Saturday, September 27, 2014

Ein Prosit

Saturday, October 27  2014

Happy Oktoberfest.  I am getting wild and changing the font today!  Whoo-hoo! And, I do believe that will be the extent of my "Oktoberfesting."  Sometimes, I wish it had the same lure it used to.  When I was young and a lot less tired, I would circle Oktoberfest weekend in red on the calendar.  It was the weekend everyone looked forward to.
I remember marching with the band in high school for the 2 mile long parade.  (something like 2's a long stinkin' parade.)
I should clarify....I never marched in the band, I marched with the band.  There was no way in hell that I was ever going to be caught dead in one of those band uniforms, and I certainly wasn't about to lug my dang saxophone around with me all day long.  Fortunately, the band also included twirlers, flag girls (I think they should be called flag people, why only girls?  WHY?) and "song leaders." just occurred to me.  The flag people really do have a name.  Color guard.  That is much more official sounding.
Back to "song leaders."  Now, if you are not from the metropolis of Westby, WI, you may be picturing a row of girls, marching down the street, attempting to lead the crowd in song.  Perhaps, singing along to the tune that the band was playing.  Or, since it might be a little challenging to be heard over them, singing Kumbaya, in time to the drum cadence. 
While that is a lovely idea, what we actually were (yes, I was one of them) was pom-pon girls.  (You DO know it's pom-pon, not pom-pom, right?  I will spell it correctly, but I will never actually say it that way.  It sounds a bit precocious.)

The song leaders (pom-pon girls) got to wear red sequenced tops, white little skirts and, wait for it.....white go-go boots!  Personally, I LOVED the boots.  However, for some reason, my sophomore year, we ended up with ugly tennis shoes, adorned with sequenced ankle thingys.  (Like wrist bands for your ankles.  I guess in case our ankles got sweaty?) 
See?!  The boots were fabulous.  Just like my glasses.

Anyway, I made sure I nailed that audition Freshman year...because I was going to wear SEQUENCE....not POLYESTER (well, technically, I WAS wearing polyester...but it was MUCH sexier) whenever we were playing "Marching Band."
( Side note: When football season was over, we magically became the Concert Band.  I didn't get to wear sequence and go-go boots there.  And I DID have to lug that saxophone around.  It was exhausting.)
So, we marched our two miles, and I shook my pom-pons, for four years.  I recall at a  parade in Milwaukee (or somewhere not around here) my nose started to bleed, quite severely.  No worries.  I had a huge red pom-pon.  
Good God.
When I was a freshman in college, I was a basketball cheerleader at Viterbo. (For the one year they had cheerleaders)  As a fundraiser, we got to hand out cardboard trucks for A1-Glass Company in the Oktoberfest parade.  This sounded easy.  We wore our cute Viterbo sweatshirts, and started off behind the real truck.  (They didn't drive a cardboard truck.)  We quickly realized that this was not going to be easy, because as we took our handfuls of cardboard trucks out to the crowd, the real truck would get way ahead of us.  So, we ended up running the entire parade route, back and forth between the real truck and all the little kiddies who wanted a cardboard truck, in our hot, who-gives-a-damn-if-these-sweatshirts-are-cute-because-we-are-DYING-of-heatstroke-right-now, attire, ready to collapse. 
We never volunteered to do that again.
Two fellow cheerleader/cardboard truck runners

As adults, my friends have always gathered in one spot for the parade, and we all bring food and (adult) beverages to share.  The little kids sit on the curb, and the adults mingle.  It's a nice time to catch up.  As the years have gone by, the group gets bigger and bigger, and I know less and less people.  Last year, my kids didn't want to go, and since my husband is a band director....he is IN the parade, so I went alone.  And there I stood.  Alone.  It sucked.  I ended up just walking around, and then, once Mark was done, went home.

Big crowds are no longer my "thing."  In college, I would run into tons of people I knew during Oktoberfest.  Now, I just run into people...literally.  Well, they typically run into me, since I'm not the one getting fall-down drunk.  Cell phones don't work, because there are too many people trying to use them, so trying to meet friends is almost impossible.  Parking is a nightmare.  As I'm writing this I am thinking "and why do people do this every single year?!"
I don't think I know how to party anymore.
Let me re-phrase that.  I don't think I want or like to party anymore.
I think I might finally be a grown-up.  
Or maybe just a stick-in-the-mud....?
The fact that I have a church job does not help.  The thought of drinking beer during the parade Saturday morning/afternoon, and then trying to be functioning in time for church at 5:00.  Yikes.

I have much better plans anyway.  I have a hot date.  My husband will be gone all day.  Who knows what the kids will be up to.  I will most likely have the house all to myself.  I already have it all planned out.  I am going to put on my fancy pj's, brew a big cup of coffee, and my new best friend "Blogging for Dummies" and I are going to hang out until I have a clue.  It will be awesome!

