Best Shot

As I scanned the radio stations on my drive to school this morning, a song caught my ear. A perfect song for the day after a “snow/extreme cold” day off yesterday.

Hit me with your best shot
Why don’t you hit me with your best shot
Hit me with your best shot
Fire away

I laughed upon hearing the intro. Immediately I am back in high school, performing in the school talent show with my friends. In case you’re wondering, our line-up also included Eye of the Tiger & Beat It!

Such a rebel. Look at those shoes! 😂

I love telling people I used to be in a rock band. Trust me, not as impressive as it sounds. 😉 But, oh, it was fun!

After this short trip down memory lane, my thoughts turned to the day ahead. These cold weather, inside recess, needing some sunshine kind of days are tough. Part of me wanted to be back under my warm covers, reading a book, puppy dog on my lap.

My sweet Poppy!

Yet there it was. This song. Taking me back in time, making me smile.

Refocused on the present, I found myself thinking, “Come on day! Give me your best shot. I’m ready for whatever you might throw my way!”

Although it was still too cold for outside recess, the sun did shine today. My face did not freeze during afternoon car duty. Honestly, I have no complaints about the day.

Maybe it was simply an easy day. However, I cannot help but think that one specific song on the drive to school affected my attitude. Music is powerful. Yes, even 80’s rock music. It helped me determine to give the day my best shot.

What about tomorrow? I might need to download some Pat Benatar to my Apple music playlists. It couldn’t hurt! 🎶😊🎶

https://youtu.be/x5kisPBwZOM

View from the Top of the Stairs

This week it is time for solo-n-ensemble rehearsals. High school students come to my home after school to practice for their upcoming competition. Currently, my piano is upstairs in an open loft area. So, while I was waiting for my last student to arrive I sat down at the top of the stairs.

I love looking down into the living room from upstairs. It provides an interesting perspective. The light is different. Seeing the space from above causes me to notice things I might otherwise overlook.

We have taken many photos from this angle over the years. Family photos, Christmas decorations, furniture rearranging.

My favorite pic from this vantage point was secretly taken by my daughter, Rachel. So many reasons to love this photo. The warmth from the Christmas tree and lighting. Playing music with my son, Robert, practicing Christmas Time is Here by Vince Guaraldi.

“There’s never a moment without music in our house.”

Rachel is not in the photo, yet she is in the center of the memory. I can picture her upstairs in her room, listening to us practice. What made her think to snap a picture? I’m not sure. However, the memory of playing this particular music with Robert might not be as clear if not for her thoughtfulness.

My view from the top of the stairs today isn’t nearly as exciting or memorable. Yet the more I think about it, the more I realize how much it connects with this photo from the past.

Rachel’s caption for her photo was, “There’s never a moment without music in our house.” Something I hope will always be said about our home.

Why was I sitting at the top of the stairs today? I was taking a rest from making music…waiting to make more.

Country Road

My daughter, Rachel, and I saw James Taylor in concert yesterday evening.  This was my sixth JT concert over the past 26 years, Rachel’s first.  I can truly say he never disappoints.  His songs are timeless and his sound seems to grow stronger and warmer with age-kind, genuine, personal.

Me and my girl!

Listening to his songs has a way of lifting my spirits.  Obviously, he did not write any of them for me. 😉 Yet, particular ones remind me of specific times and places from my own life.  Country Road immediately comes to mind.  Hearing it again last evening…beautiful.         

I guess my feet know where they want me to go
Walking on a country road

Just the thought of this song makes me smile.  Hearing it live and in person transports me back to my childhood.  Riding my bike and going for walks down our country road.  Always with the specific instructions, “Do not go past the red clay hill!”  

This winding road from my parents’ house to the highway is only about ¼ of a mile long.  As a kid, however, it seemed much longer, mysterious.  Thick forest on each side of the pavement made for limited visibility.  Any rustle in the leaves had the power to trigger our wild imaginations.  Although there have been rare sightings of bears and big cats in the past, I’m certain most of our unexplained noises came from birds and lizards.

I walked down that road many times for many reasons.  Playing with my cousins, getting some fresh air, eating too much Thanksgiving dinner, spending time with a special aunt or a friend.  Walking, talking, running, riding…a foundational place in my growing up. 

