An Unfamiliar Smile

The strangest thing happened on my way home from school yesterday. I had not driven far and was stopped at a red light. The soundtrack to “Hamilton” was blaring on my radio, and the sun was shining!

A quick glance to my right, and I noticed someone waving. The car window was rolled down, the driver smiling. His eyes looked familiar, but it took a few seconds to recognize him.

This was someone I see at work every day. But he is new to our school this year, and that meant I had never actually seen his entire face. Or, if I had, it was only for a few brief seconds.

Wow! I know we are all feeling the changes in how we connect during this time of a global pandemic. We have to work even harder at getting to know new people. Wearing masks, though necessary, makes it more difficult to speak, hear, and recognize others. And not being able to just run up and hug everyone I see…well, that is another thing altogether.

This experience was a real punch. Here I sat, realizing that this was the first time I had seen this guy’s entire face! We have been in school for over two months!

I waved and then rolled down my car window. We were both smiling. I said, “Man, it is good to actually see your smile!” He laughed and said something about wearing masks all the time. I nodded. We both drove our separate ways.

Did I mention we were both smiling?

It was like finding two puzzle pieces that fit together. That unfamiliar smile perfectly matched those familiar eyes.

Family Dinner

I love the times when our family gets together. I wrote a poem some weeks ago about that very subject, and this evening brought it to mind.

Today was the first day for teachers to report back to school. A long day for me and my daughter, Rachel. A long day for my husband in his role with school technology.

The first day back is always tiring. The alarm goes off so early. And add to that our current health concerns with Covid-19, the stress levels are high.

Enter my brother-in-law, Martin. He is in town for a few days, doing some work around my mother-in-law’s house. And he offered to make dinner for the whole family.

Dinner on this first day of reporting back to school. And not just any dinner-ribeye steaks, asparagus, salad, and grilled peaches. What a treat!

We sat around the table laughing, enjoying the company. We felt loved. Refilled so that we can pass on that love. What a special place to be. ❤

At the Table

Family and friends
On either side
Faces lighting up the room
Enjoying a favorite meal
A warm cup of coffee
Creating new memories
While recalling old ones
What about a stranger?
A favorite meal
Not yet known
No memories to share
Only ones to create
Taking a chance
Caring enough to ask
About a favorite meal
Offer a warm cup of coffee
A timeless lesson-
The people at the table
Matter more than
What is being served-
And before anything else,
Love must be given
A seat at the table

Carried Away

These are difficult days.  So many questions, so much confusion, so many tears.  Yesterday’s rain reminded me that we have hope.  And though there are more hard days ahead, we cannot give up. We must come together, lift each other up, and continue on…one step and a time. ❤

Raindrops teased
All morning long
Falling a few
At a time
With quiet
Drip-drops
Barely enough
To dampen my hair
By late afternoon
The sky grew dark-
No longer playing
Their little game,
The frightened raindrops
Huddled together
Creating steady streams
Flowing down from
Cloud to ground-
Proving there is
Strength in numbers,
The brave raindrops
Transformed themselves
Into a wall of water
Like a transparent curtain
Hanging from the sky-
Suddenly, the curtain fell
No longer flowing
From cloud to sky
Now a blanket of water
Flowing downward
Across the landscape
Carrying away
All the sorrows
Of the day-
And the sun began to shine.

“Have You Ever Seen the Rain”             Kelley Morris, piano


Someone told me long ago
There’s a calm before the storm
I know, it’s been comin’ for some time
When it’s over, so they say
It’ll rain another day
I know, shinin’ down like water
 
I want to know, have you ever seen the rain?
I want to know, have you ever seen the rain?
Comin’ down on a sunny day
 
Creedence Clearwater Revival

Old Friends

The rain stopped
Some drops lingered
In the rich soil
Beneath the tree-
Resting after the
Long journey
On the tip
Of a pine needle,
One drop called out
Or perhaps, up
To its dear friend,
Sunshine

It’s your turn!
I’m waiting!
Send your rays
My way-So that
We may have
A moment of fun
Can’t you see?
We belong together
Simply shine your
Light on me
And watch the branch
Begin to glisten

The sun obliged
Sending its rays
To pierce the clouds
And touch the Raindrop
The two old friends
Danced and played
While the branch
Glistened and smiled
Soon, each went their way
But neither said goodbye
Knowing they would
Meet again another day

Gravity & Grace

We are currently in a state of constant, overwhelming information. And though I try to limit my intake, anxiety has a way of creeping in. It is easy to lose sight of what truly matters.