And if you are wondering why this sounds like it was written last was. This is one of those dates.  No interruptions allowed.

Have a super Saturday everyone!

Friday, September 26, 2014

No Regrets

Friday, September 26, 2014

Several years ago, I went to see Ember Swift perform at the Pump House.  I had never seen nor heard of her before, but my sister had gone to her concert the previous night, and told me I would really enjoy the show.  And I did.  She was a guitar playing singer/songwriter, with a cool little back up band.  Her music was edgy, kind of indie, and it pulled you in.  Her bass player was a woman, I'm pretty sure she was also her girlfriend.  And I could definitely see why.  Watching her play...I don't know, there was just something about her.  Playing for the other team did not sound like such a foreign concept that evening.  Of course, I was with my husband, so I didn't delve into a conversation about it.  Now that I think about it, I can picture the look on his face, had I said " kinda think that bass player is sexy."  No, it would not be the look of "Oh my God, Beth.  You have got to be kidding me!"  It would more likely have been "Oh my God, Beth!  Can I watch?"  (Did I just write that on my blog, where everyone in the world can read it?  I mean, I really don't care.  I'm guessing if you read this regularly, you may have figured out that I don't have any big privacy issues.  I am what I am.  If you don't like it....well, not much I can do about that.  However, I may not encourage my beloved to read this one.  He doesn't always appreciate my candor.  He thinks I just blurt out anything I am thinking.  Whatever.
The reason that I even bring this concert up, is that the first track on Ember's album "The Dirty Pulse" (okay, let's take a moment and look at the title.  You can see where this album is going.  And they serve alcohol at the Pump House....which, of course, tends to be in direct communication to one's libido...or so I am told. ;)  And Ember is this gorgeous, leggy blonde, and her bass player is this really cool looking woman, with a beautiful face, funky, short brown hair....and the two of them have this ongoing non-verbal communication happening between them the entire evening.  It's kind of hot.  So, of course every woman in the room suddenly is considering becoming a lesbian.)
as long as we have THAT straight....the first track is called "No Regrets."  (And no, I don't regret any thoughts I may or may not have had that evening.  And I hope I don't regret writing about it.)

Regret.  Ah....this word.  Here are some definitions of regret:
"Upset over past action."
"Express sorrow."
"Weep and make sad sounds." (I like this one in particular)
"Mental suffering."
While all of these things sound lovely and desirable, perhaps it would be better to live a life without them in it.  
I think society (and our parents) conditions us to live with regret.  We are to feel shameful for all the terrible things we have done.  Do I regret tying my sister's hands behind her back and then pushing her down.  Yes, of course.  But in my defense, I was young, and as she was falling face first into the CARPET (I wasn't completely heartless) I still recall having the moment of "oh crap....she is going to land right on her face!" I suppose it was a learning moment for both of us.  For me, I have the ability to be cruel and deceitful.  For her, never trust your older sister when she is carrying rope.

I have been thinking about all of the stupid things I have done as a young (and not so young) adult, and really analyzing it.  Do I feel true regret for these actions?  How would my life be different now, had I changed my behavior?  
Honestly, the only regrets I have are if I ended up hurting anyone because of the decision I made, or because of my behavior.  I don't regret what I did, because every experience led me to where I am now.  Sure, it would have been a lot simpler had I chosen an easier path, and avoided all of the pain and heartache that I went through over the years....but what would I have learned from that?  

I used to regret not going on to school after I graduated from college.  I would look back and think "maybe you could have performed for a few years.  Think of all the experiences you missed out on!"
Now that I am old and brilliant (let's just go with that for now) I think about all the experiences I had as a teacher, a mom, a wife, and all of the other hats I have worn over the past 20 years.  Had I chosen differently, I may be sitting alone in some apartment right now, wishing I had a husband and kids, and wondering if that part of my life has passed me by.  
Have I made mistakes?  OH YEAH.  Lots and lots of them.  Some of them have been doozies.  But, when I look back, I can see a girl who was confused, depressed, who had no direction or purpose.  I see a girl who was trying to figure out how to be happy, but had no idea where to look.  It's funny to know now that I was wearing the ruby slippers the entire time.  I think we often search outside of ourselves for what we think will make us happy.  When, in reality, it is what is on the inside that changes everything.  It took me a looooong time to figure that out.  It almost broke me a few times. It forced me to reevaluate everything in my life, and determine where my priorities were.  It involved asking for forgiveness.  It involved burying my ego.  It involved being authentic and true to myself.  But guess what, I don't regret it.  I brought me to the place I am now.  

