March 30-31, 2016

March on. Steady march. Relentless march. March into the unknown.

March is not done softly. March is rhythmic, consistent, and intentional. March can be fierce.

March as movement; March as seasonal; March as lambs and lions.

I think that this year March has been all of these things for me. It has tested my stamina, my will, my desire, and my skill. I have learned to keep marching even when it is hard. I have gratefully been reminded that I don’t march alone.

I am grateful for all those who make the SOL Challenge possible, including every participant! This is my 3rd March of marching–but sometimes, I’ve danced.

March 28-29, 2016

The wind started picking up in the afternoon, whistling through the doors and windows. The leafless trees swayed side to side. My hair blinded my eyes as it whipped around my face. I hadn’t expected such ferocity, even though March is famous for wind. At least it wasn’t bitter cold.

I parked the car and quickly ran in to Chipotle to grab some dinner to bring home after working longer than I anticipated. As I was having my burrito bowls prepared, the lights dimmed. Then it went completely dark. The manager got on her cell phone, workers frantically found flashlights, and customers looked to one another to try to figure out what would be next. There was panic in the air–would they want cash only? How to record transactions without a computerized system?

Windfall. Our dinner was free!

March 27, 2016

Wow, writing March 27 makes me realize that our SOL challenge is nearing the end for this year. As I reflect on this year’s work I know I have pushed myself on some days, been awed by others’ writing many days, and grateful for the time carved out to write every day. Thank you to all who make this experience possible.

Today, Easter Sunday, for me and my family, was a special day. It was my first time in about 8 years leading the choir for the Easter service. Our church musicians are not paid, so many years  I have played the piano or the organ and other years, I’ve had the opportunity to lead the choir.

Leading a choir is one of the great experiences of life. The singers are the important ones–but the cool thing is they do what your hands and face tell them to do. Without talking, I can get them to sing louder, sing softer, emphasize a word or phrase, slow down, or speed up. All for creating something beautiful that might move listeners to feel something they might not otherwise feel. It’s a community experience, but also a very personal one.

As I look into each singers’ eyes, I see trust, intention, and sometimes love. They are trusting me to shape the group to deliver the message intended by the composer. It’s a powerful experience that has helped me grow as a musician and as a teacher. I have learned that leading music is not about me, but it’s about helping others communicate what is in their hearts. When I do my best teaching, it is the same. I’m helping my students find what is in their minds and hearts that they want to say to the world. That’s the best.

March 25, 2016

It’s a week of birthdays in our family. My son, his wife, a grandson, and a granddaughter all have birthdays this week. I have been filled with so many emotions. Feelings of time passing too quickly, nostalgia for years passed by, and wishing I could be in more than one place to celebrate with each of them.

Tonight we are with Maggie, celebrating her first birthday. A tradition coming from her daddy’s side of the family was adorable, but messy! In his family, a small cake was made for the one-year old. It was called a “smash cake.” The baby is put in her highchair with only her diaper on and allowed to “explore” the cake. It was hilarious to watch Maggie put a finger in, taste it, and then go face first into the cake. She had no fear. With frosting all over her face, she was in heaven.

I was reminded of another first birthday party of my nephew’s son. His parents had been very fastidious in his care, frequently washing hands and offering only healthy foods. On his first birthday, he was offered a cupcake. He’d never had sugar or anything like cake. It terrified him and he shrieked! He would have no part of cake or celebration. Children are so different and that’s the joy that keeps life interesting.

In the family I grew up in, birthday dinners were steeped in a tradition that went generations back. My great grandmother put her garden in as early as possible so that she would have peas by the 4th of July around the time of her birthday. It was important to her that she be able to offer her family and guests a few fresh peas. For her birthday she would serve “chicken and a few peas.” So that tradition passed down in my father’s family. Even when they didn’t have much during the Depression, a birthday dinner would be “chicken and a few peas.” Then, that’s what my mother served us. Most of the time, it would be a roaster with stuffing, and a few peas. When I was very young, that meant canned peas (Yuck.) But when I got older, my mom discovered frozen peas, and then petite peas which became my favorite until I discovered sugar snap peas.

Such small things like a “smash cake” or “chicken and a few peas” bind generations and tie us together. I’m glad that I know that my great grandmother took pride in her garden. And now, I’m happy that “smash cake” has become part of our family birthday celebrations.


1st_birthday_cake_35.jpg 1st_birthday_cake_34.jpg

March 24, 2016

I could write about the great morning I had working with a friend in my school book room, but then you’d know that I worked over Spring Break.

I could write about Maggie’s first birthday today, but actually I won’t see her until tomorrow.

