Two Places at the Same Time

Our family has two graduations to celebrate next month. Our youngest son, Ryan, graduates from high school. Our daughter, Rachel, graduates from college. Each milestone represents commitment, hard work, dedication. Each represents a big step, moving forward in life.

As a mom, I am thankful and proud. Also, a little emotional. You can imagine my disappointment to discover both graduation ceremonies will occur on the same night, at the same time, in two different locations!

No matter how many ways I attempted to resolve this dilemma, nothing worked. Extended family and friends would certainly help make sure both kids were supported. Even though each would understand any choice I made, it felt like I’d be letting someone down. How could I possibly choose?

My husband is an administrator in our district. He has graduation responsibilities. There was no question which he would attend. Besides, he has had the privilege of handing our daughter and oldest son, Robert, their high school diplomas. It would only be right for our youngest to have the same experience. Plus, I need that third picture. 😉

So, what should I do? I continued to weigh options and fret about these things which were out of my control. And then, my children stepped in. Here I am, worried about disappointing one of them, and they provide not only the solution but with the perfect logic.

It all began as I visited with Robert. I was talking about graduation, not knowing what to do. Robert said, “Mom, this is Ryan’s first graduation. You need to be there. Erin (his girlfriend) and I will go to Rachel’s. We can livestream her walking across the stage, so you don’t miss it.”

Wow! That did sound like a good idea. But what would Rachel think?

I shared Robert’s solution with her, and her response was precious. “Mom-Dad needs to be there to hand Ryan his diploma, just like he did for me and Robert. And you need to be there to see it.” So matter-of-fact and without hesitation. I could not argue with her reasoning.

There were some tears. But these tears were no longer due to sadness over missing an important event. These were tears of joy. Joy because my children provided a thoughtful solution for their mom. They understood how difficult this was for me and why. And their decision showed how much they value our family.

On May 13, 2019, I will proudly watch my husband hand our youngest his diploma, just as I have for the other two. Hopefully, technology will allow me to also see Rachel walk across a different stage, on the other side of town. Believe me, if I could be in two places at once, now would be the time. Since that is physically impossible, I will leave it to my heart. For my heart can be in two places at the same time. Possibly even three… ❤

The Nest

Do you find the word nest interesting? I do. Appearing in a wide variety of phrases, it easily connects with the idea of home. These phrases bring images of feathered friends as well as our own lives as parents. I thought it would be fun to make a list.

  • Love nest
  • Nest egg
  • On the nest
  • Nesting
  • Hornet’s nest
  • Empty nest

I recently noticed a bird gathering supplies to build their nest. Twigs it would weave into a home. This lead to memories of various nest observations from the past. Tiny blue eggs one day, newly hatched chicks the next. Baby birds with their mouths wide open, clamoring for tiny bites of food from their mom. Little chirps silenced only by the care and protection of parents.

Memories of deserted, empty nests followed. Sometimes seen in trees or found on the ground. Both sad and beautiful at the same time. Intricate weaving still intact. Leftover fuzzy feathers stuck inside the twig walls. Reminders of the former flurry of activities. Now quiet.

Much like parenting…

What brought on these notions concerning nests? It certainly could not be the fact that our youngest graduates high school in less than a month. 😉 We feel the empty nest rapidly approaching. So before our flurry of activities has come and gone, here is a little poem from this mama bird.

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?

Thoughts from the Orchestra Pit

Have you considered how many times in our lives are we called to provide a foundation for something we will never get to see? Parents, teachers, even musicians in an orchestra pit can all relate to this dilemma. How will we know if all our hard work paid off? Did we provide enough support to lead to a positive outcome?

Decisions we make as parents definitely fit that description. Parenting is hard work. We raise our children not knowing what their future holds. All we can do is our best. Trusting that we laid a strong, though most assuredly imperfect, foundation.

This idea also applies to a teacher. Think about all of the students a teacher inspires. New groups every year multiplied by the years taught. The numbers can be staggering. And the range of influence for all of them cannot be seen. Yet teachers continue to lay a foundation for students to learn and be successful.

As I was practicing in the orchestra pit this week for our upcoming all-school musical, it hit me how the experience provides a literal illustration for this truth. Think about it. All these amazing musicians, hidden under the stage, working hard every day to play beautiful music. And their music provides sure footing for everything that happens on stage.

The downside? We never get to fully see the amazing things occurring on stage. If there’s a long enough pause in the music, we might stand up and catch a glimpse of the actors and sets. Since we are performing during the most dramatic and exciting parts, those we never get to see at the moment.

Although it makes for an interesting predicament, those of us in the pit wouldn’t change a thing. We get to be a part of something bigger than us. Something which takes many people doing many different jobs to succeed. The final outcome is incredible, and we get to be the foundation. (Not to mention, it’s a fun place to hang out.) 😉

Even though we may not be able to see the final outcome in each of these situations, there are moments which affirm our choices. For a parent that affirmation may come in witnessing a thoughtful or compassionate action by their child. For a teacher, it might come in a simple thank you from a former student. No, not the end result, but the motivation to continue doing what needs to be done.

So, what about those musicians in the orchestra pit? What is that moment for us? I’d have to say it’s at the very end of the show. That moment when all the singers, actors and dancers have taken their bow and they direct the audience’s attention to the pit. They all point in unison towards us, showing their appreciation while encouraging the audience to do the same.

Hopefully, this reflection will help me look for more of those significant moments instead of worrying about the future. Realizing what I do today is important. And that I am not working alone. No matter which role I happen to be in on any given day, there are others right alongside me, working for the same outcome, laying the same foundation.

Here’s to hope for the future, which just happens to include a bunch of talented students performing in a musical-on stage and in the pit.