I was thinking about "Bucket Lists" the other day.  I know a lot of people have them. I think of it as "things you will regret not doing before you die" list.  I was trying to come up with some things to put in my "bucket."  People usually put a big trip in there.  I am a horrible traveler.  The older I get, the worse I seem to be.  I have endured and entire landing with my head in the toilet, because my stomach thought THAT was a good time to act up.  I have passed out in an airplane bathroom, and woke up, wondering why my face was on the floor.  On my last trip, I actually got car sick (in my defense, we were in St. Lucia, where the straightest road looks like this ~....but most of them look like this @.....up and down mountains.  Anyway, thank God my husband was sitting next to me, and had the presence of mind to know when I was past the point of no return...and grabbed my shopping bag....(the one with a hole in the bottom.) I won't go into the details.   
I think I would enjoy a nice, leisurely bed and breakfast-type "let's stop at all the cute shops" trip down the East Coast.  That is more my speed.  In a car.  That I am driving.
I hate to exercise.  More accurately....I hate the thought of exercise.  I actually don't mind it once I'm doing it.  I would really like to be 100% happy with my body.  Or even 85%.  Or how about we just go for "I want to be physically fit." Throw that in the bucket.
Performing with my daughter.  She amazes me....I will keep this in "the bucket" for life.  This is something that feeds my soul and fills my heart.  NO REGRETS HERE!! 

Maybe you are picking up on the fact that it is hard for me to fill my bucket.  A lot of things that I would have put in there 10 years ago, I have done.  I got back into performing, and had a couple of years where I did a ton of that.  I did the Eva Cassidy show (probably the highlight of my life).  We bought the big, yellow house.  I won't sit here and list all of the things I have done.  I will say that there are only two things I haven't done, that need to happen in my lifetime.
1. Write a book....and have it published. (obviously)
2. Write and record my own album.
That's it.  I am finally in a place of no regrets.  For me, that is called contentment.  This is probably the first time in my life I have ever felt it.  The first time I have ever felt like I didn't need to go out and hunt for whatever it is that is missing in my life.   I can sit in my home (that I LOVE) and just breathe, and feel at peace with everything in my life.  

What does living without regret feel like for you?  
And, if you do feel regret, what can you do to change it?
No one gets to the end of a long life and says "I wish I hadn't done that."  Regret is often about something we haven't done yet.  
Guess what?  It's not too late! :)

Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things.....

Thursday, September 25,  2014

This morning I did something completely out of character for me.  I got up before 7am.  Even more shocking?  I went walking....for a whole hour.  I met my new friend Barbara (we "met" on Facebook. We both have an affinity for piggies...all animals, really.  And we are both very passionate when it comes to animal cruelty.  Passionate, as in "if you choose to be cruel to animals, we may choose to rip your limbs off."  Nice passionate things like that.)
I am gearing up for my "31 Day Challenge" that begins on October 1st.  This is a challenge presented through another blog that I read.  It is simply a challenge to choose a subject, and write on it for 31 consecutive days.  I really don't think it's going to be extremely challenging.  The real challenge will lie in what I am writing about.  If you look to your right -------------> you will see that pretty circle that states my plan.  "Taking on the to-do list."  So, in order for me to write about it, I actually have to DO it.  I probably should have chosen "31 Days of Eating Bon-Bons and Watching Soap Operas."
Dammit.  Why do I always come up with brilliant ideas a little too late?!
Anyway.  The other night I sat in bed and made of list of 31 projects.  Most of them were house related.  A few were Beth related.  Such as "add exercise into daily routine."  I have ordered my "beginners yoga kit," which should arrive any day.  Gaiam was having a clearance sale.  Do you ever order from that company?  GREAT stuff...steep prices.  I want everything in the catalogue.  I think I own about three things from there. ( Speaking of which.....Lexie!  Did you take that cute green back pack I bought from Gaiam?!  I haven't seen it in a LONG time....and that usually means it is somewhere in YOUR room!!) Who am I kidding?  Like she would ever lower herself to reading her mother's blog.)  Anyway, my plan is to alternate walking and yoga and cardio.  (I ordered a 3-in-one video of those "when you are done, you will want to die" workouts.  What the heck, it was "two DVD's for $16!  I figured I would get a little head start, rather than overwhelm myself when October arrives. 
I made a lap around our route before Barbara arrived, and had some time to really take everything in.

Hello, beautiful sunrise!

