Pack a Bag!

We are preparing to put our house on the market. Work to be done-minor repairs, small updates, painting. The tallest order being the painting of the entire interior. We’ve never experienced this before. We have painted a room or two, but not an entire house. Definitely a job for the professionals.

So, the professionals came yesterday. Originally they were coming later in the week. Not that any of the following would have changed…

The crew came early in the morning. We headed to school and work, not giving much thought to this process. Fast forward to the late afternoon. Drywall repairs all done. Windows covered and taped. Trim taped. Plastic tarps covering everything else, and I do mean everything.

The closet, bathtub, shower, and bathroom cabinets all sealed shut. I couldn’t get to my clothes, makeup, hairstyling stuff-nothing. Only one thing to do. Laugh and have a little adventure. Not too far, of course, we had work the next day.

Ryan headed to his friend’s house for the night. Gart and I made a Target run. A blue t-shirt for $8, underwear, toothpaste, and some inexpensive makeup. I would wear my jeans again but had to have a clean shirt and underwear. Deodorant? There was some in my desk drawer at school. Hair? Ponytail for the second day in a row.

After Target, we were ready to crash. A quick stop at Sprouts and we had dinner to take to the hotel. Thank goodness, our room had a microwave, coffee pot, and some decaf. The decaf a necessity to accompany the brownie we bought to share.

Getting ready the next morning, I realized my new blush and powder did not come with any brushes. Who knew Kleenexes could substitute? I glanced in the mirror-it would have to do.

Extra coffee helped me get through the day. A sweet kindergarten boy said, “I like your shirt, Mrs. Morris.” If he only knew. A 4th-grade girl gave me a hug and asked, “Are you okay, Mrs. Morris?” “Yes, I’m ok. Just a little tired,” I smiled. Pretty sure she could tell I was a little out of sorts.

Tonight our adventure continues. I’ve only cried once-Sorry, Gart. ❤ Ryan is at his friend’s house again. Another night in a hotel for us. This time I have a change of clothes, my own makeup, and flat iron. Oh, and I don’t have to wait until I get to school to put on deodorant. 😉

The painters will be finished tomorrow. Things will go back to normal. We will be one step closer to selling our house. The result will be well worth the little inconvenience.

I hope we never have the need to paint a whole house again. One thing is certain. If we do and the painters call to say, “We will be there tomorrow,” the first thing I will do is pack a bag!

Two Places at the Same Time

Our family has two graduations to celebrate next month. Our youngest son, Ryan, graduates from high school. Our daughter, Rachel, graduates from college. Each milestone represents commitment, hard work, dedication. Each represents a big step, moving forward in life.

As a mom, I am thankful and proud. Also, a little emotional. You can imagine my disappointment to discover both graduation ceremonies will occur on the same night, at the same time, in two different locations!

No matter how many ways I attempted to resolve this dilemma, nothing worked. Extended family and friends would certainly help make sure both kids were supported. Even though each would understand any choice I made, it felt like I’d be letting someone down. How could I possibly choose?

My husband is an administrator in our district. He has graduation responsibilities. There was no question which he would attend. Besides, he has had the privilege of handing our daughter and oldest son, Robert, their high school diplomas. It would only be right for our youngest to have the same experience. Plus, I need that third picture. 😉

So, what should I do? I continued to weigh options and fret about these things which were out of my control. And then, my children stepped in. Here I am, worried about disappointing one of them, and they provide not only the solution but with the perfect logic.

It all began as I visited with Robert. I was talking about graduation, not knowing what to do. Robert said, “Mom, this is Ryan’s first graduation. You need to be there. Erin (his girlfriend) and I will go to Rachel’s. We can livestream her walking across the stage, so you don’t miss it.”

Wow! That did sound like a good idea. But what would Rachel think?

I shared Robert’s solution with her, and her response was precious. “Mom-Dad needs to be there to hand Ryan his diploma, just like he did for me and Robert. And you need to be there to see it.” So matter-of-fact and without hesitation. I could not argue with her reasoning.

There were some tears. But these tears were no longer due to sadness over missing an important event. These were tears of joy. Joy because my children provided a thoughtful solution for their mom. They understood how difficult this was for me and why. And their decision showed how much they value our family.

On May 13, 2019, I will proudly watch my husband hand our youngest his diploma, just as I have for the other two. Hopefully, technology will allow me to also see Rachel walk across a different stage, on the other side of town. Believe me, if I could be in two places at once, now would be the time. Since that is physically impossible, I will leave it to my heart. For my heart can be in two places at the same time. Possibly even three… ❤

Child Abuse Awareness

April is National Child Abuse Prevention month.  A difficult subject, but I could not let the first day of the month pass by without recognition.  As a teacher, I’ve witnessed the heartache and devastation which accompanies this kind of abuse.  Documented, reported, testified-all things I hope I never have to do again. 

I continue to have contact with my former student, Marie.  Today I will share the link to her story.  But first, a brief update.  She continues to thrive in her foster home.  I’m amazed with each new photo.  They show a different child.  And the events she has attended?  School dances, church events, even a Tim Tebow Night to Shine prom.  She looked like a princess!

