Saturday, November 1, 2014

For All the Saints

November.  Where the heck did you come from?

I kind of got in a groove the second half of October.  I had my tidy list of "personal values" sitting on my desk, so I knew what I was going to write about each day.
Well, I got to the end of the list, and I'm sure you all are ready for something different.  I have some ideas stirring, but not solidifying.  Yet.
So, today, I will stick with the obvious.
Happy All Saint's Day!

I am sure we all have people in our lives whom we refer to as "Saints."  Lots of times, it is our grandmother's.  Somehow, they managed to raise 15 kids, keep the house spotless, do all the laundry by hand, make a huge meal every evening (and clean up afterward) bathe the kids, make sure their homework was done, wait on her husband, and never break a sweat.
I'm lucky if I'm showered and have put last night's dishes in the dishwasher by the time my husband gets home after work.

Ugh.  My dog is sitting next to me, and he smells like nasty feet.
Back to sainthood.
I was thinking about "who should I write about?....who do I think of when I hear the word 'Saint'?"
I didn't have to look very far.
This guy.  
Yep, I married a Saint.

I don't even know where to begin.  
Let's start with his work.  He has been a band director since 1996.  His work ethic is ridiculous.  He is so dedicated to his job, and to the kids he teaches, that he leaves no time for himself.  His lunch break typically involves about 5 minutes of choking something down between lessons.  I can't tell you the number of times he has had to move every single piece of band equipment for a rehearsal or performance (including stands and chairs...and all of the drums, xylophones, etc.) I would be DONE with that after the first move...but he just does what needs to get done without complaint.
A year or two ago, he was getting ready to head out of town for an all day bus trip with the band.  I noticed he had picked up a bunch of granola bars and other snacks, as well as extra cash.  When I asked why he was bringing so much with him, he told me that he had some kids who couldn't afford to bring money along to buy food on the trip.  Rather than say anything, these kids would just go hungry.  Apparently he had always kept an eye out for this, and would discreetly slip the kids a granola bar or other snacks along the way.  When they would stop to eat, he would buy extra burgers, and pretend he was too full to eat them, and get them to those kids.
I had no idea he had been doing this all these years.  I wasn't surprised though.  He has always had such a kind heart, and he cares enough to make sure he really knows the kids, and knows their situations.  He wants to make sure every single student in his classes have the same opportunities and experiences.

I have to admit, his unwavering dedication to his work has sometimes taken it's toll on our marriage.  While he was working hard to prove himself, and support our family, I was feeling neglected.  Silly, I know, but I'm sure some of you have experienced the same thing.  It's hard when your spouse is always away from home, or when they are home, it seems that they are still focused on work.

Like everything in life, we just needed to get this "marriage thing" down.  It was easy when it was just the two of us.  We had each other, and we both had our careers.  Things changed so much once we added two kids to the mix.
Like everything in life, it's all about working through it, and learning how to communicate.
Mark is the kind of guy who will do anything for anyone.
He has literally helped me with every concert, performance, event, etc. I have had to do.  He sets up the equipment, he runs the sound, he makes sure everything runs smoothly, and more often than not, he is also either playing drums or trombone for me.
As I am typing this, he is making dinner.  And this is a very regular occurrence.  Whenever I teach lessons at night, or I am just being lazy (always) he comes home from work, and starts making dinner.  He is also the master brunch maker on Sunday afternoons.
He is also an amazing father.  He has been since day one.  I have always played at church, and he would be there with the kids (even as infants) every Sunday.  He would spend hours playing "ball" (their favorite game when they were little...which was him sitting at the top of the stairs, and they would try to catch it and throw it back up) every single night.  Bike rides, snow forts, wagon rides, you name it, he did it.
Now that they are teenagers, we just make a point to embarrass them at every opportunity.
I could go on and on about how wonderful he is, and everything he does for us.
But the thing that makes me love Mark the most is his ability to love and to forgive.
There have been bumps in our life together that surely would have broken many relationships.  We questioned whether our relationship was even worth fighting for.  However, in the end, we always knew it was.  We knew it would take work, and it would be painful.  But we also knew we couldn't imagine ourselves without the other.

The depth of love, kindness, compassion, patience, forgiveness, and honesty this man has given me is immeasurable.  It is so much more than I will ever deserve.  

Everyday, I think about how lucky I am to have him in my life.
I am blessed, and I am grateful.

