Pursuing Bliss in a Random Life is about finding the humor in everyday situations. It's the random moments of clarity in the middle of chaos. It's the reminders of what is truly important, of the things that make this life not just livable, but memorable. This is my search: not just to achieve, but to maintain happiness. Family, friends, faith, food, fun: Bliss.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Love, Loss, and Rolling On

My world got a little darker yesterday. Oh, who am I kidding - it got a lot darker. I lost someone who, though not a part of my every day life, is a part of the best parts of me. Someone I have thought of fondly at least once a week for 23 years. One of the best men I've ever known.

Dr. Ronnie Davis.

Mr. Davis, as I knew him, or "Big D" as my best friend and I christened him our freshman year, was our band director. You might think he's just a teacher, someone I saw for a couple of hours every day. Just a teacher? No. Dr. Davis was more than a teacher; he was a father. A mentor. A spiritual advisor. An encourager. A beast with a loud, rumbling voice. A giant of a man with a strong temper and incredible aim. He was able to fling a pair of drumsticks halfway across a football field and stick them in the ground at your feet. He could scare the bujeezus out of you one minute, then hug you and make you laugh the next. He believed in hard work and expected the best you could give, every minute. He refused to settle for less and because of it, he made everyone around him and under his direction a better person, a better musician, a better student, a better friend. He was all of these things, and more.

My marching band career began under another wonderful man, Mr. Ben Ferguson. In 8th grade, I learned the basics of a marching show, how to support my team, and I began to learn how to trust. Mr. Ferg would always have me laughing. He was kind, gentle, and supportive. He is still all of those things, and I count him as a life long friend.

Then came high school.

Oh my gosh, you can't imagine how overwhelming it was. Such a large group, so many older students, a big field, a big school. I remember sitting in woodwind sectional, looking around at the juniors and seniors and feeling so very small. I was a shy, self conscious girl from an abused home. Lonely, anxious, but excited. I had absolutely no idea of the journey I was starting.

I was flat out terrified of Big D - for about 1 day. By the end of my first day of band camp, I loved him devotedly. Basic block, drill downs, roll your toes, Rookie Day - it's all a big, wonderful blur. As many times as the low brass section rolled his truck in toilet paper, I never saw him get angry...but screw up in practice and "You're BEhind!" he would roar. His face would get red, he would yell, and we would run back and do it again and again. Halfway through learning drill, he pulled me out of line, switched me with another person, and made me learn all new drill as a line leader. I thought he was crazy, but he believed in my ability to learn it and learn it fast...and he was right. When he expected something, I managed not to let him down, even when I didn't believe in myself.

I have some memories that are crystal clear, that step out regularly in my dreams saying "Remember me? Wasn't I awesome?" I have others that are vague recollections, feelings, and impressions. I want to share three of these.

First: the night of our very first football game, my freshman year. We lined up on the sidelines, waiting to take the field. I was a mass of nerves, shaking in my atrocious black soled white band shoes. The stands were eerily quiet - and then a voice, louder than life, yelled "DO IT!" and the drum clicks sounded. My heart swelled so big with pride I thought I would explode. I couldn't contain the giant grin that sprung across my face, and I could see others with the same expression. I was calm, ready, and I will never, ever forget that feeling.

Second: my first band competition. Due to a flub of the drumsticks, half of the band started our second number a beat earlier than the other half. By the time we collected ourselves several measures in and got it together, my heart was in the aforementioned shoes. I'd been so excited, so sure we would rock. How could we face this catastrophe? After the performance, it felt like half of the girls were in tears. We were all in total despair. Dr. Davis moved among us, telling us not to worry, we did our best, we were still the best in his eyes. He made us feel whole again, took away the worst of our frustration and shame, and got us ready to face the wait in the stands. You can't imagine the total bliss when we ended up winning in spite of our error! I don't think my feet touched the ground that entire evening, or the next day. Big D had believed in us, and we did it! My first Grand Championship was my favorite of all time.

Lastly, my final night at PCHS. Unfortunately, I only got to be a member of the Pride of Paulding for 2 years before I was made to go to a new school. For weeks leading up to graduation, I cried  myself to sleep. That night, I clung to Dr. Davis and our assistant director Mrs. Webb. I didn't want to go. They both hugged me and told me it would be ok, but Dr. D put his arm around my shoulders and told me in no uncertain terms that he expected me to carry on the tradition of excellence at my new school. Someone had to teach the newbies how it was done. He encouraged me, urged me to take what I felt was a bad situation and use it to my advantage, and I took it to heart.