 It had been a really long time since I had been up early enough to watch the sunrise, or just be outside by myself, actually paying attention to everything around me.  The cool, fresh air, all of the sounds, scents...everything.  It occurred to me how much I have been missing by not forcing myself to just get out and enjoy being outside.  It really drove home the topic I wanted to write about today.....what makes me happy?  
This is a question that confounded me for a really long time.  I think when you are a person who is prone to depression, the idea of happiness can be just an illusion.  It's something that other people have, or something that you see in the movies, but not something that you will ever truly experience.  
Luckily, this is not the case.  We are all capable of happiness.  We just need to let go of our warped interpretation of what happiness is, or should be, and figure out what happiness means for us, because it will be something different for each person.
For me, I have found that it tends to be a lot of little things that bring me joy, and when I make a conscious effort to fill my life with the things that I know will feed my soul, that is when I feel content, which, to me, feels happy.  It is an ongoing process...trying to figure out what to add or delete from my life.  It involves taking risks and stepping outside of my comfort zone.  It involves bringing new people into my life, and potentially, parting ways with others.  The longer you live with yourself, the better you know yourself, and you begin to figure out what you really need to create an inner peace.  
I used to think that EVERYTHING had to be perfect in order for me to be "happy."  When I was: skinny, beautiful, rich, smart, tan, living in my dream house, driving the perfect car, working at my dream job (whatever the heck that would be?!) etc...etc....THEN, I would finally be happy.
Yeah.  Like any of that is ever going to happen.  I look at that and laugh, because when I think about what actually makes me feel couldn't be any further from all of the things I just listed.  
Let me share some of my "happy" things with you. :)

Decorating books, Self-help books,
Fiction, non-fiction, whatever....I LOVE BOOKS
and I have to have the REAL book.  Not the e-book. makes a fortune off of me.
I am not going to go around the house and take pictures of all of my bookshelves and piles and stashes of books.  It is a little out of control.  And I think you get the picture.  
But they make me SOOOOOO happy!!

Both are my love bugs.  And they think they are real babies.  (cause they are)

White Chocolate Mocha (sometimes with mint)

Driving in my car.  I love my car.

Well, this...obviously.

My front stoop, when it's decked out for whatever season.  Just because it means I'm home.

Having a fireplace.  I <3 cozy.

This chair.  I have claimed it as my very own.  

Yep.  A paper wreath.  It makes me happy.

I love pretty things.  This part of my house makes me happy.  I actually will walk by and say "I love that" on a regular basis.  The buffet usually smiles back at me.

As does this.  It also houses all of my music.  Kind of important, and oh so pretty.

I have wanted this white slipcovered couch for YEARS.  I finally got it (on Craigslist!!) this summer
It is cushy heaven. (and the lighting of the pic is horrendous.)

So, those are just some of the THINGS that bring me joy.  I'm sure you noticed I did not include any people.  I will save that post for another day. :) 
I hope you are able to take some time today to enjoy the simple things that bring you joy.  It's so easy to take them for granted, so allow yourself a few minutes to really soak it all in!  I am thinking a bubble bath combined with a big mug of coffee might be calling my name right now!  I mean, come on...I DID walk for a whole hour today!  I deserve a long, soak, right? 
I think Cover Girl, or Loreal, or whatever company it is got it everyone repeat after me:

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Icks

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Have you ever had one of those days when everything was just going along swimmingly, and then in the space of a second, you see (or hear) something that is like a punch to the stomach, and it takes your perfectly nice day down the drain?
It is, actually, slightly ironic that I am writing about this today.  My intention was to write about the things that make me happy!  I will save that for tomorrow. 

My day started of quite productively.  This is not typical.  It IS what I plan for each day, but rarely what actually happens.  Rather than sitting down and reading the paper, I cranked the tunes, (my dogs both cowered at the door until I let them out.  Apparently sitting outside on the deck was much more desirable for them.)  I cleaned the disaster of a kitchen my darlings left for me, and cleaned out the food that expired in June from the fridge. Now it sparkles, and there no questionable odors coming from it.  Then I got distracted and did something...but I have no idea what it was.  I think I may have actually read the paper.  Once back on track again, I actually organized my work space.  Now I have my most used files conveniently available to me, so I can shove papers in the designated spot, rather creating a heaping pile on my desk...which then spills over to the top of the piano.
See, all pretty again. Mark especially likes the pillow I made to match the chair's seat cover. 
(I promise, I'm getting to the "ick".)

I sat down at my now clean desk and got on Facebook.  As I was scrolling through, I commented on something funny one of my friends posted.  Then I saw it.  There it was...on that same post...a comment from HER.  It's been almost a year, and when I see her name, I still get that punch in the stomach.  I keep hoping that someday it will just go away.  But for now, it hasn't.  And I know it hurts because I still care.

