Outside In

Felt like a stranger
Looking in
A window
Confused by
The actions
Witnessed
Tones detected
Perceiving
A cycle
Of frustration
Embarrassment
Tears and
Exhaustion
Asking questions
Inside my head
What is wrong?
Why so upset?


Felt like a stranger
Looking in
A window
But I was not
A stranger
And I was not
Looking in
A window
It was a mirror
My reflection
In the panes-
A realization
That left me
Wondering
Whether to take
A step back
Or lean in closer

Admitting feelings of anxiety and depression is not always easy. And even harder to explain. This poem is an attempt to describe that feeling of being outside myself. Knowing my actions and feelings don’t make sense, but having difficulty controlling them.

I share because someone reading may need to know they are not alone. And simply put, it helps me accept my reflection with a bit more grace and understanding. ❤️

Three Little Words

No, not I love you. I am sorry.

Taking responsibility for our actions is not always easy. A lesson that often needs repeating. A reminder from someone else’s example, perhaps.

The week before Christmas break at school is challenging. Emotions flowing between teachers, staff, and students cover the whole spectrum. No matter how many times we experience this phenomenon, it manages to sneak upon us.

Such was my experience with kindergarten this week…

My classroom management skills are good. But this day, the combination of tired, grumpy, and excited (me and the students 😉) took over. Class ended on a frustrating note.

The next day, one of my little friends saw me at lunch.

Mrs. Morris, I made you something. It’s in my classroom. Something to make you happy!

That afternoon, I received five apology notes. ❤️

May we all remember to say those three little words whenever necessary. And may we receive them with grace and understanding whenever offered.

Birthdays

Today is day one of year fifty-three! How is that possible? And my oldest son, who was born on my birthday, turns 26!

Teaching school on your birthday means lots of kids asking, “How old are you?”  I always make the older ones do the math.  But if youngers ask, I just tell them. 

Their reactions are precious!  And good for my self-esteem.  At least one will say, “Oh, you look a lot younger than that!” 😉 Of course today, one also mentioned that 53 was almost 100!

Birthdays are a time for celebrating and reflecting. And I have definitely felt celebrated! I suppose this poem is my reflection. ❤

Digging Holes

Some days I am
Tempted to dig
Holes deep in
The ground
Deep enough
To bury regrets
Yet, experience
Teaches that will
Only leave behind
A landscape marred
By mounds of guilt-
Perhaps planting
Would be a better
Choice than burying-
Sowing seeds
Of encouragement
Instead of judgment
Acceptance instead
Of comparisons
Recognizing that
Each of us has
Holes we could dig
Regrets we could bury
But we also have
The power to help
Fill ones scooped
Out by others
Tending a landscape
Covered by the beauty of
Love and understanding

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. ❤

Unknowns

Our current circumstances are filled with many unknowns.

There is a new virus spreading quickly. How long will it spread? I don’t know.

As a teacher, I will be planning for distance learning. What exactly will that look like? I don’t know.

I must stay at home. When will I be able to hug my extended family and friends again? I don’t know.

Upcoming travel plans have been canceled. When will they be rescheduled? I don’t know.

I don’t know about you, but I am getting tired of that phrase. 😉

I may be oversimplifying, but somehow admitting that I don’t know helps a little. It forces me to take a step back and breathe. To realize these circumstances are new to all of us.

Earlier today, I found myself feeling frustrated over some of these unknowns. The voice inside my head kept saying, “Just breathe.” Then I remembered an exercise I often have students do when it is time to regroup and focus.

  1. Breathe in through your nose. 1, 2, 3, 4.
  2. Breathe out through your mouth. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.
  3. Repeat as often as needed.

I just did the exercise twice. Yes, I know it is simple. But right now, simplicity is what we need. At least, it is what I need.

So, what else is on my simple list? Coffee, music, texts, and phone calls are near the top. Zoom and FaceTime are also on the list. But grace and love are at the very top.

As I breathe out my frustrations, I breathe in the need to show grace. And showing grace is an expression of love. And I don’t know about you-sorry, there it is again-I need all the love and grace I can get right now. Especially during this time of unknowns.

“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” Proverbs 12:25

“But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.” Psalm 59:16

Just What I Needed

“When darkness seems to hide His face, I rest on His unchanging grace. In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil.”

Words from a hymn I’ve known since childhood. Words I’ve heard twice this week in a newer version of the song. The rhythms and melodies were new, but the words remained the same. A combination that evoked a much-needed sense of peace and rest.

The first hearing brought back memories. The second hearing brought the realization of just how much I needed to remember.

Yesterday, I received my second steroid spinal injection. I’m happy to report no fainting this time. Whew! However, it left me feeling anxious and restless. And though extremely tired, unable to sleep.

My evening became a cycle of panic, no sleep, and tears. The thought of my 5:30 A.M. alarm loomed. Followed closely by the thought of teaching school after only three-four hours of sleep. All I could think was, extra coffee!

My morning classes were surprisingly successful! Time with students and teacher friends seemed to help my energy increase. Even my fifth-grade class after lunch was acceptable. 😉

But then, my energy began to fade. I could feel myself hitting a wall. How in the world would I make it through physical therapy after school? For a few seconds, I considered canceling. After all, I just had that injection yesterday. Surely they would understand.

But when I got in my car, there was that hymn again. I smiled and began to sing along. On this second hearing, a new phrase stood out; “Weak made strong, in the Savior’s love.”

So I headed to physical therapy, my energy starting to return. A bottle of water and a protein snack pack may have helped a little. It helped my body anyway. But it was the music that lifted my spirit.

Therapy left me with a feeling of restored purpose. And though I walked away tired, it was a good tired. A tired that reminded me of the importance of taking care of my physical body.

All of this from the simple words of a new/old hymn. A hymn I heard twice in one week. Reminders of love, strength, and grace. Old words combined with new music to provide just what I needed.

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.