Marie is happy and well-adjusted.  She laughs and jokes.  Her personality is funny, sassy, and sweet.  Although I don’t get to see her as often as I’d like, phone calls are treasured.  She continues to ask, “Do you miss me?”  My answer will never change. “Yes, sweet girl. I miss you.” 

https://pianogirlthoughts.com/2018/08/13/face-to-face-with-child-abuse-personal-reflections-of-a-teacher/

A Pink Letter

Pink is such a beautiful color. Small amounts of reds blended with white to create a calm, reflective palette. One which reminds me of springtime and flowers blooming. Maybe a lovely dogwood tree or cherry blossoms.

If you’ve had any experiences related to breast cancer, you recognize this color as a symbol. A symbol of awareness, support, solidarity in the pink ribbon. I’ve worn this ribbon on my clothing with a simple safety pin. My mom wears it around her neck daily, a reminder of her survival. I have a wooden pink ribbon in my front yard to honor my mom and remind me of my sweet friend Shannon. https://pianogirlthoughts.com/2018/09/04/instant-friends/

The pink ribbon.

Pink also serves as a guide at the facility where I have my mammograms. Lovely pink signs direct me to my parking space. Simple reassurance that I am in the right place. A reminder the people here always take good care of me.

This beautiful color provides calm during sometimes stressful times. Over the past sixteen years, I’ve faced quite a few of these times. Physical changes which required additional mammograms, ultrasounds, a lumpectomy, biopsies, MRIs. Thankfully, none of these tests resulted in cancer.

This past week I faced that MRI machine once again. And although cancer had not been mentioned, my thoughts drifted in that direction. After so many positive results, for which I am grateful, I began to think, “This may be my time.”

I know this thought process may not be logical. But it was my way of preparing myself, not that that kind of preparation is even possible. Nonetheless, such was my state of mind.

My follow-up with the doctor to go over the MRI results was scheduled for one week later. I was not expecting to hear anything before then. Simply feeling relieved to have made it through the MRI process, my worry began to subside a little.

That brings me to Friday afternoon, three days after the MRI. The first one home from work/school, I let the dogs outside and walked to the mailbox. There was only one piece of mail waiting-a pink letter. Pink. I knew where it was from before I even read the return address.

You might think I ripped it open, standing there in the driveway. But no. I walked back inside, confirmed the return address, and calmly opened the pink envelope. The letter inside was the same shade of pink. I read the beginning words, “We are pleased to inform you…no signs of cancer.”

A flood of relief and excitement, I relayed the happy message to my husband, kids, parents, friends…and prayed a whispered, “Thank you.”

This particular shade of pink will continue to play an important role. It will remind me of friends and family who are survivors. It will remind me of those who are currently fighting. It will remind me of those who have died. It will remind me of the importance of early detection, and the need to continue being proactive where my health is concerned.

Always get your mammogram!

And it will remind me of one particular Friday afternoon. A Friday afternoon when I received a pink letter in the mail.

Pancakes & Sr. Trips

We’ve enjoyed a variety of family traditions over the years, dependent on where we lived, the age of the kids, etc. One favorite was Saturday morning pancakes. We started this one the year we lived in Liberal, KS, far away from extended family and friends. A simple thing, but so important for us as a family.

Not all traditions happen as often Saturday morning pancakes. Actually, there is one family event I never thought of as a tradition until our final one. The senior trip…

As each of our children approached their high school graduation, Gart and I asked them to choose, within reason, a place they would like to visit. The choices of these three proved as varied as their personalities. Robert? Colorado. Rachel? Washington, D.C. And Ryan? New York City!

Dad planned, saved, worked out all the details, ensuring the graduate experienced all the activities on their list. What was Mom’s role? Let’s just say I learned how to let go a little. And began to recognize my babies were not babies anymore.

It all started in Colorado. What could be more relaxing? A quiet cabin, hiking, fishing, feeding the chipmunks, coffee on the deck…but those were my plans. Robert and his friend, Jeremy, had something much more adventurous in mind.

These two 18-year-olds successfully hiked to the top of Mt. Elbert, 14,400 ft., the highest peak in the continental U.S. It was difficult to hear them drive away that morning, before dawn. I wanted to yell one more, “Be careful!” Honestly, I can’t remember what I said. I only remember being proud (and relieved) when they returned that evening.

At the top!

If that accomplishment was not enough, they went white water rafting the next day, again unaccompanied, this time with a younger brother in tow. Talk about letting go!

Excited younger brother!

Our second stop in this Morris family tradition was Washington, D.C. This trip was a little different for our family. Robert, busy with college commitments, could not go. Only 4 out of 5 would make the trip. Another mom adjustment.

What an amazing trip! Our Rachel, compassionate and a history buff, was so excited! Highlights included the FDR memorial (her favorite president) and the Holocaust Museum. These experiences strengthened her passion for special education and equality. Watching her soak in the meaning behind these places, I learned more about history, but more importantly, I learned more about her.

