Thursday, June 14, 2018

Holy cannoli! I did it!


I'm certain this will fail. Why is it such a fun, exciting thing has me such a miserable wreck? I guess it's just scary to really put yourself out there. And I REALLY don't like failure. I mean, I know everyone fails, sometimes in Grand Fashion, but it makes me physically ill when I do.

So, now it's out there. This is a real thing. I'm thrilled and terrified at the same time. And they're only drawings, for crying out loud! Sheesh! You'd think I'd done something really cool like, written a novel or something.

Throw me a bone? Even if you hate it (and I know the image quality via electronic transfer to print is going to be a bit questionable) please pretend that you love it? Leave me happy feedback, not negative feedback. Because you're my friend and you love me and want me to succeed. And even if you don't want me to succeed, maybe you at least want me not to be sick, right?


Friday, June 01, 2018

Response & Ability *or* Boy-Child & the Lenovo Laptop

I did a thing.

It's not like I've never done something like this before. I totally have.

It's a good thing, really. Although the current result of the thing is that I have a child who hates my guts. I guess I'd rather have him hate me for a little while than for him to grow up to be an irresponsible leech.

OK - I'm getting ahead of myself.

History: Years ago, when Boy-child was affectionately called "Kiddo" he broke his antique wooden bed frame, which had belonged to his grandmother, because he pitched a fit and destroyed it. When he said I needed to get him a new bed (remember, he was "Kiddo" then, so I'm thinking he might have been six years old) I said, "Oh no buddy...that's your job. You can sleep on a crooked bed until you can save the money to get a new bed frame."


It was awful.

I explained to him him that he broke the bed. He was having a tantrum (during which, I did another unusual thing: I sat there quietly and let him scream) because Mommy was picking up the things which were completely covering his bedroom floor. He didn't take care of his stuff, didn't care enough about it to put it away somewhere, and when he expressed his displeasure in the form of screaming, crying, and having a breakdown, he broke his bed. HE broke his bed. Not me. Therefore, it was his responsibility to replace it.

If he broke someone else's toy while he was playing with it, I told him, I would expect him to replace it.

He wasn't happy with me, but again, I'd rather have him mad at me than to raise an ungrateful child who doesn't respect himself, others, or his things.

Fast Forward to this week: Last week of school. Now, in our school district (I can't say anything about other districts) they assign a device - a sweet little Lenovo laptop - to each child 5th grade and above. This is managed through the school. Each child has to essentially sign a contract saying they'll take care of it, make sure it doesn't get broken, and if it does get broken, it's a $50.00 fee. Period.

So, at the end of the year, they collect everyones' device, inspect it, and send a letter home with a picture of any damage found, requesting payment.

My almost high-schooler said, "I need $50 to pay for the laptop repairs."

I said, "Nope."



(Less) Screaming.

(Little) Crying.

"WHAT? I need to pay for it!"

"Yes, you do," I respond.

"But school ends today!" says he.

"I know that," say I.

We follow this path down a rabbit hole. I finally explain to him - yet again - that the computer was his responsibility, not mine. That if he didn't have enough money, there is a list of chores on the board in the hallway and he could earn some money to pay for the repairs that way. I was not - repeat NOT - going to simply hand him $50.

I asked Boy-Child if anyone had EVER made him take responsibility for something he'd done before in his life. (Knowing the answer, of course.)  He said, "Yeah - when I broke the bed and you made me pay for it."

Uh huh.

"This is the same thing, bud," I tell him.

I was really hoping for a light-bulb of understanding to suddenly appear over his head, but no such luck.

I called Hubby. I explained the situation and said, "I really need you to back me up on this."

That was this morning. I don't know where Boy-Child is with this at the moment, but hopefully he's being proactive and finding chores to do which can earn him some money.

I am HAPPY to help him in this way. He's fourteen. He's old enough to earn his own money in a limited way. He's very proactive about earning money when he wants something, but when I want something, or there is a situation like this one with the slightly damaged computer that does not belong to any of us, he wants someone else to pay for it.

And I say, "Nope."

Does that make me a bad mother?


Does it upset me that he's upset?


Does that matter?


I saw something the other day that resonated with me, and I'll share it here: Responsibility is made up or two words. Response and Ability. "Responsibility isn't something someone puts on  you. Responsibility isn't in your job description. Responsibility isn't a paper you sign. We all find ourselves looking at situations, and we all find ourselves with abilities. And what we have to ask is, given those abilities, what then will be my response to those abilities?"