These two poems provide a glimpse into how quickly my state of mind changes. Some days are a constant battle between worry and trust-anxious and calm. Can you say rollercoaster? 😉

Maybe you can relate. ❤

Gravity

The pressure
Begins to build
In the center
Of the chest
Pushing past
The heart
Welling up
In the throat
Seeking an
Escape route-
Tears falling
From my eyes-
No consequence
Weight remains
Reason requires
Assistance
A temporary
Reprieve
Help from the
Unexpected
A song playing
On the radio
Laughing, I
Shake my head
Momentary release
From the gravity

Grace

Not considering
Personal gain
Instead, seeing
Another in the
Light of grace
The same grace
Through which
Each one of
Us desires
To be seen
Grace that places
Selfish interest
Out of sight
Out of mind
Where it belongs
Two people
Face to face
One saying
I see you
I hear you
And I want
To know you
Not a request
An offering
Of friendship

A Social Distance Duet

I love playing the piano. And playing the piano in collaboration with another musician is even better. It requires a whole new level of concentration. But it also provides a whole new level of enjoyment.

Not only am I reading and listening to my part, but I am also doing the same for the other instrument. One section on its own does not make sense. But when played at the same time, harmony in motion. Almost like two characters telling the same story from their own perspective.

Even though collaborative playing is one of my favorite ways to experience music, it has not been part of my life in more recent times. Right now, my professional life is more focused on teaching. Playing is mostly for my own enjoyment.

That is ok. I am not complaining, just setting the scene.

Here we are, many months of living during a worldwide pandemic. The school year ended strangely. So many plans put on hold. And just when it seemed things were improving, our numbers are on the rise again.

There are so many questions about the future. How long will this last? What will school look like? It is easy to feel anxious.

What better way to calm anxious thoughts than some musical collaboration?

My friend, Lisa, came over and brought her oboe. Lisa and I teach music in the same district. She is also a professional musician. We have talked many times about getting together and playing music.

What better time than during the middle of a pandemic?

My music room has glass doors that open up to the main entrance. So, we opened the doors and sat a chair and music stand in the entryway. That way, we could still maintain a social distance but also have a sightline.

We played music for almost two hours! The time flew by. My fingers got a workout, but my brain was at peace. The music was beautiful! And we had the perfect audience, my miniature dachshund, Poppy.

Poppy’s bed was placed between the piano and the oboe. She was perfectly still, relaxed in her bed the entire time. I think she approved.

Playing music did not erase our questions or concerns. But it did provide some moments of contentment. Music is powerful, therapeutic. And the therapy is even sweeter when it’s a social distance duet with a friend.


The Winter’s Passed by Wayne Barlow
Lisa Wagner, Oboe
Kelley Morris, Piano

Storms

I am currently re-reading an old favorite, “Hinds’ Feet on High Places” by Hannah Hurnard. I love this allegory, especially the main character, Much-Afraid. This book was first introduced to me by my precious friend, Shannon.

Read her story here. ❤  Instant Friends

A specific passage caught my eye as I read this morning.

“…while the storm still furiously raged outside, there they were, sitting around a crackling fire, warming themselves and drying their sopping garments while they drank comforting hot cocoa and satisfied their hunger. Though the uproar of the tempest without was almost deafening and the hut shuddered and shook in every blast, yet inside was nothing but peace and thanksgiving and cheerful contentment.”

What a goal. To experience that kind of inner peace, no matter the storm outside.

I once heard someone say the following regarding life and storms. At any given time…

  • A storm is approaching
  • A storm is raging
  • A storm has passed

For me, it seems finding peace is most difficult when the storm is approaching. The clouds are far off in the distance, but it’s only a matter of time before it arrives. The “calm” can be thick with tension. Questions are constant. What if, what if, what if…

The time before the storm is when my anxiety builds. And then when the storm finally arrives, it fades. I just have to push through. That is when I realize I never really had any control anyway.

Although storms cause us to question, they seldom provide answers. They are sometimes accompanied by sorrow and suffering. But I must believe that the possibility of peace exists. Even when it is hard to find.

Each of us has to find our way through the storms. But we do not have to face them alone.

“Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.” Psalm 57:1

In Tune

Last week a piano technician came and tuned my new piano. Even though it is a beautiful new instrument, there are several reasons it needed tuning. Being moved to a new location. Sitting in a different space, with different temperatures, on a different type of floor. All factors that affect the way it sounds.

I listened as the technician worked. She listened to such tiny details. The way she would tune one note to its octave counterpart. When I played those notes together in a chord, I didn’t notice that they were out of tune. But hearing her pick them all apart, it was obvious.

The mechanics of a piano are fascinating. My explanation to students is usually simplified. Your finger presses down the key, which causes a hammer inside the piano to strike a string producing the sound.

