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. 🙂

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/

Dream Team Lattes

I work with an amazing team. We are Art, Music, and P.E. teachers at our elementary school. A.K.A the Dream Team, five years strong! The pink t-shirts we wear on Wednesdays give it away. Students have even started referring to us by our nickname.

Every student may not love each of our classes the same way. We know they have their favorites. But they all know we care about them and they know without a doubt that we are a team.

Love these Ladies! ❤

Our matching t-shirt idea has grown to quite a collection over the past few years. In addition to the original pink Dream Team shirt, we also have a sisterhood, Rosie the Riveter, and peeps shirt, all pink of course. This year we added a silly turkey shirt for Thanksgiving and a Santa’s Favorite (Music, Art, P.E.) Teacher. Each new shirt requires a new group photo. So much fun!

Recently I’ve been thinking about why we make such a great team. Each of us is in a different life stage-a grandma, an almost empty-nester, and a young mom. Tami takes care of the group-bagels on Friday, chocolate, cream for our coffee. Shannon keeps us organized, always remembering what needs to be done and when. And then there’s me-the emotional, sometimes scattered one. We balance each other well.

No matter what, I can count on these ladies. If I’m having a hard day, they will pick me up. When there’s a program or assembly, it’s not just my responsibility. Always a team effort. Tami sets up the stage, gets mics ready, etc. Shannon creates backdrops, artwork, whatever is needed. Both help organize and chorale students while I play piano or run a rehearsal. Our team is a well-oiled machine.

This morning I stopped at Starbucks to get our team a little pick-me-up. Only two days until spring break. Shannon was also bringing us a treat. For once, we would surprise Tami. She never lets us do anything for her. But today was the day!

As I pulled in the school parking lot, a little too sharply, the drink carrier sitting quietly to my left tipped over. I honestly thought all three drinks had poured out in the floor. Panicked, I lifted the carrier back up. Only one cup was empty. The other two still had their lids on securely. I don’t know how.

Quickly checking the drink labels, I realized the spilled drink was mine. Disappointed? Yes, but also glad it was not one of their drinks. I made it inside, shared my story with Tami, and borrowed an umbrella.

I could not believe I’d spilled an entire latte in my car! And how was I going to clean it up? Did I mention it was raining?

Back outside, armed with dry and wet cleaning cloths, I attempted to clean up my mess. Picture me, in the rain and wind, holding an umbrella, squatting next to my car, trying to clean up coffee and foam. Quite a sight, I’m certain.

Once I was back inside, wet and wind-blown, what did I find waiting for me? Half of someone else’s Starbucks drink, poured into my empty cup, sitting on the desk. I wonder who would have done that? 😉

This morning, things did not go as planned. But they turned out ok. We enjoyed our dream team lattes, a snack, and had a good laugh.

💓💓💓

Oh, and my car smells like coffee…

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

Depleted

I had brunch with my dear friend, Marina, this morning. We caught up over coffee and yummy food. It has been a busy couple of weeks, and friend time has been scarce. I don’t think I realized how much I needed this time until it was over.

Near the end of our visit, my friend looked at me and said, “You really are depleted, aren’t you?” I chuckled at first. She tends to use what I would call formal words in casual conversation. It is her way, and I love it. This term, however, stuck in my head. Depleted.

When I got home, I wrote the word down. Hmmm…an interesting word. Looking up the definition lead to a list of synonyms: exhausted, sapped, drained, expended. Yep, that’s how I’m feeling. (Honestly, I might have stayed in bed all day had my friend not called.)

Then I scrolled down to the definition part you never take time to read-the Latin word roots, etc. There I saw these words-emptied out. Wow! An entirely new perspective. In order for something to be emptied out, it must have been full at one point. This must also have been true of me, even if I can’t remember when right at this moment. 😉

Instead of thinking, “I’m so tired, there’s so much still to do.” What if I take the time to be refilled? What would that look like?

The upcoming week is musical performance week. Double responsibility. However, I can’t wait until it’s over to begin this process of refilling. So, what is my plan?

Take each day as it comes.
Pray and read-things that calm my thoughts.
Eat a healthy breakfast.
Drink more water.
Take short naps after school each day before call time.
Go to bed early.
Enjoy playing for this amazing show!

By the way, antonyms for depleted are energized and full. I know it will take more than a day to get there. Nevertheless, hopefully, this fresh perspective will remind me that when I am feeling depleted, it is time to slow down and remember to take care of myself. That is the only way I can go from depleted to full.

And this process might just begin by having brunch with a friend. 🙂

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!”