I have the responsibility to raise my children to be decent humans. Responsible humans. Humans that care about themselves, others, and their things. And so no, I really do not feel badly that I am making Boy-Child pay for his own computer. Even though about 90% of the other students are dealing with the same thing. Even though all these computers are about 3 years old and have had daily use. Even though he was careful and it "just happened." I don't care about all that. Your excuses mean nothing to me.... Not really. And, while I absolutely feel for you, sweet boy of mine, you and only you, are responsible for paying for those damages.


Wednesday, May 23, 2018


I am going to apologize ahead of time only for the randomness of this post. I've seen so many instances recently of hate, hate crimes, or general disgust for both individuals and for groups. I've had it. I am very much a proponent for the "Why can't we all just get along?" Movement - and if there isn't a Movement, there should be. I don't believe there shouldn't be conflict. Conflict with intent to resolve a situation in a humane way is part of who we are. But conflict for the sake of conflict? Argument for the sake of argument? Not really. I don't believe one person is intrinsically right or intrinsically wrong, but I do believe each person has the right to be heard. To be seen. I also believe we need to be careful with our words, because Edward Bulwer-Lytton was right. Let's replace "Pen" with "Word"....?  I think spoken words are quite mighty.

If one uses the word “They” when referencing an entire group, one should be cautious. To say “They” and then follow it up with an assumption could be, at the very least, unkind, but more likely detrimental. For example, referring to all LGBTQ individuals as “Those people” or “They” is simply rude. Or, when discussing maybe a style of dress or a propensity toward extravagance for the same community, saying, “They all…” would be like saying all persons of color are bad (they’re not), or all cats have fur (they don’t) or that water is wet (which is another conversation for another time). More accurately, and certainly less hurtful, would be if you were to say, “They are just trying to be the best they can be.” Even further, you’d be spot on if you were to say, “They are trying to make a life for themselves, with all the rights and privileges thereof.” Do you want to be referred to as “They?” Again, I use this as an example. We vaguely refer to “They” in a tongue-in-cheek manner, such as The Bureau of They or The Ubiquitous They to mean those unknowns who have decreed things (ideas, rules, etc.) to be a certain way. "I don’t know, I didn’t make the rules, ‘They’ did.” But to use “They” specifically…well, that could get you into trouble unless what you're stating or claiming is proven fact. That is unless you don’t care about the feelings and rights of others. I know that lack of caring is definitely driving this society right now; we're all far too selfish to think of others, unless one is asking how another can help you or what they can give you.

I preach acceptance to my kids. Acceptance! Acceptance!  Acceptance! I let them know that I expect them to treat everyone well, even if someone is not their favorite person. I know every time I pull out my soap box, one of them says, "Oh, no. Here she goes again." Add in a little smirk and maybe some eye rolling. But here's the thing: I KNOW THEY LISTEN! I know, because I've heard them talk about it, seen them show it. I'm not just referring to the LGBTQ community - though of course that has been part of the conversations. I'm referring to ANY situation where someone (human or animal) is treated as less than he or she should be. I've been on the receiving end of that stick too many times to count and I know how it feels to either be lumped in with a group of people who don't entirely meet my personal standards of living (they're unkind, thoughtless, selfish, rude...), or they simply have a mean streak a mile wide. I'm sure there are many other reasons why one would feel a certain way.

And I know, I can hear you all cringing. "You should let your kids think for themselves! You should not push your opinions on them! You should let them cultivate their own feelings about something." But again I remind you I'm not preaching acceptance toward, and love of, one single community; I'm using these things as EXAMPLES for my children and I try very hard to put what I say into a real-life situation for them so it will be clear for them.

In my house, we do not treat people with disrespect. And when we do, we're called out on it. My kids are as aware of that as I am. And further, we ALL fail. There are days where tempers are short, bodies are hurting or feeling unwell, emotions are on the surface, nerves are frayed. Oh yes, we fail. But we KNOW when we fail and we can beg forgiveness when and if it's necessary AND MEAN IT.

Maybe I'm not making sense.

Bottom line for me is this: That Golden Rule thing? That's not just a religious creed. We ALL want to be treated well. So, if you would be hurt or offended by something said or done to you, or one of your kids, or maybe even your animals, then please, for the love of love, don't pay that forward.


Thursday, March 29, 2018

Busy, much?

So, I guess I officially suck at blogging.

But you know what? I don't really care. I still love it, and will blog when I can, but I guess I don't feel like I NEED to have an update every day, every week, or even every month. I can't force it, right?


I've been busy, too. Kinda keeping a few things under my hat for now, but I've been drawing again. Well, doodling, really. But the doodling morphed from small doodles (like the one at the left) to bigger ones, to stuff people might actually call "ART" on some occasions. This, in turn, has also morphed into some actual pen/ink/colored-pencil drawing. Again, I'm going to keep some of it to myself for now, but in the meantime, what I can tell you is that my ETSY store is open again! (There's a link on the right under the heading of "My Hobbies" - in case you're interested.)

