First impressions Mysteries Unfinished pictures Incomplete Look closer Each individual A series of chapters A personal story Brushstrokes In a painting Notes In a song Carefully pieced together- A masterpiece Viewed separately- Misunderstood Understanding Requires willingness To trust And be trusted Shines light On the fragments Solves the puzzle Reveals the person Truly knowing Takes time But, oh, what joy To understand To experience A beautiful mystery The soul who leaves A lasting impression
I work with an amazing team. We are Art, Music, and P.E. teachers at our elementary school. A.K.A the Dream Team, five years strong! The pink t-shirts we wear on Wednesdays give it away. Students have even started referring to us by our nickname.
Every student may not love each of our classes the same way. We know they have their favorites. But they all know we care about them and they know without a doubt that we are a team.
Our matching t-shirt idea has grown to quite a collection over the past few years. In addition to the original pink Dream Team shirt, we also have a sisterhood, Rosie the Riveter, and peeps shirt, all pink of course. This year we added a silly turkey shirt for Thanksgiving and a Santa’s Favorite (Music, Art, P.E.) Teacher. Each new shirt requires a new group photo. So much fun!
Recently I’ve been thinking about why we make such a great team. Each of us is in a different life stage-a grandma, an almost empty-nester, and a young mom. Tami takes care of the group-bagels on Friday, chocolate, cream for our coffee. Shannon keeps us organized, always remembering what needs to be done and when. And then there’s me-the emotional, sometimes scattered one. We balance each other well.
No matter what, I can count on these ladies. If I’m having a hard day, they will pick me up. When there’s a program or assembly, it’s not just my responsibility. Always a team effort. Tami sets up the stage, gets mics ready, etc. Shannon creates backdrops, artwork, whatever is needed. Both help organize and chorale students while I play piano or run a rehearsal. Our team is a well-oiled machine.
This morning I stopped at Starbucks to get our team a little pick-me-up. Only two days until spring break. Shannon was also bringing us a treat. For once, we would surprise Tami. She never lets us do anything for her. But today was the day!
As I pulled in the school parking lot, a little too sharply, the drink carrier sitting quietly to my left tipped over. I honestly thought all three drinks had poured out in the floor. Panicked, I lifted the carrier back up. Only one cup was empty. The other two still had their lids on securely. I don’t know how.
Quickly checking the drink labels, I realized the spilled drink was mine. Disappointed? Yes, but also glad it was not one of their drinks. I made it inside, shared my story with Tami, and borrowed an umbrella.
I could not believe I’d spilled an entire latte in my car! And how was I going to clean it up? Did I mention it was raining?
Back outside, armed with dry and wet cleaning cloths, I attempted to clean up my mess. Picture me, in the rain and wind, holding an umbrella, squatting next to my car, trying to clean up coffee and foam. Quite a sight, I’m certain.
Once I was back inside, wet and wind-blown, what did I find waiting for me? Half of someone else’s Starbucks drink, poured into my empty cup, sitting on the desk. I wonder who would have done that? 😉
This morning, things did not go as planned. But they turned out ok. We enjoyed our dream team lattes, a snack, and had a good laugh.
This week I rediscovered the children’s book “It Looked Like Spilt Milk” by Charles G. Shaw. I love this book! If you’ve never read it, go look it up. The author creatively takes his readers through a series of images in white on a dark blue background. Childlike pictures are paired with simple, repetitive words, creating a beautiful backdrop for the imagination.
After reading this story to my students, I asked if they’d ever noticed pictures in the clouds. Most excitedly raised their hands, eager to share. We discussed the importance of using our imaginations, and I shared about finding pictures in the clouds when I was a kid. Funny how that has become more difficult to do as an adult.
Creatively using our imaginations as a grownup often requires more intention than when we were kids. Our adult minds are on information overload, concerned with family and job responsibilities. Being imaginative gets put on the back burner, seen as a luxury instead of a necessity. I wonder what would happen if that changed? At the least, our stress levels would go down.
At the end of class I challenged my students to notice the clouds next time they go outside and report back to me what they see. Hopefully some of them remember. Truthfully, I’m the one who needs to be challenged. Maybe my students responses will inspire me to take the time to go outside and look up.
The pictures in the clouds are always there, just waiting for us to imagine them. What do you see?
Clouds are fascinating. Since I was a little girl, they always captured my attention. Maybe it’s the sky in general. After all, blue is my favorite color, especially when in contrast with white, fluffy clouds. When I was younger, a variety of images would easily appear in the clouds. Now finding the pictures is more of a challenge to my imagination. Oh, I still look, but there is a certain amount of effort required.