Good snacks in the pit are a must! 😉

Hope, Love, Hate

Hate: hostile actions motivated by intense dislike or prejudice.

Hate is such a powerful word. When it is encouraged and allowed to grow, the results are devastating. When our kids were young, we taught them not to use that word, especially when referring to another person. Yes, there are times we might not like someone. Everyone does not have to be our best friend. However, to say you hated someone-that was never acceptable.

This year is the 25th anniversary of the release of the movie Schindler’s List. To honor that anniversary it was re-released in theaters this past weekend.

My husband and I saw this movie when it originally came out. Even after 25 years, I remember feeling like I couldn’t move when the movie ended. I was crying, of course. How could I not cry at the sight of so much hate?

It is still difficult for me to imagine how such atrocities occurred and continue to occur in our world. Yes, I know they happen.  And movies such as Schindler’s List make sure we don’t forget the past. 

Love: an intense feeling of deep affection.

I also know there is love. I’ve witnessed its outpouring on others and experienced it in my own life. And yet…the hate still remains.

As Gart and I watched this powerful film once again, this time with our three grown children, different things stood out to me. There’s a particular scene where Jewish people are being put on trains for transfer out of the work camp, most likely to Auschwitz.

Oskar Schindler, a German businessman, sees the people peering through the small windows, gasping for air. He asks the Nazi soldier in charge to give him water hoses and begins to spray water into the cars, providing a small bit of relief.

It may not have seemed like much. Perhaps a sip of water. A moment of cooling in the middle of cramped, unthinkable conditions, crammed into a train car like cattle.

I walked through one of these train cars when visiting the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.  Small, dark, cramped. I can’t begin to imagine the fear which filled the air as those doors were closed.

The man in charge asked why Schindler wanted to spray this water. Why he would offer them even a moment of hope. His response was, “Humor me.” But there was desperation in his eyes. He knew he had to do something.

Hope: grounds for believing that something good may happen.

Mr. Schindler started out as a businessman, interested only in making money. But in the end, he helped save the lives of 1,200 Jewish people during the Holocaust. There are some 6,000 descendants from this specific group of people.

Near the end of the film, Schindler becomes inconsolable, anguishing that he did not save even more people. He was presented with a gift, a ring, with the inscription, “Whoever saves one life saves the world entire.”

That is hope. Hope which leads to love. Love which will eventually overcome hate.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21

This Girl Still Needs Her Mom

A young teacher friend, also a mom of young kiddos, mentioned asking her mom to come over and help her this evening. She’s tired and rightfully so. Having once been a mom of young kids, I can relate. Without a thought, I chimed in, “Call her! If my mom wasn’t 4 1/2 hrs away, I would have asked her to come see me yesterday.”

I always appreciated times my mom and mother-n-law helped out when our kids were young. The grandpas too, for that matter. I’m still a mom, but the kids are all grown up. I no longer need the same kind of help as when the kids were little.  But is it possible I need my mom now more than I did then?

After the brief conversation with my friend today, all I could think about was how much I miss my mom. We talk or text almost every day. I know I’ll see her over the Christmas holidays. But at this moment, today, that seems like a long way off. My brain says it’s not, but my heart doesn’t seem to follow.

A new, young country artist, Kacey Musgraves, recently caught my ear. Following are a portion of the lyrics from her song entitled Mother. This short, sweet song seems to know right where I am these days.  Take a listen.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/mother/1350091548?i=1350091553

I'm just sitting here
Thinking about the time that's slipping
And missing
My mother
Mother

And she's probably sitting there
Thinking about the time that's slipping
And missing
Her mother
Mother

The longer I’m a mom, the more I appreciate my mom. Lately, I find myself wishing I could spend more time with her. The 260 miles between us sometimes feels like a million. Maybe it’s because the older I get, the more I understand the brevity of time. Maybe it’s because I’m starting to realize that she understands how I feel most days…she’s been there already. Not in the exact same circumstances, perhaps, but the same stage in life.

Today I’m grateful for smartphones and texting. At least I can communicate with her daily. That will have to do for now. I look forward to a big hug from Mom (and Dad) in a few weeks. And when I actually see her in person, I’ll let her know how much I love her. She’s my mom.

And this girl still needs her mom.

Life is Letting Go

We’ve had some important family events in recent weeks.  Celebrating our youngest son’s 18th birthday with extended family and friends, marching band senior night-our third and final ending a 10-year period of being band parents. Milestones for our family of five to be certain.  And even though the focus was on the celebration, my mind often drifted to change.

The two days previous to senior night, I found myself fighting back tears.  As Friday approached, I worried about not being able to get through the coming events without uncontrollable crying. Thankfully, I was wrong.  But oh, was it exhausting.

I am one who believes in expressing your emotions.  Crying in front of others is not uncommon. I also recognize that there are times when those emotions must be pushed to the back burner. This was one of those times.  Truly it was a time to celebrate, and I’m happy to say that’s exactly what we did!

The following week it was time for senior pictures and finishing college applications. More changes coming…too soon. Positive changes to be certain, but my emotions rose to the surface once again. That’s when I realized, this process of letting go was starting over. Part of my life as a parent for which there is no handbook, no warning-until it hits me in the face.

As a parent, I’ve experienced this in both big and small ways while watching my children grow. Taking their first steps, climbing up that slide ladder independently, their first day of school. Driving off alone in their car for the first time, going on a first date, and moving off to college. Each time I have to let them go, tiny pieces of my heart go with them.

Today I must put one foot in front of the other, dry my tears, and face the day with hope. Hope because these three I get to call mine are already making a difference in this world. Hope because the people they are becoming causes my heart to overflow, as those missing pieces return.

In order for them to continue flying, I have to continue letting go. That’s how life works.  I can either fight against it, holding on for dear life or embrace the truth-life is letting go.