Who is a "Saint" in your life?  
Why are you grateful for them?

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloweeeeen!

Happy Halloween!

I have always loved Halloween.  More so, as a child of course, but my love was rekindled once I had kids.  Watching their excitement grow as the date drew near was so much fun.
My kids are in high school now, so their Halloween outings no longer involve us. They are off doing things with their friends.
It usually is a nice night for my hubby and I to just hang out, hand out candy, and watch a scary movie or sit by the fire.
However, tonight, I am all alone.
The football team keeps wining, (go Rangers!) so, he is at the game with the pep band this evening.
He waited until this afternoon to tell me he needed to come up with a costume for tonight.  Oh, and it is going to be really cold out, so, "something for a tall, skinny guy, but it has to keep me warm."
No problem, honey.
He should have been an actor.  Or something.

E.T. is definitely going to find his way home tonight.
We live on a street with very little traffic, so there is rarely an overflow of trick or treaters.  This is okay, because I am pretty crafty in my candy buying.  I always make sure my favorites remain.
The other reason I love Halloween is because I can do this:

The pumpkin got loose a couple minutes ago when a princess came to my door. He chased after her dog (who was 4x his size.)  It was pretty funny.  It's not everyday you see a pumpkin in attack mode.
Or a pumpkin running down the street, for that matter.

I only have two vivid Halloween memories from my college days.  One year, Halloween fell on a weekend, so the band I was playing in was scheduled to perform at Brother's bar in La Crosse.  We were all going to dress up, of course, and I decided to go as a mermaid....because when you are in college, the objective is to look sexy on Halloween, right?  So, obviously, a mermaid was an excellent decision.
Excellent, until I got there and realized that the only way to get on the stage to play was to hoist yourself up onto it.  (There were no it was the equivalent of stepping up about three stairs at once.)  Not a huge deal, unless you are dressed as a mermaid, your dress is so tight at the ankles you look ridiculous trying to even walk up ONE stair.  (I had to do the knees together, sideways walk thing). 
Needless to say, I had to have the guys lift me on and off the stage all night.  Watching a mermaid being lifted on and off a stage like an invalid quickly takes the "sexy" out of the whole thing pretty darn quickly.
  I must have looked like a fish out of water. (cue dum bum.)
The other was the Halloween party of the century at one of the houses I lived in during college.  We hosted a rather large gathering, and of course, lots of theater majors were there.  If you invite theater students, you are going to have amazing costumes.  My friend Jeanine and I were the hostesses, so to speak, so we dressed as French Maids.  My favorite costumes were worn by my friends Anne and Andy, who, of course, came as Raggedy Ann and Andy.  And the very best, my friend Jeff (who had long hair at the time) came as Heidi from the Alps.  Complete with braids, his German dress (I can never remember what those are called) tights and character shoes, balloon boobs, and his stein, from which he drank all night.  It was outstanding.
The party itself was outstanding, until the police arrived....and the under 21 crowd started (literally) throwing themselves off the porch, into the bushes, and other inconspicuous actions such as that.
I have to believe the fact that two French Maids answering the door may have helped in us getting a warning rather than a ticket.  Or wait....maybe we did get a ticket?  It is all a blur.
My favorite Halloween with my kids was the year I bought them Tinkerbell and Captain Hook costumes.  They were probably 3 and 5 years old at the time.  I was so excited, and knew they would be adorable.  I never expected the reaction I got.
Lexie loved her costume, but when I went to put the Captain Hook costume on Sam, he lost it.  He was SO upset that she got to be Tinkerbell, and he didn't.  He refused to go out trick or treating that night.  
He did, however, wear that damn Tinkerbell costume every single day for the next several weeks.

(I searched for an hour for my old Halloween pics of the kids, specifically no avail.  I am sure I will find them tomorrow.)
Needless to say, they have always been fond of playing dress up.
Sam and friends in tutus

Lexie (what is with that face?!) and Sam in his tutu (again)

A very serious belly dancer?

Sam..again in the tutu (no wonder he wanted to be Tinkerbell!) and Lexie

Sam the witch.  (Check out the mismatched "high heels" he is wearing.)

He did eventually outgrow his Tinkerbell/tutu phase (not that there's anything wrong with that.)  Although, he is still pretty ridiculous.
Here is tonight's costume:

He is "Brick" from Anchorman....ready to fight the battle of the networks. 
Good Lord.