Let me preface this by saying that I am only content when I feel that I am completely at peace with everything and everyone in my life.  Conflict takes a terrible toll on me.  If someone doesn't like me...I don't want to know about it.  If I have inadvertently hurt or upset someone, I want THEM (not their messenger) to come and talk to me, so we can resolve the issue.  It is not in my nature to ever hurt someone intentionally.  Unless they deserve it.  (Just kidding.  Kind of.)
I won't go into the whole narrative.  I will just say that this woman was someone whom I held dear to my heart for over 20 years.  Yes, we had our issues, but they only reared their ugly heads on a professional level.  She was always the dominant person in our friendship (I would guess in all her friendships.) For the most part, I acquiesced, and took the backseat.  Sometimes it bruised my ego a bit, but it was what it was.  As I have gotten older, I have realized that I need to claim my own self worth.  This is something that I am HORRIBLE at.  I think women in general struggle with it.  At my workshop last week we had to write "I want_______." and fill it in.  Write it over and over, and fill the blank with ANYTHING...the bigger the better.  I hated it, because it felt so greedy and egotistical.  I didn't feel like I was worthy of wanting things that were realistically beyond my reach.

Anyway, she did something that upset me, and I stood up for myself.  I then was chastised for it.  Let me assure you, I was never mean, out of line, or made any demands that were in any way exorbitant.  She then had some suggestions for me.  I merely proposed that she take her own advice to heart.  
I was then "unfriended" and have not been spoken to again.
Not that I haven't reached out.  I sent a birthday card. Nothing.  I sent a heartfelt message as I was approaching the city in which she lives, while on a trip last winter.  Nothing.
We have many mutual friends.  Many she has met through me.  I won't lie and say it doesn't hurt me when I see her sending them sweet and encouraging messages, and I have been banished from her kingdom. 
I know most of you are thinking "Honey....good riddance, you don't need that kind of "friend."  This is probably true.  What I do need, (want, I guess) is an explanation.  I think I deserve one.  I know it will never come, and I have accepted that.  So, now I continue to try and figure out how to excommunicate Mr. Ick. 
I suppose it's a lot like a break-up.  Like when you see your ex with another woman.  Only that tends to bring on even stronger emotions.  Yes, Mr. Ick surely shows up, but also Mr. I-Am-going-to-stalk-you-new-girl-who-will-never-be-a-replacement-for-me-and-he-still-loves-me-and-I-am-going-to-make-your-life-a-living-hell!!!  I strongly suggest you excommunicate Mr. Stalker FIRST, if he ever comes to visit. 

I am sure we have all been through trials with people we care about.  I have made it my goal to surround myself with people who really feed my spirit.  It's amazing how you really do feed off of each other's energy.  Negative energy is so powerful, and destructive.  The good thing is, you can see it coming from a mile away.  Positive energy is contagious, and I think that is the best way to heal the wounds that Mr. Ick has caused.  It's also important to remember that YOU are worthy of whatever it is that makes you happy.  So, I am off to do happy things, and show Mr. Ick the door.  Maybe next time he shows up, that punch to the stomach will hurt a little less. :)
Which leads me to this:

What REALLY makes you happy??

see you tomorrow! :)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Perfectly Perfect

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Perfection. (I am going to try to stay on topic today.)
This is definitely something I strive for....and something I typically fall short of.
It's always interesting to observe kids.  Typically, they are pretty laid back, and really don't care too much one way or another about most things.  However, there are always the exceptions.  Those kids who literally freak out of their work is not absolutely perfect.  Sometimes, there is a parent demanding the perfection, but usually, it is just something inside that child that expects nothing less than the very best from themselves.  
I wonder where that comes from.  Is it something we are born with...or perhaps it began with something as simple as a comment someone made that cut us to the core?  Could it be an act of rebellion?  Our response to "You will never be good enough!" Or maybe just what we do to maintain the positive reinforcement we have gotten from our previous work.
Whatever it is...I think it can be more of a curse than a blessing.

I often try to remember back to my childhood when I was learning to play the piano.  I can remember going to both of my early piano teacher's homes quite clearly.  I remember my dad picking me up in his brand new pick up truck after a piano lesson.  I remember Mrs. Willen giving me a big piece of chocolate cake after a different lesson. (Seriously, who would forget that?!) But I don't remember actually playing.  I am sure I got frustrated.  I know I wanted to quit at some point. (My mother told me she forced me to keep going.) But for some reason, I have blocked all of that out.  (Maybe it was more traumatic than I imagine?) ;)
At some point, I got good at it, and during that time, something must have happened that caused me to demand perfection from myself.  I was terrified to make a mistake in front of anyone.  I started to play at church when I was in middle school (if you want to torture a child, stick them on an organ bench in front of all their peers, and make them play a really loud instrument that amplifies every mistake, or simple slip of the finger.)  I clearly remember at a Mass for all of the CCD kids, I was at the organ, completely mortified, of course.  I had no idea that during the week there was only one reading, not two, before the Alleluia.  So, I sat and waited for the second reading to happen.  It didn't happen.  Rather than just stand up, the priest,  known for his tact, hollers, "OKAY BETH! YOU CAN PLAY THE ALLELUIA ANYTIME NOW!!"
stage direction: Beth slowly melts onto the organ pedals and dies.
Luckily, as I got older, and had more experience, my obsession with perfection began to change.  I still had zero desire to make a fool of myself....EVER.  But, by this time I had mastered a skill that any good piano player should possess.  The art of "faking it."  If you combine that with great sight reading are golden.