Some things have changed over the years.  The forest thinned.  A few houses now scattered in the woods, visible through the trees.  No more red clay hill.  Yet, there continues to be something special about taking a walk down that road. 

Memories may fade over time.  Great songwriters have the power to bring those memories back to life.  Singer/songwriters like James Taylor.  Songs like Country Road. Take a listen. https://youtu.be/2Dsph5uikX0

Pieces of Your Heart

Grandparents are special people. My grandparents were an essential part of my childhood. Spending time with them was important. As a child, you don’t really think about losing them. You imagine they will be part of your world forever. Then you become a young adult, or in my case, a high school student and that idea is shattered.

When my Grandpa Mahar died, it was very sudden. Early on the morning of July 4th, he woke up before anyone else, sat down in his favorite chair, and did not wake up again. We had seen him the day before. The family would be gathering on the 4th to celebrate. How could he be gone?

I mostly remember shock and tears from that day, almost thirty-five years ago now. The reality of my mom losing her dad brought a new perspective on the frailty and brevity of life on this earth. And it was made even more difficult because there had been no chance to say goodbye. This seemed especially hard for my mom and her siblings.

This was not the case for my own children with their first loss of a grandparent. Before my father-n-law passed away, we knew our time was limited. Watching as death approached was not easy, but we found comfort in having time to say goodbye. He will have been gone for three years this coming week, and we miss him more with each passing year.

One circumstance is not easier than the other, just different. Grief is present in both. We hang on tight to memories. We look at photos, share stories, cling to anything that reminds us of the person we lost. And as soon as we think our grief is fading, a birthday, holiday, or other event brings it right back to the forefront.

Sometimes the grief catches us off guard, and we are encompassed by unexpected emotions. How do we respond? That depends on the person, for we are all different. But here are a few personal thoughts:

When tears well up
Let them fall
When your heart aches
Let words flow
When a friend is near
Lean on them
When feeling motionless
Take one step
When tempted to forget
Remember
For that memory
Is a piece of your heart

A memory of my Grandpa Mahar: He is wearing overalls and telling me if I do him a favor, he will dance at my wedding. 😉

A memory of my father-n-law: He would always bring me a box of See’s candy when traveling to California. We both had quite a sweet tooth. 🙂

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4

After Christmas Blues

Took down the tree today
Feeling a little sad
No more green or lights
House looks rather drab

Ornaments and nativity sets
Each piece carefully put away
So many sweet memories
Saved for another day

Perhaps I'll buy some flowers
To bring back some of the cheer
Which was put away in the boxes
With Christmas...until next year

I was listening to some James Taylor today and the following phrase from Before This World/Jolly Spring Time struck a chord. https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/before-this-world-jolly-springtime/980668059?i=980668068

Yes the winter was bitter and long
So the spring'll be sweet
Come along with a rhythm and a song
Watch creation repeat

I know winter is just beginning but the hope of spring is ever present.  Trees will once again bud and flowers will once again bloom. We must look for it in the moments of sunshine and patches of blue.  Or in store-bought flowers placed in a favorite vase.

Person, Place, or Thing

While recently visiting my parents, I spent an afternoon helping my mom rearrange and clean out their den. She and my dad had purchased two new recliners and wanted to make this space a little cozier and less cluttered. My mom is the queen of knick-knacks and definitely has difficulty throwing anything away. My dad also tends to hang on to certain items…just in case he might need them. I may take after them just a little bit…

After our work was finished, some unused/no longer needed objects were gone. The room felt very inviting and everyone was happy. Our little project caused me to think about my own view of things. My husband has often accused me of being too sentimental toward certain possessions. Shhh…don’t tell him, but he may be right.

What is it about those things? Items you just can’t get rid of. Things like gifts, cards/artwork from your children, concert programs. You get the idea. Yes, when you received them, they touched your heart. A memory was planted in your brain forever tying that one thing to a specific person or place.

Here is my question. If you no longer have the object, is your memory any less significant? In times past, I would have argued that logic. Surely if I give away something given to me, I might run the risk of forgetting someone or someplace important. Even as I type the words, that logic sounds a little silly.

As I’m getting older, the thought of simplifying my life becomes more appealing. Perhaps I could be persuaded to change my thinking concerning getting rid of some possessions. Of course, some would automatically be excluded. The serving plate and bowl my mom gave me. The Hummel’s and candy dish which belonged to Gart’s grandmothers. Unusual items, not easily replaced.

