Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Day in the Life

The other day, I was looking around my house thinking "What am I REALLY good at?"
The answer was evident.
There were THREE things I am really, REALLY good at.
1. Wasting time,
2. Making a mess.
3.  Spending money.

Let's start with wasting time.

I think I could probably win the award for "Most unproductive use of time."  I start out with good intentions.  Every single day.  I always have a plan of some sort in my head.  I may even write it down, since things in my head tend not to stay for very long.
However, something always comes along to derail my plan. 
For instance, I have a problem with bringing my phone along during my daily soak in the tub.  Not only does bathing take more time than showering, but it also allows one to get lost in all of the quizzes, videos and posts that Facebook has to offer.  We all know how time sucking those things are.  And, if I am really trying to get out of doing something, I will open up the Pinterest app.  I can guarantee the bath water will be cold by the time I climb out.  I tell myself "just ONE more".....about 165 times...until I finally say (aloud) "THIS IS RIDICULOUS!"  

Once I am finally out of the tub and somewhat presentable, I have typically wasted at least an hour to 90 minutes.  I may have been motivated to get my "to-do" list done prior to this lengthy bathing session, but once it's over, I am way to relaxed and tired to even remember what I was going to do in the first place.  
So, I walk into the kitchen, and look around.  It usually is not a pretty sight.  So, I just sit down and read the paper.  Or go to the computer.  Or play the piano.  Or something that will take up another good hour of my time.  
By now, it is probably time for me to leave for whatever it is I have to do that day, so obviously, nothing has gotten done.  However, there is no doubt that I have added to the mess that was already beginning to take over the house.  
I have this mental disease that does not allow me to tackle the disaster in my house unless I have the entire day completely free of obligations.  Unfortunately, this disease also has an override button that tempts me to lay in bed until noon and watch TV on those days.
When I finally do get myself up, and attempt create some sort of plan, as far as taking on the disaster I have created over the past several days (and let's not forget I have three helpers who are HUGE disaster creators also...) I am typically faced with a mess that completely overwhelms me.  
I should mention that I don't do well when overwhelmed.  At all.  It literally makes me either cry, rage, brood, or simply freeze up.
I find it next to impossible to get started when my house looks like this:
or this
or this
one more
(I should mention this pictures do not represent my house at its worst.  Not even close.)

When things get this bad....I typically retreat to my bed, and just take a nap.
Of course, when I wake up, I hate myself for not doing something about the mess.
This brings us to talent number 3.

Spending money.

I have a love/hate relationship with shopping.  For instance, I HATE grocery shopping.  I put it off as long as humanly possible.  And, as you can see from the kitchen photo above, I HATE putting the groceries away.
Clothes shopping is fun when I'm in the right mood, and when I'm not fat.  So, this doesn't happen very often.
Shoe shopping I love.  But, I do most of it online, because I hate going to the mall.  It is very disappointing when the shoes arrive, and don't look right or fit well, because the hassle of exchanging them is a pain in the butt, but when they are perfect...YAY!
What I LOVE shopping for is pretty things for the house.  When I'm feeling overwhelmed with my disgusting mess, I use this as my motivation to clean.  Worst idea ever, of course.
Bringing MORE stuff into the house is never a good idea, when you are attempting to figure out where to put the stuff you already have.  However, it does tend to get the adrenaline amped up, and my creative juices start flowing.  