And my daughter and her boyfriend:
Brad and Janet from "Rocky Horror".

And I decided to dress up like a lazy housewife.
Because that was a stretch for me. ;)

Okay....FIVE trick or treaters have stopped by in the time I have been writing this.  (And I have been putzing around the house while writing as well.)
I am closing up shop, turning the fireplace on, lighting some candles, opening a bottle of wine, and looking for a scary movie. :)

Happy Halloweeeeeeeeeenn!!

It's Hard to Be Humble

[hyoo-mil-i-tee or, often, yoo-]
1. the quality of condition of being humble; modest opinion or estimate of one's own importance, rank, etc.
Oh Lord it's hard to be humble when you're perfect in every way.
I can't wait to look in the mirror cause I get better looking each day.
To know me is to love me
I must be a hell of a man.
Oh Lord, it's hard to be humble, but I'm doing the best that I can.

Humility.  What a beautiful quality.
I have always struggled with people who struggle with this particular trait.
I find arrogance and pretentiousness to be the ultimate "turn-offs" for me.
The really sad thing is that is often seems that the people (excuse me for a moment of sexism here)...mostly men, get ahead in this world by being just that.  Arrogant, prideful, self-important.  For example:  Donald Trump.  I would NEVER use "humble" as a word to describe him.  Arrogant, oh YES.  How about a kinder example:  Jack know, the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" guy.  He is a bazillionare, and is probably a nice guy, considering the books he puts out are all warm and fuzzy.  However, if you read the intro to his book "Success Principles" it is literally a chronicle of how wealthy he is.  He describes his fabulous homes, his lavish vacations, boats, cars, blah blah blah.  Don't get me wrong...the book is fantastic.  However, the first chapter was really hard to swallow, because it was soooo self-absorbant and arrogant.  Not an attractive quality.  I am sure his intent was to show us that "if you follow my Success Principles, you too can live the high life, just like I do!"  Unfortunately, it made me think he was a rich jerk who had just ripped $20 bucks out of my hand for this book.

I am much happier to root for the humble philanthropist who may earn a gazillion dollars each year, but rather than flaunt it, he/she simply continues to strive to make the world a better place by doing the work he/she loves, and uses some of his/her riches to make a difference in the community, state, country, world....whatever!  I would much rather read about that in chapter one!  I did not choose to read "Success Principles" because I wanted to have a yacht, 4 homes, and money coming out of my nostrils.  I would be perfectly happy with no debt, enough money to live comfortably (perhaps very comfortably?) get my kids through college, and have enough left to do something that really matters.

Being in the performing arts definitely exposes one to many levels of humility.  Or complete lack there of.  
I used to associate my lack of desire to break out into song in front of people (unless it was an actual performance) with being shy.
Then I realized that whenever I witnessed someone doing that...(actually breaking out into song in a highly populated area), I would be so embarrassed for them.  AND for me!   I know some people thought "Oh look at that!  They are so secure with themselves, that they can just sing anywhere!"  To me, witnessing an obnoxious display of vocal stylings in an inappropriate setting screamed "Excuse me everyone!  I need you all to pay attention to me right now, because my ego is feeling a little neglected, and this is how I inflate it."
I could be way off base here, but this is how it always comes across to me.
It is that desire to be the center of attention.  

Of course, it's fun to be the center of attention.  But, there is also a time and a place for it.  The middle of the lingerie department in Macy's isn't it.  
That is why I will never be found belting out show tunes as I walk down the aisles at the grocery store.  (Unless there are extenuating circumstances....which may or may not involve my sisters, relay races, rum chata, and the need to forget the fact that there are 12 children driving us crazy while our husbands hide in the garage.) Even then, it is much more likely that I would be engaging in an elaborate display of this is a much more appropriate action to engage in. (especially since the Westby IGA is known for playing some pretty great R&B music in the evening hours, AND, dancing is typically a quiet, non attention drawing art form.....unless you accidentally shimmy your way into the display of chips that should NOT have been on that end stand anyway.)
Husbands 1, 2, & 3 
See, I'm not kidding.  This is what they do, while we are inside with the kids.  This is, of course, after they disappear for 30 minutes, and suddenly reappear...conveniently stocked with a large supplies of malt beverages.  They actually think they are sneaky. 
Back to the topic at hand.
I think another important aspect of humility is to be fully aware of your talents, your abilities, your strengths, AND your weaknesses.
Music is a tough business to be in.  The ego factor is HUGE.  And it often has very little to do with talent.  Way too often it becomes a competition.  Which is horribly sad.    Music is something that should bring people together....not cause tension because of bruised egos. 
I think when the ego gets in the way, we forget to take a step back and look at ourselves realistically and honestly.
I mean, come on.  Let's look at the American Idol auditions.  How many people do we see go in, chasing this dream they have had their entire life, because they just KNOW they were meant to be the next great vocal artist?  They know they are amazing, their friends and family have told them they are amazing.....and then they start to sing, and it sounds like Bessie the cow getting strangled with her cow bell.