These days I tend to notice the many different types and combinations of clouds. I love how they paint the sky in layers, with contrasting colors and motion, sometimes allowing small patches of blue to appear in the background. These paintings don’t last long, morphing with the blowing wind. Photos rarely capture their true beauty. Paintings may come close, but part of the beauty is in the movement, the gradual changes.
In many ways, life can be like those layers of clouds. Sometimes it’s the grey, swirly ones that get our attention. How will we face the coming storm? Those sheets of rain off in the distance? Then we see the still, almost motionless layers underneath providing calm. The storm is not erased, but the ability to get through becomes visible. If we continue watching, witnessing the continuous changes, that patch of blue or ray of sunlight will soon appear.
Hopefully we also experience those fluffy cloud days, light and ordinary. Nothing unexpected, time to rest in moments of shade. Or the wispy, almost laughing clouds, reminding us of a funny story or memory. That kind of memory that makes us smile. Those are the days that revive us, giving strength for when the storm clouds reappear. We know they will return, that is life.
Although I may never be able to capture the beauty of those clouds blanketing the sky, I will keep looking. Watching for those moments of light and color to break through. Reminded that life continues, moving with the swirls, through the storms, to the calm.
When my children were younger, they had the opportunity to participate in an opera scenes production at the University of Tulsa. I was working there as a staff accompanist at that time and we needed “three spirits” for our production of Mozart’s Magic Flute. Well, it was quite an experience. Our oldest son Robert followed directions perfectly, as did our daughter Rachel. But we couldn’t help chuckling as Rachel kept our youngest, Ryan, in line. Invariably he would stray from their practiced path, and little mama Rachel would gently guide him back. As a result, Ryan was nicknamed the “wandering spirit.”
I think about that often, as he is now a 6’3, 17-year-old senior in high school. Others in our family often refer to Ryan as a free spirit. He is our artist, always imaginative, his mind always moving full speed ahead with constant ideas and images. I love viewing and sharing his work and look forward to seeing where life takes him.
There was a time, however, when I’m not sure we did our best to encourage that creativity. Ryan was that kid in school teachers often thought was not paying attention. “Easily distracted in class” was a common conference theme. His backpack was always filled with drawings, on whatever paper he could find. Art covered homework, though most of the time completed, was not always turned in. Many clean-out sessions and lectures were held at the kitchen table.
I remember saying things like, “You have to stop drawing all the time at school! You’ve got to focus on your work!” We were trying to be good parents, making sure his grades matched his ability. After all, grades would help with college. Of course, we had no idea what he might do in the future, but we wanted to help him be prepared. We pushed him to work harder, and the early high school years were a challenge. Of course Ryan, in his “wandering spirit” way didn’t seem to be concerned.
All children are different. Each with their own interests and personality which need to be cultivated. As educators, my husband and I would both readily agree. But as parents, it’s not always easy to apply that knowledge when it comes to our own children. For our first two children, school work wasn’t an issue. Of course, they were not perfect but did learn how to “do school” early on. Very few reminders were needed. Ryan was another story. Don’t get me wrong, he was not rebellious or a bad student. He just had his own way of doing things and needed a little extra guidance.
His junior year of high school, it was like a light switch flipped. The previous summer he had been doing a lot of drawing. We had gotten him a digital drawing tablet to connect to his laptop, and he asked to take a summer art class. He also received some animation software as a gift from his brother. Now we were encouraging his true passion. Those experiences along with helping him create a class schedule which included some virtual hours gave Ryan the freedom he needed for success. It was his best school year yet!
This current summer he is once again taking an art class. The time and effort he spends on his artwork continue to increase. His creativity amazes me. I’m so proud of him and his commitment to his work. As we approach his senior year of high school, there is no question where his interests lie, and it is exciting to hear him talk about studying animation after graduation. I’m thankful that we did not miss the chance to encourage Ryan’s imagination.
It is tempting to think our children should fit into a perfect mold like little soldiers always walking a straight line. What a boring world that would make! Yes, there is a need for discipline and structure. Just not at the expense of creativity and purpose.
I want my “wandering spirit” to continue traveling his own path. He is very comfortable in his own skin, and I never want that to change. No matter how far his wanderings may take him, I hope he finds time to make his way back home. And never forgets how much we love him—exactly the way he is.
Check out more of his work on Instagram–numbskull19