All of my best high school memories are tied up with the Pride of Paulding and Dr. Davis. Without knowing it, he taught me about pride, about teamwork, about strength, about friendship. By example he taught me about faith - faith in God by leading our prayer before every game, and faith in myself. He didn't know it, but he taught me that men could be honorable, strong, and trustworthy. When every other man I'd known, especially the one I lived with, had let me down, had intentionally hurt me, cowed me, belittled me, he gave me strength and purpose. He gave me belonging, and for that I will be forever grateful.

Big D, you touched so many lives, and so many people love you. I will never forget - as my classmate wrote what you taught us, "Pain is temporary, but the Pride is forever!"

Monday, September 5, 2011

What I Like About You - a stream of conciousness

It's fall! Or at least, it's close enough to count...My favorite time of year. Fall makes my heart happy. Fall makes me want to go shopping for boots, long skirts, and sweaters. Fall inspires my desire to cook, and calls me to come outdoors. Golden sunlight through brilliantly colored leaves uplifts my spirit. Apples, caramel, wood smoke, pumpkins, corn mazes...love, love, love!

Settling into Myself
Women are constantly being urged to reinvent themselves. Advertising constantly tells us how to make ourselves look younger, dress better, change ourselves. I'm as susceptible as the next girl, especially when it comes to makeup! Despite this, at least once a year I find myself circling back to the same thought - that I am an individual, and as people go, I'm not that bad. I feel almost as if I am settling more firmly into my own skin. Sure there are things I would like to change - everyone has those things - but overall, there are more things to love than I usually give myself credit for. I think everyone could benefit from giving themselves a loving talk. So, I'm going to be brave and try it. I am making the effort to tell myself something good every day.  I hope you will do the same for yourself - list, out loud, those things you love about yourself, those things that make you who you are. Praise yourself, love yourself for who you are and what you prize. It can make a difference in how you view yourself, and that will change how you view the world.

I like that I am a bookworm. I like that I enjoy crossword puzzles. I like that I like both tea and coffee. I like that I have such a broad taste in music. I like that I never outgrew Disney movies, musicals, and cartoons. I like that I am a sucker for babies. I like that I love rain. I like that I have a wicked sense of humor. I like that I enjoy cooking, and having a clean kitchen (note that I didn't say I like cleaning it though! =)) I like that I love my friends. I like: warm, yummy, spiced food type smells, things that make me laugh, heartwarming stories, Victorian, Regency, and 40s-50s styles, manners, loyalty, hot chocolate with marshmallows, comfort food, ruffles, sweaters, a pen that writes smoothly, candles, and so many other things that all wrap up into me. Sometimes I just need to be reminded that there are as many, if not more, good things about me than things I need to change.

Decorating and Personal Style
As I've pointed out in previous blogs, I am a decorating fiend. What I haven't mentioned, at least not that I can recall, is that I don't really have a style. My taste is very eclectic, and has changed a lot over the years. The one constant theme seems to be comfort. In my home, I want things that invite you to relax, be comfortable and cheerful. I collect scented candles, throw blankets, and pillows. I have books in every room. I like to add touches reflecting the holidays or seasons. 

In my wardrobe, I want things that are comfortable and fun to wear. It's fun to branch out though, and I've decided recently that I don't need a theme, or a style. I just need things that make me happy to wear them, or happy to use them. I have everything from jeans and sneakers to poet shirts and funky jewelry. I want to add more though - more chunky necklaces and bracelets, fun hats, prints I wouldn't normally wear. Things that add even more fun - and why not? Who says you have to stick to one genre? Just like in my library, I want variety. Recommendations are always welcome, so if there's something you love, in the home or on your body, share it with me! I am looking forward to experimenting.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

I admit it - I am a total sucker for American Family holidays. Fourth of July, Memorial Day - anything that promotes wearing and waving red, white, and blue, and salutes our armed forces. I crave cookouts - a little gift from my Dad and all the summers we spent grilling out in the garage, throwing block parties, listening to old music. I grew up on grilled food, and I love the smell of a grill in the summer. I want my children to associate that same smell with good times - it's a way for them to relate to the Grandpa they never got to know. Don't even get me started on baseball (Go Braves!)