The bad part is how quickly money tends to disappear from my account when the shopping begins.  
I should mention that there are only TWO pieces of furniture on the main floor of my house that were purchased new. (And one of them is my piano) The rest were either Craigslist finds, garage sale pieces I repurposed, or old pieces from flea markets or other shops.  
I would guess that all of my furniture together (excluding my two new pieces) cost the equivalent of one high end living room ensemble.  This includes two bedrooms full of furniture also.  
So, I am a good shopper when it comes to cool stuff for the house. 
Sadly, one of my favorite things to buy is bedding.  Of course, I prefer new in this area. :)
I am obsessed with duvet covers, down comforters, cable knit throws, feather pillows, pretty sheets, throw pillows,  fluffy blankets....etc.  I also have a slight obsession with pretty shower curtains, towels, and every yummy smelling soap, bubble bath, shower gel, and any fancy schmancy bathroom  product I can get my hands on.  Needless to say, these things are pricey.  Oh, and of course I need beautiful baskets and containers to store everything in.  
Some days I long for a home that is completely minimalistic.  I imagine what it must be like to just have a few select outfits (that you LOVE) to choose from each day, rather than a closet stuffed with clothes that you like....but never wear. (And yes, I have tried the "great purge".  It just seems to fill back up.)
I also wonder what it is like to have simple decor.  Just elegant, lovely items, no clutter, clear countertops, etc.  How do people do that?  Do they not have food in their homes?  Where do they put their bread?  Do they just have enough drawer space for all of the spatulas and wooden spoons, so they don't need to keep them on the counter?  And what about the toaster and coffee maker?  Where DO they hide these things??
It is a mystery to me.
In the end, I have come to realize that I love pretty things far too much.
I have often thought about whether or not this is an obsession of sorts.  Or an unhealthy "relationship" between me and my "stuff."
But then I realized that wasn't just about having stuff.  For me, it was about making a home.
I have never cared about taking big vacations, or driving fancy, expensive cars.  I have never wanted to be "rich".....or obsessed about having tons of money.  All I have ever wanted was enough to be comfortable.  Enough to not have to lose sleep over worrying about how to pay the bills each month.  
These "things" I bring into my home are to simply help me create this cozy little haven for me and my family.  That has always been my top priority.  I want a place to come home to each night where, when I walk through the door, I feel like I am being embraced.  I want my kids to love where they live, and I want anyone who comes to our home to feel like they can just snuggle into the couch and relax.  
I have always loved being surrounded by a beautiful environment.  It is what makes me happy.  I don't think I would feel calm and peaceful in my house if it was bare and cold.  
Nothing makes me happier than when I have candles lit, the fireplace on, the house CLEAN, and I am making dinner for my family.  I feel like we are safe from all of the atrocities going on in the world....we are right were we are supposed to be, and I cherish that.  
I just feel grateful for everything I have....and I think that is the difference between trying to buy happiness, and actually being happy.

So, yesterday, once I finally got myself good and motivated, (because my husband told me his parents were coming over....that night!) I decided to kick some butt on the house.

Now, the trick is to actually KEEP it clean.  This may involve sending the kids to boarding school.
At any rate, clean house = happy for today....all is right in my world.

Have a great Saturday!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Soul Music

It's no secret that music has played a large role in my life from the very beginning.

My grandfather was a musician.  He died two months before I was born.  I often wonder if part of him came back in me.      
Perhaps I was part grandpa, part linebacker?
Either way, I was obviously very serious about my art.
Judging from the picture, there was no doubt I was eventually going to become a "church lady".  It really does scream "future organist" doesn't it?

When I look through old photo albums, there are so many pictures taken at the piano.  I must have been drawn to it, because it is evident that they weren't "posed."  I am just sitting there, because I want to be.
I know that music was always a high priority for my parents....especially my mom.  She didn't get to take piano lessons as a kid, and she was going to make sure that her kids got to do the things she didn't.  I think she happily lived vicariously through us.  My friend Lori recently told me that my mother had said to her "we will go without food before my kids will go without music lessons."  Now that is dedication!
Piano was my "thing."  It just became 'what I did.'  I never became some amazing child prodigy or virtuoso.  Instead, I became very proficient, and really good at sight reading.  I was too impatient to have to sit and work at a piece.  I wanted to just be able to PLAY it.  I made sure that I was able to do that. 
Singing seemed to follow naturally.  My sister was the stand-out singer...probably because I was the piano-hog.  I soon took on the role as "accompanist."  (Which is how I make my living today.)
I have to admit, I was jealous.  I would have loved to be the singer.  The pianist never gets any of the glory.  The singer gets to be the "star."  I think that was one of the reasons I was always such a shy performer.  I was so used to having a huge piece of "furniture" in front of me.  I had something to hide behind.  It was so much more comfortable for me to sing and play.  I never had to really make contact with the audience.  I always had something to do with my hands.  I never had to feel like I was "showing off."  

