Monday, March 13, 2017

Weathering the Storm

On March 13, 1993 my new husband and I woke up in New Jersey to a Winter Wonderland, or Nightmare. 

You see, it was just over two months since we were married in Virginia on January 9th. We lived in Virginia and were married there in a small, intimate ceremony with just family, but agreed to have a wedding reception in New Jersey where our families still lived.

My parents, when initially planning the party with me, suggested we have the reception in June or July after I graduated college. I emphatically refused citing the “facts” that I may be employed by then and could not possibly plan a party away from home at that time of the year. I went on to argue that spring in New Jersey is a “perfect” time to have a wedding reception – our wedding reception. I mean, March is the month when spring begins, and spring in New Jersey is always warm and delightful with blooming flowers and showcasing green-budded trees, right?!

As our reception date neared we started hearing weather forecasts predicting a “sizable snow event”.

Seriously?!

So, as our date was upon us, most of the 129 people who sent RSVPs that they’d come and celebrate our nuptials, started cancelling because of the impending weather.

News updates started calling this snowstorm the “Storm of the Century”.



On March 13th we awoke to our surroundings covered in white with snow falling steadily. Our reception was a brunch and was scheduled to start at 12 noon.

The Blizzard of 1993
Storm of the Century

We showered and dressed in our wedding finery we had worn just two months previously to take our vows.

Rugged trucks were warming in the drive as we held our fine shoes and trudged in the snow in our boots.

The reception was decorated beautifully as the vendors did their best to bring in the flowers. The country club’s chefs provided a tasty spread, and the champagne, thankfully, was flowing.

As it turned out, only 29 people came to help celebrate our marriage, including 2 of the five member band hired to perform, the bassist and the pianist.

We danced, sang, laughed, admired the increasingly snow-covered golf course, ate, drank, smiled, and cheered our way through the four hour party.

Slowly revelers decided it was time to check the damage, dig out their cars, and pray they could get home safely.

I was feeling low at several points throughout the day, angry with myself for not listening to my mother, angry that my mother had been right (again), and so relieved that my parents never once said, “We told you so.” They were gracious, fabulous hosts, and loving parents.

Then, somebody said, “…at least you’re already married!”

Ryan and Candice Smith
Wedding Picture
January 9, 1993


So true.

Ryan and I have weathered a lot of storms since that 1993 Storm of the Century. Some were literal and others figurative but equally as ferocious.

But we survived and continue to thrive.

So, as my native New Jersey prepares for another mid-March storm that threatens to halt the world for a few days, I think about that reception 24 years ago. I think about it not with guilt but with love and affection.

I’m so very blessed that I’m already – and still - married.

Stay safe everyone!



Saturday, February 25, 2017

One Heartbeat, One Breath, One Stroke More

Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?*



He was tall, handsome, with a head full of gorgeous hair, a warm smile and eyes…that always belied a world of sadness since I’d known him.

Sparkle missing, Life snuffed out.

Ravaged by an acrimonious failed marriage, the loss of daily quality time with his two daughters, and a place in his home, Life was hard for him.

He’d burned through careers – teaching, sales – but nothing stuck, nothing stoked his inner vocational passions.

He was a caring father and good friend.

He loved the Lake, it soothed him.

He served his community, volunteering tirelessly. He gave of his time, talents, and money.

He filled his summers with swim team. First, when his daughters swam with the team, but even after they were finished he continued his volunteering with the swim club.

He always used humor to talk to the children, daring them to counter his assertion that, “Swimming is NOT fun!”



He was always bursting with pride in their improvements and accomplishments in their swimming lives and/or academic, athletic, or other pursuits.

He was larger than life and yet he was increasingly devoured by it

Disappointments washed into him, not over him. He was angry and wounded and unable to get past his worldly troubles.

But this doesn’t define the man.

He offers us a legacy of service, selflessness, kindness, humor, and volunteerism.

He taught by example to revel in your community’s successes, to value the children. He showed us to teach the children and ourselves to face life with humor and find the fun.

He teaches us – in losing his own personal battle in Hell – to make mental illness a recognized illness.