I started thinking about this a couple of days ago and, as I wandered through my home I began to take note of the myriad little touches of Americana. I realized that, as crazy as I am about all things Irish, I am even more proud of my rural American roots. Yes, I frequently cringe over them, but deep inside there is a part of me that celebrates it too. Yes, my inner country girl dances to country music, gets goosebumps listening to Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA", and cheers the Sweet Home Alabama portion of the Stone Mountain Laser Show. (Can't you hear my inner red-neck screaming yee-haw? Thank you Paulding County...) =P

Here are a few touches of Americana that I ran across wandering around my home:

I love anything with the American flag on it

Josh picked this one - that's my boy, channeling his Grandpa Bill!

I find myself inwardly yearning toward those "old-fashioned" accomplishments of cooking, canning, baking, and sewing. I want to learn all of the arts that went into home-making - although I still battle against cleaning and laundry! =)

I'm not sure why or how, but chickens are a big thing in my kitchen

Signs in my yard

Part of my "months of the year" throw that I adore

My American shelf in the entertainment center. 
The Eagle and the shells are from my Dad's casket and funeral salute.

The flag that draped my Dad's coffin. 

Living with small boys, we are surrounded by superheroes. Batman, Superman, Spiderman - you name it, we've seen it, own it, or make it up. I try to take every opportunity to teach my boys about real heroes  - police, firefighters, EMTs, National Guard, and soldiers of every branch of military. When we see someone in uniform, I remind my children that these are the true heroes worthy of respect and admiration. I explain that these are the people who lay their lives on the line to keep us safe, to help us when we are hurt, afraid, or lost. I love it when I see it sinking in - Ian never fails to point out a police officer or fire truck, and he frequently wants to go and say thank you, or at least wave as we pass. I want to make the effort to instill in my boys respect, admiration, and appreciation for the heroes of this world. 

Many people look at Memorial Day as an excuse to party, have a bar-be-que, head to the lake. I say why not? These are the freedoms that soldiers fought and died for, and even a family picnic is a celebration of the sacrifice, as long as we take the time to remember the reason for the holiday! I decided this year to concentrate more on planning and celebrating these holidays with my family in the future. My hope is that, through those efforts, my sons will not only grow up with wonderful memories, but learn to honor these times as adults, and continue the traditions with their own children. Isn't that what we fight for - the freedom to raise our children in peace, and to teach them the things we believe in the most?

Though I never lost a loved one to combat, I have lost beloved family members who were servicemen, and I honor them in my heart. I miss my Dad, more each summer, and I see him in the way Ian walks, in certain things he says, and in his eyes. I respect and adore my Uncle Mack, a Vietnam Veteran who to this day is dealing with the things that he experienced. 

I am proud of my country, my family, and our armed forces. I grieve for everyone who has lost a soldier, and respectfully and prayerfully offer thanks and blessings. Happy Memorial Day, y'all.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Indulging my inner wanna-be chef

I will state right off the bat that these pictures are not good, my camera had no batteries so I took them all on my cell phone. That said....

Sunday morning, my eager, over-achiever self set out to make "Sunday Supper" for the family. I started at 9am. Yes, peeps, that's right: 9 AM. On the menu: Roasted Corn on the Cob, Biscuits with Honey Butter, Homemade Mashed Potatoes, and the pièce de ré·sis·tance - Homemade Fried Chicken.

Let us begin with:

Potatoes in the collander

As I was only making a half batch, I opted for 7 potatoes, rather than the 5 lbs the recipe called for. Washed and peeled, we have this:

Then chopped, and into the water they go:

20 minutes later, after draining the water and adding gads of butter, some milk (I was out of half and half) and some cream cheese:

Hungry yet? =) I added some Lawry's salt, regular salt, and pepper, and spread them in a baking dish. Topped it off with more butter and Lawry's, and baked for 20 to 30 min, and voila:
Yes, that IS a puddle of butter you spy on top. Yummy.

Next up: the corn. 

I opted to roast them in foil packets, rubbed with butter, salt and pepper. I've used herb butter before, but my  guys are purists - lots of butter and salt and they are happy. I roasted them at 350 degrees for about 40 min - the recipe says 450 for 8 to 10, but I had more cooking to do, so I chose the slower option. Worked out great though.

Now, the hardest part. Fried Chicken sounds easy, and yummy. What it is, is messy. (Fun, but messy.)

I started with one cut up whole chicken, soaked in buttermilk overnight. I tried Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond's recipe, and so far, like the others I've tried, it was a winner. Check out her cookbook for the exact recipe.

