“Mrs. Morris Said So!”

A parent stopped me in the hall this morning. ”Our family had an interesting conversation about you at our house last night.” My first thought was, “Oh dear. What did I say?”

Her daughter, a first grader, was sharing all the things she wanted to be when she grows up. Her older brother chimed in, saying she would have to choose. She could not be all those things. Her response? ”Yes, I can! Mrs. Morris said so!”

As the mom and I continued to talk, I remembered an impromptu conversation from her daughter’s class the day before. At the end of class, we watched the Wintergatan Marble Machine video. Students love this video, and so do I! It sparks imagination and encourages great discussions. https://youtu.be/IvUU8joBb1Q

After students watch the video for the first time, I ask the following questions. Do you think the marble machine creator is a musician? An engineer? A builder? A mathematician? The answer is always yes! This leads to conversations about what students want to be when they grow up. I love to encourage the idea that they don’t have to be just one thing.

On this particular day, I mentioned that I had not always been a music teacher. Being curious little beings, several began to ask about my other jobs. So, I shared my list. I have worked as a piano teacher, staff accompanist, college instructor, paraprofessional, special education teacher, and currently an elementary music teacher.

Apparently, this one little girl took our conversation to heart. At home, after declaring, “Mrs. Morris said so!” she continued with “Mrs. Morris has been at least five or six different things.” Then she proceeded to share my list with her family. She really was listening!

Her mom and I had a good laugh. Our conversation ended on an encouraging note. “The kids just love you.” Her kind words started my day with a smile.

I’m thankful what stuck with her daughter was not, “Mrs. Morris was grumpy today.” Some days that is true. And I also learned an important lesson. Evidently “Mrs. Morris said so!” carries a lot more clout coming from a self-confident first-grader than from a grumpy Mrs. Morris. 😉

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.

Breathe

Too much time and energy

Spent fretting over things

Far beyond my grasp

Tension…all it brings

Why such a battle

Between control and trust?

Learn to embrace the latter

Learn to ignore the first

There is a bigger picture

One I hope to see

If only I will let go

Allow myself to breathe

Pack a Bag!

We are preparing to put our house on the market. Work to be done-minor repairs, small updates, painting. The tallest order being the painting of the entire interior. We’ve never experienced this before. We have painted a room or two, but not an entire house. Definitely a job for the professionals.

So, the professionals came yesterday. Originally they were coming later in the week. Not that any of the following would have changed…

The crew came early in the morning. We headed to school and work, not giving much thought to this process. Fast forward to the late afternoon. Drywall repairs all done. Windows covered and taped. Trim taped. Plastic tarps covering everything else, and I do mean everything.

The closet, bathtub, shower, and bathroom cabinets all sealed shut. I couldn’t get to my clothes, makeup, hairstyling stuff-nothing. Only one thing to do. Laugh and have a little adventure. Not too far, of course, we had work the next day.

Ryan headed to his friend’s house for the night. Gart and I made a Target run. A blue t-shirt for $8, underwear, toothpaste, and some inexpensive makeup. I would wear my jeans again but had to have a clean shirt and underwear. Deodorant? There was some in my desk drawer at school. Hair? Ponytail for the second day in a row.

After Target, we were ready to crash. A quick stop at Sprouts and we had dinner to take to the hotel. Thank goodness, our room had a microwave, coffee pot, and some decaf. The decaf a necessity to accompany the brownie we bought to share.

Getting ready the next morning, I realized my new blush and powder did not come with any brushes. Who knew Kleenexes could substitute? I glanced in the mirror-it would have to do.

Extra coffee helped me get through the day. A sweet kindergarten boy said, “I like your shirt, Mrs. Morris.” If he only knew. A 4th-grade girl gave me a hug and asked, “Are you okay, Mrs. Morris?” “Yes, I’m ok. Just a little tired,” I smiled. Pretty sure she could tell I was a little out of sorts.

Tonight our adventure continues. I’ve only cried once-Sorry, Gart. ❤ Ryan is at his friend’s house again. Another night in a hotel for us. This time I have a change of clothes, my own makeup, and flat iron. Oh, and I don’t have to wait until I get to school to put on deodorant. 😉

The painters will be finished tomorrow. Things will go back to normal. We will be one step closer to selling our house. The result will be well worth the little inconvenience.

I hope we never have the need to paint a whole house again. One thing is certain. If we do and the painters call to say, “We will be there tomorrow,” the first thing I will do is pack a bag!

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. 🙂

Flat on my Face

Flat on my face, not a position I would intentionally choose. This phrase conveys negative connotations and feelings of discomfort. Though it was not from a fall, I spent some time in this unpleasant position today.

I had an MRI this afternoon as a follow up to some previous tests. The check-in was not unusual. I filled out forms, answered questions, reviewed history, signed consents…donned lovely hospital fashions and prepared for an IV.

