Determined

No pain, no gain
That’s a wrap
Show’s over
Saved the best for last

Hmmm…so many thoughts and emotions. Yesterday marked the final two performances for our all-school musical, Newsies. One matinee and one evening show brought all the hard work to an end. As I reflect over these past few months, in particular, the last two weeks, determination is the word I choose.

I watched as students on stage and in the pit showed determination. A determination to work harder each day. A determination to always give their best. A determination to share their hard work with gladness and grace.

They may not realize it, but their energy was contagious. It had a profound impact on me and my attitude, particularly on those days it felt like I had no energy left to give.

Some have asked, “Will you do it again next year?” Others have suggested, “Maybe it’s time to give this up.” Comments made with my best interest at heart, no doubt. It is an exhausting process which pushes me further than I think I can go. And each year, the physical challenge grows just a bit.

Yet, this year as I thought more about this thing-this musical season-I realized how much I love it! I can’t imagine not being a part. I don’t want to imagine…

Following one of the evening performances, a sweet colleague said, “You must be exhausted. But it has to be so worth it!” Yes! Simple truth. I’m certain she had no idea how much I needed to hear those words. My husband expressed the same sentiment, understanding how important this is to me. These combined with my daughter’s, “Proud of you, Mom” gave me the spark I needed to finish strong.

Hence the word, determined. As long as the opportunity is there and I am able to play with excellence, I am determined to be part of what is Union Public Schools All-School Musical. Even though it wears me thin, it is worth every ache and pain. Worth fighting for every ounce of energy required. Worth every afternoon nap. Worth every extra cup of coffee consumed. 😉

And so, I say, “Farewell Newsies!” It was a pleasure to make music with you all. Remember the lessons learned through this amazing story. I know I will! 🙂

#seizetheday #watchwhathappens #newsiesforever

Wiper Blade Swishes

A gray mist hung in the air all day today. More than simple fog, it appeared like a sheer curtain. As if you walked through it, you would come out on the other side soaking wet.

No individual clouds. No glimpses of blue. Not even a hint of sunshine. And believe me, I peeked outside between classes all day long…just in case.

Leaving school for the day, I noticed a light, wet film on my car windshield. One swish from the windshield wipers and it was gone. Wiper blades are an interesting invention. At first glance, they might seem insignificant in comparison with the entire car. But get caught in the rain without a working one, and you realize its power.

This one little swish of a wiper blade caused me to reflect on the day. Despite the feeling of heaviness due to the conditions outside, had there been other “wiper blade swishes” which helped make the day clearer? Of course!

  • Early morning Starbucks run with the Dream Team
  • 5th graders engaging over Beethoven and musical motifs
  • Kindergarteners playing Under the Sea & Just Keep Swimming with the parachute
  • Singing There’s a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea with 2nd grade
  • After school nap
  • My husband coming home early to cook dinner

So, where/how am I now? I’m sitting in the orchestra pit. 30 minutes until opening night of Newsies! Energized and ready to go. It’s going to be a great show, no doubt. I will crash when it’s done. Then do it all over again tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that…twice.

Maybe the skies won’t be so gray-maybe they will. Either way, I’ll be watching for the little “wiper blade swishes” to help clear my path and get me through this incredibly exhausting and rewarding week.

Purposefully Remembering

Today marks three years since my father-n-law, Bob died. Each of us remembers him in our own way, with our own actions. Most importantly, we purposefully remember. We choose certain things that to others might seem insignificant, but to us say Papa, Dad, Bob.

Here are a few:

Peanut butter on pancakes
Wild Cherry Pepsi
Chocolate covered cherries
Lego sets
Family photos
Catholic Mass
Barbecue rib dinner
Extra whipped cream on your dessert
A cigar and sip of Drambuie

Finding words may be difficult, but incorporating these little things into our day help us remember him and smile. Each item represents something we know he enjoyed or something he would often get for us. He was always generous. Always thinking about his family. Loved to spoil his grandkids.

We miss him…grateful that the life he lived continues to influence ours.

Time Apart

”Absence makes the heart grow fonder”

Does time away from a loved one really make us feel closer to them? I can only speak from personal experience.

Our married life began with time apart. Soon after our May wedding, my husband, Gart, was hired as the band director in Hominy, OK. He would need to begin working in July to prepare for marching season.

We were so excited about this new chapter! Then reality hit. His first paycheck would not come until late August. We could not afford to go without income. I would need to stay with friends in Fayetteville, AR and keep working while he moved to the apartment where we would both eventually live.

During this time apart, we saw each other most weekends. Weeknights consisted of long, tear-filled phones calls. It was a long two months, but we survived. Looking back, I’d say the experience made us stronger.

Spending a week apart became part of our summers as well. While Gart worked at a summer band camp, I would spend a week with my parents. Once we had kids, it became a perfect opportunity for them to spend time with grandparents.

I believe those times apart early in our marriage helped us truly appreciate one another. It laid a foundation of security and trust. Knowing that even when we were apart, we were okay.

Fast-forward twenty-five years. Our kids are practically grown. That empty nest time is just around the corner. As I type, Gart is out of town for work. Not quite the same as our previously planned time apart.

