Sunday, January 31, 2016

Someone Send in the Clowns, please

I started playing the piano when I was about 4. My dad had wanted me to play because his mom, my Grandma Fengel, had played. He and my mom bought a player piano, which I thought was THE coolest thing ever (and still do), and I started lessons. Every year, I had a spring recital, and even though I was only 5 by that time, I remember my first one. It was at the YWCA in Canton in the big rec room upstairs. I wore a light blue, ruffled, 1970s, long dress which I remember begging my dad to buy several months before. My dad didn’t get to see that recital because he died at work right before it happened, but my story isn’t about that. My story is about my recital 8 or 10 years later, when I was about Mattie’s or Owen’s age.
By then, I was playing for Mrs. Tarr, and our recital was scheduled to happen in the tiny studio at the back of her house. Every year, Mrs. Tarr, had us spend months on end preparing and memorizing and perfecting. I had at least two solos to perform that year and probably at least one duet with Krista or Jane. There had been endless individual lessons and plenty of large group session with other piano students to practice our pieces.
I remember that the room was packed on that day with moms, dads, grandparents, and siblings. As a parent now myself, I realize that all those adults in the room wanted to see each of us kids do well. I think I probably knew that at the time, but I was still nervous and terrified. I was always nervous when I performed. I can bring down the house when I play by myself, but there’s just something that prevents me from doing that in front of an audience. Regardless, it was finally my turn to perform. I walked up to the piano, sat down, and started to play my piece, Sondheim’s Send in the Clowns. If you’ve never heard the piece, it’s a hauntingly beautiful tale about things that are beyond our control and how sometimes the worst things that happen to us actually turn out to be the best things to happen to us. As a 12- or 14-year-old, I had put no thought into the meaning behind the song.
I started out fine, but as I continued I started to panic a little, and, then it happened. I goofed. Big. Time. So big that I couldn’t easily recover. My hands were shaking, and I was on the verge of tears. I remember stopping and thinking to myself, “Now what?”. I sighed audibly, and I did the only thing I knew to do. I started over. From the beginning. And, this time I finished. I stood up and nodded at my audience, which Mrs. Tarr had taught us to do – no bowing for her students. I went back to my seat with the other students, and I cried out of embarrassment and relief. After the recital, one of the moms came up to my mom and I and complimented my poise and said that her child would have never been able to do what I had done – just start over and finish. I didn’t feel particularly proud of my accomplishment at that moment.
Over the last few months and years, that memory has come back to me time and again. Every time I think about it I cringe and, undoubtedly, blush. However, I’m a huge believer in “signs” and I think, for a long time, someone has been putting that memory in my mind to remind me of something. Sometimes in life you have to do exactly what my teenage self instinctively knew to do. You keep your eyes on the finish line and you do what it takes to get there. That’s just the way life works. None of it’s fair. Really awful things happen to really decent and good people. Sometimes, in life, you goof. Big. Time. But, the mistake isn’t what’s important. It’s not even important if it stops you dead in your tracks or causes you to freeze. What is important is what you do to recover from it. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to take a deep breath and start over.  Reinvent yourself and finish. There’s always time later on to cry.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Thank you

2013 has not been my year - not  in any way, shape, or form.

I'm not the only one who has had a crappy, dare I say, shitty year. I don't know what weird astrological alignment or wrinkle in the force has caused so many people I know to have the worst of years this year, but bottom line is 2013 can suck it. Good riddance, 2013. Hey, hey, hey, goodbye.

For me, it has been a year of mostly downs and worst case scenarios. It has been anxiety-ridden and sad, and while I have done my very best not to air my dirty laundry or bellyache (too much) on Facebook or any other social media, that's not to say that I haven't done my fair share of complaining to those I hold closest to me. Even though I have no intention of going into the minutiae of my problems, I am compelled to say thank you, here, publicly to a few incredible people in my life - people who have propped me up this year, propelled me along, and encouraged me to keep my chin up. They have been my unsung heroes.

Angel was with me for the whole ride. She whisked the kids away to St. Louis when I needed a weekend to sort things out. She funded the kids' fun more than once, filled my car with gas, and ignored her own problems to help me deal with mine. My mom and Bill helped me to talk things through and figure things out when I didn't see much hope. Stephanie knew to call at the exact moment I needed someone most - when I thought I couldn't sink any further and desperately needed a friend. She cried with me and told me it was going to be okay on more than one occasion. 

Holly talked me down off the ledge more times than I can count. She always made me laugh with her Holly-isms and never failed to make me feel like I could manage things. Cindy, despite her own horrible year, checked in on me regularly and told me inappropriate jokes to take my mind off things. I don't think I'll ever look at Abraham Lincoln quite the same thanks to Cindy. Teresa was my voice of reason and helped me to maintain my focus. She gave me innumerable, potential solutions when I couldn't seem to find one. Carrissa and Tasha gave me a sense of relief by keeping an eye on things. 