If diagnosed with cancer or heart disease one seeks medical treatment to save one’s life.

A bleeding wound or broken bone is a requisite trip to the ER.

But mental illness still has a stigma. Its insidious destruction keeps those inflicted from seeking satisfactory help.

The human brain like the oceans or deep space is still largely a mystery.

When actor Robin Williams took his life conversations were activated. For some it hit too close to home and incited compassion, whereas others refused to accept Williams’ illness claiming his was a cowardice move.

Many make the same move as Williams yearly, monthly, daily.

When I was a teacher one of my student’s mother took her life. It was, as you can imagine, devastating.

But for me it was a positive in some way.

I used the death to motivate myself to get help, because I could see how one day dark thoughts could rule my judgement.

Therapy helped me, but only because I was willing to dig deeply for my bravery and seek help for my mental illness.

If you hurt, are sad, entertain thoughts of ending it for whatever reason – wait.

STOP.

Seek help.

Fight for one more heartbeat, one more breath, one more stroke.

Keep going.

Fight, hold on, endure.

There is another option.

There is HOPE.

I won’t allow his legacy to be washed away. He deserves to be recognized for all he did to raise our children to the light.

And now for what he did to shine a light on the darkness he suffered.

I told my teenager this morning that this man he’d looked up to took his own life.

I did this so my son can fill his heart and mind with messages of hope, love, and acceptance. And I told him to educate him and dispel the myths of mental illness.

Once my son faces facts and accepts, he is equipped with more tools.

Because my son needs to know – I NEED him to know – that no matter how badly life tries to beat him down that LOVE can keep him present enough to fight for another heartbeat, another breath, another stroke.

That, my friends, is a lasting legacy.

Godspeed, Jim.

Thank you.



We'll teach them how to say goodbye,
You and I,
One last time.*

*Hamilton: An American Musical
Lin-Manuel Miranda c. 2015


Monday, January 23, 2017

Numbers



In August of this year I turn 45 years old. I hadn’t thought of it at all until the Inauguration coverage of the 45th President. This post is not about politics, the newly elected president, nor anything political. Like all of my blogs, it’s about me.

Numbers, I thought, didn’t have much meaning in my life. Until recently I didn’t make connections with numbers. But then I looked back and realized how much numbers have played a starring role in my decisions, comfort, and faith.

Since I was a small child the numbers three and five were always favorites. Being the third and last child in a family of five may have been a big reason why.

The Star Wars franchise has been a consistent thread in the fabric of my life. Seriously.  Remember the final scene of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope? Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia stood together. Three.

In fact, the Star Wars movies are always put out in Trilogies.

Leaping forward to my early adulthood I connected with the driver of the No. 3 car in NASCAR, Dale Earnhardt. If you know me, you know my history with auto racing, Motorsports, Dale Earnhardt, and the No. 3.

Fast forward to after Earnhardt’s death in 2001 when his son Dale Jr. was still driving the No. 8 car (three plus five). 

It was directly after Dale Jr. changed teams and car numbers to the No. 88 when I was signing my son up for Cub Scouts (2008). I asked the Cubmaster what the Pack number was and he replied, “88”. I then inquired what my son’s Den number to be was and was told, “3”. The decision was made on the spot.  We joined. And I became the No. 3 Den Leader.

The landmark Broadway musical Rent is another example of numbers. The hit song “Seasons of Love” starts with the number 525,600 being sung. Those are the minutes in a year. How do you measure a year? Myriad ways, but, like for so many, the number stuck and has resonated for nearly two decades. And, of course, it’s divisible by three and five.

I wear three diamonds in my engagement ring. I say I love symmetry, and I do, but that number three is sacred to me.

My wedding date was in 1993. All of the nines are divisible by three!

Like the family I come from I have three children, five people in the family.

I began Chief 187™Chatter in 2010, a year divisible by three and five.

I successfully ran for a seat on my local school board in 2015. The number 15 is divisible by three and five.

Now I’m turning 45, truly “middle-aged”. I love the number, divisible by three and five. I’m not feeling old or even finished. In fact, I’m feeling this number is going to be a fruitful one for me.

