Danger High Cliff

I snapped this picture on a recent weekend getaway with my husband, Gart. The lodge we visited was built on the edge of a cliff. Views of the valley below were breathtaking. Birds flew all around. It was a perfect spot for some quiet relaxation.

But that sign…I chuckled the first time I walked past. I even witnessed several people coming and going safely from the entrance to the trail. Still, I was hesitant.

After breakfast on our first morning, we ventured toward that sign. We walked the short distance down to the edge of the cliff. It was a narrow trail, but not scary, except for that “edge of the cliff” thing.

When we reached our stopping point, there were several big rocks-
perfect places to sit and rest. Some seats were closer to the edge than others. No surprise, I chose the first available seat. Gart, however, picked one just a few steps further.

The logical part of my brain knew he was in no real danger. But the anxiety, afraid of heights part of me-well, it struggled. We were both seated, taking pictures, enjoying the scenery. Both perfectly safe. Yet, my imagination had him slipping and falling off the edge.

Later in the day, I thought about that hike and the warning sign.
Life kind of feels that way right now. Like there is a danger sign around every corner. It is easy to become fearful and anxious.

At this moment, I am safe and healthy. My family is safe and healthy. But the news reports daily virus increases. There are increased warnings about travel, the importance of masks, and social distancing. Not to mention the impossible questions concerning a return to school.

Like the edge of that cliff, the potential for danger is real. And just like the warning sign at the trailhead, there are potentially life-saving signs offering help through the pandemic. But only if I read and follow the signs.

Gravity & Grace

We are currently in a state of constant, overwhelming information. And though I try to limit my intake, anxiety has a way of creeping in. It is easy to lose sight of what truly matters.

These two poems provide a glimpse into how quickly my state of mind changes. Some days are a constant battle between worry and trust-anxious and calm. Can you say rollercoaster? 😉

Maybe you can relate. ❤

Gravity

The pressure
Begins to build
In the center
Of the chest
Pushing past
The heart
Welling up
In the throat
Seeking an
Escape route-
Tears falling
From my eyes-
No consequence
Weight remains
Reason requires
Assistance
A temporary
Reprieve
Help from the
Unexpected
A song playing
On the radio
Laughing, I
Shake my head
Momentary release
From the gravity

Grace

Not considering
Personal gain
Instead, seeing
Another in the
Light of grace
The same grace
Through which
Each one of
Us desires
To be seen
Grace that places
Selfish interest
Out of sight
Out of mind
Where it belongs
Two people
Face to face
One saying
I see you
I hear you
And I want
To know you
Not a request
An offering
Of friendship

Home to Home

I left home at the mature age of seventeen and, except for one summer, never came back. My mom often reminds me. 😉

Before college, I had lived in the same house my entire life. I attended the same school, first grade through senior year, and was surrounded by extended family.

And even though I needed to find my own path, the place where I grew up would always be home.

A recent visit with my parents caused me to think about the word home. Especially the idea that home has little to do with the actual place.

As I pulled up in the driveway, my dad was waiting under the carport. Mom came right out as if she’d been listening inside for my car. Soon, we were talking about everything from the kids to work, politics, church. And, of course, the pandemic and quarantine.

They’re so cute. ❤

As an adult, I enjoy this time alone with my parents. Being there by myself means my only role at that moment is a daughter. Even if this visit brought some adult daughter anxiety.

Due to the current pandemic, I had to be very careful about where I stopped on the four-and-a-half-hour drive from our house to theirs. My parents are over seventy, Mom a breast cancer survivor and Dad with diabetes and kidney disease. Their health is currently good, and I couldn’t bear the thought of exposing them to this virus.

My anxiety quickly faded as Dad asked, “How’s my little girl?” Mom said more than once, “I’m so glad you came.” At face value, simple phrases. Yet, they wrapped me in the love and security I experienced growing up.

When going to visit my parents, I say I am going home. And when it’s time to leave, I use the same phrase. I guess both are true. Home is about the people not the places.

I may have to leave tiny pieces of my heart behind when leaving one, but I know they will be refilled upon arrival at the other. Not the same, but new, and whole.