Watching my piano being taken apart, actually viewing the insides, gave me a new perspective. Each piece has its place and must be perfectly aligned to produce a high-quality sound. Even a new piano needs time to adjust and sometimes requires a little assistance.

One thing stood out above the rest, voicing. I asked the technician about adjusting the voicing, making it a little less bright. Basically, taking the edge off of the sound. She explained that part of that process involves the felt material on the hammers.

A needle is used to soften the felt. When done correctly, it does not damage the material. It just slightly changes the way the hammers strike the strings.

Once the piano was put back together, I sat down to play. Wow! What a difference. Not only was it in tune, but it also had a much warmer tone. The sharp edge had been softened.

This experience made me think about my life. What if I’m in a new place, with new surroundings, expectations, and people? What if my reaction is one of fear or frustration? My words may sound edgy, sharp, or out of tune.

Like the felt on those hammers, something inside me needs to be softened. An adjustment might come in the form of an honest word from a trusted friend. Yes, stings for a moment. But the sting will not last if accepted with grace. The knowledge that someone loves me that much, however, is lasting.

Hopefully, as I continue playing my piano, I will be reminded to check my own tone. And will gracefully accept any needed adjustments to keep me in-tune with my husband and children, family and friends, the world around me.

“As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” Proverbs 27:17

Schumann Arabesque Opus 18. One of my favorite piano pieces. Only the beginning theme and the conclusion. ❤

Beautiful Technology

I would never have thought of using those two words in the same sentence, until today. Our current state of social distancing and quarantine, however, has given me new perspectives on many things. And after my experience this afternoon, I can safely say technology can be beautiful.

It has been over ten years since I taught at the University of Tulsa. Two of my then piano students, now friends, convinced me to get a Facebook. This kind of technology was definitely new to me at that time. I was a little hesitant but soon embraced it as a way to communicate and connect.

These two girls, Sara and Grace, are now married. Grace has three precious children and Sara is expecting her first. Even though they initially helped me appreciate the usefulness of social media, I did not think of it as beautiful. Wouldn’t you know, my change of perspective involved these girls.

Today I attended a virtual baby shower via Zoom to celebrate Sara’s baby girl. Grace was one of the hosts. Was it the way we hoped to celebrate? No. We would have preferred to be physically present, giving hugs, eating cake, and drinking punch. But right now, that is not possible.

Celebrations, however, are still possible! Thanks to technology, a group of people came together. We came together to express our love for Sara, her husband, and for this precious baby who will be here soon.

We watched as Sara opened gifts that had been mailed or dropped off. We laughed and looked at baby pictures of each other. We listened as she received parenting advice given with love and wisdom. No, we were not in the same room. But our celebration was no less meaningful.

Yes, it was different from our usual traditions. Yes, I would have loved to hug my friends today. But the most important thing is for the expectant parents to feel loved and prepared to welcome their little one. And hopefully, today brought both. I’d say today was a picture of beautiful technology at work. ❤

Blank Slate

As I opened up my computer to write this morning, all I could think was, “look at that blank page.” No idea what I wanted to write about, I just knew I needed to write. And then it occurred to me all these days at home are truly blank slates. There was no advanced plan for them. Each one is faced truly not knowing what the next one will bring.

Although that is true of our daily reality, we don’t often live that way. We make our plans, plan our trips, and dream about the future. Don’t misunderstand, those are important things to do. However, they must be balanced with the acceptance that we never truly know what tomorrow holds.

Even more than future planning, these circumstances make me think of missed opportunities. For example, if a specific person comes to mind today, I am more likely to send a quick text. Three weeks ago, I might have pushed it to the back of my mind. “Oh, I will contact them tomorrow…”

Not that I am following through on every thought, but I am working on being more intentional. I’ve already experienced the payoff in some ways that may seem small. One “Hello, how are you” text yesterday resulted in a sweet phone conversation about life and changes. It also brought much-needed tears and encouragement. That conversation will stick with me for a long time.

Another experience from earlier this week also made a lasting impression. I was thinking about dropping off a small care package to a dear friend. The plan was to leave it outside her door, get back in my car, and wave from a safe distance. Even typing it, it sounds silly. I almost didn’t do it.

Thankfully, I decided not to worry about looking silly. When my friend walked out of her front door, I found myself wanting to jump out of the car, run over, and give her a hug. She even had to remind herself not to keep walking in my direction. Driving away, I fought back tears.

My takeaway? We need each other. We miss each other. And I cannot wait to once again freely embrace my family, friends, colleagues, and students. I don’t know when that will happen.

Until it does, I will keep looking at these blank slate days with faith and hope and love. And just maybe, cover that blank slate with a little kindness. ❤

“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” I Corinthians 13: 13