Why not? All it takes is action. By simply doing we are successful, right?

I mean, I have numbers on my side.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Pain Equals Creativity?

On Monday Racer 187 and I took a rare opportunity to go on a Date Night. We, like most parents, are active every day and night of the week so we had to purposefully make time for us. We stole away to have dinner and see a movie.

At our local performance theater they were showing Miles Ahead about the incomparable Miles Davis. It was an interesting film starring Don Cheadle and Ewan McGregor, the former also writing, directing, and producing the film.



The movie is a gritty bio-pic of Davis in his later, drug-infused years suffering from chronic hip pain, writer's/performance block, and regret about his past. Although the story itself is fictional, Davis, the drug use, and the music are all true and fascinating.

On the way home from the movie Racer and I discussed the film, Davis, and art in general. What I determined was that artists who suffer - depression, physical and/or emotional pain, drug use, violence, etc. - create universally appreciated timeless works of art.

Racer countered that happy, positive artists have a strong voice that people are attracted to and seek. I didn't disagree, I replied that although Love may be universal, it is felt and understood differently around the globe. Pain, however, seems to be a human condition that binds us all.

And, when in pain, sometimes the only thing that can soothe us is creating or another's expression of that pain whether it's in the form of a painting, sculpture, dance, writing, film, or music. Not all people are exposed to Love in the same way, but pain is so dominant in human life that we can all identify with it in some way.

So, for artists to truly resonate must they suffer tremendously to create masterpieces that connect with the masses? Is there no hope for the "Happy" artist who came from a pain-free upbringing and life? Are light, optimistic pieces not popular?

Of course not.

Look at Paul McCartney and "Silly Love Songs", Pharrell Williams and "Happy", Beethoven's "Ode to Joy", and Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" from his masterpiece The Messiah. People do love and respond to such works and embrace them through the ages.

But for the artists, to put themselves out there, to have the masses celebrate their accomplishments, is suffering a pre-requisite?



I'm not famous. I'm not well-known or well-read by the masses, but I do have a readership that I am proud to have earned. A lot of my pieces I have written over the years are happy, positive articles that embody who I am. But, I have suffered pains - unspeakable pains that shaped who I am and influence me daily.

If people across the globe are united by pain then perhaps it is only logical that the greatest artists of all times are shaped by the pains they endured.



J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame comes to mind. Hemingway does, too. Picasso, Van Gogh, Janis Joplin. Jim Morrison of The Doors. Madonna. And, where I started, Miles Davis.

My philosophy has always been, "You have to be exposed to be inspired."

Now I am realizing that in addition to exposure, strength, tenacity, and the talent to turn pain into creativity are helpful additives.

Love still motivates me. It inspires me. It drives me.

But it is evident that the pains I have endured, the pains I still endure, have shaped me, formed me, and make me work harder to communicate, create, and connect.



What artists of the past and today resonate with you? Did they suffer greatly in life? Discuss your feelings about this subject below. I am always interested in reading your opinions.




Friday, August 21, 2015

Candice Smith: Creator, Writer, Editor, At-track Media, On-Air Personality



My teaching life and my parenting life are only a couple of aspects of who Candice Smith is. They are important to who I am and how I have come to be Me, but there are other parts, too.

In 2007 I started blogging at a now defunct NASCAR social media site called Rowdy.com. I dusted off my NASCAR fandom that I had abandoned after Dale Earnhardt died in 2001 and started to pursue a passion - writing. I wrote under the pen name Chief 187.

Quickly I found I had a following - people liked what I had to write and how I was writing it.

In 2010 I started my own personal blog, monetized it, and found an International audience that was loyal and supportive of my daily musings. That is called Chief 187™Chatter.  

It took nearly a year but I trademarked Chief 187™ to make sure I would own the name I had worked so hard to brand.

2011  found me being courted by an Internet radio station that was new and offering an exciting blend of sports programming and music on air and a need for fresh and original content for its website. I took the job and threw myself into writing even more.

Again my readership grew.