That is where reality needs to step in.  
I knew when I went to college that I would never be a piano performer.  I couldn't memorize a piece to save my life.  I wasn't technically good enough to play the really difficult repertoire.  I enjoyed playing classical music for myself, but I had no desire to sit and practice for hours on end to perfect a piece that I would play at a recital, and then put away forever.  When I would sit in our piano masterclass and listen to the piano performance majors, I knew I could never compare to them. (Heck, I sit at our studio recitals now, and know that some of these middle school prodigies can kick my butt!)  I wasn't going to let it bruise my ego, because why should me ego get involved at all?
I still had great skills on the piano, but in different areas.  I loved accompanying, so that was where I placed my focus.  I was good at embellishing, and sight reading, so playing at church was right up my alley.  I knew my weaknesses, and I knew my strengths, but most importantly, I never felt the need to pretend I was more than I really was.  I worked hard, but in all honesty, I wasn't willing to work that hard. I was content with my abilities, I admired the people who pushed themselves to go so much further, and I chose to continue doing what I did best....and I wanted to do it out of the spotlight.
 I preferred to be humble.

This past summer, we went on a Mission trip to St. Lucia.
It was such a gorgeous place, but I couldn't get over how quickly you could go from the mansions on the hill, to the tin and plywood "homes" in the valleys where the poverty stricken lived.
I loved going to their church services.  All of the women would wear their Sunday best, and they were gorgeous.  (Seriously, I don't think I have ever seen so many beautiful women in one place before!)  I, of course, always say what I'm thinking, so I would always compliment the ladies on their dress or shoes, or just how beautiful they looked.  The thing I noticed was how easily they took a compliment.  They never backpedaled like we tend to do.  (I'm horrible at taking compliments. I think it's my Norwegian upbringing.)  They would just smile and say "Why thank you, my darling."  It was fantastic.  
I think we often worry about coming across as being arrogant if we accept a compliment.  I know I struggle with that a bit.  I will always say "Oh...this old thing?  I got it on sale  two years ago...but thank you!"  Why can't I just say "Thank you?"  It is something I am working on.  

For me, the fear of coming across as arrogant is what holds me back at times.  I find myself getting really annoyed when people feel the need to tell me how fabulous they are at whatever....and I never want to come across that way to anyone.  There really is a fine line between "selling yourself", and just simply bragging about yourself.  

So, how does a person go about being confident without arrogance?
I think it is all about just being really honest with yourself.
If you are able to admit that you have flaws, and that there are things that you aren't great at....that is a big step toward humility.

However, just because you have flaws doesn't mean that you aren't willing to work on them.  Life is all about learning.  It's all about trying new things.  It is also about working with others.  You know what your strengths are, so when you combine those with the strengths of others, great things start to happen. 

I think one of the most important aspects of humility is taking the "me" factor out of it.
When you stop worrying about only yourself, and focusing on how you can get ahead, how you can be successful, how you can get rich, how you can be famous...etc, and start to think about how WE can make things happen, you open yourself up to something so much bigger.

Of course, we need to think about our personal goals...but what happens when we open that up to include more than just what we want?  What happens when we start to think beyond ourselves?  What happens when we open ourselves to the possibility of what we can do to make a difference in our community, in our schools, in our city, in our state....or beyond?  I think we often limit ourselves, and we begin our goals with "I want..."  How can we find a way to not just set goals for ourselves, but to inspire others as well?

In the end, I think living with humility is all about learning how to truly open our hearts to giving, inspiring, growing, and giving up our need to sit in the spotlight.  Instead, we can shine that light out to the world, and share the gifts that we have to give...because I really believe that when we use the talents and strengths we have, we are not only feeding our own souls, but we are inspiring others to do the same.