The doodling (especially) and drawing has been fun and, more than I ever could have anticipated or imagined, has been amazingly soothing for me. So, though my thumb feels like someone has poured cement into the joints and the writing callus on my middle finger is slightly sore and definitely more pronounced, I'm creating something tangible again. Not just writing creepy micro-fiction, though I haven't let that go, either. Hey - you love what you love, right?


In other news:

  • The month of March brought my kids each another year. Boy-child is now 14 and Girl-child is now 11. Please, pray for me. Mostly they're great kids, but every now and then I wonder, "It's wrong to kill my kids, isn't it?" Parenting is most DEFINITELY NOT for the faint of heart.
  • I had dental issues. Well, one tooth in particular decided it didn't want or need to be in my mouth any more and tried to commit suicide. It was especially horrifying for me because I'm legitimately terrified of the dentist. I was quite proud of myself for handling the dental visit and subsequent oral surgery to remove the tooth without winding up in a padded room. I still have the dental implant process and eventual crown to look forward to (ha ha) but at least, at this point, I know I can handle it. I don't have to like something to be able to deal with it, do I?
  • The Puppet Ministry I'm part of at our church is beginning to branch out. It is something else I truly love and, though the work isn't easy, it's fun. We now have a YouTube channel at H.I.S. Puppeteers, so check it out! Make sure to subscribe and ring the bell so you'll know when we upload a new video. Also, we've started taking the show on the road (Have puppets; will travel!) and so far, we have two shows in April on the same weekend, one in May, and an entire week booked at a Christian camp in Indiana in June! 

So, the humans at Chez Shell are fine, the felines are fat and happy and spoiled, and (as applicable) school and work are all going well. We are all truly looking forward to warmer weather so we can spend some time outside. The kids want to build a Bird Garden in the backyard, so we're collecting bird feeders and houses right now, and, once things smooth out weather-wise, I'll dig in with them and help because it sounds like such a neat idea and will be fun to do something like that with them.

I guess that's it!


Wednesday, January 03, 2018

New Story! "The Right Red"

Natalie was stoked! She was totally prepped to start her next painting and this one was gonna be a doozie! Man! She hadn’t created something in so long, just running her fingers through the soft mongoose hair of her limited-edition fan brush made her arms break out in gooseflesh.

She knew this piece would be a work of art. She could feel it. Standing there, smelling the fresh paint, staring at the blank canvas, the feel of the brush handle solid, anticipating, she felt...elated! It was the only word that worked.

Natalie didn’t know why it had been so long since she’d allowed herself this pleasure, but it had been years. She guessed maybe the itch - for want of a better word - just hadn’t been there. Maybe creativity was like the moon - waxing and waning, coming and going? Except, she supposed, without the clockwork regularity. But now it didn’t matter why. She had everything she needed right in front of her and was ready to begin.

With a deep breath, she dipped her largest choice flat brush in, and, on the exhale, swiped a violent slash of red across the stark white canvas. She stood back to admire her work. It was breathtaking! The contrast of that red, so deep, so vibrant, against the white was...well...she couldn’t explain how it made her feel. Almost wanton. Sexual. But the release was not enough. She definitely wasn’t done yet.

She dipped the brush again and made another mark on the canvas. This one slightly more focused. Straighter. Stronger. Less abstract. Bolder. Where it crossed with the original slash it darkened in a pleasing way.

For a few minutes, Natalie put the brush down and simply stood back to stare. She knew what she was doing. She knew what it should look like and so far she was absolutely hitting her intended mark. 

Her round face broke into a brilliant smile.

She was suddenly caught up in the frenzy of it. Ah! She remembered this. This frantic need to get it all out. To get the image or the idea onto canvas, out of her head. Do make the colors do all the work. She began to sweat with the effort. It was a dance. A long forgotten, but well choreographed dance. Anyone watching would have been fascinated; mesmerized. Just as the red began to take over the canvas completely, she stopped. Swiped at her brow with the back of a red hand. She needed to let some white show through - but just a little.

The dark color was next. She picked up her thinnest line brush and dipped it skillfully into the cup. A careful, thin line of darkness, which was not exactly black, appeared. A similar frenzy took over as she used that dark color to express what she was feeling. Fire and brimstone! The work was exhausting, but savagely captivating.

When Natalie finally finished she simply stopped, like someone had flicked her off-switch. Her arms fell to her sides, the sweat poured from her forehead, dripped off her nose and slid in warm rivulets down the middle of her back. The brush fell to the floor from her slack fingers.

