Pink October

I received a phone call from my doctor’s office this afternoon. Insurance previously denied the claim for a breast MRI I had in April. There were two levels of appeal, and today’s call informed me that our final appeal was not successful.

This news was disappointing. After all, my doctor is a specialist. She weighed all my risk factors before ordering this particular test. I was so confident that information would change the decision.

My risk factors included family history (my mom is a five-year survivor), extremely dense tissue, and my use of hormone replacement therapy. Over the past eighteen years, I’ve experienced extra mammograms, ultrasounds, two MRIs, a lumpectomy, and multiple needle biopsies-all benign.

Rehashing these details did not help. My frustration only grew. And then my sweet husband called. He calmly reminded me that I could not change this outcome. The MRI had provided peace in a moment of uncertainty. And that was more important than money.

Writing through my frustration brought transformation. I am left feeling thankful. Thankful for my mom and my current health status. Thankful for an expert doctor who is comprehensive and thorough. Thankful for a husband who knows what I need to hear just at the right moment.

Our first outing after her mastectomy. ❤

I do find it interesting that this decision came during Breast Cancer Awareness month. The month in which we celebrate and encourage survivors. A time to remember those no longer with us. Time focused on raising research funds and seeking a cure.

Who knows? Maybe it came at just the right time, forcing me to write.

I will see my doctor later this month for a checkup. My prayer is for continued positive results. I will not live in a spirit of fear for what might happen in the future but will continue to be diligent where my health is concerned.

So in the middle of this pink October, here is my reminder-Early detection is the key! Don’t delay in getting your yearly mammograms!

Just Like a Kid Again

Over thirty years have passed since I moved from my childhood home west of Little Rock, Arkansas. I always enjoy trips back to visit. And I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon which often occurs on these visits. It lasts only a few seconds, yet reflects a lifetime.

Time at home typically includes seeing my parents, my brother and his family, aunts, uncles, and sometimes cousins. Time for catching up is a necessity. How are the kids? Gart? Your new job? Who’s getting married? Having a baby?

Our conversations flow freely from current life events and challenges to past memories. Laughter fills the air as we reminisce about things that happened years ago. Remembering those times is refreshing, solidifying, even more, the importance of family in my life.

And then it happens. For a few brief moments, I’m a little girl again. Skipping across the yard to visit my grandparents, aunts, uncle, cousins. My parents, aunts, and uncles are suddenly young adults once more. No gray hair, no aches or pains.

Just as quickly, reality snaps me back. I am no longer that little girl. They are no longer those young adults. Now, I am also a grownup, walking beside them. I may no longer be skipping, but my heart is smiling.

These moments leave me grateful. Moments in which the memories of childhood wash over me. Sweet moments in which I feel just like a kid again. ❤

Heart and Soul

My parents attend a small church in Wye Mountain, Arkansas. The people are kind and serve as a beautiful light in their community. Each Wednesday evening they welcome, feed, love, and teach a large group of children. And those without transportation? They pick them up and take them back home.

The building is simple. A beautiful, stained glass window graces the wall behind the podium. A piano sits to the left. There are no fancy lights, no choir, and no band. Only a few microphones and speakers. And there is always coffee in the kitchen.

Every time I visit, mom asks me to bring piano music. My trip last weekend was no different. Of course, I forgot and had to go music shopping on Saturday. I chose a new book of hymn arrangements and picked two to play during the service on Sunday.

My Aunt Linda, who happened to be my first piano teacher, plays for the services each week. I saw her Sunday morning before the service began, gave her a hug, and she asked, “Are you playing today?” I smiled, “Yes.” “Want to play for the whole service?” she asked. “I’ll do whatever you want me to do.”

And so, I played the hymns and this precious group of people sang along. I also played my carefully chosen solo. As I began to play, the air grew still. The only sounds flowed from the piano.

The melody in this particular arrangement was a familiar hymn tune. One I remember from childhood. One which brings peace.

I need Thee every hour,
Most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine,
Can peace afford.
I need Thee, O I need Thee,
Every hour I need Thee!
O bless me now, Savior,
I come to Thee.

After the service, many people thanked me for playing. Truthfully, I should have been thanking them. Being with them reminded me of how sweet it is when people worship together in simplicity.

Experiencing last Sunday morning from behind the piano (my favorite spot 😉 ) filled my heart and soul to overflowing.

Steel Magnolias

When I first saw this movie about thirty years ago, it became an instant favorite. Many times, I’ve watched it simply because I needed a good, cleansing cry.

The story has so many beautiful elements. It follows a group of women friends through the love and heartache of life. And it does so with a backdrop of the changing of the seasons.

I didn’t initially appreciate the powerful imagery suggested by the title. Magnolia flowers are large, beautiful blossoms which grow on a magnificent tall tree. Steel is a hard, strong material used in construction. These two words seem to contradict one another. Yet together, they create a picture of beauty and strength. Exactly what the women in the story portrayed.

My mom has six sisters and two sister-n-laws. That meant eight aunts for me growing up in the Mahar family. Along with my grandma, these women are the definition of “steel magnolias.” Beautiful, strong women who have each faced their share of challenges.