The desire for perfection, unfortunately didn't end there.  It showed up in strange places. For hair.  I have had a love/hate relationship with my hair since the beginning of time.  I accept NO frizz from it, and that is a tough outcome to achieve when you have curly hair.  I won't even go into this, because it could be an entire post of it's own.  Let's just say that my hair has always had the ability to make or break my day.  And sadly, my desire for perfection disappeared in places that I wished it would emerge.  It became a control issue.  If I felt out of control in any area...let's say my college Biology desire to be perfect would run and hide.  This is where my "all or nothing" personality would kick in.  If I felt like I didn't understand something, I wouldn't feel that need to work really hard at it until I "got" it.  Instead, I would give it a try, and if it wasn't happening, I would just say "screw it," and do a half assed job at it, because I knew it would never make any sense to me anyway.  I like to call this part of my personality "lazy."
Lazy came into play when it came to my college laundry as well.  I would give anything to have photographic evidence of my laundry piles.  Just so I could stare at them in amazement.  You know how it looks when you rake your ENTIRE lawn into one huge leaf pile.  That was my laundry situation.  It was ridiculous.  And overwhelming.  Let's move on to that word.

Feeling overwhelmed.
This is the evil entity that smothers my perfectionism.  Actually, it squelches my desire to do anything.  The reason that laundry pile grew so large is because I became overwhelmed.  
Fast forward to my adult life.  It's interesting how you really get to know yourself when you hang out with yourself for 42 years.  It is a little frustrating, though, that what I have realized is that I have 
A LOT of bad habits.  Maybe they aren't really habits...just things I want to change about myself.  
I have come to realize that I am not content unless everything in my house and life is clean and organized.  I literally feel a weight lifted, and can breathe better when I de-clutter my house, clean it up, and make it beautiful.  It truly makes me feel BLISSFUL.  The problem is, I am typically so overwhelmed with the work that it will take to get to that point, that I get stuck.  When I am stuck in heart rate goes up, I feel anxious and stressed, and I get really edgy.  Rather than just take on one small piece at a time...I retreat to my bed, and sleep. (You can see how productive this is.)

So, a few months ago, I ordered this decorating book. (I may or may not have a gazillion decorating books in my house) Typically, I will find a few things I like in a book.  Once in awhile, I feel like the whole book is fabulous.  This. Book. Is. Fabulous.  It's called "The Nesting Place" It Doesn't Have to Be Perfect to be Beautiful.  By MyQuillyn Smith.
(Everything in the book is perfect....and beautiful)
Anyway, she does this thing called "quieting a room"...which is my new favorite thing to do.  Brilliant.  (If you really want to know about will have to ask, or read the book)
I should totally get commission for this! 
She also has a fabulous blog called "The Nester".  (You can only read it if you promise to keep reading mine! ;)
The reason I mention all of this, is because she is holding this 31 Day Challenge for bloggers....where we choose a topic, and write on it for the 31 days of October.  I eluded to it on my FB page with a fancy little graphic that I made up...because I am pretending I know how the heck to do all that stuff.
Anyway, my topic is "Taking On the "to-do" List"....because this allows me a broad list of things to write about....and forces me to actually tackle all of those things that are overwhelming me.  

I thought it might be fun if any of you have a goal for October. (Since I just went to a goal setting workshop...lets do this!)  We can work on our goals together!  
If you want to join me (you don't have to do something new everyday like I am forcing myself to do! Just ONE goal that you want to work toward during the month!)
List your goal in the comments (here or on FB) and we can all be each other's support system!  
Like a bra!  lol
(Like that?   Just made it up.  I should TOTALLY do a goal setting workshop) ;)

October will be here in just over a week.  This would be the PERFECT time to do something just for you.