A sweet paradox, traveling from one home to another. ❤

Green Green Grass of Home by Claude “Curly” Putman, Jr.

The old home town looks the same
As I step down from the train
And there to meet me is my Mama and Papa…
It’s good to touch the green, green grass of home


Question?

Question of the week-
Which is harder
Only seeing faces
On a screen
Or seeing faces
In-person, yet
From a distance?

The computer screen
Filled with little faces
Smiling, waving, singing
An adventure
Controlled chaos
No group hugs
Yet, welcome connection

The short visits
In-person, tho
Physically distant
No pats on the shoulder
Yet, beautiful smiles
Kindly delivering
Much-needed messages

Both experiences
Bring a rush
Of emotions
Tears, happy and sad
Despite attempts to
Swallow the lumps
In my throat

Maybe it’s not
A question of difficulty
Instead, a reminder
Both complex
And beautiful
Of how desperately
We need each other
Up On the Roof by Carole King/Gerry Goffin
"And if this world starts getting you down
There’s room enough for two…"

Welcome Back!

This week I was able to go back to my classroom for a short time. Take things off the walls, put away personal items, clean off my desk. Basically, the process of closing things up for summer.

Typically, this day happens in late May and is followed by a celebration with colleagues at a local restaurant. We congratulate each other on making it through the school year. We talk about plans for the summer. Not this time…

The building was empty, quiet. Only a few teachers are allowed in at the same time to work. The only sounds came from the precious workers in the cafeteria, busy preparing the food being distributed to our families.

My daughter, Rachel, went with me to help. Both of us wearing face masks. It didn’t take us long to get things packed away. I only had two small boxes to carry home-some personal piano music and my Freddie the Frog puppet.

The final step was turning in my keys. This action usually comes with a sigh of relief. A pause in responsibility, allowing rest after a hard year’s work. Not so much.

Once we were back home, I found myself feeling grumpy and irritable. I tried reading a little. I had a zoom meeting with my team-our last official one of this year. Everything just felt strange.

Maybe a nap would help. Clear my head, at least. It did not completely change my mood, but it did allow some perspective.

It’s no surprise I was feeling strange! This is not how the school year is supposed to end. It is supposed to end with celebrations, hugs, goodbyes, and even a few tears. Those things will not happen.

I was missing that “Hooray for summer!” time with colleagues because I missed the “Hooray for summer!” time with students.

My classroom is empty. Ready for a fresh start. Hopefully, that fresh start begins with a happy, “Welcome back!”

Freddie will be making appearances in some upcoming Zoom meetings. 😉 ❤

A Little Warmth

Our Sunday evening Chinese take-out was more yummy than usual. Although the day started on the dreary side, the sun came out this afternoon. Only a few clouds and the early evening temperature was perfect.

So, what does that have to do with the take-out? Well, we decided to eat dinner outside on the deck. The fresh air felt so good. And while we ate, my feet were soaking up the sunshine. The combination helped ease the tensions of the day.

Once we were done eating, my family went back inside. I decided to linger awhile. Moving to another chair, I turned directly toward the sun. Head back, eyes closed, sweet warmth covered my face.

Those few moments alone in the sun were just what I needed. Soon, the sunshine was hidden by the clouds, so I went inside. My daughter asked if I’d like to go for a walk. Off we went.

As we walked through the neighborhood, we noticed birds singing. Ducks were swimming in a pond, and there was even a turtle sticking its head out of the water. There was a family playing frisbee. Neighbors waved from their front porches.

We rounded a corner, and guess what I felt on my face once again? That warm sunshine. And now it was beginning to set. Not only providing warmth but also beauty.

Back home, it was time for reflection. These are unsettling days. Keeping our distance, missing my friends, missing my co-workers and students. Wanting answers to questions. Wondering how long this will last. And on and on and on.

Sometimes, the simplest things make the biggest difference. Take-out on the deck. Sunshine on my face. A walk with my daughter. Food, sun, and family-It is amazing the power of a little warmth.

