A Birthday Embrace

As I have said before, I enjoy celebrating birthdays. Whether observing my own (which happens to be tomorrow) or those of friends and family, a birthday represents so many different things.

From the moment we enter this world, that date serves to remind us of important milestones. From the one-year-old birthday party all the way to a sweet sixteen, each shows us how far we’ve come.

The celebration itself doesn’t have to be elaborate. A favorite meal and cake of your choice are nice. A simple way of saying, “Today is your day. You get to choose.” This was often the practice for me as a child. And it continued for my own children.

Singing is also a must. Hearing friends and family crooning in unison, “Happy birthday to you,” never gets old. Followed by making a wish and blowing out the candles, of course.

Celebrating my own birthday also reminds me that I am getting older. I have some new aches and pains. I see new wrinkles when looking in the mirror. But that reflection shows so much more.

Hopefully, it is a reflection that shows growth. A growth that encourages me to push through the aches and pains and look past the wrinkles.

https://pianogirlthoughts.com/2018/06/14/birthdays/

Thanks for celebrating with me as I gracefully embrace my next over-half-a-century birthday. ❤

Well, my plan is for it to be a graceful embrace anyway. 😉

Presents of Presence

My birthday is rapidly approaching. It falls on the Monday after Thanksgiving this year. My oldest son, Robert, was born on my 27th birthday. This year, he turns 25 and I turn 52. I am always happy when we can celebrate together.

Robert called yesterday about last-minute Thanksgiving plans. He also asked what I wanted for my birthday. I really could not think of anything. “Since we will be together for Thanksgiving, I thought we could celebrate,” he said.

Later in the evening, I told my husband about our chat. He quickly responded, “Did you tell him his and Erin’s presence here for Thanksgiving was enough?” No, I had not thought to say that.

Reflecting on those conversations caused me to consider the idea of presents. My thoughts quickly turned to presence. The older I get, the more I realize the preciousness of someone’s presence in my life.

The occasions when all my kids and soon-to-be daughter-n-law are together, sharing the same space and time? Those are the times I am truly filled with joy and contentment. Instances when I share space and time with my parents? Feelings are the same.

I could go on and on. The presence of aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends remind me how quickly time passes. And time spent with them, even when brief, is a gift.

Just this morning, my daughter was reviewing our plans for the next few days. Thanksgiving dinner, birthday lunch with a friend for me, a movie outing for her. Then she smiled and said, “Don’t make any plans for Sunday.” I don’t know what she has planned, but I know it involves her presence.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. Our home will be filled with good food and laughter. But more importantly, it will be filled with presents. Not ones which require unwrapping, ones which allow embraces.

Embraces which say:

I love you
I've missed you
I'm so glad you're here
Your presence is the best present I could ever receive

A Chance to Shine

Everyone deserves to be celebrated and have their moment in the spotlight. It happens more naturally for some than others. But when the “some” decides to help the “others,” the results are magical.

Our high school puts on a yearly musical. It is a highly anticipated event. Students audition, prepare and rehearse for months. All of their hard work culminates in a shining moment of performance.

Our high school also has a large group of students who receive special education services. For these students, who have a wide range of disabilities, participating in such a production is rare. They are often overlooked.

A common assumption is they are not interested or able to be involved in such events. Nothing could be further from the truth. When given the chance, it is their light that shines the brightest!

This past week, these students were provided that chance. A show created especially for them and by them, with the help of drama students.

The playbill listed the title of each act and the names of all participants. There was no distinction between drama students and students receiving special education services.

The acts were as diverse as the cast. Magic acts, singing groups, lip-sync, and comedy skits kept the audience engaged for over an hour. Their “Show of Shows” was a hit!

Big productions typically have a grand finale. These precious students decided the best way to end their show was to include the audience. It was entitled Dance Party!

The entire audience jumped to their feet and rushed the stage. A grande finale filled with hugs, smiles, tears, and of course, dancing! Precious students who are often left out were congratulated and celebrated! And their smiles? Contagious! The joy in the air, almost tangible.

Weeks of planning, practicing and making new friends resulted in a funny and heartwarming show which cast and audience members will not soon forget. A show which may just change the hearts of all involved forever. One group because they were willing to share the spotlight. The other because they were given a chance to shine.

Side note: This production raised around $1,800 to benefit Special Olympics.

Community

One day this week, our elementary school glee club took a little field trip. We traveled by bus, only about a mile, to a local supermercado. It may have been a short ride, but it left a lasting impression.

One of our school’s community partners sent a request several weeks ago. Did we have a small group of students who could sing at an awards ceremony? A businessman in the community was to receive special recognition from the Mexican Consulate. That is all the information we received. 