For this particular series of images, I had to lay flat on my stomach, face down, arms stretched out above my head. Towels covered everything and cushioned my face and elbows. As I said, not a position I would purposefully choose. But necessary, at least for a short while.

Earplugs in place and a panic button in hand, the table begins to slide into the tube. I would hear no voices until the test was finished, about thirty minutes unless I squeezed that panic button. And even though there were moments I wanted to shout, “Is anybody there? Are we almost done?” I remained still and silent, the panic button un-squeezed.

As the machine began to do its job, loud noises surrounded me. Many different timbres, volumes, and tempos filled the small space. Feelings of panic filled my head. “Just breathe. You can do this.” I began to pray. I silently sang some favorite hymns.

When anxious thoughts crept back in, I would start the whole process over. I must have repeated the same three hymns several times, not to mention Psalm 23. The words, “We’re all done,” never sounded so sweet. Pretty sure my response was, “Thank goodness!” 🙂

Changing back into my clothes, I looked in the mirror. Towel marks imprinted on my face. Gart noticed them as soon as I entered the waiting room. They wouldn’t last but provided a temporary reminder of the previous thirty minutes.

Tonight, those marks have disappeared. The loud noises quieted. Some amazing truths remain. Prayers are powerful (my own and my friends). Hymns and pep talks are powerful. Knowing Gart was in the waiting room the entire time, also powerful.

These truths all worked together to provide assurance. Assurance that I could keep from squeezing that panic button, and that I would not remain flat on my face.

Thinking of summer! 😉

Pancakes & Sr. Trips

We’ve enjoyed a variety of family traditions over the years, dependent on where we lived, the age of the kids, etc. One favorite was Saturday morning pancakes. We started this one the year we lived in Liberal, KS, far away from extended family and friends. A simple thing, but so important for us as a family.

Not all traditions happen as often Saturday morning pancakes. Actually, there is one family event I never thought of as a tradition until our final one. The senior trip…

As each of our children approached their high school graduation, Gart and I asked them to choose, within reason, a place they would like to visit. The choices of these three proved as varied as their personalities. Robert? Colorado. Rachel? Washington, D.C. And Ryan? New York City!

Dad planned, saved, worked out all the details, ensuring the graduate experienced all the activities on their list. What was Mom’s role? Let’s just say I learned how to let go a little. And began to recognize my babies were not babies anymore.

It all started in Colorado. What could be more relaxing? A quiet cabin, hiking, fishing, feeding the chipmunks, coffee on the deck…but those were my plans. Robert and his friend, Jeremy, had something much more adventurous in mind.

These two 18-year-olds successfully hiked to the top of Mt. Elbert, 14,400 ft., the highest peak in the continental U.S. It was difficult to hear them drive away that morning, before dawn. I wanted to yell one more, “Be careful!” Honestly, I can’t remember what I said. I only remember being proud (and relieved) when they returned that evening.

At the top!

If that accomplishment was not enough, they went white water rafting the next day, again unaccompanied, this time with a younger brother in tow. Talk about letting go!

Excited younger brother!

Our second stop in this Morris family tradition was Washington, D.C. This trip was a little different for our family. Robert, busy with college commitments, could not go. Only 4 out of 5 would make the trip. Another mom adjustment.

What an amazing trip! Our Rachel, compassionate and a history buff, was so excited! Highlights included the FDR memorial (her favorite president) and the Holocaust Museum. These experiences strengthened her passion for special education and equality. Watching her soak in the meaning behind these places, I learned more about history, but more importantly, I learned more about her.

Her favorite president!

Our final senior trip took us to NYC! I was ready for the change in family dynamic this time. Ryan would be the only one of our three kiddos going, accompanied by his friend, Will. We packed in as much as possible. Times Square, Joe’s Pizza, Uptown Comics, Empire State Building, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Statue of Liberty, Museum Of Natural History, Rockefeller Center…

First night in the city!

How was there time for a “letting go” moment? For me, there’s always time. 😉 The end of day two we headed back to our hotel. I was exhausted and needed a break. The boys wanted to do more shopping at Rockefeller Center. We exited the subway, Gart gave them directions, and we went our separate ways.

I might have held back a few tears as the two boys took off on their own…walking down the street…in NYC! I fought the urge to yell after them, “Be careful!” My thoughts suddenly traveled back in time six years to Colorado. They would be just fine.

That’s my baby!

As I sat on the flight home, post-graduation trip number three, the end of a family tradition, I had a revelation. Yes, these trips highlighted changes in our family dynamic. Yes, I had to learn to let go a little. Yes, I learned things about my kids. But there was always one constant right beside me-Gart.

We are in this marriage/family thing for the long haul, no matter what. I cannot imagine my life without him. I’m thankful Gart had the wisdom and forethought to not only begin this senior trip tradition but see it through to the end.

Here’s to new family traditions. And maybe revisiting some old ones along the way. I think Saturday morning pancakes might be a great place to start. Pancakes anyone?