Monday, September 22, 2014


Monday, September 22, 2014

Happy "First Day of Autumn!"
Autumn is my FAVORITE season. I love the cooler weather.  I love the colors and the sounds.  (I have a bit of an obsession with "crunchy" sounds.  Like walking on dried leaves.  And if there are pinecones out.  They are like heroin to me (or what I would assume heroin would be to an addict?) I HAVE to step on them.  The satisfaction I get from stepping on a crunchy pinecone...well, I just can't even begin to describe it.  Heaven for me would be a beautiful, tree lined path, filled with crunchy pinecones. And I would step on every. single. one.
I think a huge draw for me, as far as autumn is concerned, is the fact that I am a nester.  I love cozy.  When my house is filled with fluffy chairs and couches, covered in knit throws, a fire glowing in the fireplace, fresh bread baking in the oven, and spicy candles lit everywhere...I am blissful.
Of course, creating this perfect Norman Rockwell moment is much easier said than done.  Even if I have all of these wonderful things in place....there is a good chance I'm not happy.  Because it is pretty likely there are dirty dishes in the sink.  And I can guarantee that the kids left their shoes in the middle of the floor again.  Those spicy candles can't even cover up the fact that the stupid dog just pooped in the hallway.  And even though I created the perfect little "here is a bench to set your bag on, and hooks to hang your coat" nook, my husband has thrown his crap on the dining room chair AGAIN, and his paperwork is taking up half the table.
Yes, I have a little problem with perfectionism.
This is actually a pretty funny thing, considering I am a bit of a slob.  I guess, I would consider myself an "all or nothing" girl.  The difference between the two is that when things are perfect, I am HAPPY.  When things are a disaster, so am I.
When I was younger (in my 20's and 30's) I believe one might classify me as crazy.  During these years, my life typically consisted of raising two babies/toddlers, teaching anywhere from 60%-full time in a school, teaching private lessons at home, having at least one church job, and then of course, playing for musicals, weddings, funerals, recitals, etc.  On top of that, I also liked to take on big home decorating projects.   I recall moving into our 5th house.  My husband pleaded with me, "PLEASE, can you just hold off just one year before you start ripping down wallpaper and doing your thing?" I nodded and smiled. The next night I was standing on the kitchen counter ripping down the wallpaper border.  I couldn't stand it.  I had to make it MINE.  Of course, my tastes change with the wind, so around the 3rd re-do on that particular kitchen, I just sent the whole family away for the weekend. (It was much less painful for all of us that way.)  I had three days to make some magic.  Looking back, I have no idea how I got so much done...especially since it was a weekend, so I still had to play for three Masses at church during all of this....AND I sewed all of the curtains, bench pads, table runners, etc.  I know this is much more interesting with let's do a little before and after:
Before: Welcome to Country Kitchen

 Disaster area. (Forgot to take photo before moving all the "stuff"!)
 And After: 

I did try being a stay-at-home mom for one year when we lived in the cities.  My kids were 1 and 3, and I thought this would be a fantastic idea.  We couldn't live on Mark's income alone, so I decided I would do daycare three days a week.  I had 3-6 kids (ages 6 months to 4) at my house from 8-5 every Tues, Wed and Thurs.  I wanted to throw myself off a cliff every Tues, Wed and Thurs.
Around 5:15 everyday, one of my 18 private voice students would arrive.  After I was finished teaching, I would head off to choir rehearsal at one of the THREE churches I worked at.
Yes, that was a wonderful, relaxing year spent at home, caring for my children. And when you are home all day, you have the pleasure of observing every single thing you hate about your house for hours on end.  For someone like me, who needs to have all the pictures on the wall and the entire place decorated within 48 hours of moving in....this is not a good thing.
I would share a photo of myself at that time, but I don't think my husband was brave enough to take one.
Our house was a total piece of crap.  It was in Bloomington, MN.  We were literally 2 miles from the Mall of America and we were poor.  We were used to home prices in Prairie du Chein, WI (aka: middle of nowhere)  When we told our realtor to find us a house in the $100K range, she had us make the 4 hour trip to look at "this adorable doll house."  It literally was about the size of a doll-house.  I don't think our couch would have fit diagonally, much less on a wall in the living room.  And there was no way our bed would ever make it up the stairway.  It would have been a lovely home for a family of orangutans.  Except for what appeared to be drug paraphernalia in the front yard.  Yes, a lovely place to raise children.
The house we ended up buying had previously been owned by a guy and his three bachelor roommates. It was on the East side of Bloomington. According to our students (On the West side of Bloomington...who all had much nicer cars than we did, by the way) we lived in "the hood." The kitchen was designed so that you could simply hose down the walls after your evening meal.  It was just lovely.  And yes, we addressed that beauty as well.  Would you like to see?

This is it looked originally.  By the way..we were babies then. It was like 1999.  And we were NOT partying.  (Because I was 6 months pregnant)
I insisted Mark paint those cabinets white before we moved in.
It didn't help.
So, we ripped off the lovely plastic walls.

