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!”

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.

Friendship=Success

My classroom is a big open space. Perfect for music! I created smaller areas within this large space using sit spots. A big circle, visible right as students enter. We use this space for movement activities, games, drum circles, etc. A rainbow row of dots in front of the Smartboard. These create rows where students have their own music spot to sit.

We often move from one area to the other multiple times in one class period. This was true Wednesday during first grade. As students began to transition from our circle to their music spots, I noticed one precious girl assisting a friend. She was speaking calmly and sweetly to her friend. Both of them smiling, holding hands.

I was just about to remind this helpful girl about the location of her music spot. After all, she was heading in the wrong direction. Thankfully, I did not say anything. An interruption would have been sad. The friend she was helping is a sweet boy who happens to have Down syndrome.

We have some awesome paras in our building. They attend specials with specific groups of students. Because of their disabilities, these friends just need a little extra guidance to have a positive experience in class. These ladies provide invaluable assistance which makes that possible.

Although success in regular education settings is an important goal, how much more valuable is gaining a friend? For a friend can help us in ways no one else can. A friend is something we all need. Some might even say having a friend is a success.

This week I witnessed a sweet new friendship. I hope it continues to grow. I hope to encourage many more.   


Right Where We Left Off

I love the way certain friendships seem to transcend time and space. Life’s circumstances may take us far away from each other. Yet when our paths cross again, we pick up right where we left off. When reunited, it feels like nothing has changed and no time has passed.

Today I realized how much I take this phenomenon for granted. I always thought of it as a natural occurrence. Something you simply experience over time, not something you are taught. Maybe that comes from growing up in a loving home, having friends from an early age.

But what happens when a child grows up in the opposite?

Rachel and I took a little road trip to visit our sweet friend, Marie. Our short visit was well worth the almost three-hour drive. We had Christmas presents to deliver and it had been several months since we’d seen her. The year prior to her foster home placement, Rachel and I saw her almost weekly, so we were very excited about this visit! (See earlier post for more of Marie’s story.) https://pianogirlthoughts.wordpress.com/2018/08/13/face-to-face-with-child-abuse-personal-reflections-of-a-teacher/

Marie had requested Braum’s for our meeting place. You can’t go wrong with ice cream! We arrived, all smiles and ready for hugs. Her initial reaction was interesting. Lots of eye rolls and shoulder shrugs in response to our questions and attempts at conversation.

Her foster mom reassured us she had been really excited to see us. We trusted this was true, she was just not quite ready to show it. With patience and persistence (about 10-15 minutes worth) Marie was smiling, holding Rachel’s hand and laying her head on my shoulder. Finally, we were right where we left off.

On the drive home I was thinking about our visit, trying not to cry. Those goodbye hugs do it every time. Not to mention my daughter saying things like, “You’re doing really good, Mom.” 😉

As Rachel and I talked about the day, it suddenly hit me. Of course Marie would have reacted that way. This child has never had a secure home, was abused for years, tossed from one facility to another. And on top of all that, she has developmental disabilities. Before she was finally placed in this amazing foster home, the uncertainty of her future was difficult for her to understand.

We often had the following conversation:

Marie: What if I go someplace else?
Me: What are we?
Marie: My friends.
Me: Yes. And wherever you go, we will see you.
Marie: Ok.

Then she would smile. And that explanation would suffice for maybe a week…or a day. Now that she is in a loving home, our conversations have changed. She laughs as she tells me about her mom, dad, siblings, and extended family when we talk on the phone. She enjoys going to school and is making new friends. She is happy.

Marie knows we love her, but we cannot expect her to understand this idea of “picking up where you left off” just yet. She will need to experience it many times. Hopefully, time will continue to heal. And maybe one day she will be able to trust that we are true friends. Friends who pick up right where they left off, no matter the miles apart or the time gone by.

Stuck in the Mud

Have you ever felt stuck?  You take a step, suddenly realizing it was the wrong step to take. I remember having that literal experience once as a kid. My cousins and I were playing kickball, a common activity when we were together. Someone kicked the ball into a ditch, and I went to get it. The minute my foot sank into the mud, I knew I was stuck.

For a brief moment, I felt a sense of panic. It seems a bit ridiculous looking back now. What could possibly have happened? Maybe I’d seen too many television portrayals of people sinking into quicksand. You know the ones. A bystander yelling at the would-be victim to be calm and still, yet panic sets in and they proceed to sink until their hand finally disappears.

All I needed to do was stand still and call for help. And of course, help came. With a group of cousins around, I certainly was not alone. One of them assisted with pulling my foot out of the mud. The only casualty that day was my tennis shoe.

Many steps taken in this life are much less literal, yet come with much more significant consequences. So what happens when a step is misguided or poorly chosen? Certain decisions in my teen and young adult years left  me feeling trapped, afraid my life was messed up permanently.  Regret and guilt crept in, causing me to feel like I was sinking further down in the mud.

Thankfully I eventually discovered ways to counter those fears. Simply choosing to be still, although difficult, was a start. If I could just wait instead of panic, maybe another bad decision would be avoided. Next, it was time to call for help. That help came in different forms. A prayer, a simple phone call to a friend or family member-often both.

“Casting the whole of your care (all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all) on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.” I Peter 5:7

“…but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24

A friendly listening ear often guided me toward a fresh perspective. There was not always an easy or instant answer, and that was sometimes hard to accept. Yet in spite of unavoidable consequences, with some guidance and faith, I was able to take a step in a new direction, no longer feeling stuck in the mud.