Monday, February 22, 2010

A chair and a pew

This week is the home stretch of my co-chair duties of a major fundraiser for my children's school. It's a fancy night out at a country club for us grownups, with drinks, dinner, auction items, community awards to our honorees, and dancing...all for the cause of raising much needed money for the school's endangered programs. I'm not sure I would've ever signed up for such important duties if I was still working, but with getting laid-off in November, the perfect timing and opportunity was hard to deny. Besides giving lots of money, I can't think of a better way to give back to the school then to give of my time...and wow, lots of it!

Being a fundraiser co-chair is high-pressured, all consuming, stressful, demanding, challenging, scary, and overwhelming. This pushes my comfort zone to new limits, tests my patience and character, makes me dig deep to do my very best and beyond, and helps me find out more about myself, both good and bad. I'm forced to draw boundaries and limits, say "no", and give up a lot of my free time.

Am I having fun? Well, I'm not sure yet. Perspective after the fact will probably make for some good writing. In the meantime, I will say some positive things. Like, how my photo project presentation (funny pictures that I took of the students set to music to be played at the fundraiser) makes me proud and I get to be creative and show off my 'stuff'. The two women I'm working closely with (my co-chair and adviser) are amazing and inspiring and I'm better for knowing and learning from them. Tons of good life lessons. The pride of stepping up to the plate for a good, wait...the BEST cause. It's kind of fun being in charge - a new one for me. Friends that step up and not only genuinely offer help, but follow through and do it. Even if we make only $1, I'm better for the experience. But, damn, we better make more than that!

Talk about timing. This past weekend...the WEEKEND BEFORE THIS HUGE FUNDRAISER, I not only hosted the 4th installment of my Rodgers and Hammerstein musical sing-a-long with the ladies ("South Pacific"), but I was also invited to attend Catholic mass (for the first time ever) with a good friend. Now, some people might avoid anything remotely social and away from the fundraiser focus, but for me, detaching and forgetting the fundraiser for a little while is just as important as table assignments and meal choices. I'm certainly no good for the event if I'm found in a fetal position in the corner of a dark room frozen from completely losing my mind. Not. Going. There.

I went from a house full of fantastic ladies with a table full of yummy delicious potluck food and drink with tons of laughs and potty-mouth humor over a less than enjoyable movie but who cares, to a serene and calm church service on the 1st Sunday of Lent with a grateful friend. The service was far from preachy and was instead full of comforting ritual, beautiful song, and Bible verses. The message? Getting by with less and appreciating what we do have, and all the other 'stuff' can be handed over to a higher power where you can find peace.

I left the church feeling calm and peaceful and centered - ready to take on the week. Even though it's not my religion or place of comfort like how my friend feels, the end result is certainly universal no matter what you believe. The fundraiser can make $1 or $100,000, but in my mind it's all about the school and helping the kids and being charitable.
I'm glad that I was reminded about that and whatever I get out of it all is an added bonus. While the recent and upcoming education budget cuts are beyond hard to swallow, we are still extremely blessed compared to the rest of the world, where many would be grateful for just a simple bag of rice to feed their family. Kind of puts it all into perspective.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Guitar lessons

I promised myself that when I became unemployed, I would learn how to play the guitar. A goal, a sense of purpose, doing something on my life "wish list", a challenge! My sweet man gave me a basic guitar for our anniversary in October, I became unemployed in November, then December came and went with a busy blur, January I was umm, recovering from December, and now it's February. It is time.

Not being able to afford guitar lessons or find a class time that works, and since everyone says the guitar is so simple, I'm attempting to learn the basics from watching a "learn to play the guitar" dvd. Or am I just making excuses because I don't want to feel totally lame in a class full of teenagers? Am I really that insecure? Humm... Anyway, several viewings and practices later, I'm not feeling too confident that I will ever be any good. In fact, yesterday while trying in vein to switch between A and D chords while strumming and singing Frerachaka, I burst into pathetic tears. Considering that I just baked fresh chocolate chips cookies for myself for no reason, everyone is getting on my nerves, and I'm feeling quite blue and horribly cranky, it might not be the right time of the month to remotely attempt to master the guitar, if you know what I'm sayin'.

My kids are fascinated that I want to learn the guitar and how much there is to it. At least someone in the family is enjoying the process. They see that pressing down on the strings with different fingers makes different sounds, guitar picks are fun to play with (and easy to lose...grrrr), and there are these odd things called callouses that develop on fingers so it doesn't hurt so much. No way am I giving up ("winners never quit and quitters never win") not only because I want to learn the guitar, darn it!!, but I want to be a good example to my kids that once you decide to do something you should never give up and must try try try again. I'll admit, though, it's hard to stay motivated...

My daughter can get pretty emotional. Yep, she's a girl alright. The biggest trigger for tears are feeling left out, frustration, feeling sad (needing cuddles), getting hurt of course, and when we call her out on her bullshizzle. The bullshizzle (a word I made up because I don't want to curse on this blog) is when there are the most opportunities for teaching. If she grabs the toy from her brother, he gets mad, we tell her that wasn't very nice, then she starts crying because two years ago he took the last strawberry yogurt so she should be able to play with the red car at this very moment. She's not taking responsibility and making excuses. Ummm, not so good but very much expected at this age.

My man is more concerned about these "excessive" emotional outbursts than me. After all, I just shed tears on my guitar and drowned my sorrows in chocolate chip cookies. Anyway, a few days ago after a particularly emotional bullshizzle moment, he sits her down on the couch for a daddy-daughter talk. I was soooo close to stepping in, fearing that he would make her feel bad for being emotional, but decided to hold back and wait to talk to him (protest) later. But, then he asked her if she remembers what callouses are. She remembers. He said when you learn the guitar you develop callouses on your fingers as you practice more and more and soon it gets easier to play because it doesn't hurt so much. He went on to explain that life is kind of like that - when you want to cry or give up, if you practice being stronger, then the more you do it the easier it gets. Of course, he said it better than I'm typing it, but hopefully I'm relaying the gist of it.

The main point is that she understood the metaphor. She smiled and laughed and took it to heart. Applause to her dad for that sheer moment of genius. He recognized the perfect opportunity for a life lesson with love. I smile at the thought that my little guitar ambition can have a positive impact in more ways than one. It certainly gives me motive to keep practicing and developing those prized callouses. Perhaps those callouses will give me the courage to sign myself up for some real lessons, too.