She stared. It was a masterpiece! She hadn’t created anything like this, ever in her life. Except...well...maybe this was similar to the last time. She’d almost forgotten. But it didn’t matter. Nothing mattered anymore. Just this piece of art. Oh! She was going to be a millionaire! That red looked like the color of money and she could almost taste it.

Actually, since she was splattered with it, she was tasting it. And it was good. Just a little zing on her tongue.

Finally, she snapped out of her fugue. She squatted gracefully to retrieve the dropped paintbrush from the floor and stood to begin her clean-up process. It was a ritual, really. She’d prepared by covering the entire sun room floor with an opaque plastic sheeting. She always got color over everything. It was just less messy this way.

After she’d removed the canvas from the easel and put it aside, she took the cup of dark color and walked to an old metal pail in the corner by the back door. She upended the little cup and watched as a sickly greenish black oozed out. She watched it slowly drip from one vessel to the other until no more drops fell. Hypnotized. Then, once the cup was as empty as she could make it, she simply dumped the cup into the pail, too.

Then, she walked back to the easel and removed that. She tucked it away behind the door.

After the easel was safely stored, she turned to her brushes. She’d paid hundreds of dollars for them about five years ago and they were her most prized possession. They were custom made, just for her. The mongoose hair bristles were - from what she knew - the best money could buy, therefore, she knew they were exactly what she needed to create her pieces. She felt sad for them that they’d been so neglected lately. But, she’d discovered her passion again, and therefore felt sure she would use them more often.

The only thing left to clean up was the body. He’d been stripped and flayed, and placed on a an old stainless steel autopsy table next to her easel. Easy access for the red she needed. It was the only way she could find that particular color. She had tried over and over again to mix synthetic colors to find just the right red, but she’d been unsuccessful. The last time - oh, that last time - she’d gotten so angry when time after time the color just wasn’t right! She still couldn’t feel sorry for her boyfriend. He deserved what he’d gotten after interrupting her color experiments. But, at least she’d discovered how to get the right red.

She grinned at the memory - coming back strongly now - and she began to peel the corners of the plastic sheeting away from the edges of the room. Provided she tucked everything in properly, she could dispose of the body tonight and no one except she would be the wiser.

~ by Jennifer Shell (2016) (Not to be copied, used or reproduced without permission.)


Note from me (the author): More than once, I've been asked, "Why do you write about such awful things?" The answer: I don't know...because I can, I guess. I've always been fascinated by the gruesome, macabre, bizarre, unnatural, supernatural, etc.. I spent a good portion of my pre-teen and teenage years reading authors like Dean Koontz and Stephen King (or, Richard Bachman, if you prefer) and yes, they definitely directed my tastes in books. Though those kinds of things aren't all I read, they are my preference. My love of all things weird, scary, and creepy has yet to fade. 

Friday, December 15, 2017


I've been so terrible at keeping up with this blog lately. I keep wavering back and forth between just getting rid of it, and then also forcing myself to write something AT LEAST once a month.

I don't want to get rid of it because I quite like some of the stuff I've written and don't want it to go away. But at the same time, I just keep finding myself so busy, or uninspired, or dejected, or whatever...and I just don't wanna. So, since I'm writing this particular post in a sort of "stream of consciousness" way, we'll just hang in there a bit and see where we end up.


I've discovered YouTube. Ok, ok, I know that's been a thing for a long time, but I've never been a YouTuber - EVER. Then, the a YouTuber (Lady Mcreepsta) contacted me and asked if she could record one of my stories for her channel (and subsequent Podcast, too!). Also, the puppet ministry I'm involved in with my church started a YouTube channel. And now, I've tumbled down the rabbit hole of Internet videos. It's fascinating and terrifying and distracting and interesting and ridiculous and mind-boggling and weird and...fascinating. (I already said that, right?)

So far, my favorite YouTube channels (in no particular order) are:

Dr. Sandra Lee (a.k.a Dr. Pimple Popper) - Yes. I'm one of those. Ask my Uncle John.
Clevver Style - Who knew, right? Especially their Beauty Breaks.
H.I.S. Puppeteers - Because, of course, I have to love the one I'm involved in, right? #HISPuppeteers

OK - there are probably more, but right now, those are the top three.

I've also discovered that there are some full-length audio books on YouTube! Holy What? Really? Books I can listen to? Free? I'll take some of that, please?

Sheesh - I guess I didn't realize how behind-the-times I am!