What happens if I choose not to keep every single thing ever given to me by another person? Does that make me a bad person? Does it mean the person or place represented is no longer important? Of course not!

I’m beginning to understand that it’s always the person or place, not the thing, that I am actually holding onto. The impact someone had on my life. How being in a specific place changed my perspective and possibly my direction.

Keeping material momentos has no bearing on any personal relationship gained or influence bestowed. Truthfully, these three words should always be listed in the following order of importance:

  • Person
  • Place
  • Thing

That being said…when it’s time to pack up this house in which we’ve lived fifteen years and raised three children, getting rid of certain things will most assuredly be difficult. Nonetheless, I’m determined to simplify life and stop hanging on to the unnecessary. I’m quite sure my husband will be relieved to hear of this recent revelation. Let’s just hope I can stick to it! 😉

“…Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”  Luke 12:15

Thanksgivings Past

Today is Thursday, November 22, 2018, Thanksgiving Day! As the day begins, I realize one of the things I’m most thankful for is the ability to remember. There are specific people, places and foods which come to mind with each Thanksgiving past. They all blend together, creating a beautiful tapestry.

As a child, my family spent Thanksgiving next door at my grandparent’s home. There were lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins. With thirty plus people present, finding a place to sit was often a challenge. Thus, the phrases “On your feet, lose your seat” & “Butt in the air, lose your chair” were uttered often with laughter.

I had two important Thanksgiving jobs growing up. One was stirring the pie filling for my dad’s chocolate pies until it began to thicken. It seemed to take forever, but oh so worth it! There would always be enough filling left for a few small bowls. My second job was chopping the pecans for mom’s four-layer carrot cake, using a hand-crank chopper. Remember those?

Our family also made the fruit salad, complete with marshmallows and coconut. The funny thing is, every year we’d forget to take it out of the fridge. About the time we were ready for pie, someone would say, “Hey, where’s the fruit salad?” Better late than never, I guess.

After I was married and had my own family, there were new Thanksgiving traditions. Sometimes we would host the family meal, having my family travel from Arkansas to Oklahoma to be with us. Other years we would have dinner in Owasso with Gart’s parents, his sisters and their husbands, and our nieces. There were also times our family would travel to Arkansas, and I would share childhood memories with my children.

A couple of Thanksgivings were spent far away from home. The first was a trip to Colorado. My parents, Gart’s parents, and our three children spent Thanksgiving in a cabin in the mountains. Complete with snow, fire in the fireplace, a big picture window, and deer in the front yard. Except for one harrowing drive during the snowstorm, it was a perfect trip!

Then there was Thanksgiving in NYC.  A once-in-a-lifetime experience. Our daughter, Rachel, marched in the Macy’s Parade. Watching the parade on television had been a tradition every year for as long as I could remember. Seeing it in person was so special. Even though it was the coldest parade day on record, and we survived by taping hand/body warmers all inside our clothes and shoes!

So many great memories. So many things to be thankful for. Yet in the middle of them, there are moments of grief. The Thanksgiving we’ve talked about most the past couple of days is November 2015. The pictures confirm the meal was at our home. A photo of Gart, his dad, and Robert-three generations. Gart’s parents sitting at the bar. Gart’s dad in the kitchen helping his granddaughter, Hannah, and daughter, Andrea. Typical snapshots from any of our family gatherings. What we didn’t know, however, was that it would be our last Thanksgiving with my sweet father-n-law.

So, what are our plans for this year? Today will be a quiet day at home. Me, Gart, Gart’s mom, two of our children. We will watch the Macy’s parade, eat a simple meal, but we will also prepare food for Friday-cornbread dressing and chocolate pies! Friday we will all travel to Dallas. A huge meal and celebration have been planned at Paula and Martin’s home (Gart’s sister and brother-n-law.) Friends, family, even a great grandbaby will enjoy each other’s company, eat lots of good food, while adding to our beautiful tapestry of memories.

Will there be moments of sadness? Most definitely. People we love dearly will not be with us. Some for the first year, some for the third year, and so on. We miss them. Their absence felt even stronger on days such as this. Days we know they loved because they were about family.  Yet through the sadness, we will be thankful. Thankful for the memories of Thanksgivings past.