For the First Time

We are in our fourth week of school-during a pandemic, attempting to social distance, everyone wearing masks, etc. School, unlike anything we have experienced before.

Today, during my fifth-grade class, I had this sudden urge to see their faces. At the end of music class, I reminded them about the importance of wearing masks. Then I told them I missed seeing their faces, and we would be taking a quick mask break.

I explained that we would take our masks off, then I would count down from five to zero, and we would put them back on.

Those five seconds felt like walking out into the sunshine. Smiles everywhere! Then I heard a student shout, “Mrs. Morris!” As if he had just recognized me!

As we put our masks back on, I started to tear up. “You look like you’re about to cry,” another student said. “I am,” I admitted. “And now my glasses are fogging up! How am I supposed to read you guys a book?”

We all laughed. I choked back my tears and made it through a few pages before it was time to go.

Wow! Four weeks in and today, it feels like we saw each other for the first time. I had forgotten the power of a smile. And multiplied by twenty, well, there is nothing quite like it.

This one, spur-of-the-minute decision changed the trajectory of my whole day. Yes, the masks were still there. But for a few seconds in each class, I saw sweet faces. And those sweet faces have no idea how much they helped this struggling teacher. ❤

A Hug I Could Not Refuse

Social distancing guidelines do not allow for hugs in most situations. And compared to my typical teacher hug routine, I would guess I’m about 90% successful at school. Although honestly, it feels more like missed opportunities than successes.

One day last week, there was an opportunity I’m glad I did not miss.

Music class is supposed to be fun and engaging. At least, that is my plan. And when I cannot seem to get a student interested, engaged, connecting-it is frustrating. Last week I had one of those kiddos.

In our first class together, there was constant disruption. This student showed no desire to participate. No matter what I tried, he was determined to get out of the room.

The next time I came to this class, something was different. I have no idea what had happened before my arrival, but my friend was sitting there ready for music.

Now, several reminders and redirections were needed, but there was also participation! And he made it through the entire lesson. Even though it was a small step, I counted it a success.

Later in the day, I walked past the same class heading out to recess. I caught the eye of my friend. “You did a great job in music today. I am really proud of you,” I said. He stepped out of line and sheepishly reached one arm out to give me a hug. His reach was hesitant, his eyes looking down.

Needless to say, social distancing guidelines flew right out the window.

This was a big step, and a hug I could not refuse. ❤

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

A Social Distance Duet

I love playing the piano. And playing the piano in collaboration with another musician is even better. It requires a whole new level of concentration. But it also provides a whole new level of enjoyment.

Not only am I reading and listening to my part, but I am also doing the same for the other instrument. One section on its own does not make sense. But when played at the same time, harmony in motion. Almost like two characters telling the same story from their own perspective.

Even though collaborative playing is one of my favorite ways to experience music, it has not been part of my life in more recent times. Right now, my professional life is more focused on teaching. Playing is mostly for my own enjoyment.

That is ok. I am not complaining, just setting the scene.

Here we are, many months of living during a worldwide pandemic. The school year ended strangely. So many plans put on hold. And just when it seemed things were improving, our numbers are on the rise again.

There are so many questions about the future. How long will this last? What will school look like? It is easy to feel anxious.

What better way to calm anxious thoughts than some musical collaboration?

My friend, Lisa, came over and brought her oboe. Lisa and I teach music in the same district. She is also a professional musician. We have talked many times about getting together and playing music.

What better time than during the middle of a pandemic?

My music room has glass doors that open up to the main entrance. So, we opened the doors and sat a chair and music stand in the entryway. That way, we could still maintain a social distance but also have a sightline.

We played music for almost two hours! The time flew by. My fingers got a workout, but my brain was at peace. The music was beautiful! And we had the perfect audience, my miniature dachshund, Poppy.

Poppy’s bed was placed between the piano and the oboe. She was perfectly still, relaxed in her bed the entire time. I think she approved.

Playing music did not erase our questions or concerns. But it did provide some moments of contentment. Music is powerful, therapeutic. And the therapy is even sweeter when it’s a social distance duet with a friend.


The Winter’s Passed by Wayne Barlow
Lisa Wagner, Oboe
Kelley Morris, Piano

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…"

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.

Quarantine Dream

I had the strangest dream. The first dream I can remember from the last several weeks.

I was walking alone in our neighborhood. The sun was setting, it was beginning to get dark, but I did not turn around and head home. As I continued walking, I noticed a stranger approaching.

I remember feeling a little uneasy. What should I do? Turn around? Cross the street? But no, I kept walking. And soon, this stranger was right in front of my face.

We were soon having an in-depth conversation. I was sharing details of a personal, emotional story with this person I had never seen. It struck me as odd to be sharing this story with a complete stranger.

One other thing struck me as strange. This person seemed to have no sense of personal space. He was listening intently, but his face was only a few inches away from mine. A little uncomfortable, to say the least. Yet, I continued talking.

I had to laugh as I gave this dream some thought. The idea of reunions has been on my mind. I picture a day when I will go back to school, meet a friend for coffee, visit family. In each scenario, those involved physically knock one another over as we reconnect with hugs, laughter, and tears.

If I spend too much time on that picture, sadness creeps in. Right now, we don’t know when that will happen. But our plans remain aimed at that day somewhere in the future. And as we plan, we hope.

Until then, my quarantine dream reminds me of the importance of connections. Get ready friends, I am looking forward to some “knockdown” hugs. And though I also hope for new connections in the future, I’d prefer ones that are a little less creepy. 😉

Zoom!

Raise your hand if you’ve been in a Zoom meeting this week! If I had to guess, probably more than one. Teachers in our district are zooming in, making plans for distance learning. I’ve been part of several over the last few days.

It is nice to see familiar faces and catch up. It is also a great space for brainstorming and sharing ideas. It can also be a little overwhelming.

One thing keeps making me laugh. Every time I see or hear the word Zoom or get an invite to a Zoom, I have flashbacks to my childhood. Anyone else?

The show Zoom dates back to the 1970s. It has nothing to do with online video conferencing. Or does it?

I loved watching this show as a kid. I remember it being informational yet entertaining. It was kids talking to kids.

Today I decided to look it up and see what information I could find. Here are some of the lyrics to the original opening song:

       Come on and zoom, zoom, zoom-a-zoom
       You’ve gotta zoom-a-zoom-a-zoom-a-zoom
       Come on give it a try
       We’re gonna show you why
       We’re gonna teach you to fly high
       Come on and Zoom!
       Come on and Zoom Zoom!

Watch the opening scene. There is music, dancing, introductions. And at one point, a screen full of faces. A diverse group of kids, working together to teach as many kids as they can reach, about all kinds of things. Sounds a little familiar.

Think about it. This idea of distance learning is new for most of us. We have different levels of comfort concerning technology. Yet, we all have knowledge worth sharing.

So, here we are, coming together, Zooming through this process together. Learning from each other as we go.

I’m pretty sure these kids set a good example for us to follow. https://youtu.be/F7gzHLKT5g4