Breaded and ready for the fryer:

I've never used a candy/oil thermometer before, or fried anything to this extent. The hardest part was keeping the oil in the pan, and even close to the right temperature. It all worked out though, as you can see:

I finished baking the pieces in the oven, 350 degrees. It took about 15 min for the smaller pieces, but close to half an hour for the 2 breasts.

Then I whipped up some biscuits (from a can, sorry - at this point it was pushing 3+ hours of cooking) and some honey butter, and we finally got to eat. My hubby absolutely demolished his piece of chicken. I'd say that equals SUCCESS!

Now that I've tackled the biggest and most complicated dish I'd chosen, I'm ready to move on to other things. Steak with whiskey cream sauce, fried onion straws, cheese grits, and sangria anyone? Oh yeah, don't forget the olive bread!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Life is a Mother (or, busy, busy, busy...)

A couple of days ago, I had the chance to catch up with an old friend via phone. I hesitate to mention that it was via cell phone, while flying down I-75 trying desperately to get to work without being too late - but there you have it. We were attempting to coordinate our schedules and find a time to get together. Keep in mind, now, this friend only lives about 6 miles away - and yet, I have not seen her in over a year, and have only spoken to her a couple of times. When she jokingly said, "Ok, I think the schedule is clear in oh, 15 years or so..." it hit me: life as a mother translates into life is a mother.

With 2 small boys, a husband, and a job, my life is so busy I can't keep my head straight for more than 5 minutes. For example; in the next month I have soccer practices, soccer games, Awana awards, a children's musical, role playing, Cub scouts, church, work, a birthday party to plan AND execute (Ian, do you HAVE to turn 7? can't you stay 6 for a couple more years??), and a trip to Minnesota. Add into that mix her 2 kids, her husband, work, and all of our activities combined creates a calendar full of things to do, places to be, projects to handle....little time to rest, relax, kick back. (Luckily, we did manage to find one empty space to book a get together.)

I have been feeling ambitious (and guilty, I have hardly cooked for my family in months), so this weekend I am attempting homemade fried chicken, roasted corn, a new recipe for mashed potatoes, rolls, onion straws, and some form of dessert. Lord, save me - or my family, I'm not sure which. If I get ambitious enough, I might take pictures and/or post something on here about how it turns out. Maybe.

The downside to this schedule, and my lifestyle? Life comes along and kicks me in the shins every once in awhile. Take today - after the mad rush to get Ian's projects and snacks done last night I ended up sick to my stomach. Today, I lay on the sofa and slept most of the day - snuggles with Munchie were awesome, but other times I shoved food at him, thrust video games into his hands, and left the tv on a marathon of cartoons - I just couldn't move! Every inch of my body felt like it weighed a ton (hey, no snide comments here please!=)) I know exercise and caffeine were what I needed, but I couldn't get up long enough to get them. My Mom, in all her wisdom, informed me that I am exhausted. Well gee, isn't that wunderbar? Hopefully the day of mostly rest will handle that. Um, hello, universe? Take a memo: I don't have TIME to be TIRED!

This summer, in between Scouts, Choi Kwan Do, and work, I really want to make time for some fun things. I'd love to schedule a trip to Chattanooga with my boys, hit up Stone Mountain's laser show, and attend at least one baseball game. However, I absolutely must leave time for swimming, bike riding, cooking, and popsicles. Especially popsicles.

I am way behind on blogging, and boring to boot - but here comes summer, so there's hope yet!!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Changing My Mind....or at least, my Mindset

It seems like the country has jumped on the simplicity bandwagon. All of the commercials, the sitcoms, the cooking and self help shows shout the same messages. Save money! Live Better! Simplify! Grow your own food! Reduce, reuse, recycle! I love this way of thinking, and I agree with the idea. The problem is, underneath all of these grand ideals is the message "Buy our stuff to help you simplify! Spend more money to save it!" 

My best memories are the simplest ones. Popsicles, grilling out, running through the sprinkler, listening to music in the summer. Curling up with a bag of gummy bears and a book on my bed on the weekend, or when it was cold. Daydreaming out the window in the evening. Chatting on the phone with a good friend. Eating dinner every night with my family. These were the things worth doing, the things I look back on and appreciate.