Her favorite president!

Our final senior trip took us to NYC! I was ready for the change in family dynamic this time. Ryan would be the only one of our three kiddos going, accompanied by his friend, Will. We packed in as much as possible. Times Square, Joe’s Pizza, Uptown Comics, Empire State Building, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Statue of Liberty, Museum Of Natural History, Rockefeller Center…

First night in the city!

How was there time for a “letting go” moment? For me, there’s always time. 😉 The end of day two we headed back to our hotel. I was exhausted and needed a break. The boys wanted to do more shopping at Rockefeller Center. We exited the subway, Gart gave them directions, and we went our separate ways.

I might have held back a few tears as the two boys took off on their own…walking down the street…in NYC! I fought the urge to yell after them, “Be careful!” My thoughts suddenly traveled back in time six years to Colorado. They would be just fine.

That’s my baby!

As I sat on the flight home, post-graduation trip number three, the end of a family tradition, I had a revelation. Yes, these trips highlighted changes in our family dynamic. Yes, I had to learn to let go a little. Yes, I learned things about my kids. But there was always one constant right beside me-Gart.

We are in this marriage/family thing for the long haul, no matter what. I cannot imagine my life without him. I’m thankful Gart had the wisdom and forethought to not only begin this senior trip tradition but see it through to the end.

Here’s to new family traditions. And maybe revisiting some old ones along the way. I think Saturday morning pancakes might be a great place to start. Pancakes anyone?

Geneva’s Daughter

”You remember Kelley. She’s Geneva’s daughter.”

Gart and I drove to Little Rock this weekend to visit my family. My mom and her siblings had a cousin reunion on Saturday. My memories of my mom’s cousins are vague. But what fun to watch and listen as they reminisced.

Also, my Aunt Elizabeth made a mayonnaise cake. Yummy! But that is a story for another day.

Sitting outside on the deck, I listened, chatted with family, enjoyed the sunshine. In the middle of all that, overheard the following. ”You remember Kelley. She’s Geneva’s daughter.”

Geneva’s daughter. I love that description. But what does it mean?

First, I have to tell you about Geneva. She is the fourth of nine siblings. Growing up, she never liked her name. Diagnosed with rheumatic fever as a child, she remembers being sick. In high school, she excelled in her classes and was a basketball star.

As an adult, she took care of our household. Worked successfully as a secretary in a variety of fields-business, education, church. Suffered from rheumatoid arthritis. Has been married to my dad for over 50 years.

Geneva bravely faced breast cancer. She is now a five-year survivor.

Even at 73, she does her hair and make-up every day. If someone asks why, “Because it just makes you feel better,” she replies. Within her family, known for writing poetry.

But what about her role as my mom? She taught me to sing “Jesus Loves Me” and took me to church. Purchased every Dr. Seuss book there is and helped me learn to read at a young age. Ordered Highlight magazines for me and my brother.

My mom spent hours waiting in her car while I was taking piano lessons. Found a way to purchase a violin when I came home in 4th grade announcing, “I signed up for orchestra today!” Encouraged me to go to college and graduate school.

Mom never gave up on me during difficult times. Ones due to poor choices on my part. She demonstrated the importance of family in her roles as sister, daughter, wife. Prayed faithfully (and continues to pray) for me and my family.

Is she perfect? No. Neither am I. She often frets too much. She sometimes struggles with relinquishing control. She has trouble letting go. So do I.

She is my mom, Nana to my kids, my friend. Her life experiences affect mine, as mine affect my children’s. Not a picture of perfection, but a picture of love. A ”no matter what” kind of love.

I’m proud and grateful to be described as Geneva’s Daughter.

View from the Top of the Stairs

This week it is time for solo-n-ensemble rehearsals. High school students come to my home after school to practice for their upcoming competition. Currently, my piano is upstairs in an open loft area. So, while I was waiting for my last student to arrive I sat down at the top of the stairs.

I love looking down into the living room from upstairs. It provides an interesting perspective. The light is different. Seeing the space from above causes me to notice things I might otherwise overlook.

We have taken many photos from this angle over the years. Family photos, Christmas decorations, furniture rearranging.

My favorite pic from this vantage point was secretly taken by my daughter, Rachel. So many reasons to love this photo. The warmth from the Christmas tree and lighting. Playing music with my son, Robert, practicing Christmas Time is Here by Vince Guaraldi.

“There’s never a moment without music in our house.”

Rachel is not in the photo, yet she is in the center of the memory. I can picture her upstairs in her room, listening to us practice. What made her think to snap a picture? I’m not sure. However, the memory of playing this particular music with Robert might not be as clear if not for her thoughtfulness.

My view from the top of the stairs today isn’t nearly as exciting or memorable. Yet the more I think about it, the more I realize how much it connects with this photo from the past.

Rachel’s caption for her photo was, “There’s never a moment without music in our house.” Something I hope will always be said about our home.

Why was I sitting at the top of the stairs today? I was taking a rest from making music…waiting to make more.