So, let's all go grab a slice of humble pie, and work toward creating something fantastic!!

This marks the end of the "31 Day Challenge."  
I successfully wrote for 31 Days, but I didn't write one post on the topic I had chosen for the challenge!  Eh, why stifle our creativity with planning, right?

Now, I'm on to creating challenges of my own.  The biggest one is how to turn this writing thing into more than just a hobby, or pastime that somehow steals hours from my day.  Until then, I will try to keep coming up with things to ramble on about each day, and hopefully provide some inspiration, or entertainment!

Have a wonderful, and slightly spooky day!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Heal Thyself


verb (used with object)
1. to make healthy, whole, or sound; restore to health; free from ailment.
2. to bring an end or conclusion, as conflicts between people or groups, usually with the strong implication of restoring former amity; settle; reconcile.

No one in this world is immune to the pain that life can bring.
We will all experience loss, heartache, illness, fear, tragedy.  There is nothing we can do to stop it .  Fortunately, we are capable of healing.  We are able to somehow pick up the pieces, and put our lives back together after they have seemingly been shattered apart.
Some of us handle that process better than others.
A lot of it has to do with where we are in our personal journey when the difficult times occur.  
Too often, we are hit by the hardest times when we are young, and not capable of dealing with these tragedies in healthy, constructive ways.  Instead, we find ourselves in a place of complete despair and confusion, because we don't have the life experience or the "tools" we need to mend our hearts and spirits, and eventually move forward.  Often times, this is when bad decisions are made, and people turn to harmful ways to numb their pain.
When I hear the word "addiction", I immediately think of drugs or alcohol.  However, there are so many other behaviors that can become "addictions" and have a negative impact on your life.  The common denominator with any addiction is the fact that there is something missing in your life.  There is a void that needs to be filled, and you will do whatever you can think of to make that happen.  The irony of it all is that no one or no thing can fill that void.  The only way to fill that emptiness is through finding peace and contentment...with yourself.

I have experienced a lot of heartache in relationships in my life.  I remember feeling like my heart would never mend, and I would be a broken, miserably sad person forever.  Somehow, as the days went by, my heart did begin to heal.  I never forgot, but it became less painful.

The one thing I wish I could go back and change would be how I dealt with the death of my father.  It was so tragic and so sudden, I never really had time to grieve.
One week after he died, I had to start my first teaching job, and Mark moved to a city 3 hours away to do his student teaching internship.  Four months later, we got married.   A year later, I was pregnant, and moving to a new town.  We lost that baby, and I was devastated.  Soon we had our first baby, and were moving again...then the second baby.  Then we were moving again, different jobs, different cities, constant changes...and not a moment for me to be still, and grieve.  
It really took it's toll on me.  
I didn't realize that a lot of my depression and other issues had all stemmed from the emotions I had locked away.
I had debilitating separation anxiety.  Anytime Mark had to leave town or drive anywhere, I was a wreck.  I was sure he would die in a car accident.  I had all of these phobias that had stemmed from my dad's accident.  I had witnessed how quickly life could end, and I was terrified.  Looking back, I think I also resented Mark for moving away to do an internship, rather than staying in town to student teach.  I had to deal with losing my dad, starting a career, planning a wedding, and do it all with zero support.  I put up an emotional "wall"...and it stayed there for years.

Three years ago, my dear cousin Amy was killed in a car accident.  She was one year older than me.  She was the cousin I adored as a child.  We would spend our summers together, getting into all kinds of trouble, and having so much fun.  She was one of the most amazing people I have ever known.  She has two beautiful children who were far too young to lose their mom.
It was at the cemetery when she was buried that something inside me snapped.
All of those emotions and feelings I had been bottling up for the past 16 years came flooding back, and I thought I was going to lose my mind.  Suddenly, I didn't know which end was up anymore.  I was grieving for Amy, and finally....I was grieving for my dad.

Sadly, during this time, I was also in the planning stages of a show I was working on with a friend of mine.  Obviously, I was going through a lot emotionally, and was feeling overwhelmed.  It's funny how people's true colors shine through in times of extreme emotion.  Apparently, my need for a little time and space proved to be inconvenient to her agenda.  I received an e-mail telling me that she had cancelled the show. She stated that she was of "sound mind" and I was not, when I asked why I was not consulted in this decision.  (Others involved were then informed that the reason the show was being cancelled was because I wasn't organized enough.  I had one item left on my "to-do" list.)
There is nothing quite like being both punished and insulted because you are dealing with a family tragedy.  It took me a long time to put that all behind me.