Oh, I almost forgot. And music-music helps, too. 😉

Fire and Rain

Won’t you look down upon me, Jesus
You’ve got to help me make a stand
You’ve just got to see me through another day
My body’s aching and my time is at hand
And I won’t make it any other way
James Taylor

Ripple Effect

Our district, Union Public Schools in Tulsa, OK, currently has four sites working daily to provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner for children in our community. In one week, over 70,000 meals were distributed. Today marks the end of week four.

It takes a massive amount of work for this to happen. There are so many people behind the scenes planning, organizing, preparing for this need. And many other volunteers step in to help with distribution.

Whether they realize it or not, those working in the background are creating ripples. Not just a pebble tossed into a pond, more like a boulder lobbed from the shore. All of them working together to create a lasting, powerful ripple effect.

Just imagine. A family drives through the line. They receive enough food to feed their children for that day. And they can do the same thing the next day. Actually, every day, Monday through Friday.

The parents and children realize how much their school community cares for them. They share their experience with friends and extended family. A tiny glimmer of hope in an unsettling time.

No, this is not the answer to all of the problems families are currently facing. Many are dealing with job loss, not to mention isolation. But not having enough food? I cannot imagine the fear that brings.

I hope it is these kinds of things we will remember when this time has passed. People recognizing a need and doing whatever it takes to fill that need. People working tirelessly with no thought of their own recognition.

I hope these difficult times remind us to stop and look around. To see acts of kindness. And to recognize each as a ripple with the ability to become a wave.

A wave of compassion that has the power to wash over us all.

A ripple effect with endless possibilities for positively impacting the future.

Welcomed Guest

Computer screen
A dozen windows
Energetic teacher
Excited students
Smile and wave
Learning together
Finding their way
In this new normal
Students engaged
Sharing projects
Listening intently
A read-a-loud
Started before
Quarantine
Now continued
...during
In this new
Familiar
Yet, unfamiliar
Space
Older siblings
Quietly sneak 
In the background
Hoping to be seen
Younger siblings
Sit in laps
Soaking up
Extra attention
And me?
Grateful to witness
The energy of
A dedicated teacher
Grateful to see
Smiling faces
Hear familiar voices
To say, “I miss you.”
Grateful to be
A face in one
Of those windows-
A welcomed guest

Masks

One mask
Worn in
An attempt to
Hide insecurities
Creating a
Covering over
Anxious emotions
Though not physical,
A protective shield
When worn
Only for
A short time-
Another mask
Worn in
An attempt to
Fight sickness
Creating a
Material barrier
Between one person
And the next
Necessary
Yet, separating
Separating
Yet, protecting
Each mask
Tangible or ethereal
Serving to preserve
A way of life
An inward plea-
Guard your heart
An outward plea-
Protect your health
Lifesaving
Petitions that
Must never
Be ignored
Both masks
Providing an
Opportunity to see
Others in a new light
Both masks
Providing a
Reminder~
We desperately need each other ❤

Special Delivery

There is something I have wanted for quite a while. A material possession, but so much more. An object, but also an extension of my being.

If you are a musician, you will understand. An artist, a writer-anyone who utilizes something material to help express their innermost thoughts, emotions, and feelings-you will relate.

I am sure you have guessed by now. A piano.

I have played many pianos in my lifetime. Starting with the old upright at my grandmother’s house and then the spinet my parents bought me when I was a girl. We have had a couple of pianos in our home. The most recent, an electronic piano.

While I am thankful for the technological capabilities, I miss practicing on an acoustic piano. Due to my recent neck and arm issues, I struggle with the touch. Now that we are home for this unknown period, I desperately want to practice.

I know he will not want any recognition, but he is getting it anyway. My sweet husband understands this connection to the piano. He understands my need to play.

We had been talking about getting a new piano. Looking ahead to summer. Those kinds of plans are easier to focus on when school is not in session. Then everything changed.

Suddenly, there was no more going back after spring break. The reality that we would be home for an extended time began to set in. I began to feel restless.

After some research, we arranged for me to safely test out four pianos. The one I chose was delivered last week. My mom has already received a recording. Some friends suggested a FaceTime concert. The possibilities are endless!

No, this does not change our current world situation. However, it will bring a little joy to my corner of the world. And just maybe, that joy will spread. That is certainly my hope. On that note, here are my first couple of recordings.