Now things were looking FABULOUS.  But we decided it was time to go further.  New counter, sink, FLOOR (not that the "stick one tiles" weren't attractive and all...) and since it WAS the 90's, I was going to go whole hog with the country theme.

 Wainscotting...that sucked to paint.  (Trim was still drying)
 New, non plastic back splash.  See the chicken wire fronts on the cabinets? 
 We added a pantry cabinet and desk area

 And Mark even built a screen door for my closet.  This was a good thing, considering he had accidentally cut 22" instead of 2" off the bottom of the door that originally went there after we put the tile in. Oops. 
^^ The one picture that shows we DID actually finish off the wainscoting!^^
My aunt had planned to help us wallpaper, since we had never done it before.  Of course, there was a huge snowstorm that night, so we decided to give it a try anyway.  The only disaster was when Lexie (then 1 1/2) decided to climb the ladder and grab the razor blade we were using to cut the corners.  She sliced her thumb open, and I went back and forth between trying not to throw up and trying not to pass out. (It was very attractive, considering I had a humongous pregnant belly, and was maybe slightly dramatic about this.)  At any rate, she could have used stitches, but the snow was so bad, we all would have ended up needing stitches, so we opted for excellent home bandaging.
What we learned from this whole experience?  The couple who wallpapers (tiles, wainscots, paints, rips out sinks, puts in faucets, etc) together....stays together. :)

Well, this post took on a life of it's own.  It ended up having absolutely nothing to do with what I started with, or what I had intended to write about.  However, you now know that if I don't like it, I will change it.  Perhaps tomorrow, we can address that whole perfectionism thing.  Perhaps.

And to keep us up to date:
My kitchen today:
Only it doesn't look quite like this....because I changed it. ;)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Good Things

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A few years ago, I really wanted to move to the country.  I envisioned myself with a big, old farmhouse, a huge garden, lots of apple trees, a couple of dogs running around in the yard, and cats and chickens hanging out with me on my front porch.  My sisters would live just down the road from me, of course, and we would ride our cute bikes with baskets on the front to each other's homes to deliver fresh muffins or apple pie in the morning.  I would have an old 1954 chevy pick-up, and it would always be summer, because this is what it always looks like in Better Homes and Gardens.  
Well, I did buy a bike with a basket on the front.  And I did buy an old chevy truck (not quite the right year...but I still liked it)
And I did find the perfect farmhouse, with all of the things I could ever want....but it was about $200,000 over my budget.  And 60 miles away from our jobs.  So, that wasn't going to work out.
In the end, I stayed a city girl.  In fact, we actually ended up moving closer to the city.  The house was bigger, but the garage and driveway were not, so we had to say good-bye to our cute old truck, and push away the dream of the picture perfect country life a little longer. 

Since it is Sunday, it is the day to post about GOOD THINGS.  A good, wholesome, country life sure sounds like a good thing to me.  I was raised on a farm in the country, with lots of room to run, lots of animals to love, lots of land to seed and harvest, and lots of cows to milk. (I hated that last part).  Looking back, I wouldn't trade my childhood for anything.  It was full of fresh air and creativity.  I am sure it also nurtured my intense love for animals.  My sisters feel much the same.  My youngest sister Emily, has created with her husband, the idyllic country life.  They work harder than anyone I know, but manage to make it look like what my little "make-believe-world" would be.  They can create something out of nothing.  They took a piece of land on the top of a really steep hill (steep, as in when it snows a lot, and their car can't make it up the loooooonnnng driveway, they pull the groceries up to the house on a sled.)  My sister has done this while very pregnant, AND holding a two year old.  This is how we are different.  She makes it happen.  I would just sit at the bottom of the hill and cry until the snow melted, or some cute snow plow man came to save me.
Anyway, today I want to show you some pictures of the little piece of heaven that they have created out of nothing.  Seriously...out of NOTHING.  It is like stepping back in time to a place where life was simple and good.  Where big, organic, home cooked meals were on the table every single day.  Where people chopped wood to feed the stove that warms their home.  A place where the animals that provide your food are raised and cared for lovingly, and with respect.  Where the whole family plants and tends to the seeds that provide their produce.  
It is something you don't see much of in our busy, technology filled, super-store, convenience packed lives today.  Probably because it involves A LOT of hard work and sacrifice.  It does not provide you with a steady paycheck.  It forces you to make do with what you have.  
What an interesting concept. ;)

Welcome to Thistledown Farm

 Snow boots work during any season!

 Rueben is extra talented

 The amazing garden
 Rueben really wanted to be a cabbage patch kid.

Okay, so maybe the boys aren't feeling the "idyllic life" thing on this day. lol

 Mom....can I pleeeeese come in the house today??

 FEED ME!!!!!

 The beautiful Stevenson Family

I hope your Sunday is filled with very good things!