I have come a long way since those few months of serious grieving and sadness.  
It's hard when you are overcome with something that occurred in the past, and was never dealt with appropriately.  People don't really understand.
Surely it would be hard to be completely sympathetic to someone who was having a breakdown over their father who died 16 years ago.  It is so much easier to understand and relate to someone who has suffered a recent loss.  Even then, unless a person has gone through a similar experience, it is still difficult to comprehend how it feels.  The most important thing is that we are compassionate and understanding.  We have no idea what any person has gone through in the past, and how that is affecting them today.

I know that my inability to deal with my sorrow 19 years ago has had a big impact on my marriage.  For instance, while I was still really struggling with my separation anxiety, my husband decided to take classes all summer at a school 3 hours away from our home.  He would leave Sunday afternoon, and be gone through early Friday morning.  Our kids were 2 and 4 at the time.  I told him that I didn't think I could handle it.  I was in a very fragile state, I was dealing with depression, but had not gotten any help for it yet.  I was terrified at the thought of him driving home at midnight every Thursday....and just having to be alone for the summer.  He decided to go anyway.  That decision almost broke us.  I was a complete wreck.  In my (completely screwed up, delusional) mind, he had made a decision.  He had chosen school over me.  In reality, of course, he was just trying to get closer to earning his master's degree, so he could make more money to support our family.  But, I didn't see it that way.  I felt like he didn't care about how I felt, didn't care that I was a complete, emotional wreck.  He only cared about his job.  By the end of the summer, I was ready to leave.  
Luckily, he didn't give up on me, and we spent a lot of time working through our issues, and in therapy.  (I LOVE THERAPY!) ;)

Once I finally realized why I was so afraid of him leaving (because I was sure he would never come back, because something awful would happen to him) and I knew I wasn't living in reality, I started to heal.  We started to communicate about how we felt, and why we did the things we did, rather than just make assumptions.  And we healed some more.
 I'm not going to pretend things have been perfect.  We have weathered some pretty heavy storms...but we know that we can work through it, and that is something to be happy about.
We still make mistakes, but we are getting a lot better at fixing things before they are broken these days.  For a long time, we had issues with living in the past....we would keep getting upset over the same old stuff...the things that had already happened, rather than just moving forward.  Now, we try to live in the moment.  We try to enjoy what each day brings us, and if any of the ghosts of the past try to sneak in....we talk about it, and close the door on them again.
This is how we help each other heal.

I'm sure some people probably wonder why I share so much about myself....I know some people feel much more comfortable keeping their personal lives private.
There are things I will never share. But, there are also so many things I have experienced, and have learned from.  I often wonder if I could have avoided some of the heartache I have gone through if there had been someone to guide me through the hard times.  
However, if life had been easy, and I had never walked through those experiences, I don't think I would be who I am today.  I would probably still be that insecure, easily hurt, anxiety filled girl who had no idea who she was.....or even who she wanted to be.
What I do hope is that something I write or share might be helpful to someone.  Maybe it will strike a chord with you, so you know you are not alone in your journey.
Maybe it will make you feel soooooo good about yourself, because you are no where near as screwed up as I am!
Or maybe it will just solidify the fact that we are all human, doing the best we can in this world.  And if we can do something to help each other along the way......perhaps that will bring us one step closer to a place of healing and love.

Blessings to you on this Thursday.  If your heart is in need of healing, I hope you are able to reach out for the help you need, or take the time to look within, and draw from the strength that resides inside you.  
Hope is a powerful force.  Never let yourself give up on it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Positively Peaceful


1.the state or quality of being serene, calm, or tranquil.
2. the refreshing quiet or repose of sleep.

