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. ❤

The Mom Friend

I love my young teacher friends. Their energy is contagious! They are passionate about life and have innovative ideas. Young singles, young marrieds, young parents…each with their own set of plans for the future. Working hard to navigate the busy world of home, family, career.

In these circles, I often find myself taking on the role of “Mom.” I have even referred to some of them as my adopted kids. I have three practically grown children of my own, so the mom part comes pretty naturally. And the truth is, I am usually old enough to be their mom. Shhh…

With these young friends, the advice is both given and received. They listen to my personal life stories and share theirs. Sometimes we affirm each other’s choices, other times offer reassurance that it’s not the end of the world.

I count on these “kids” to keep me going. I’m not sure they realize the length of their influence. Their presence can turn the day around with a word, a smile, a hug.

Honestly, I’m just glad they want to hang out with me. 😉

One of these sweet friends recently said to me, “You’re the best kind of friend. You’re a mom and a friend.” I’ll take it!

I often wondered what it would be like to have more kids. In a small way, I guess I have a bit of an idea.

Good Books, Good Friends

Summer break is here! I always look forward to having time to read for pleasure in the summer. Get lost in a story, feel like I’ve been introduced to new people. A couple months ago I bought a book with that thought in mind. I began reading it this week.

After the first chapter, there was no doubt I would not be able to put the book down. So, this morning I made a deal with myself. Reading would not begin until I had at least cleaned the kitchen. My plan was to clean, read a few chapters. Do a little packing (we are also moving this summer), read some more, and so on.

Well…the kitchen is clean. And I know the end of the story.

What a beautiful story. And though I couldn’t wait to reach the end, I felt sad upon arrival. The characters came to life. I could see their faces, hear their voices. As I was reading, I knew I would miss them when the story ended. Almost like friends who were moving far away.

One particular passage caught my attention. It was as if there was a stop sign on the page. Smiling, I read it again. After the third time, I wrote it down.

Universal truth: some people you’ve known since birth and you’ve just barely met them; others you’ve known for four years and they’ve been your friend since before you were born.

Marisa De Los Santos

What a sweet reminder from my first book of the summer. Certain friendships (and books) seem to transcend time. Once they are part of your life, you can’t remember a time without them.

Here’s to a summer filled with good books and good friends.

Friendly Reminders

Now that school is out for summer, I look forward to many conversations over coffee with friends. I love the connections which begin and grow from this practice. They bring renewal in ways which often surprise me.

Sometimes they also bring friendly reminders. Here are a few much-needed ones I recently received.

  1. Perfection should never be my goal.
  2. Honesty in friendship is a necessity.
  3. Daily prayer provides daily renewal.

The first reminder concerned perfection, an ideal we are bombarded with on all fronts. You can be the perfect wife, mom, friend, teacher. Fill in the blank. That goal always leads to disappointment. Why? We are not flawless creatures. We do not live in a picture-perfect world.

Admitting our imperfections and hearing someone else say, “Me, too” is powerful. That one simple phrase takes away a small piece of the loneliness which often accompanies my inward thoughts. It provides a beginning, a binding with another heart.

The second friendly reminder was honesty. Truth, even spoken by a friend, is not always easy to receive. Just this week, a friend said to me, “I have to talk to you about something.” She went on to share observations about certain attitudes and my need for an adjustment. 😉

Although her words were difficult to hear, they brought a sense of relief. They took me back to the beginning realization-I am not perfect. And that is ok! I can, however, seek to be better.

Another friend reminded me of the importance of daily prayer. It holds the power to renew my mind, even when I don’t know what to pray. It also reminds me that God loves me in spite of my faults. And affirms my purpose at this moment, on this day.

As summer begins, my heart wants to soak in these beautiful reminders. I’m quite certain more reminders will be needed in the coming days. But for today, I am thankful for honest words from caring friends. And I will end this day with a prayer for rest and renewal.

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” Psalm 139:23

Tomorrow is a new day! Grab a friend and a cup of coffee! ❤ ☕️

Rollercoaster

A rollercoaster often starts out slow, moving upward, tension building as it climbs. Once it reaches the top of the first incline, the real adventure begins. Twists, turns, rolls, and spins jolt the whole body. Squeals and screams express excitement and/or fear, depending on the rider. Then it stops, just abruptly as it began. Cue feelings of relief.