That job at WhooBazoo.com with station owner Tony Arnold led to on-air work as the NASCAR correspondent weekly. Eventually I was asked to do the entire weekly two hour show and discuss sports of all kinds.

A sister station to WhooBazoo.com - Eventlevel.com - heard my on-air reports and asked me to join not one but two of their radio programs.

I was on the air three times per week to talk about NASCAR, stick and ball sports, and music!

An all-female Motorsports website "magazine" called Skirts and Scuffs hired me to write a column I entitled, "Why I Love NASCAR: By Chief 187™.  

By 2012 I had pitched an idea to WhooBazoo.com about starting my own Motorsports radio program and they were most interested. I assembled a panel with Keith Hayes from the Boston area and a gentleman from North Carolina, a former racer and a great radio man, named Ronnie "Crate" Payne. Later that spring I added Gray Warren, a NASCAR veteran who had worked a long time with Bill Davis Racing and currently works for Richard Childress Racing.

Drafting the Circuits radio program began in March of 2012. It is a weekly radio show that covers NASCAR, IndyCar, Formula 1 and other forms of racing. It includes guest interviews and round table discussions and occurs LIVE.

At the same time one of  NASCAR's biggest and most respected veteran writers, Steve Waid, asked me to write for him at his website MotorsportsUnplugged.com. I was beyond humbled!

In August 2012 Motorsports Unplugged sent me to Pocono Raceway as their media representative for the second date on that track's NASCAR schedule. I met ARCA, NASCAR Camping World Truck, and NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers, interviewed them both in the garage and in the media center, and started making a name for myself among my peers.

An Internet radio station named Performance Motorsports Network asked me to join the panel  of one of their Motorsports programs, Burning Rubber Radio, and also asked to carry Drafting the Circuits, my show, as a syndicated program throughout the weekend.

Performance Motorsports Network got media credentials for me to attend Homestead-Miami for NASCAR's championship weekend across their three major touring series.

Again I met drivers, crew chiefs, crewmen and women, track personnel, and NASCAR Hall of Famers of all kinds, from Richard Petty and Dale Inman to Rusty Wallace and Leonard Wood of the Wood Brothers.

By 2013 Drafting the Circuits launched its own website and I was able to post original articles along with writers I had hired to flesh out the site. The website enabled me to easily procure media credentials under Drafting the Circuits. We attended both NASCAR and Camping World Truck races from Pocono to Las Vegas, but the all-important Indianapolis 500 with my IndyCar correspondent Frank Santoroski.

In 2014 my radio show was getting LIVE legendary guests like Mario Andretti, Bobby Unser, Bobby Allison, as well as series regular drivers like Brendan Gaughan, Joey Coulter, Charlie Kimball and Spencer Gallagher.

Also in 2014 we were able to claim a huge coup when we added Formula 1 to the list of credentials our small site had won. My correspondent Steve Aibel was given credentials to the U.S. Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas.

My site continues to grow, the articles garner thousands of page views, and our listenership increases weekly.

I do this all out of my home from my home computer and a small "studio" my husband set up for me in my basement.

Not only am I a former teacher, an involved parent, but I am an active and busy business woman as well.






Tuesday, August 4, 2015

My Lifelong Love and Connection to Education By: Candice Smith



When I was a child, from the earliest age, I played "School". I pretended to have a class, lessons to teach, and a grade book to record "their" scores.

My parents always stressed the importance of school. I knew Education was important to them and that I was going to get a formal one.

School was a wonderful place for me and although I wasn't a straight A student, I did well. I worked hard and learned.

Education excited me.

Learning empowered me.

As I grew older my career path seemed destined to be in the classroom.

I enjoyed teaching History/Social Studies to my students.

Working with other teachers enriched me.

Being evaluated by my administrators gave me new goals to strive for and also a glorious feeling that my techniques were valued.

My students' rapt attention, awesome questions, and eagerness to learn - some days! - kept me motivated.

My students' parents' appreciation of me for reaching their children humbled me.

After leaving teaching to raise my own family I found myself still teaching.

I teach my children.

