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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tuesday Random 5: Turkey Day Edition

Can you believe that Thanksgiving is only 2 days away?  Wow, has this month gone fast!  My husband and I are hosting my oldest brother, his wife, and their three girls and my youngest brother, so there will be 10 of us.  This week's random thoughts revolve around this holiday.

1.  My husband is doing the heavy lifting this year.  He's smoking a turkey and making a stock that will be used for gravy and stuffing.  He did a trial run a few weeks ago and it turned out phenomenally well.  I don't even LIKE smoked turkey and I thought it was delicious!

2.  Speaking of stuffing, this year we're trying something different.  Muffings!  Stuffing muffins.  I'm not sure how I feel about that, because I'm not a fan of overly crispy things.  I always ask for my hashbrowns to be done lightly.  I don't like the super crispy parts...ick.  I also have a thing about french fries.  I cannot stand the super crispy ones.  I love the steak fries that are nice and fluffy.  One of these days I need to share my double fried fries recipe.  (Not that it's incredibly difficult, but oh are they amazing!)  Stuffing in muffins is a 'thing' people!  It's going to be one of my sides this year, along with the corn we grew and froze ourselves this past summer, and the cranberry jelly in a can.  My favorite!

3.  Hubby has asked that any leftover turkey go to a turkey pot pie this year, so that'll be new and different.  I love my homemade chicken pot pie, but we'll see how it translates using leftover turkey and gravy, with peas and carrots.  Sounds good, though!

4.  I was going to try to make pumpkin spice creme brulee this year, but a decent butane torch is nearly $40 and I would have to buy ramekins, too.  Instead, I am making traditional pumpkin pies and individual pecan caramel cheesecakes.  I'm very excited about that last one, because I HEART cheesecake, so much.  Hubby wanted traditional pecan pie, but I really wanted something different.

5.  I'm hoping it will be decent so the cousins can all run around outside after lunch, but we shall see.  Kansas isn't exactly known for consistent weather patterns.  Ha.  It'll be nice having them here though, since my parents are halfway across the country visiting a brother and a sister that live on the east coast.  

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  I am very thankful for my thoughtful readers (i.e.-the friends I forced into reading this).  I am also thankful that God has helped guide me to a better place in my life.  

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Trying to Be

I was reflecting this past couple weeks on the last year.  This year has been full of ups and downs.  It has been nearly a full year since the traumatic incident that caused my anxiety.  I have found out many things over the last year.  One of the hardest lessons to learn was that getting anxiety is like opening Pandora's box.  Once you have released it, you can't ever shove it back in the box and close it.

There are certainly days better than others and days worse than others.  I can tell though, that the good days far outweigh the bad ones most recently.  When I first started having anxiety, it was so bad that almost every night when I got home, I immediately got in the bathtub or went straight to bed.  It was much easier to sleep than to stay awake with my thoughts.

My main anxiety has been over death and dying.  I wrote about this in my previous post, here.  The traumatic incident was me thinking I was having a heart attack and/or some other health-related issue while on the way to my in-laws' house for Thanksgiving last year.  (I have a heart condition and a pacemaker.)  I found out later that it was apparently a panic attack.  It didn't matter, because after that I could think of nothing else than my death and anticipating it.

I have had several health issues the last year and each time something happened, I would instantly sink into the anxiety abyss.  It has only been through a combination of therapy, meditation, and working out that I have finally crawled out of the black hole.

I still have some things to work through, namely my vertigo issues.  I am terrified of heights and always have been, but the last year has taken that to a whole new level of anxiety and fear.  There are times that I cannot even watch commercials that show outer space or that one commercial where the people climb to the top of the tree or the other one where they hang off the side of a cliff.  Ugh.  The two or three weeks leading up to Nik Wallenda's tightrope walk between those skyscrapers in Chicago, that commercial was nonstop and I nearly fainted every time I saw it.  It was agonizing!  My husband and I were out to a bar, watching the World Series, and that came on and I instantly had a huge pit in my stomach and practically threw up from anxiety.

I have reached a lot of small turning points over the last year.  I have realized that not every pang means I'm dying and I really need to get up and get moving whenever I start to feel anxiety.

One of the biggest turning points has come within the last few weeks.  A young lady in my community, 15 years old, has been fighting an inoperable brain tumor for a year and a half.  Her family had a Facebook page set up for her that they updated frequently with any concerns or triumphs.  Sadly, she passed away last night.  They knew the tumor had begun growing again and were going to try to hang on and get her into a clinical trial in Michigan, but she took a turn for the worse at the beginning of this week.  This girl, who was just a beautiful young woman, had so much courage and strength.