Ok, admit it.  Just reading those words took some of the tension out of your shoulders, right?
If anyone were to ask me "describe your perfect day", surely these are words that would pop into my head.  I long for tranquility and calm.  It took me WAY too long to figure that out, but I'm glad I finally did.
I think so many of us have forgotten what it even feels like to have a peaceful state of mind, or a quiet moment in our day.
Once you take on the responsibilities of adult-hood, add a full-time job, a spouse, and some kids to the mix, forget it!  You are lucky if you can get a few hours of sleep!
We know how important it is for our kids to get enough sleep.  We plan our day around the baby's nap schedule, or the kids' bedtime, because if they don't get enough sleep, it will be torture for us.  But why don't we do the same for ourselves?
I have always been a person who needed more sleep than the average joe.  I remember one of my aunt's saying "Yep, it's the "tired Ekern blood."  So apparently it is out of my control. :)  
When you pay attention, you do finally figure out what you need to do to keep yourself running on all cylinders.  For me, anything less than 8 hours of sleep equals a rough day ahead.  Throw in my chronic headaches, and I am a complete mess.  This is why I never go anywhere on Saturday nights.  (Or at least I try really hard not to.)  I know I have to be up at 6, and I have to be on top of my game for a good 5-6 hours, so staying up past 10pm isn't an option.  I'm sure people think I have turned into a lame old lady, but I really don't have a choice.  I know what I need to do to function, and feel good.  I have no desire to be miserable if I can avoid it.

I wasn't always so in tune with myself. In fact, I used to be one big, miserable pile of stress and anxiety.  Isn't it interesting when you look back at parts of your life, and see what a pathetic mess you where?  My life is divided up into six rather tidy disasters.  
1. Childhood.
2. College.
3. House 2-Prairie du Chien
4. House 3- Bloomington
5. House 4- Onalaska (north)
6. House 5- Onalaska (south) 
(I skipped house 1...since we only lived there for 4 months.  Not enough time for too much disaster to occur!)

Around the time of House 4, I got on my "self-help" kick.  It was also when I found a kick-ass therapist...notice there was a lot of "kicking" going on during this time. 
One of the things I was really trying to find was a way to just calm down.  If you have ever had a conversation with me, you will know that I typically talk 100 miles a minute.  There are two reasons for that.  1. I usually have way too much to say.  (This should be blatantly evident, considering the length of each blog post.) and 2. I actually worry about boring the person I am speaking to, so for some reason, my brain feels the need to urge me to speak faster, so they don't have stand and listen to me for quite so long.  Yes, I should probably go back to therapy.

So, I started looking for ways to bring more peace and calm into my life.
The first thing I needed to do was to calm myself.
We have already established that I am an adrenaline junkie, so the first step was to overcome my addiction.
Whenever I get worked up, anxious, worried, upset....whatever the emotion is, I have to consciously remove myself from it.  I used to lose it.  I would sob uncontrollably, or scream, or just be manic.  Now, I let myself cry if I need to...but usually, I just breathe.  Breathe, and think it through.  Talk myself down, and remind myself that I am getting upset over nothing.  Whatever it is that is bothering me will soon dissipate, and go away.  If it is something that needs to be dealt with, I can deal with it once I have calmed down.  But, for now, I only need to breathe.
 It really is amazing how simply changing your thinking can change your life.
Five years ago, if I had received an email from someone, criticizing me for something I had done, or chastising me for my opinion on something, I would have been devastated.  I would have let my emotions take over, and probably sent an over-emotional reply back, just making the matter worse.
Not any more.  Yes, I will feel that initial "stab in the gut"....but then I let it go.  It feels SO good to be able to just stop and think before acting.  When you allow yourself to be at peace with something that at one time would have really hurt you, you are giving yourself such a gift.  At that point, I am able to reply in a completely sensible, and appropriate way, while still getting my point across.  It's beautiful!
So, how do we find that peace, or create a place of tranquillity?  How do we surround ourselves with that feeling of serenity?
It doesn't just happen.  We have to make changes within ourselves, but there are also changes we can make to our environment.

One of my favorite books, when it comes to eliminating stress from your life is called "101 Ways to Stress-Free Living"  How to Declutter Your Mind, Body and Soul, by Suzannah Oliver.
She organizes her book into four sections: 
Your Mind
Your Body
Your Home
Your Relationships
What I love about this book is that she makes is so simple.  ( I LOVE simple!)
There are great suggestions for stress-reducers, foods for calming, energy, healing, detox, tips on organizing and space clearing, ways to feed your relationship, and so much more.
(why am I not getting paid for my book promotions?) ;)
For me, there are a couple of things that really make a difference when it comes to finding peace and calm in my life.