Honestly, these days I prefer when we are both at home. Maybe it’s because I am getting older. This new life stage. Selfishness. I’m not certain. I only know that when it comes to time apart now, less is more.

As I drove my husband to the airport early this morning, all I could think was, “I’ll be so glad when he gets home this weekend.” ❤️

Pieces of Your Heart

Grandparents are special people. My grandparents were an essential part of my childhood. Spending time with them was important. As a child, you don’t really think about losing them. You imagine they will be part of your world forever. Then you become a young adult, or in my case, a high school student and that idea is shattered.

When my Grandpa Mahar died, it was very sudden. Early on the morning of July 4th, he woke up before anyone else, sat down in his favorite chair, and did not wake up again. We had seen him the day before. The family would be gathering on the 4th to celebrate. How could he be gone?

I mostly remember shock and tears from that day, almost thirty-five years ago now. The reality of my mom losing her dad brought a new perspective on the frailty and brevity of life on this earth. And it was made even more difficult because there had been no chance to say goodbye. This seemed especially hard for my mom and her siblings.

This was not the case for my own children with their first loss of a grandparent. Before my father-n-law passed away, we knew our time was limited. Watching as death approached was not easy, but we found comfort in having time to say goodbye. He will have been gone for three years this coming week, and we miss him more with each passing year.

One circumstance is not easier than the other, just different. Grief is present in both. We hang on tight to memories. We look at photos, share stories, cling to anything that reminds us of the person we lost. And as soon as we think our grief is fading, a birthday, holiday, or other event brings it right back to the forefront.

Sometimes the grief catches us off guard, and we are encompassed by unexpected emotions. How do we respond? That depends on the person, for we are all different. But here are a few personal thoughts:

When tears well up
Let them fall
When your heart aches
Let words flow
When a friend is near
Lean on them
When feeling motionless
Take one step
When tempted to forget
Remember
For that memory
Is a piece of your heart

A memory of my Grandpa Mahar: He is wearing overalls and telling me if I do him a favor, he will dance at my wedding. 😉

A memory of my father-n-law: He would always bring me a box of See’s candy when traveling to California. We both had quite a sweet tooth. 🙂

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4

What’s Cooking?

Say, hey, good lookin’
Whatcha got cookin’?
How’s about cookin’ somethin’ up with me?

Hey, sweet baby
Don’t you think maybe
We could find us a brand-new recipe?

-Hank Williams-

Yes, I know this song has little if anything to do with food. While recently thinking about food/cooking, however, my thoughts turned to people. And then to this song. Maybe not logical, but that’s my musician brain for you.

What is it about this act of cooking which draws us closer to each other? As I considered this question, my memories were clear. My friend Donna McDonald and her peanut butter pie. My friend Cindy Wright and her frozen strawberry dessert. The Seifert family and their homemade pizza.

The list could go on and on. Specific people, specific foods, and specific occasions. All of these foods were delicious, but what I remember most is the people and the reasons behind their cooking-family dinners, baby showers, hospital stays. Being on the receiving end of these gifts always made me feel loved.

I’ve also been on the opposite end of this circumstance. Cooking a family birthday dinner or baking cookies for a friend. Knowing that others are enjoying my creation always makes me happy.

This week I experienced both sides of this culinary phenomenon. Monday, I baked my famous chocolate chip cookies. Student musicians in our all-school musical were the recipients at our Tuesday rehearsal. They were surprised and grateful. And they ate all the cookies. 😉

I chose Tuesday for this treat because it was our first “late” day. This almost four-hour rehearsal followed a full day of teaching elementary music. Even with some extra caffeine and a cookie, the long day left me exhausted.

Dragging myself into the house, I immediately smelled something yummy. “Are you hungry?” My husband had made a tasty meal. He fixed me a plate. I sat down to eat and unwind.

No, this wasn’t a birthday dinner or special event. It was just a regular old Tuesday night. A late work night for me. A night he knew I needed a good meal. A meal that made me feel loved.

All of these situations are connected by one element, and it isn’t food. It is time. Time is precious and cooking takes time. When someone is willing to give their own time in this way, they’re showing how much they care.

If you find yourself on the receiving end there is only one thing to say. “What’s cooking?” Followed by a big, huge, “Thank you!”

Waiting Rooms

Waiting rooms are interesting places. I’ve visited several different ones over the past few days. Some appointments for myself, others for family members. Each waiting room full of people, all there for different reasons…yet all waiting. Waiting for answers, for relief, for some news.

Certain waiting rooms bring a flood of memories. Such was my experience this morning. Some of the memories were sad, but the sadness mingled with sweet faces and comforting voices. As I thought about past events, encouragement from others is what I remembered most clearly.

Other circumstances came to mind throughout the day. A room full of family and friends during my mom’s mastectomy. A dear pastor friend visiting when my father-n-law had surgery for prostate cancer. A phone call during an emergency room visit…the same emergency room I waited in today.

Today’s visit for my sweet mother-n-law was not life-threatening, but the many text messages from friends eased the waiting. Waiting is never easy, but I’m beginning to understand that it does have purpose. Waiting forces us to slow down. Forces us to place our focus on someone else. Reminds us that we are not alone.

Precious reminders come with each visit, phone call, text message, prayer.

Or in a quiet whisper…

“…Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

…even when you’re just waiting.