She would talk with her mother frequently about death and purgatory.  (She's Catholic, as am I.)  She met with her priest and prepared herself in every way.  She seemed to always have a smile on her face and never got discouraged.  She even made it to church last Sunday, in her hospital bed, after being sent home under hospice care.  When she started drifting in and out of consciousness, they had the priest come in to perform last rites.  They said that she was more awake and alert yesterday, but was comfortable.  This young woman bravely headed into the great unknown with true dignity.  I know Jesus welcomed her home last night.  I cried this morning when I checked Facebook, knowing that I would probably read the news of her death.

This young lady has taught me more about living and dying than I have probably ever thought about.  She was 15 and I am 37.  She lived her life so fully, anticipating the worst, while I have been so hesitant to do so, fearful of the unknown.  I am so privileged to have, in a very tangential way, been there through her experience.  I know now that I need not be so fearful.  Mighty Moe, as she was known to her friends and family, showed me so much through her courage and her fight.

We all have heard that we need to live life to the fullest.  We don't know how long any of us have.  It's true, it is so, so true.  I have also realized that I shouldn't stop to think about my ending, I have to make this tenuous middle part worth it!  I am so thankful for the lesson Morgan taught me about dying, because it has made me want to live my life more exuberantly than before.

If you are the praying type, please say a few extra prayers today for Morgan's soul and for the peace and comfort for her family and friends during this time.  Thank God for giving them so many blessings and so much grace to be able to bravely face this time in their lives and to help Morgan transition peacefully to Jesus's loving arms.

"Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep.  Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell.  And when you get angry, get good and angry.  Try to be alive.  You will be dead soon enough."--Ernest Hemingway 

(Hemingway is the man!  He's one of my favorite authors.)

By the way, you know what was at the bottom of Pandora's box? 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tuesday Random 5: Why I love the Saxophone

So, last week's post was all about the music I love.  It was a really difficult task for me to narrow it down and I didn't even get to mention any of the instrumental music I love.  One of the things I looked forward to as a child was 5th grade.  5th grade was the year that band started in our school.  Actually, we technically walked to another school for band, because I went to a small town Catholic grade school and our band played with the public grade school's band.  My oldest brother played the baritone, the 2nd oldest played the trumpet, and my older sister played the clarinet.  I had my instrument chosen well before I was asked what I wanted.  The saxophone, specifically the alto saxophone was the instrument that I chose.

I loved playing the saxophone and I played it through my freshman year in college.  There are days that I really wish I could play it again, but it's been nearly 20 years since I last picked one up.  I would love to eventually resurrect that hobby, because I loved it.

What made me choose the saxophone?  Oddly enough, it was due to public television.  Yup, Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood and Sesame Street led me to play the coolest instrument in the world.  The Muppet Show also did to a lesser extent.  Below are the 3 videos that made me fall in love with the sax.

1.  Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, "How a Saxophone is made"

Mr. Rogers frequently showed a segment on how things are made.  Several of them stick out in my head, one being the segment on making crayons (they made orange crayons) and the one on making saxophones.  I was fascinated with the shiny keys and gentle curves of the sax, plus the noises it made, enthralled me.

2.  "Put down the Duckie" from Sesame Street

Those of you as old as I am will hopefully remember the cool owl from Sesame Street.  He wasn't on a lot, but when he was, I paid attention.  He played the sax.  Ernie wanted to learn, but couldn't figure out why it was making a funny squeaking sound.  Thankfully, not the same unnerving squeaking that occurs when your reed isn't moist enough or you don't tongue correctly.  (Ugh.  Just writing that made me start licking my lips.  Please don't ever lick a popsicle stick after the popsicle is gone around me.  Just don't.  *shivers*)

3.  Opening credits to The Muppet Show with Zoot

I love Zoot.  In fact, I love all of the Electric Mayhem.  Zoot is my favorite.  I couldn't find the opening credits that showed him at the end giving a final blast on his sax, but I did find this.  You should also look up the video for "Sax and Violence" from The Muppet Show.  So great!

Those three shows influenced me to choose the sax, but playing the sax is a whole 'nother level of falling in love.  I'll never forget junior high, when the sax player next to me, a friend and classmate, taught me how to play the theme from the Pink Panther, the ultimate sax tune when you are a kid.  We would play it A LOT while on breaks between practice.  Everyone that hears this song knows it, or at least recognizes it as a familiar song.

4.  Pink Panther theme

I also LOVED playing in pep band.  I played in pep band for my freshman year in college as well.  It was always so much fun to play the Star Spangled Banner, our fight song(s), and classics such as Johnny B. Goode and Eye of the Tiger.  The one song I didn't like playing as the saxophone?  Pomp and Circumstance.  Ugh.  So. very. booooooooooring.  I'll leave you with a video of some of the best saxophone solos and sax players in contemporary music.  This my friends is why I love the saxophone.


