Carry Them With Me

My daughter, Rachel, and I made a trip to Hobby Lobby yesterday. Her goal was to purchase frames for her newly acquired teaching certificate and college diploma! They are now ready to be proudly displayed.

I was also shopping for something to display. A storage box or pretty container for storing letters. Not just any old letters. Letters which were written by my husband, Gart.

We have moved many times over the last twenty-six years. Somehow, I managed to keep up with the letters. They have occupied several different boxes and resided on a variety of closet shelves. As we prepare to move from our current home after fifteen years, I decided they need a more prominent location.

Rachel and I walked down the aisle of decorative boxes. There were many shapes, styles, and colors. One immediately caught her eye. “Ooh look. This is cute! It looks like a mini-suitcase.” After exploring several others, I returned to Rachel’s pick. Perfect!

Once home, I carefully transferred Gart’s letters to their new home. I couldn’t walk away without reading several. Sweet memories.

Some were typed, carefully folded, and placed in envelopes. Others hand-written on notebook paper and folded in half. Each marked with his unmistakable signature. 😉

The messages were just as varied as the paper on which they were written. Notes from when we dated, the rest scattered throughout our twenty-six-year marriage.

I miss you. I love you. I’m sorry.

The new box is proudly displayed on my dresser. As I glanced at it this morning, my first thought was, “How perfect! My collection of love letters carefully placed in their very own suitcase.”

I will always carry the sentiments expressed by the words in my heart. And the papers on which the words were written? I will continue to carry them with me, in their very own suitcase, wherever this life leads. ❤

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!

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?

Time Apart

”Absence makes the heart grow fonder”

Does time away from a loved one really make us feel closer to them? I can only speak from personal experience.

Our married life began with time apart. Soon after our May wedding, my husband, Gart, was hired as the band director in Hominy, OK. He would need to begin working in July to prepare for marching season.

We were so excited about this new chapter! Then reality hit. His first paycheck would not come until late August. We could not afford to go without income. I would need to stay with friends in Fayetteville, AR and keep working while he moved to the apartment where we would both eventually live.

During this time apart, we saw each other most weekends. Weeknights consisted of long, tear-filled phones calls. It was a long two months, but we survived. Looking back, I’d say the experience made us stronger.

Spending a week apart became part of our summers as well. While Gart worked at a summer band camp, I would spend a week with my parents. Once we had kids, it became a perfect opportunity for them to spend time with grandparents.

I believe those times apart early in our marriage helped us truly appreciate one another. It laid a foundation of security and trust. Knowing that even when we were apart, we were okay.

Fast-forward twenty-five years. Our kids are practically grown. That empty nest time is just around the corner. As I type, Gart is out of town for work. Not quite the same as our previously planned time apart.

Honestly, these days I prefer when we are both at home. Maybe it’s because I am getting older. This new life stage. Selfishness. I’m not certain. I only know that when it comes to time apart now, less is more.

As I drove my husband to the airport early this morning, all I could think was, “I’ll be so glad when he gets home this weekend.” ❤️

A Calvin-n-Hobbes t-shirt & James Taylor

My first memories of listening to music on my own involved carrying around my Bicentennial ’76 transistor radio. There were no headphones. I just walked around the yard holding this little treasure up to my ear. I’m certain I heard James Taylor’s “You’ve Got a Friend” and “How Sweet it is” many times on that tiny device.

My first memories of actually playing James Taylor songs came from a pink songbook entitled, “Contemporary Sounds of Music of Today.” “Fire and Rain” & “Country Road” graced this collection, and quickly became two of my favorites. I would play them on piano and quite often an aunt or cousin would be standing behind me singing along.

Fast forward through high school. Although I heard some of JT’s new releases, I was busy working on my bachelor and master’s degrees in music. Much of my time was spent in a practice room or rehearsing with other musicians. Very little time was left to simply listen to music for pleasure.

But there were moments…a concert in Fayetteville, AR during grad school comes to mind. Here I heard “Your Smiling Face” live for the first time. This was like a second beginning of my love for James Taylor’s music, and the first of many concerts I would attend.

Though it feels like a lifetime ago, there is one song, one small moment in time, which stands out above the rest. Grad school again, my future husband, Gart, and I had just met. My life was kind of a mess.

He introduced me to the song “Like Everyone She Knows” (by James Taylor, of course.) I listened to it on repeat one entire weekend while visiting my family. The more I listened, the more it seemed to be talking about me.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/like-everyone-she-knows/169612785?i=169613674

The more I listened, the more I realized Gart was someone special.

I often tell people Gart rescued me. He would say I’m being overly dramatic, but I would have to disagree. Somehow, he was able to see through the mess and here we are twenty-six years, three kids, and six cities later.

I’m thankful for the way he encourages me while challenging me to stretch myself. He likes to say things like, “Life is hard, life is messy, but it is also awesome and beautiful.” And if feelings of doubt or guilt creep in, he reminds me that the difficult times helped make me who I am today.

I’m thankful for the beauty of poetry and music, creating a song with the power to touch my heart. A song which somehow felt like it was written just for me. A song written by my favorite singer, James Taylor (in case you haven’t already figured that out), and introduced to me by a cute guy wearing a Calvin-n-Hobbes t-shirt who was willing to take a chance.

Merry Christmas, Gart. Thank you for continuing to rescue me. I love you!

Happy Anniversary!

Fifty-four years
Quite a long time
To spend with someone
Morning, noon, and night

Coffee in the morning
Always a kiss goodnight
Moments in between
Praying for all to be right

An example for our family
And all others they may meet
Showing a love so strong
Though also simple & sweet

Happy Anniversary Mom & Dad!
Your wedding vows held true
Richer or poorer, sickness & health
To you both-a grateful Thank You!