When I went to college, I started studying voice.  I remember my voice teacher trying to get me to "act" while I was singing.  It was sooooo hard for me.  I was perfectly happy just standing nice and still while singing my songs.  The problem was, my voice was really suited for musical theater.  Not exactly the kind of music you can just stand there and sing.  I was so worried I would look stupid.  I was so worried that people would think that I thought I was something special.  That was my biggest issue.  I was so worried about what other people thought.  It was that damn self esteem issue again.  And inside, I really DIDN'T feel like I was anything special, so to put myself out there was next to impossible for me.  How could I act like I was ready to take on the I was this amazing character, when I just felt so small and shy?
I was much better at it when I was actually in a show...because I could become the character, and feel ok about that.  It was just when I had to become a character while singing one song on the recital hall stage, or while my teacher was watching me in my lesson.  It was so hard.
Fast forward 20 years.  I had done tons of playing/singing...but no real "performing."
Suddenly I am planning this huge show with my friend....who just happened to have performed on Broadway for 10 years.  Yeah.  That's not intimidating or anything.
I remember standing back stage before the opening number, feeling like I was going to have a panic attack.  Positive that I would forget all my lines, all of my lyrics, and would just die right there on stage.  I got through the opening number...and as I crossed the stage, I looked into the audience, and saw a couple from my church in the front row.  The strangest thing happened.  I suddenly felt this indescribable feeling of complete calm and peace come over me.  It literally was a sensation that started at my head and went down my entire body.  It took away every ounce of dread and fear that I had...and I just had FUN.  I trusted in my ability, I let myself be funny, I put myself out there...and I FELT SO GOOD.  Why hadn't I done that years ago?

I had finally stopped worrying about everything.  (I haven't been nervous about a performance since....tiny butterflies maybe...but no more terror!)
I also realized that by going out there and kicking some ass did NOT make me look like I was being pompous or self absorbed.  Rather, it just meant I was doing my job.  I was giving a good performance.  As a teacher, nothing drives me more insane than kids that stand up to do a solo, and act completely apologetic about what they are about to do, and then just slump away after, ignoring the applause.  Stand up and be proud!  
Why does it take me SO LONG TO FIGURE THIS STUFF OUT?!
One thing I have known from the start is that music is my outlet, my soul food.

I remember in high school (or should we call it drama-ville) only escape was the piano.
To say my relationship with my mom was tumultuous would be an understatement.  We were both very stubborn and too much alike.  She was controlling, I was a free spirit and rebellious.  NOT a good combination.  Whenever I was alone in the house (not often enough) I would turn off all the lights except for the piano light, and play every minor piece I could find.  It was how I poured out my emotions.  I continue to do that.

I often come home to find my daughter doing the very same thing.  Hmmm....I wonder if that means that I drive her nuts??

The past couple of years, I found that I needed more.  I craved that interaction with an audience.  I was finally ready to put myself out there.  I got a part in "The Spitfire Grill" (a GORGEOUS musical, if you aren't familiar with it) and fell in love with the stage.  This started my crazy two year, "I am going to be on this damn stage constantly" run.  Each show got more ridiculous.  (We moved on to comedies.) And I got more comfortable with completely stepping outside my box.
Paula's Purse 4

But my most life giving, soul feeding concert thus far was doing an Eva Cassidy tribute.

Notice the extra handsome drummer in the background. ;)

And the very best part about it was not only was the band made up of amazing musicians, who were some of my best buds....but this was the first time my daughter and I sang in public together.  

She has been ripping it up with me ever since. :)

So here is what I hope for you.
Find something that makes you excited each day.
Something that makes you feel blissful, not prideful.
Find something that makes all of your troubles disappear...even if it is just for a little while.
Find something, where even the thought of it, makes you smile.
Now ask yourself "How can I incorporate this into my day?"
Now, schedule that time into your it becomes a priority.