Lori gave me invaluable insight and showed me that though we might not see each other every day anymore, we can still pick up exactly where we left off. Gabby gave me a solution at a crucial time. Tony and Jackie gave me a shoulder to cry on and were there for me to talk to whenever I needed someone. (They are, however, never allowed to leave town again because things seemed to fall apart for me when they did.) Miriam and Ann treated my problems like they were their own, fully analyzed the situation, and gave me suggestions on what to do. I am so lucky to work for such caring, beautiful women. 

All of these people have shown me love and understanding. They have held me when I cried, called when I was close to despair, and helped me to brainstorm and problem solve. They have reminded me to take a deep breath and focus on getting through the next 5 minutes when getting through the next 24 hours seemed like an insurmountable task. They gave me hope and continue to do so on a daily basis.

There were countless others on Facebook and in my day-to-day life that sent good thoughts, prayers, and positive vibes. It meant so much to me to open up Facebook and see 50+ comments of encouragement and love from friends far and near. There were others who were never more than a phone call away - people like Jeffe, Kim, Kimberlyn, and J.J. - who called and sent me messages and told me that if I needed someone, they were there. Just knowing I had their support was part of what made this year bearable.

Of one thing there is no doubt, this year has made me stronger. I can't say I was always happy about that fact. Being strong means you can handle whatever is thrown at you. There were days when I didn't think I could handle getting out of bed, let alone face my problems.

About halfway through the year, someone I didn't know well told me that the most important thing I could do was to have hope. I would have liked to throat-punch her, and had we been speaking face-to-face and not on the phone, I just might have. It was absolutely not what I needed to hear at that moment. Now, four months later, I have hope. I think I always did have it. It was there hiding, along with my strength, just under the surface. I can be sarcastic and pessimistic, but I'm generally a silver linings kind of girl. My friends helped me, not by telling me to have hope, but by showing me how. 

One of the biggest compliments I received recently was from someone who had been right in the trenches with me and whose opinion I value most highly. She told me I was the strongest of all her girlfriends. What I hope she, and all of the people I've mentioned, know is that without all of them I wouldn't be where I am. Without their encouragement and support, I couldn't have had hope. I am better, stronger, braver, and wiser because they have made me so. 

So, as 2014 is knocking on the door and we slam and lock the door on 2013, I leave all of you with this thought. 

"This is my wish for you. Comfort on difficult days, smiles when sadness intrudes, rainbows to follow the clouds, laughter to kiss your lips, sunsets to warm your heart, hugs when spirits sag, beauty for your eyes to see, friendships to brighten your being, faith so that you can believe, confidence for when you doubt, courage to know yourself, patience to accept the truth. 
Love to complete your life." 
Author unknown

To my friends - my best friends - thank you. Things are finally looking up. I'm cautiously optimistic. I have hope and strength, and I made it through because of each of you. I love you all, and I'm hoping for a better 2014 for all of us.

Friday, November 16, 2012

3 new templates and a little Thanksgiving turkey!

Can you believe that November is already halfway over? Time sure is flying by, and in the busyness of life it's so easy to get distracted and forget to be thankful for the "little" everyday blessings. What are you thankful for today?

First up are 3 great template packs from Scrappy Creations by Melanie. Skitta-la-doo is available this week at Brownie Scraps.

Isn't that terrific? Here's how I used it...

Next are 2 new releases over at ScrapMatters where Melanie is guesting this month. The first pack, Once Upon a Freebie, is made up of a couple of templates that were former Facebook freebies, so be sure to check your stash before purchasing them.

Here's what I did with this little bit of awesomeness!

And, last but not least is Puppy Dog Tails.

Don't you just love those big photo templates? I know I do! I'll show you my layout with Puppy Dog Tails in just a minute, but first, I have to tell you about October Dawn Designs latest release! Oh, and before I forget, both of Melanie's templates at ScrapMatters are 30% off through Sunday.

New this week from October Dawn Designs is a versatile kit inspired by the Liberty Tree Tavern located in Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World. Did you know that you can eat Thanksgiving dinner every day of the year there? But, don't worry, for those of you who don't celebrate Thanksgiving or have never eaten at the Liberty Tree Tavern, it can be used for so much more! With all of the Colonial Americana and Thanksgiving themed elements you can easily scrap any fall feast, your fall photos, trips to Colonial American historic sites such as Monticello, and even photos of you eating your pumpkin or apple pies!


A Colonial Thanksgiving comes in at over 200MB and includes 2 full alphas (uppercase, lowercase, numbers and some punctuation), nearly 100 elements and 22 papers (7 solids, 15 patterned). The combination of fall colors along with the traditional Americana color scheme make for an warm and inviting feeling. We hope you'll love this new kit as much as we do!

And at long last, here's the page I made using A Colonial Thanksgiving.

And, that's it for me today! If you are in the states, I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. If not, just have a happy day! :)