When I was younger, rollercoasters were a thrill. Riding over and over, I would laugh and scream, loving that rush of adrenaline. That is no longer the case, and it hasn’t been for quite a while. As a matter of fact, I once had an anxiety attack in front of my kids involving a rollercoaster.

We had taken a family vacation to Kansas City. A fun road trip which would include shopping, museums, eating, and an amusement park. The kids were excited. Each had a favorite activity on the list. And everyone was looking forward to the amusement park. Everyone except me.

Looking back, I now realize anxiety crept in before we even arrived in Kansas City. Any mention of the park would cause my stomach to nervously turn and tears would start to form. I would suddenly feel tense, my heart racing. And then I would push it all away, trying to breathe and focus on the activity at hand.

What I didn’t realize, was that pushing these feelings away did not get rid of them. It only buried them temporarily. And when we simply bury feelings, they are sure to resurface at some unsuspecting moment. When they do, controlling them becomes almost impossible.

We stood in line for a ride, the Patriot, I think. As we waited, I felt sick. I found myself taking deep breaths, working hard to keep it together. I told myself, “You are not being logical. There is nothing to be afraid of.” But I could not seem to accept what I knew to be true.

As we approached our turn, I didn’t know what to do. My thoughts were frantic, not making any sense. Once the gate opened for our family to take our seats, I couldn’t get on. Embarrassed, I said, “I can’t do this,” and walked through to the exit.

My tears could not be held any longer. I was so mortified. My family was having an adventure, and I was missing out. Not wanting the kids to see me so upset, I attempted to pull it together.

As my husband and the boys took off to ride more rides, my sweet Rachel hung out with me. We got snow-cones and sat and talked. She reassured me that it was ok. My embarrassment was not erased, but I knew my family understood.

I did manage to return to that ride before our day was done. Somehow, I pushed through the anxiety and rode the darn thing one time. Once was enough. I certainly cannot say I enjoyed the experience, but there was a brief sense of relief. A few minutes of overcoming the illogical which often accompanies anxiety.

Support of family and friends, medication, recognition, and prayer have helped decrease these feelings and make the remaining ones more manageable. It would be foolish to think I will never experience anxiety again. Since life itself is much like that rollercoaster, it is to be expected.

My goal is to continue learning how to live contently, despite events or circumstances. That includes times of grief and celebration. Recognizing that the rollercoaster does not control my reactions. That is on me. And admitting that I sometimes need a little help is the first step in beating those feelings of anxiety.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Psalm 139:23

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. Philippians 4:11

Kind Words

”Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

Most of us have likely heard or said some version of the above. It is often used to help kids cope with unkind words. But the truth is, words can hurt. What if we placed more emphasis on using kind words instead of simply ignoring the unkind ones? The results are much more powerful.

It’s impossible to understand the impact of kind words until you’ve been on the receiving end. Today I was on that receiving end. Wow! I didn’t know how much I needed those words until they were spilled out.

A simple text from a sweet friend saying, “Just thought you should know how valued, appreciated, and loved you are.” Tears came quickly, causing the remainder of the message to blur.

This thoughtful expression was overwhelming. It provided much-needed encouragement. It also reminded me the best way to teach the importance of using kind words is by example. Allow them to pour out, and affirm those on the receiving end.

This time of year, it is easy to put my head down and move full speed ahead. End of the school year activities, tired teachers, anxious kids. We can feel summer just around the corner. I can’t think of a better time to slow down, look up, and let some kind words flow.

An Old Friend

I love old friendships. You know the ones. Those which don’t seem to recognize the passing of time. Even if you haven’t seen each other in years, you pick up right where you left off. Memories of times past mix with the present, providing a comforting familiarity.

Sometimes music is like those friendships. Certain songs are stored in memory banks. Suddenly one plays, and I’m transported back in time. I can remember clearly a specific person, place, or time. In that sense, a song is like an old friend.

Last weekend I rehearsed with some oboe players for an upcoming studio recital. I’ve accompanied this studio for many years, and have become very familiar with the repertoire. After the rehearsal, I offhandedly referred to my accompaniment book as “an old friend.”

Today was recital day! Students were well prepared, some a little nervous. With the exception of one new piece this year, each song was pulled from my memory bank. I smiled as we began to play.

Yes, the students were different, but the music was the same. The notes and rhythms were familiar. The phrases were comforting.

Obviously, a book of music is not the same as a person. But as I played these familiar songs today, it felt as if I was visiting an old friend.

My seat during the recital. 🙂