Two days ago...yes only two days ago, I started playing the piano again.  Of course, I never stopped playing, but I started playing for ME.  I dug out all of my big, huge classical books, and started playing.  I decided, after listening to those 8th graders kick my butt at the honor's recital last weekend, that I needed to start actually playing again.  I also figure, considering my mom's disease, it is good for my brain.  It is just a small, little thing I have added to my day....but I am making it a priority.  Just like this blog.
I have about 30 journals.  All of them have about 5 entries in them....and then I give up.  I hate journaling.  I just like buying the journals, because I LOVE PRETTY PAPER THINGS!
This blog, however is different.  Apparently I enjoy writing when I can share it with others.  I have no desire to write for myself I guess.  Unless I am depressed or ticked off about something.  My poor husband.  When I die, he is going to have a pile of journals to read, and all of them are just me bitching about him and the kids.  Can someone just come and burn those in the event of my untimely demise, please?  

I have also come to realize that my posts are TOO LONG!  I apologize for my incessant babbling.

In closing.  If you haven't already...get out there and find something to feed your soul.  I am going to keep preaching this.  Perhaps if I write about it for 21 days, it will become a habit. ;)
I should write about cleaning my house for 21 days.  (Obviously my plan to actually write about getting my to-do list done for 31 days has yet to happen.)  

My goal for today is to make my house pretty.  The in-laws are coming tonight.  If all goes well, I will post before and after shots.  I can certainly supply the mess for the "before."

Have a super Friday.
This would be a good start  for our "soul feeding!"

Thursday, October 16, 2014

No Conditions

Last night I played for a "Healing Service" at my church.
Any parishioner who would like to be anointed and blessed was welcome to attend.  It is a lovely ceremony, because the students in the 7th grade religious education class are there, and they sit behind the parishioners who have come for the anointing.  When the priest comes around for the "laying on of hands," the student who is sitting behind the parishioner puts his or her hands on the shoulders of the person being anointed.  It is beautiful.  It is also hard to watch sometimes, because there are many tears that are shed.  I typically find myself trying to continue playing through my own tears, just because it is so moving to watch how profoundly moved these people are.  The first man who was anointed immediately began to weep as Father laid his hands on his head.  One can only imagine what inner turmoil these people may be going through.  I see them every weekend at church, and we smile and say hello.  I, of course, have no idea who amongst them is actually dealing with illness, sadness, loss, or any number of things that they hold in the silence of their hearts.
I think a lot of the emotion during the anointing has to do with the fact that in that moment, that person is feeling fully cared for, fully loved, and fully blessed.  Who doesn't want to experience that?

I think of the times in my life when I am going through hardships, and someone comes up to me, looks me in the eye and asks, "how are you really doing?"  I usually break down at that moment.  Not because I feel sorry for myself, but because some one really cares.  
Isn't that all we really want in life?  To have people who really care about us?
I was discussing this with my husband on the way home after.  The concept of truly caring about people...with no strings attached.  I think we all have people in our lives who seem to care when it is convenient for them.  But there always seems to be an ulterior motive.  Maybe there is something they want from us, or something they need us to do for them.  And, once they get what they want, they seem to fade into the woodwork, until we become useful to them once again.
I have never understood that.  I will never understand that.  Actually, I don't want to understand that. It must be a sad existence when your relationships revolve around "what you can do for me."

It took me a long time to figure it out, but life is so much better when you just open yourself up to the good, and brush away the bad.  I have people in my life who care so much more about things than people.  When I finally took a step back to look at the big picture, I realized that sadly, that is all they have.  Things.  There are no people in their lives, because the relationships that could have been built and nurtured were broken and destroyed.  It's all about priorities.

I think the first step to creating strong relationships with others is to start with yourself.
It goes without saying that anyone who is miserable and who enjoys stirring up trouble for others obviously has lots of issues of their own that they need to work through.

My biggest problem used to be worrying about what everyone thought about me.
"Stinkin' thinkin'"
I actually went to a therapist once because a guy in my choir didn't seem to like me, and wasn't responding positively to me at all.  It was completely throwing me for a loop, and rather than just ignoring it (what I would do now) I was going crazy about it.  I was so upset about it, I sought help for it.  The therapist gave me a handout about "stinkin thinkin"......the crap we conjure up in our own minds to make ourselves miserable.  I just assumed the guy hated me, and I couldn't figure out why.  It turned out he was just sitting back and trying to figure me out....that's all.  Now we are best buds.