I'm a little bit manic today. I did NOT sleep well last night and my brain is going 100 miles a minute. I can barely keep one thought in my head long enough to bring it to an end before I start thinking about something else. I'm confusing myself, and that's definitely not good. More rest. Ha! At this time of year?

I know, that's crazy thinking, right?


Speaking of this time of year, I have not done one little tiny bit of shopping. Ok - a few small things - but nothing really of substance. It's OK, though, because my kids know we're doing a very light Christmas. The biggest gift they're getting is the gift of my time, because I'm taking 12 days off (that includes weekends and holiday days off). Much needed. Maybe I can get SOME of that aforementioned rest?


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

What do YouTube, Lady Mcreepsta, and Amy have in common?


It's been far too long.

One of those times where, quite frankly, I didn't have anything I felt was worthy of writing about. Lots of ups and downs. Lots of sadness. Lots of stress and busyness. No one really wants to hear about all of that.

I'll just leave you with something interesting which happened recently.

I was contacted via email by a YouTuber called Lady Mcreepsta who asked if she could narrate my story "Amy" for her site. Totally flattered and surprised, I said yes. I mean, why wouldn't I, right?

So, here is my story "Amy", narrated by Lady Mcreepsta, on YouTube.

Have fun!


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

What is "NORMAL" anyway?

You know, sometimes I have to sit back and remind myself I can't let life just HAPPEN to me. That I need to TAKE CHARGE! GRAB THAT BULL BY THE HORNS! GET STUFF DONE! GO! GO! GO! NEVER STOP! It's freakin' exhausting.

But then life throws you a curve ball and NORMAL gets tossed right out the window.

Life threw our little family a curve ball last week as we said our final farewell to my sweet Mother-in-Law. She was one of the best people I've ever known and she will be missed. She accepted me right from the start and I loved her.

Hubby is so very sad. He said, "If everyone would stop asking me how I'm doing I'd probably be OK!" But it's not just that. So many thoughts. So many memories. And there's absolutely NOTHING I can do. Nothing I can say. Nothing that will help. And I feel so very, very helpless.

I can't grab the horns. I can't get stuff done. I can't go.

I have to stop. Reflect. Be solid and stable and THERE.

So, what is NORMAL? Normal is making sure he knows I'm here for him, no matter what. Remembering not to ask him how he's doing, but instead, asking what he needs or how I can help. Normal is letting him know I've got things under control at home if he needs to be with his sisters to grieve or do whatever needs to be done on their end. Normal is giving him time and space when he wants it. Or, smothering him with hugs and love when he needs it.

I can't FIX this.

The kids are sad, too. It's hard for them. They have so many good memories of their Nani. I asked girl-child about her best memories last night. She said she had two which stood out: The time she and boy-child were helping their Nani wash dishes in her little kitchen in Big Stone Gap, VA and they argued over who got to use the chef scrub brush. And the time they helped Nani make her special chocolate bundt cake for their daddy's birthday and covered the entire thing with thin candles - all over - and they called it the Spaceship Cake. And also many, many animal memories. Nani had lots of animals.

They have their memories, for which I am profoundly grateful.

I have to let my little family grieve in their own ways. And I'm grieving, too. I couldn't have searched the world over and found a better Mother-in-Law. I definitely lucked into a wonderful extended family.

So right now, our NORMAL is grief. Our NORMAL is trying to do the day-to-day. It's fresh and new and hard right now. But we WILL move forward.

And it will never be exactly the same again.



Monday, October 02, 2017

My own worst enemy

I may only be able to think about you and wonder how you are.

Maybe the best I can manage is to reach out, just a little, by text or by email, just to let you know you're part of me in some meaningful way.

But then again, maybe I can bring you a Diet Coke, or chicken noodle soup, or lasagna. I want you to be okay. 

But maybe I'm scared. Afraid of what I might see, think. Feel. Oh, feelings are so hard. Especially when I love you. It might be easier for me to play ostrich; stick my head in the sand. Pretend there isn't anything wrong. Doesn't mean it's the right thing. The fair thing. But what if that's the reason I don't call? Visit?

I want to help, but I'm overwhelmed with my own awfulness. My own drama. My own self-imposed and selfish issues. My own brain gets in the way. 

Except you matter. I might not do the right things. Say the right words. Be who you expect me to be. Be who I expect me to be. I am who I am. Right or wrong. Love me or hate me.

I've been more disappointed in myself than you could EVER be with me.

But oh, the green of the sky after sunset, before full night takes over to make us wait for the rising of another day. That green means opportunity. It means I have a chance tomorrow. To succeed. To fail. To just barely make it through. 

I hate failing. So I'll be here tomorrow. Pushing forward. Even if forward is only an inch. Even if I only think...and don't act.