I could write about the happy lunch I had with my sister, but then I’d also have to tell you that my school computer was stolen out of my car while we enjoyed our conversation.

I could write about how nervous I was to go home and tell my husband about my computer, but I was actually blessed that he has mellowed with age. He gave a mild lecture, without the shouting of earlier years.

I could write about how deafening the voice in my head is that tells me what an idiot I am, but then I try to remember that whoever that voice is, lies. At least I hope it’s a liar. I am more than the mistakes I make.




March 23, 2016

Last night after dinner, Tristan looked out the window.

“Hi, Moon,” he said in his 2 1/2 year old soprano.

He waited expectantly for an answer–

Such sweetness in his innocent face.

The moon was nearly full.

It’s full tonight.

“Hi, Moon,” I repeated.

Moon 3-22-16

                                                                              Photo by Ralph A. Johnson, 3/22/16.



March 22, 2016

A spring “stay-cation” allowed me to attend a mid-day yoga class. The meditation at the end was encouragement to “Open and receive.” To be open to small kindnesses and receive them graciously.

Not twenty minutes later, I was at the grocery store. An elderly gentleman and I approached the lined-up row of carts at approximately the same time. He pulled one out as I stepped to the side.

“Here you go, miss.”

“Thank you so much.”

I felt happy inside while I shopped although grocery shopping has become something of a drudgery for me in recent years. It’s amazing how a small thing like being aware to open and receive made such a difference in my experience today.

What other kindnesses might come my way? What could I do to allow others to open and receive?


March 21, 2016

That summer night was different from most. Instead of playing SPUD in the cul-de-sac, I was sitting on a blanket next to my mom behind the backstop at Washington-Lee High School. My mother didn’t leave her chores easily then. She rarely stopped working. I don’t remember her coming outside much, so this was an occasion.

I played on the blanket the way 5-year olds did back then. Grass and clover could become playthings. You just played with whatever was there. My mother, wearing her nice cotton house dress, sat like a lady on the blanket with her legs tucked neatly to the side.

We sat up straighter when my brother approached the plate. He took a moment to walk to the backstop and said, “This one’s for you, Mom.” I think my mother stopped breathing. The next thing I knew there was the crack of wood bat on ball, and he was running. I jumped up and started yelling, actually knowing very little of the game that took my brother out every night of the week that summer.

My mother still sat with gleaming eyes and a look on her face reserved for David. He was her boy. To me, he was legendary.


March 20, 2016

The year my 4th child, Jane, was a senior in high school is now somewhat of a blur to me except for the fact that I know she was asserting her independence and I know she was in love. Jane and Stephen were always together. They enjoyed riding in his 1968 cobalt blue Mustang and playing fiercely competitive card games. They never cheated at card games. That would have been an unforgivable sin for a true competitor. They could also be quiet while listening to music, playing guitar, or just talking for hours. They loved the Beatles, walking in the snow, and watching movies. They perhaps spent too many hours playing “World of Warcraft,” but I won’t hold that against them now. Theirs was a deep friendship and an innocently blossoming romance.

Stephen was brilliant in so many subjects, but especially math. He decided that year to learn the “Moonlight Sonata” by Beethoven even though he had never had piano lessons. He did learn it, by heart. He taught himself music theory and could, by the end of the year, write the harmony (chords) of a Bach chorale. Calculus came fairly easy to him. He also had a wonderful English teacher his senior year who introduced him to the pleasures of writing and reading deeply. He kept a writers notebook even though it was never assigned. He worked a long time to read Les Miserables. And, Stephen kept a secret from me that year.

Part of Jane’s new independence was that she no longer wanted my company at her cello lessons. She had been studying cello since age 5 with the Suzuki method. In that method, mom is expected to come and learn, take notes of the lesson, so that the student would know how and what to practice during the week. We had a few hurdles over the years–you know, the age 12, “WHY DO I HAVE TO PLAY THE CELLO?” or whatever other instrument mom had picked. But around age 15, Jane began to really own her cello, and it became a vehicle for expressing her emotions and her identity.

The secret Stephen kept was revealed at Jane’s Spring Recital. I’ll never forget it. I thought I had still been fairly in touch with her music, but Jane often practiced before I got home from work. When she sat down at the recital to present her piece, I was not prepared for what I heard. Suddenly, before my eyes, my young daughter became a mature musician–one with her cello. She played the 3rd movement of Rachmaninoff’s Cello Sonata in g minor. It is a haunting, lyrical, intensely emotional piece of music. Jane had mastered it. I sat by Stephen as tears rolled down both our faces. She put all her heart and love into that music.

When Stephen died of cancer 3 years later, that music spoke her grief and her love. It will always be Jane’s piece to me.

Here is a link to this gorgeous piece of music: