A Child’s Laughter

There is magic in the laughter of a child. Equally innocent and powerful. All you have to do is listen. Feeling stressed? Your cares will disappear. Feeling grumpy? Your spirits will be lifted.

Today I experienced this phenomenon while babysitting for some good friends. Their little boy is three years old. What an imagination! And his laugh? Contagious!

We played outside, ate snacks, read books, and watched Sesame Street. But the real fun came when we got out the playdough. Our creations included an airplane, Sponge Bob and a birds nest. We also cut out shapes and created patterns.

In the middle of playdough time, my little friend said something I didn’t quite understand. As I attempted to repeat his words back to him, he started laughing. “No, silly,” he said in his sweet little voice. He then proceeded to say the word again. Still unsure, I tried once more. Now it had turned into a game. A game which continued for five minutes, the two of us laughing our heads off.

Tired from all our playing and laughing, he soon fell asleep on the couch. Watching him sleep, so quiet and peaceful, I realized something. His sweet laugh had cleared my head and filled my heart.

What a perfect picture. Can you see it? This sweet boy sitting at his little kid table, me sitting crisscross on the floor (don’t try too hard to picture that) 😉 , playdough, and laughter. A room filled with laughter.

I know it sounds simple, but it is often in the simple things of life where we discover the profound.

The innocent laughter of a child, if we take time to listen, has the power to light our world. And if we join in? Well, we just might be surprised by the outcome.

So Much More Than Toys

Last evening I watched Toy Story 4 with my husband, daughter, and youngest son. My emotional reaction to the ending, though not surprising, made me question. Why am I crying over a movie about a bunch of toys?

The very first Toy Story movie was released a month before our oldest son, Robert, turned one. He is twenty-four. Toy Story 2 premiered when Rachel was two, now twenty-one. And Toy Story 3? Ryan was ten, now eighteen. You can do the math for Toy Story 4.

All four movies were sprinkled throughout the lives of our children. Our family watched while Andy grew up and Buzz and Woody became the best of friends. In a way, we grew up with them.

Many sets of Buzz and Woody toys graced our home over the years. I’m pretty sure there was even an Emperor Zurg living here at one time. And there may be a build-a-bear-frog wearing a Buzz Lightyear costume hiding somewhere in the garage. 😉

These stories are about so much more than toys. They provide a window into childhood. Viewers witness family dynamics such as single parenting and sibling rivalry. We feel the emotions of a mom letting go of her little boy. We watch a little boy recognize how much he has grown.

But what about the toys? Their adventures teach us about friendship and loyalty. All we need to do is consider Buzz and Woody, a cowboy and space ranger. Two unlikely friends who stick together through thick and thin. And the strength of their friendship provides security and support for their other toy friends and their kids.

These friendships also teach us about perseverance. In each of the four films, there are points in the story which seem to spell disaster. Yet, no matter what obstacle crosses their path they never give up. Together they stand up to Sid, the mean kid next door. A misguided bear, a toy seller in a chicken suit, and creepy ventriloquist dolls also prove no match for this determined group.

Toy Story shows us the importance of being loved, wanted, and needed. Lessons which begin in childhood but continue throughout our adult lives. They transport us to the place of hearing, “Job well done. Everything will be ok.”

It’s no surprise this series of animated movies have the power to bring a fifty-one-year-old woman to tears. Honestly, I cried during at least one scene in each story. I also laughed out loud and smiled until my face hurt.

Watching Toy Story 4 took me on a journey down memory lane. Not just the memories of the other movies, but also the memories of my children growing up. It also reminded me of lessons learned from a bunch of toys.

And looking back, I realize they are so much more than toys. ❤

Memories & Hymns

Some of my earliest memories of playing the piano in public are at church. I attended a small, country church as a child. On Sundays when the pianist was not there, the music director would come to get me out of Sunday school. “Ok, Kelley girl, which hymns do you know how to play?”

We would go over the list, making sure I was comfortable with each selection. After our short practice, it was time for the service. I’m not sure my exact age, elementary school, but I remember barely being able to see over the piano.

Who is this little girl? 😉

Thinking back to those early memories of playing, I don’t remember being nervous or afraid. I only remember being excited about the opportunity to play. The place and people provided encouragement and support. And it was fun!

Those early experiences lead to many more years of playing in churches. Different types of churches, services, funerals, weddings. Actually, I’ve spent more years playing piano in church than not.

Currently, I’m in one of those “not playing” times. Services have changed, much more involved and complex. Not that it’s a bad thing, just different. One that I don’t feel lead to do at this time. Maybe that will change in the future, who knows?

The simplicity of my childhood experiences is long gone. And although I sometimes miss that playing, I realize the important part remains. The music is forever part of my heart and mind.

The following is a short list of some of those early hymns:

  • Amazing Grace
  • In the Garden
  • Sweet Hour of Prayer
  • What a Friend We Have in Jesus

Sitting here on my couch typing, I can hear them in my mind. I can feel them in my fingers. I can see the notes and words on the pages. Sometimes they flood my thoughts right when I need them. 🙂

I am grateful for the memories of these hymns. They are a powerful part of my musical and spiritual foundation.

“…speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:19

What a Friend We Have in Jesus-Me playing in 2001. Arrangement by
Phillip Keveren

Ring around the Moon

The moon fascinates me. As a kid, I referred to it as “my moon!” It catches my attention quite often. Sometimes while looking through a perfectly placed window.

Outside the window
Amazing sight
Ring around the moon
Translucent and bright

Second look, many hues
Eyes deceiving me?
Rainbow around the moon
What a sight to see

Morning sky still dark
Ring as clear as day
Rainbow around the moon
For daybreak, lighting the way

Country Road

My daughter, Rachel, and I saw James Taylor in concert yesterday evening.  This was my sixth JT concert over the past 26 years, Rachel’s first.  I can truly say he never disappoints.  His songs are timeless and his sound seems to grow stronger and warmer with age-kind, genuine, personal.

Me and my girl!

Listening to his songs has a way of lifting my spirits.  Obviously, he did not write any of them for me. 😉 Yet, particular ones remind me of specific times and places from my own life.  Country Road immediately comes to mind.  Hearing it again last evening…beautiful.         

I guess my feet know where they want me to go
Walking on a country road

Just the thought of this song makes me smile.  Hearing it live and in person transports me back to my childhood.  Riding my bike and going for walks down our country road.  Always with the specific instructions, “Do not go past the red clay hill!”  

This winding road from my parents’ house to the highway is only about ¼ of a mile long.  As a kid, however, it seemed much longer, mysterious.  Thick forest on each side of the pavement made for limited visibility.  Any rustle in the leaves had the power to trigger our wild imaginations.  Although there have been rare sightings of bears and big cats in the past, I’m certain most of our unexplained noises came from birds and lizards.

I walked down that road many times for many reasons.  Playing with my cousins, getting some fresh air, eating too much Thanksgiving dinner, spending time with a special aunt or a friend.  Walking, talking, running, riding…a foundational place in my growing up. 

Some things have changed over the years.  The forest thinned.  A few houses now scattered in the woods, visible through the trees.  No more red clay hill.  Yet, there continues to be something special about taking a walk down that road. 

Memories may fade over time.  Great songwriters have the power to bring those memories back to life.  Singer/songwriters like James Taylor.  Songs like Country Road. Take a listen. https://youtu.be/2Dsph5uikX0

My Red, Ceramic, Music Box Piano

I have a small collection of miniature pianos. The very first one was a gift from my mom-a red, ceramic, upright piano with a cute little round stool. I’ve had this piano for as long as I can remember.

                                                 My little red piano

There is one more thing which makes this piano extra special. It’s a music box! A metal key on the back must be turned to begin its song. And what song does my red piano play? Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head. If I turned the piano key today, the music would play at an extremely slothful pace, making the song nearly unrecognizable.

                                            The magical key

So much joy came from turning that key when I was a kid. If I sit quietly and listen, the song still plays in my head. Fast to slow, then stopping as the mechanism winds down. The melody and the lyrics fill my thoughts, just as they did when I was a little girl.

So I just did me some talking to the sun
And I said I didn’t like the way he got things done
Sleeping on the job
Those raindrops keep falling on my head,
They keep fallin’

Funny words for a song. Childlike in nature. I can picture a little girl standing in the rain, shaking her finger towards the sky. Asking the sun why it went away. Wanting the rain to stop.

I really hadn’t given much thought to the history behind the song until now. The original singer was B.J. Thomas. I’m certain I heard his recording on the radio. What I didn’t know-it was written for the movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and won an Academy Award. How exciting!

It’s funny. I started thinking about this song yesterday in conjunction with my red, ceramic, music box piano. And then today, it rained all day long. Actually, it’s still raining now. Which leads me to the bridge section of the song.

But there’s one thing I know
The blues they send to meet me
Won’t defeat me, it won’t be long
‘Till happiness steps up to greet me

Now that the day is ending, even though the rain is still falling, I’ll choose to look for that happiness. The happiness which comes from simple things. Simple things like the last line of this song:

Because I'm free
Nothing's worrying me

Simple things like my red, ceramic, music box piano and the precious memories it brings.

Schemes to Switches

I’ve previously mentioned that my husband loves referring to me as a schemer.  Once an idea enters my thoughts I work to make it a reality.  This particular trait appeared way before meeting him. I’m certain my mom could testify. One example from my childhood stands out clearly above the rest.

I don’t remember exactly our age, definitely younger than ten.  The “we” was me and my cousin Rebecca, a great schemer in her own right.  Born only twenty days apart, we were always close growing up. Rebecca has five younger sisters. Imagine seven little girls when you added me to the mix!

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~Me and Rebecca~

There was one specific instance when I’d been invited to spend a few days with my cousins. We all piled into their Volkswagen Bug and began the thirty-minute drive to their house.  During the short trip, Rebecca and I immediately began plotting.

Our scheme? Secretly sneak out of their house and walk several miles down a dirt road to visit her Uncle Jack and his family.  Why were we being sneaky?  I have no idea! But we were all ready to go the next morning.

There was one small problem.  Barbara, one of the younger sisters apparently overheard our conversation and insisted on tagging along. What if we said no?  She would tattle on us, of course!

Off went our little trio, down the long driveway, and out onto the dirt road.  We were not even past the house when we heard Aunt Mary’s voice, “Rebecca? Kelley? Barbara?  Where are you, girls?”  We attempted hiding in the ditch, but Barbara started to cry.  Shushing her proved impossible and we were quickly discovered.

Our adventure was foiled, and talk about being in trouble. Aunt Mary took a switch to our legs while we ran around the yard like a bunch of chickens.  Though the switch didn’t really hurt us, it did help teach us a valuable lesson.  Seeing this now as a parent, I’m certain we caused Aunt Mary a great deal of panic. She was, after all, attempting to keep up with seven young girls.

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~The six sisters and me all grown up~

Reminiscing over this little adventure has brought lots of laughter over the years.  But the best part of the story is yet to come. To this day if we mention it around Aunt Mary, she still feels terrible about switching us!  Forty plus years later!  She has to be one of the most kind, patient, calm people I’ve ever known.  Managing all of us girls while keeping her sanity had to be challenging.

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~My mom and her sister, my Aunt Mary~

Did our scheming pay off in the end?  Well, not exactly the way we had planned. We did learn an important life lesson about being safe.  But even more important, we were reminded then and continue to be reminded now, how much we are loved.

I love you, Aunt Mary