After a recent visit with some of them, I began to think about their list of accomplishments. I first created a list of their names and wrote a brief description next to each one. Although they might not recognize it themselves, their qualities and achievements are quite impressive. The following is a comprehensive list describing all of them collectively.

Daughters and sisters
Wives and mothers
Aunts and grandmothers
A single mom, a grieving mom
Breast cancer survivors
Adult college graduates
Artist, nurses, a pianist
Three widowed, one remarried, two deceased
Women of faith
Hard-working
Opinionated
Dependable
Teachers
Faithful
Friends
Patient
Loving
Strong
Kind

Muriel, Pearl, Mary, Elizabeth, Geneva, Sharon, Linda, Martha, Jeanie, Linda

I’m thankful for my mom, grandma, and aunts. Each embodies this picture of strength and beauty in their own way. And together, they create a strong family tree. A tree with strong roots and beautiful blooms. “Steel Magnolias” able to face any challenge this life brings.

Boys to Men

Last night, I listened as my oldest son gave the best-man toast at his best friend’s wedding. He spoke with confidence and humor as he described their friendship and his genuine happiness for his friend.

It was one of those moments of clarity. The ones which solidify the reality of time and remind me how quickly it passes.

Robert and Jeremy have been friends since junior high. Before they were old enough to drive, we would take turns shuttling them back and forth to each other’s houses on the weekends. They spent many hours playing video games and watching movies. Student group activities and church camps also provided hangout time.

Their friendship continued through high school. After graduation, our family took them on a senior trip to Colorado. Together, they hiked to the top of Mt. Elbert, the highest point in the continental U.S. Quite an accomplishment for these two boys who used to use yogurt containers and empty monster cans for bb gun target practice in the backyard.

College meant living several hours away from each other. Keeping in touch and visiting whenever possible remained a priority. They even continued a tradition involving Christmas presents. One year involved a shovel and map coordinates, another required thawing a block of ice. Crazy boys!

I’m pretty sure these two have been mistaken for brothers a time or two. We felt like Jeremy was another one of our kids. And I’m certain his family often felt the same about Robert. That’s what happens with close friendships.

In five short months, their roles will be reversed. Jeremy will be making a best-man toast at Robert’s wedding. Both young men will be standing next to their lovely, precious wives. And believe me, Caitlin and Erin are special young ladies. They have to be to put up with these two. 😉

Once again, it will be a moment of clarity.

Another moment which solidifies the fact that these two boys have become men in what seems like an instant.

Another moment which will serve to strengthen their friendship.

Another moment which leaves behind a beautiful memory. ❤

Any Other Way

Yesterday, a little kindergarten girl asked me about my kids. I don’t remember her exact question, but I responded, “They are all grown-up now.” She looked at me with her big, wide, beautiful brown eyes and asked, “Are you still their mom?” This sweet girl has no idea of the impact of her question.

What is it like to be a parent of young adults? It is something I’ve pondered quite a bit lately. My parental role is in a constant state of flux it seems. As are my emotions.

Not only has this season caused me to reflect on my years of parenting, but it has also given me a new perspective concerning my own parents.

In a recent conversation with my mom about my kids growing up she said, “Well, you left home at seventeen and never came back.” I’d never thought about it in such black and white terms. Don’t misunderstand, she was not being negative, simply stating a fact. One intended to help me better understand my feelings.

My children are finding their way as adults, following their own paths. And my reactions are helping me to understand how my young adult decisions impacted my own parents. They loved me through some challenging times, and never stopped being my parents. Our bond has only grown stronger. I hope my children will be able to say the same.

Both laughter and tears will cover the days ahead. And some days, there will also be uncertainty. The uncertainty which accompanies figuring out my new role. That is what it means to be a parent.

One simple question from a kindergartener opened the door for this reflection:

Yes, I am still their mom.

I will always be their mom.

And I would not want it any other way.

Future Teachers and Frogs

Driving to school this morning, I was feeling a bit tired. Honestly, I was having one of those “not sure how much longer I can do this” attitudes. I love music and teaching, but it is exhausting. The amount of energy required is for the young.

Thankfully, two things helped my attitude change. The first was a college student coming to observe my classes as part of her teaching practicum. This young, smiling face greeted me at my classroom door.

It was the perfect way to begin the day-discussing teaching with a future teacher. She asked thoughtful questions. Questions which made me think about what I do and how I teach. She took notes, smiled, and participated right along with students. 2nd graders even rushed over for a group hug when it was time for her to leave.

Our conversation time was brief. She was only in my classroom for two and a half of my morning classes. But what a breath of fresh air.

The second game-changer was a little green frog. K, 1st, and 2nd graders met Freddie the Frog today. I was a bit nervous. Last year, this little green friend breathed new life into my teaching. But what if it didn’t work this time? What if the kids didn’t buy it?

The simple truth is, kids are kids. They loved Freddie! I smiled as they watched him while they sang, eyes wide and curious. And once again, I felt that surge of energy.

Students were anxious to give Freddie a high-five and a hug goodbye when class was over. They whispered in his ear, and he even got a few kisses on the top of his head. Precious.

Will tomorrow have its challenges? Yes. Such is teaching. Such is life. But I will approach tomorrow with the memory of today. Remembering the much-needed spark which came from a future teacher and a little green frog. ❤ 🐸