1. Live in the moment.
I used to be terrible at this.  I lived in the past....a lot, or would constantly think about how much better things would be in the future, but I never thought about what was going on right now. I wonder how many years of life I missed out on, by not paying attention.  No more....I enjoy the happy memories of the past, but I am working to let all of the pain of the past go. It is over and done.
2. Allow yourself some indulgences.
I take a bubble bath.  Every. Single. Morning.  This is probably making some shrink in horror at the amount of water I use each day! (Don't worry....I don't fill the tub very full.)  I started doing this because there was a leak in my shower drain, and my husband told me not to use the shower.  I found I really enjoyed soaking in the tub, and never stopped (the drain is fixed now.) 
It is such a relaxing way to start my day...and it is also the only place I seem to be able to clear my mind enough to come up with topic ideas to blog about!

3. Calm your space.
Last summer I decided to calm my space.  My house is an open concept, and I had a lot of color going on.  I sold the crazy colorful flea market couch and chair, and started painting and sewing...and went black and while, with some aqua thrown in.  Just those simple changes made me love being in that area again.  I felt like I could take a deep breath and relax.  
Clearing out the clutter has that same effect.

4. Find time to be quiet.
I am lucky, because I typically work in the afternoons and evenings, so my days are free (when my family is at school.)  I have lots of quiet time...sometimes too much, perhaps.  Most people don't have this luxury.  That is why you need to SEEK OUT the quiet.  Maybe it is going to mean going for a drive by yourself, no radio...just your thoughts.  Or a walk.  Sometimes I walk late at night and go to the park that is a few blocks from our house.  I just sit on the bench there and just breathe.  Listen to the quiet.
5. Make peace within yourself.
I have been saying this a lot in the posts about personal values.
The key to happiness is loving yourself.  It is also the key to peace.  If you can simply be....whether you are surrounded by noise, or you are sitting in silence, if you are able to be content with yourself, by yourself, you will find peace.
6. Slow Down.
This is a big one.  For 20 years of my life, I only knew one speed....super crazy, out of control.  I guess that would be 6th gear?
No wonder I never felt peaceful.  No wonder I was always tired.  (Who am I kidding...I am still always tired!)
However, I can tell you that my level of contentment and serenity has increased significantly since I have decided to down shift, and live life in, oh, let's say 2nd gear.  It's a friendly enough to get somewhere, but slow enough that you can stop, but still get moving again without dying. ;)
7. Love.
Of course, you will be most at peace when you do everything with love.
Surround yourself with what you love.  With people you love.  Spend your days doing what you love....or at least incorporating things you love into whatever it is you have to do that day.  When you find yourself in a place that you no longer feel you are surrounded by love, be it a person, a job, an environment, then you know it is time to make a change.  It is time to either move on or let something go.  When you are not at peace, you know it.  Life is too short to live that way.  It is up to you to create a life that feels serene, that brings you happiness and contentment.  A life you LOVE.
8. Live Simply.
Find joy in the ordinary.  If we stop waiting for the extraordinary to happen, and start noticing the beauty in the things we take for granted everyday, our whole perspective can change.
I have always hated making dinner.  I think the part I dislike the most is trying to figure out what the heck to make.  The cooking part wasn't so bad.  Lately, I have been bringing a cookbook to bed with me, and paging through, searching for recipes that looked like something my kids would actually eat.
I would jot down the ingredients list, and actually plan meals for the week.  (This is completely unheard of in my house.  Planning meals around here means "Is there a pizza in the freezer??")
I found that once I actually had the ingredients on hand, and had an actual recipe to follow, I loved making dinner.  I felt like a GOOD mom and wife for a change!  I realized that the every day, normal act of cooking brought me joy.  It was relaxing.  I had some music playing, opened a bottle of wine, the food smelled amazing as it was baking, and I felt SO PEACEFUL and CONTENT.
Why did I fight this for so long?  Why not just enjoy these simple things that we do everyday?  Why not make them a little more fun by adding that music, and that wine, and what the heck, light some candles!  
I even enjoyed washing the dishes afterward, because I felt like I had done such a good job providing a delicious meal for my family, and now I was enjoying the warm, sudsy water as I cleaned up, and made my kitchen look clean and beautiful again.
It was so simple.  So ordinary.  And it made me feel so serene.  

So, my challenge for you is this: Stop waiting for something exciting to happen. Stop looking backwards and saying "I wish it could be like that again."
Live in the moment.
Live simply, and look for the joy in the ordinary.
Make time for being quiet...make time for you.
Calm the chaos inside of you, and around you.
Just breathe.

Wishing you a very peaceful day!!