and understand my lack of being, that I will forever be grateful of it, and to them, because I am 100% positive, it saved my life by being there.

I slowly left the Pharmacy when I was in the mid stages of pregnancy with Grace. I had become very fond of the Pharmacy ladies I worked with, and by the time I left, I felt like I was working with a bunch of my "mommies." They hire some truly wonderful people there, maybe because the heart of that store is truly wonderful also.

After that, I had Grace, and slid into full time mommy hood. By Grace's second year I was itching for a creative outlet. Making soap again was a no-go because it was too toxic to make in the house. I know what I'll do, I thought, with a light bulb over my head. I am going to garden. I mean, have a BIG garden, and open up a farm stand and become a farmer. And, so I did, for the next two years.

It was intense, physical, back breaking work, but I needed it. It got me out of the house, and into the sun, and brought in a little cash too. Plus, Grace thoroughly enjoyed it, and ate very well. We became " Gourmet Garden's", and operated a self serve farm stand for two full summer growing seasons. Bursitis, tendinitis, and a cortisone shot to the shoulder put a stop to the next season, plus, my mind was wandering somewhere else. It was forming a story, a fictional story, and I spent the next year and a half writing a novel and got about 150 single spaced pages in, and just stopped one day, and put it down. It is gathering dust in a binder underneath my computer desk right now, begging to be finished.

Enter in a photography class I took a couple years ago that lit the fire within to explore that part of myself and you got yourself " Marla Smith Photography."

So, when someone asks "What do you do?" That is a loaded question.

"At the moment, I am fully enjoying being a photographer as a side job to my full time mommy hood." is the very short answer, but for reals, what I want to do, is hand them this resume. ; )

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Dry Spell

As I write this, I am watching the sky change in a late winter sky. The clouds interrupt the blue as the sun sets, and creates a canvas for the last of the light to dance upon, changing the sky to a peach and purple glow. The room I am in is messy. We call it "the green room", because it's walls are in fact, a foresty green color. It is the extra room in the house, and as with all extra rooms in peoples houses, it collects random stuff. My computer desk is stuffed in a corner, and to get to it, you have to maneuver around an elliptical machine, a bed, and numerous other things that collect in every available space. Basically, I have a path from the door to my desk, and that is it. I've tried cleaning and trying to spiff up the room, but it always manages to backslide into mayhem. Someday, I envision a room designed creatively and specifically to nurture any creative bipolar hobby of mine, so I can purge my thoughts in a orderly fashion. That is my goal.

For now, this will do. As I type, at my feet there is a kitty lightly snoring to my left. Every once in awhile my voice will break the silence and he will purr at the sound of it. To my right, there is a wet snout that bumps my hand if I drape it down, and a small lick to my ankle, if any flesh is showing. My animals know this is my usual haunt, and they follow me up here to keep company with me. I can't remember the last time I was up here alone.

We have two seventeen year old cats, one fifteen year old cat, and a bubbly, crazy one year old dog, Daisy. Even though the cats are old, they have no problem letting Daisy know who the elders of the house are. She may be longer than them, but they are taller, and have sharper claws with the words "king of the house" engraved on them. Even when we had a Bull Mastiff/ Great Dane mix, the cats still ruled the roost. They are some bad mothers, those cats.

We got our oldest cat, Simba, when I was eighteen years old, just fresh out of high school. He was a spry little house tabby who could jump higher than any cat I knew, and was clever, and spiteful, but also friendly and personable. He would pick tacks out of the wall if we pinned anything up, and would dump them in our shoes, so when we'd step into our shoes, we were in for a painful surprise. Every morning he would sneak into our room and watch Jeremy out of the corner of his eye as he'd tip the glass of water he'd keep on his night stand, and spill it with a clatter, and bolt before the hand whiffed through the air.  And, no rubbing his belly. That's a big no-no if you like your arm the way it is.

Simba is old now, his short fur full of little mats that I am trying to comb out. When I pick him up, instead of a meow in protest, I get a silent one with a squeak at the end. He is my kitty that will come when he's called, my friendly trusting kitty. Even if he has his issues, I will still care for him dearly until the bitter end.

Gypsy is his "sister". We got her after Simba with his bad little self, needed someone other than us to thrash on. She took his beatings for awhile then fought back. She is a little cat Ninja with a very very strong will to live. She will never die. Given to us by a friend, she was born in a battery box and spent the first six weeks of her life heavily infested with ear mites and crawling with fleas. After we rid her of that in a nightmarish flea dip, she never trusted us, and spent the next eight years hating our guts. She warmed up to me a little, but only on her terms, and only if we were outside. It all changed when I was pregnant with Vanessa. She loved my belly with a capital L. When given the chance, she'd cuddle up to it and sleep with her head listening to the heartbeat. We moved into a new house just months before she was born and Gypsy would have none of it, and disappeared for almost a year and a half. We'd see her and bait her, and call for her, but she didn't want anything to do with us, so she left during the worst part of our lives. Slowly, she made her way back, and by the time Grace was born, she was our kitty again, and is now extremely friendly in her old age, and not just to me, but to everyone.

Our third cat, Little Pooh, or Poo, I don't have much to say about, except that he is some sort of evil disguised as a fluffy tabby. He is mean to the core, and by nature, since I raised him in a nice, loving way. He hates the other cats, and they hate him. He hisses at me when I put him out at night and randomly attacks me and anyone else on a whim. He is bad news bears, but will also beg to be pet, and then turn around and bite you. Evil, I tell you. Don't let this picture fool you. I snapped this very rare footage to document this momentous nicety of him rubbing on my feet. Two minutes later, I tried to move my foot and he latched on. Bad, naughty kitty.

During the time Vanessa was alive, we had a dog/ pony named Barkley, our Bull Mastiff/ Great Dane. Barkley was a big galumph, and had the brute strength of ten He-men, and the brains of a chicken. I could never walk him because he was just too big, and litterally would pull me, regardless of if my feet were on the ground or if I was skidding across the ground on my belly. If he saw something he wanted, it didn't matter who was on the other side of the leash, he was going to get it. Luckily, he didn't have a mean bone in his body, and was just a big sweetie. We had him for nine years. The picture below is of baby Grace taking a ride. I remember coming home after Vanessa had died, and I immediatly wanted him gone. The pain and numbness had spread like a disease, and I felt nothing towards him, or anyone. I had loved him before, but after an explosion of the heart, I could not love, and I wanted him gone. He stuck around though, and I went through the motions of taking care of him, but left out the love part. I know he felt it. Poor Boo. (That is what we always called him, Boo). He didn't derserve that, but I couldn't help it, and it is only now, that my love for animals has returned after an almost ten-year hiatus. My heart is slowly allowing it in, which is no small feat.

Daisy propelled into my heart, patching any misgivings I had. I was, and am scared to love again. Human or animal. However, she has wriggled into the spot of family dog, and I can't help but fall head over heels. I simply adore her to pieces.

Animals have a magical ability to move your soul in ways that only they can. Patient healers with fur. Simple pleasures are taken in exchange for a purr, or a lick on the cheek. I do love my animals, and am so happy that now my heart is letting me, after such a long, wicked, dry spell. I can only offer them my love back and hope that the interruption can be forgiven.

 A scratch behind the ears, and the purr at my feet says it can.