Because of my obsession with worrying about everyone "liking me", or approving of me, I was seriously a constant ball of anxiety.  If anyone looked at my strangely, or leaned to the person next to them and whispered something, I KNEW they were talking about me....and it was NOT something good! (And I used to teach!  Middle and High School!!!)
Insecurity was the name of my game.  It was ridiculous.
I am not going to say that I'm not insecure any more.  I still am.  I still get upset over stupid crap.  I still doubt myself.  I still feel totally clumsy and frumpy whenever I'm around a group of perfect, gorgeous women, or really smart people, or a football team...or whatever.
What is different now is that I DON'T CARE.  I have always been pretty outspoken, but I no longer worry about whether or not what I say is going to make someone mad.  
I never write or say anything to intentionally hurt anyone.  I state what I'm feeling.  That's it.  If anyone gets mad at me for what I'm feeling....well, that's is just plain silly.
I know some people think it's inappropriate that I write about my mom.  Here is my take on that.
 She is my mom.  I write about her because she is going through something awful, and A LOT of people ask me how she is doing....ALL THE TIME.  I am not going to sugar coat this damn disease.  I am not going to pretend it is all rainbows and ponies.  I am going to write the TRUTH.  The more honest I am about what Alzheimer's does to a person, how it changes everything about them, how it affects their loved ones....the more AWARE people become about the disease.  
I think it would be ridiculous to NOT write about her.  It would be a disservice to not spread the truth about how horrendous this disease is.  I had no idea until I was thrown into it.  I used to joke about how I would "much rather lose my mind than my body."  Now I know better.  This is why I write about my mom.

And this is also why I write, period.  I always have something to say.  Most of the time it is just ridiculous gibberish, like the fact that both of my dogs are currently covered in parmesan cheese.  (And I really wish I was making that up.  My husband needs to maintain better control of the cheese container when shaking it over his pizza. ) But, sometimes I hope that I can put something useful out there that maybe helps someone work through some difficulty they are having.  Lord knows I have gone through just about every trial and tribulation known to if I can save someone the heartache of plodding through it....I would be thrilled!

And so, I am going to continue down this path.  The path where I try not to take things too personally.  The path where I put myself out there, bare my soul, and live my life authentically and honestly.  I refuse to hide behind secrecy and shadows.  I will respect the privacy of others, but I will not be shamed into muteness when it comes to what is in my heart.
I will choose the high road, and I will always go to the source, because that is the respectable thing to do.  And, if someone takes issue with me, I expect them to do the same.  Nothing ever gets solved if people can't communicate with one another. Directly.
I hope that every one of you who reads my words knows how much your willingness to take the time out of your day to spend with my writings means to me.  YOU are the reason I stay up way past my bedtime staring at my computer, trying to come up with something profound to entertain you with.  You are the reason I am motivated to write EVERY SINGLE DAY.
You are the reason I am finally doing something in my life that truly FEEDS MY SOUL.

So, thank you!
I hope each and every one of you takes some time out of your day to do something that breathes new life into your spirit.  And if you haven't figure out what that is yet....take some time to just breathe!

Happy Thursday! xo

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Cake helps.

Okay.  Can we just talk about how horrifying it is when you go to write your post for the day, and you are unable to log into your own blog account?
I do believe the universe is working against me today.
I apologize for the fact that I am beginning my Wednesday writings at 12:30pm.  Not exactly what I had planned.
It all started at 5:30 this morning.  I made the mistake of grabbing my warm little chihuahua, snuggling him in my arms like a baby, and nestling him under my chin.  After a couple little piggy snorts, he settled in, and the two of us fell asleep and didn't move.  For the next three hours.
I had to book it to my rehearsal this morning, since, obviously, getting out of bed was not desirable.  Since I never got around to eating, I stopped off at the store on the way home to pick up some caramel apples.  (I decided I'm not sick of them anymore.) Always a horrible idea when you are starving.  $78.00 later, I came home to begin writing.  Or to attempt to.  I actually thought the end was here.  That I would forever be locked out of blogger land.  It wasn't pretty.
It's a good thing I picked up some cake at the store too.  It got me through.