We gladly agreed to participate. The performance would be short and sweet, only two songs. The location was close to school, so it would not disrupt our whole day.

The students were very excited! There were lots of giggles and squeals as we boarded the bus, wearing our new glee club t-shirts. Upon arrival, our community school’s coordinator went in ahead of us to get details. 

While we waited, some of the students noticed a car from a local tv news station in the parking lot. Now there were nervous squeals. “Are we going to be on the news?” 

We soon learned the significance of this celebration. As we entered the supermercado, we were met by people dressed in formal attire. Tables with black tablecloths indicated a fancy reception. Long tables were filled with appetizers and desserts. Servers were dressed in chef’s attire, ready to serve.

Family members and distinguished guests had come to honor one particular businessman for his steadfast work to better his community. And our small group of students got to be part of the celebration. 

Students’ nerves soon settled, and they took their place in front of the crowd. Their performance was energetic and exciting! Through contagious smiles, they sang “La Bamba” and “Oye.”   

Once the music stopped, the air quickly filled with applause, bravos, and the snapping of photographs. Students were then invited to partake of the wonderful food. As a teacher, I was both pleasantly surprised and a little nervous.  😉

There was no reason to worry. Students followed instructions, politely chose their food, and listened to the presentation while they ate. I was even able to sneak a little taste. I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud of a specific group of students.

This whole experience left me thinking about the word community. I suppose I belong to many different communities. Whether through family, home, work, church, each is important. And my responsibility in each varies.

This week, I was privileged to celebrate the community where I work. Our students had the opportunity to show pride in the community where they live. And all it took was a short bus ride, two songs, and lots of smiles.

I hope students walked away with a lasting memory. One which will encourage them to be leaders in their communities, both now and in the future. I know I did.  ❤

Unexpected Wisdom

Kids love to share their thoughts and opinions. Sometimes, they express wisdom beyond their years. I was reminded of this during my second-grade music class.

Our music lesson this week was an introduction to Thanksgiving. Before teaching students a song about being thankful, I asked a question. “What are you thankful for?”

The answers from this particular class were basic and sweet. Food, clothes, family, and friends topped the list. One boy excitedly mentioned his grandmother coming to visit from Mexico.

And then one little girl gave the most precious answer. She very sincerely said, “I am thankful for the food my mom cooks. Even if it is food I don’t like. I would never want to hurt her feelings.”

The more I considered her answer, the more wisdom I recognized. This little girl truly understands what it means to be thankful. Being thankful for something, even if it isn’t exactly the “something” you want. I don’t always display that level of maturity.

Thanksgiving will be here soon. My home will be filled with family, friends, and good food. Hopefully, I will remember that being thankful has very little to do with “things.” It has everything to do with the attitude of my heart toward others.

As for today, I am thankful for the unexpected wisdom of a sweet second-grade girl.

Be Still

As an adult, I understand the importance of being still. Not only to rest but also to listen. When I am still and quiet, important messages do not go unnoticed. A quiet “I love you” or “You’ve been on my mind” provides reassurance and security.

Being still is not automatic. It takes practice. Especially in our fast-paced, instant news world.

What about children? They need quiet moments, too. But if being still is not automatic for me as an adult…well, my expectations for students might need adjusting. Today brought a perfect example.

This afternoon, one young friend entered my classroom running at full speed. The other students were sitting down in rows at the front of the room, preparing for music class. But not this friend. He continued to run circles in the back of the room.

This student’s classroom teacher is kind and patient. She quickly noticed the situation and offered assistance while sharing vital information. The heartbreaking story immediately changed my perspective. Patience was going to be required.

My friend eventually joined the group. But near the end of class, I noticed increased restlessness. “Would you like to sit in my lap?” I asked. “Yes,” he answered with a little smile. Not able to relax, he soon asked to sit next to me instead.

When it was time to line up, guidance was needed. But holding my hand only brought resistance. Not ready to give up, I asked if I could pick him up. “Yes!” he replied and lifted up his little hands.

We played a game while we waited. One I used to play with my own children. I would say, “Are you ready?” Then I would pretend to drop him. Of course, I would “catch” him half-way down. He would laugh and say, “Again, again, again!”

This game was definitely not a still or quiet moment. And this friend definitely needs some quiet moments. Moments where he feels love and security. But those will only happen over time through meaningful connections.

Was our little game one of those connections? Maybe. I hope so. But I’m afraid it will take many more before this little friend can truly be still.

In the meantime, I think I need to be still and quiet. 😉