3+ME: Try something different (like meeting readers!)

A live painting, a scavenger hunt, and talking to humans

I don’t like talking to humans.

My stepkids don’t like coloring books.

For last week’s Bristol County Home & Garden Show, both dislikes posed a problem.

Let’s start with my own dislike: talking to people.

I’m an introvert, so I was slightly torn when my boss, Herald News Regional Executive Editor Lynne Sullivan, asked if I wanted to participate in the event this year. While yes, it would be amazing to showcase my art (these cat illustrations I draw every week? I draw lots more of them elsewhere!), it would mean talking to people that came by.

So what’s a quiet artist to do?

Try something different.

“Would you rather do a live artwork? Like a painting or a drawing? People could watch you work?” Lynne asked me.

My husband joined me during my live painting at the Bristol County Home & Garden Show – and my stepkids joined in a scavenger hunt.

I could paint.

Perfect.

It would still be some level of scary, but maybe I could try it.

I could sit and focus on my painting, and if people wanted to talk to me, they could.

And people did.

A huge percentage of the event was spent doing the one thing that scared me the most — talking to humans.

And not only did I not crumple and wither away, but I actually loved it.

Yep. Me. The introvert, loved hearing from other people, about art, cats, even family stories.

The coolest part about doing a show in Greater Fall River is that some people who stopped by, actually read this column. (That’s still nuts to me.)

“You’re the lady who writes those articles every week, about being a stepmom?” they asked.

I smiled. “Yep, that’s me.”

“I read it every Sunday!” (Wow)

“Are the stories actually true?” (Yep)

“You should write a book!” (Work in progress…)

“I thought you’d be older!” (I’m 30, for the record!)

“Is that your husband?” (My husband was indeed with me.) “I read about you and your children all the time!” they said to him.

It was surreal, getting to meet and talk with readers who set aside their own time each week for my little stories. (Thank you!) I was beyond excited, and soon found the whole talking-to-humans thing can actually be pretty amazing.

And voila, I survived my dislike. I just had to give it a try.

That brings me to my stepkids’ dislike, coloring books.

For this event, I asked the kids’ mom if she’d want to bring them for a visit, since it was her weekend with them. She enthusiastically agreed. (I’m lucky we have a good relationship, like when she invited me to the mother/son dance last year.)

So I knew the kids would be coming, and I wanted something for them to do.

Problem was, I didn’t have any ideas.

Since it was an expo-style event, I’d figured I’d need some free “giveaway,” and the best thing I could come up with, was coloring pages. I printed out copies of some of my drawings, and boom, giveaway taken care of.

But my stepkids aren’t huge fans of coloring pages. If their mom was gonna bring them all the way out here, I wanted to make sure they’d be entertained.

Coloring pages weren’t gonna cut it.

What’s a stepmom to do?

Try something different.

What’s something they do like? I asked myself. And then I had it.

Scavenger hunt.

Perfect.

They love solving clue-based hunts during the summer and for advent at Christmas, so why not here?

With a little elbow grease and a LOT of time and thought, I pulled together a 10-question activity (complete with storyline) that the kids could do, running around the expo floor to find the hidden pictures of Skribbles the Cat (that’s the name of my cat character) and her friends and stepkittens. Once the blanks were all filled in, not only would the kids have a completed story, but then they could also choose a small prize.

And it worked — not just for my stepkids, but for other kids at the event, too (who were even more humans for me to talk to, and I got through that just fine also. Who’d a thunk it).

A scavenger hunt was a successful alternative to coloring pages as an activity for the kiddos.

The whole event was a batch of new experiences, and for me, a reminder to try new things.

Sure, it would have been way less effort to skip the show and not worry about talking to people or entertaining my stepkids on our non-kid-custody weekend.

But trying something different — live painting, talking to awesome readers, putting together an entire scavenger hunt — yes, it was way more work.

But I’m so glad I did it.

Originally published in The Herald News on April 7, 2019.

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