While trying to figure out what the heck to write about today, I was also trying to put a roll of toilet paper on the holder thingy.  I should mention that I HATE the toilet paper holder in my bathroom.  It is plastic, ugly, and awful.  Also, every time I attempt to put a roll of paper on it, the spring inside pops one end off the roller part, and it goes flying across the room.
It makes me crazy. (and it looks, most unfortunately, like a tampon in this pic.  So sorry.)
That led me to thinking about earlier in the day, when I had a complete meltdown over the dishes.  
I was putting the dishes Mark had washed away.  Here is my feeling about hand washing dishes.  If you are going to take the time to do it right.
I have a bit of a perfection problem in certain areas.  For instance, I have no desire to eat off of dirty dishes, or drink out of glasses that have been washed with a nasty old sponge.  
My husband, on the other hand, doesn't seem so bothered by that.
I noticed that the dishes were a little less than sanitary looking as I was putting them away.  I started putting them in the dishwasher, rather than the cupboard.  I was in a bit of a fragile state anyway, so the more dirt I saw, the angrier I got.
Eventually, I was on the kitchen floor, sobbing uncontrollably.  It was not attractive.  
I decided I would jot down some other things that make me crazy.
While perusing Facebook last night, I came across an article about a condition (an ACTUAL condition) that causes rage over the sounds people make when eating.  This was a huge relief, as I most definitely have this condition.  In fact, I would say that this is what caused 80% of my issues with my mother growing up.  I absolutely was incapable of dealing with any of her "mouth sounds."  Whether it was when she spoke (she had that "smacky cotton mouth" thing going on all the time) or how she ate or chewed gum....EVERYTHING made me INSANE.  Literally, made me want to throw myself off a cliff.  She thought I was just being a little snot.  In reality, I was simply suffering from Misophonia.
Now we know.
Ironically, whenever animals make these noises (and they do....all the time.) I think it's adorable.  Go figure.

Back to my dishes meltdown.  I also have a hard time when my lovely family members put the dishes away....and the end result looks like this.
 Because obviously, all those little organizers I put in the drawers are simply for looks.  Why would we actually want to use them?
Or...even worse...they put them in the WRONG PLACE ALTOGETHER!! 

One of my daughters favorite habits is to take her shoes off as she enters the house...and leave them.  Right where she took them off.  Which is ALWAYS right in front of the door.  Because why would we care about other people tripping over them, when we can simply do what is most convenient? Right?

Another favorite of mine is the old "empty container put back in the fridge/cupboard" trick.
My son is soooo good at this one.  I can't tell you the number of times I have found empty water bottles, cereal boxes, chip name it, put back in the pantry or wherever he grabbed it from in the first place.  He also loves to put the half filled soda cups from fast food places in the fridge, because we all know how delicious it will taste in a few days!

There are SO many more wonderful things I could share with you....but I will save them for another day.  
Instead, I would like to now share with you something wonderful!

Today I am celebrating the birthday of a brand new teenager!

Miss Madison Rapuano is 13!!
Maddy and Gigi

This gorgeous girl is my BFF's daughter.  You may remember me writing about sweet soulmate from New Jersey.  
Maddy is her "mini-me".  I wish I could see her more often!  Every time I do get to see her, I swear she grows another foot!!

Look at those legs!  Can you believe this beautiful girl is only 13?!  
Not only is she stunning, and TALL!  But she is also the sweetest thing you will ever meet.

She also makes her parents so proud every single day.  I love hearing her mama talk about her.  I'm sure she doesn't even realize it, but she really is her moms whole world.  Maddy...if you are reading this, I hope you know that you are one loved and treasured girl.  Every time your mom talks about you, it is with such pride and love.  You are so cherished. 

Love this!  Lipgloss is important while canoeing!! 

Happy birthday, sweet Maddy!  Love you today, and always!!

Happy Wednesday, everyone!