Flowers from my Boys for Mother's Day

The busier life becomes, more hectic and fast paced, the less joy there is in small, simple things. I know, as an adult, that there are places to go, things to handle, schedules to keep. It's not possible to simply sit and enjoy, and let others handle everything. Still, I want to squeeze as much joy into my life as possible. It hit me, driving down the road, in the middle of a Mom-zilla episode (read: yelling at my kids for acting up) that I need to stop and breathe. Smell the roses. Drink in  the sunshine. Enjoy the little problems of child-rearing and running a household. If I spend all of my time looking forward to the day they sleep in, don't need help every five minutes, I fail to appreciate the time I have with them now. Today is the precious time. Right now is the "good old days" that I will someday look back on. There are no easy answers. Too many of us have the mindset "If I can just..." If I can just get through school...if I can just get through the summer...if I can just get the kids back into school....if only....." So much time is wasted looking forward to next week, next year, and all the while, precious todays are slipping by. 
Some of those precious moments 

I am realizing, as time passes, that there is no "quick fix" to the problems facing us. Our economy is in such serious straights that it will take years to recover. These tight times aren't temporary - they are a new way of life. This new trend of focusing on the family, making the most of the little moments, is where we should have been all along. As tempting as it is, I don't need to buy my kids the newest gadget, or every toy they just HAVE to have. They don't need my money - they need my love, support, security, and smiles. Laughter, hugs, playtime with bubbles, and safe, sweet rest are more valuable to them, and will teach them more about important things, than anything money can buy. 
The most important things in life

My daily reminders

So, I am changing my mindset. I will no longer look forward with an attitude of if just, if only, when...Instead, I will say to myself today, right now, tonight...and make the choice to change my mindset. Making the most of every day, no matter how simple or complicated, is the best choice I can make. I will still plan for the future, and think of the steps I can take toward improvement, but no longer will I think just get through today, this week, this year, and things will change.... The change is now. Inside, where it counts the most. And maybe, just maybe, I'll be a better wife, better mother, better friend, because of it.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Reassessing and Re-evaluating

I've been doing a lot of thinking these last few weeks. Friendships, family, work, school...it feels like I am constantly chasing dreams, or even stray thoughts, trying to get my life in order. The harder I try to come up with a plan, the more I seem to run in circles.

Friends I get the concept "don't make someone a priority who only makes you an afterthought." What I don't get is how to make it stop making me angry, or how to stop it from hurting. Those of you who know me know that I can be ice queen very easily - years of self defense taught me that. Only those of you who have known me a really long time know the open, giving side of me. I was once told I had a quick laugh, a quick smile - but as I've grown older I've noticed it comes more often as a sardonic smile, or a sarcastic laugh. I can remove myself from relationships that continually hurt me, but that doesn't seem to be enough. How do you get the point across to stop doing that, can't you see it hurts when someone is self righteous, blind, or worse - think they are being giving, open, friendly, and instead are mean, selfish, and sly? Don't ever take for granted a steadfast friend: one who calls you first, not last...one who won't replace you with a sister in law, trade you up for the "bigger better deal"...I have at least one of those, and I love her as dearly now as I did when we were kids.

I thank God every day that I married my best friend, even though he doesn't always get it. Call it a man vs woman thing, whatever. I am blessed with someone who will hug me when I need it, who will always make me laugh. That's priceless.

Books  Ah, books. I am rediscovering my love of reading. Not that I ever stopped - I am always in the middle of at least two stories at any given time. I'd just grown bored with it, because everything I read felt like I'd read it before, and not in a good way. My books growing up were my friends, and I knew them intimately. I read them over and over until the covers were worn and faded, and I knew exactly where the stains and smudges from my fingers would be. More recently I've missed the suspension of disbelief, the immersion in a totally different world. I got the urge to pick up a book I read years ago, and I have fallen back in love with science fiction, fantasy, and mystery. I'm torn between serching out and re-reading some of my personal classics, and diving in to some other "classics" of the genre that I've never read. Guess I will have to wander where the literary road leads me.

The work/school dilemma Ok, so I've been working part time for almost a full semester and I can already tell you, it's going to have to be one or the other. Do I concentrate on school and work toward a new career, or do I bide my time and work to pay the bills for awhile? I seriously need a way to do both, and not in an office. The folks I work with/for are good for the most part, but I miss being home with my boys, and I am struggling with school. I keep grasping at straws, and changing my mind - ideally I'd be able to pay the bills AND concentrate on school - but it's not happening yet.

I guess the gist of this is to reaffirm that I am still here, still breathing....still struggling to find the right balance for bliss. A healthy dose of family, a splash of work, a sprinkling of friends, and top the whole thing with some time to read. Oh, and a cup of tea.