As a M.O.M.S. Club President I taught and was taught by the many Moms AND Dads who populated the club.

As a Den Leader I taught my Cub Scouts.

I always knew my life would include Education, revolve around the Schools, and keep me connected to Children.

My bid to run for Hopatcong School Board is a continuation of my lifelong path.

It is my goal yesterday, today, and always to strive to take action in...

"Putting Our Children First".

By voting for me on November 3, 2015 you can do the same.

Thank you!




Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Simple Joys

Welcome to Simple Joys on Chief 187™Chatter.

This is truly my favorite time of year! I actually have many favorite times but this is the season we are in so it is my current favorite.

Like with many things in life, it is the anticipation of what’s to come rather than the actual event that gets me and keeps me excited.

As in any situation, my good comes with bad. My joys accompany sorrows. My reality falls short of my fantasies.

But when I leapfrog from one Simple Joy to the next – immerse myself in my own private pleasures – then I find every week is most enjoyable.

And now, without further ado, is this week’s Simple Joys.

Winter Concert. My oldest child plays trombone in his middle school band. On a cold Wednesday night we dressed up and went to the school to hear the middle school choir and band play several songs – some seasonal and some just great pieces. It has been the highlight of our holiday doings so far this season as music has always been a huge part of my husband's and my life.

After listening to our son practice at home for months on end, to hear him perform ‘flawlessly’ with his school band was a Simple Joy that left us filled with holiday cheer and optimism for his future as a musician.

Snow Day. No matter how old I get, having a snow day, even on the weekend, is a great delight. Snow was predicted on Saturday starting in the early morning so we simply stayed home, stayed in our pajamas and enjoyed a totally fun and relaxing day at home.

Having a snow day during the hectic holiday season was an enormous and welcomed Simple Joy.

Unplugged. During our snow day I enacted an “unplugged” rule as I found my children were worshipping too often to the electronic gods. At first they balked – until I threatened more days unplugged if they continued their protestations – but then they had a most wonderful day.

We played a silly Christmas Ring Toss game they had gotten for St. Nicholas Day, and then we played Kids’ Charades. We ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner at home and together as a family. We made Christmas cookie dough but not cookies as we just weren’t in the mood. We got our Cub Scout to finish the rest of his Wolf requirements in a quality session of just him and me. And, finally, we sat down to watch A Christmas Story. Many watch this when it is broadcast for 24 hours on Christmas Eve and Day, but we are never able to watch it as we are always entertaining a massive group of family (happily so).

Spending a day together at home, in our pajamas, during the holiday season was a rare and luxurious Simple Joy.

Letter/Gifts for Santa. My second child is very artistic, thoughtful, and sweet. He is seven years old and so excited for Christmas.

During our unplugged day we were talking about Christmas Eve and what kind of cookies to leave Santa. My son blurted out, “We should leave a gift for Santa! I bet he doesn’t get any!”

So, we discussed what he could do for Santa and the boy came up with the idea to make ornaments for Santa’s tree. Then he happily and skillfully made three different ones out of construction paper. We added ornament hangers and then he looked at me excitedly and said, “I have to write a note and have it stand up like this!”

The note was not a reiterated list of toys wanted, but actually a thank you note to Santa for coming to our home.

Watching my son finally understand the joy of giving at this tender age is a Simple Joy I shall never forget.

Make up. My husband and I get along famously… until we don’t. Invariably we hit a snag in the road that leads to marital disharmony. Luckily we have learned tools to not let these bumps become mountains. Of course, spending all of that quality time together in close quarters led to a bump… but that just gave us a chance to make up. For those of you in relationships, you know how that goes.

Making up with my hubby is a passionate Simple Joy.

The holidays are fast approaching. My innate need to people-please will dominate even though it’s not the healthiest trait. Still, I’m excited to see family, thrilled to be entertaining, and secretly delighted to see what Santa will bring me.

By trying to keep my immediate family as my focus, remembering to nourish myself, and keeping a realistic expectation for the time together, I hope to continue to identify and LIVE my Simple Joys.

Wishing you all a week filled with Simple Joys.