P.S.--Band is seriously SO GREAT for your kiddos.  Not only is it lots of fun, but learning an instrument or learning to read music and just being musical in general is proven to help kids be successful academically.  Band geeks are awesome and you can be a band geek and still play sports.  Trust me, I knew plenty of people that did both, including myself!  There are usually ways to pay a small rental fee for instruments through schools so that you don't have to invest a huge amount right away and I know several music shops around here that will allow you to basically 'rent-to-own' an instrument, but will allow you to return the instrument if your child doesn't love it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Tuesday Random 5: Soundtrack of my Life

Hello!  I'm baaaack!  Sorry for the neglect, I have been busy with life and whatnot.  No excuses, I am a lazy, lazy writer sometimes.  However, here's one to get us ALL in the mood to jot down a few sentences!

One of my ol' college pals started up a Facebook post every Tuesday that she named the Tuesday Random 5.  It can be a thematic post, or it can be totally random observations or experiences from the past week.  Eventually, it spread and now there are probably 8-10 of us that post on a weekly basis.  I decided to move it to my blog after one of my friends did the same.  A good way to make an honest effort at writing again.  Please, by all means, join in!!  We would love to have you.

This week's post is taking a lot of thought and planning.  One of the normal Random 5 posters suggested that this week be a "Soundtrack of my life" sort of post.  Therefore, I will try (desperately) to limit this to 5 songs that define my life.  This is going to be difficult.  I am a musical person.  I love music, concerts, playing instruments, singing (off key and rather deficiently), and otherwise moving and grooving to the sound, man.  I sing and dance along to musicals in the kitchen.  I bob my head and play the drums on my steering wheel in the car and I play air guitar when Green Day comes on my mp3 player at work.  I have a soundtrack constantly playing in my head.  In other words, music influences my daily life.

This is why it is agonizing, to say the least, to narrow down my soundtrack to just 5 songs.  Here we go...*eeeeek*

1.  As a child, there were numerous musical influences in my life.  Many memories are punctuated with songs that I will never forget.  My parents had a collection of vinyl records and 8 track tapes that were a mixture of country, rock, and Christmas music, but what I really remember for much of my youth is hearing the oldies.  My parents loved the oldies.  Every family vacation, we would listen to them and my parents even bought one of those Time magazine cassette tape sets of the best of the oldies.  We love them still.  One in particular that I pick out again and again is "The Wanderer" by Dion.  He's also the singer behind "Runaround Sue", another of my all-time favorites.  Here's proof that even as a child, I loved the rebel.

2.  My tween years were devoted to Poison and hair bands in general, because, the 80s happened people!  However, I wouldn't say any of those songs defined my life.  Then came college and in 1996, my friend Ryan introduced me to my first taste of alternative rock, a genre that I still listen to more than any other.  This type of music was a little beyond my small town country upbringing.  We didn't even get a radio station that played this music.  My friends, "The Distance" by Cake

3.  One of the happiest moments of my life, dancing to this song with my new husband.

"Could I have this Dance" by Anne Murray  Cliche'?  Perhaps.  Still love it, though.

4.  I love musicals.  They are my jam(s).  Rent, Les Miserables, West Side Story.  I cannot get enough.  It's hard to pick one that really defines me, but I have to say that for a long time, I felt a kinship with Eponine from Les Miserables.  I've had those relationships of longing and it can be nearly soul destroying.  The song "On my Own" is so poignant and beautiful and when Lea Salonga sings it, I am practically in tears.

5.  Oh no, I'm already to my last pick!  How is that possible?  No room for The White Stripes' "Icky Thump", "Grapevine Fire" by Death Cab for Cutie, or Mumford and Sons' "The Cave".  I didn't even mention my devotion to the greatest rock era that includes Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, and Queen!  I didn't talk about my love for old country, mainly Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues", "Lady" by Kenny Rogers, and Eddie Rabbitt's "I love a Rainy Night", nor did I dissect for you my love of one of those songs that no one's heard of, like The Killers' "Jenny was a friend of mine".  ARGH!  It's okay, it's okay, it's okay....*breathing*  No, really.  It's okay, because my last pick is great.  You'll love it.  If you've never heard it, click play and enjoy.  It's one of those songs that I barely knew existed when I was younger.  It would pop up on my mp3 player and one day, I really noticed it, ya' know?  It tripped me up.  A defining sound of a generation, The Beatles played good music.  They occupy 23 spots on the Rolling Stone's Top 500 songs of All Time for a reason.  My favorite though, is Eleanor Rigby.  Sad, soulful, masterful.

Good news!  Upon researching, reviewing, and singing along to a myriad of songs today, I already have a great theme in mind for next week!  Can't wait to see you then!