Ode to My Fellow Slicers

“Endings are not always a bad thing, it just means that something new can begin.” ~ Unknown

We have come to the end of the 31 day Slice of Life Challenge. It feels good to have accomplished this feat, yet a relief that it is over. Being a part of this challenge and interacting with so many kind and thoughtful writers is a gift I give myself each March. I hope that this is the beginning of a year filled with writing and building on the ideas I have found or started this month. Thank you for your support, kind words, and fine example. Hope to see you on Tuesdays!

Ode to My Fellow Slicers

The month of March has come to an end,

to my fellow Slicers my thanks I send.

Challenged to write a post every day,

when I was blocked you showed me the way.

You inspired me to stretch and grow,

learned more from you than you’ll ever know.

With your feedback I have seen the light.

I’m sad to say that it ends tonight!

Riding the High

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William Tennent HS Jazz Ensemble (left) & Lower Moreland HS Jazz Ensemble (right)

“Music is a safe kind of high.” ~ Jimi Hendrix

I am still riding the high from last night’s concert. It is true that I am very proud of my son and the work he does with his music students, but it’s more than that. Being a music teacher myself for 23 years, I know the hard work and dedication it takes from students, parents, and teachers alike to put on a concert or show. In an age where kids get a bad rap for constantly playing video games, lacking grit, or having extremely short attention spans, musicians smash that stereotype.

The young men and women on that stage last night have spent countless hours in rehearsals and even more time practicing on their own. They have listened to guest clinicians and seriously taken the critiques given to them and used the tips to improve their technique and sound. They are counter-culture crusaders who revere the history of jazz and work to keep the standards alive.

What I was most struck by last night was the sheer joy on the faces of the musicians, the directors, and the audience. As each ensemble performed the members of the other group looked on with rapt attention and admiration for fellow musicians. The video above is the last chart of the evening which was a combined effort. The ensembles rehearsed this for about 15 minutes, which is incredible when you see and hear the result.

Jazz gives musicians the opportunity to express themselves through improvisation. These brave teenagers stepped out of their comfort zones and stood tall and proud as they took turns improvising. You could see the satisfaction in their body language and hear it through their instruments. I am still smiling today.

These dedicated teens have learned so many skills by being part of a musical ensemble. Some of them will go on to musical careers, some will continue to play for fun, and some may not pick up the instrument again after graduation, but one thing I know for sure is that none of them will forget what they experienced on that stage last night.

Bravo!

Jazz on a Friday Night

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“Jazz washes away the dust of every day life.” ~ Art Blakey

This was a very long week of standardized testing, and I couldn’t wait for the end of today to come. I knew that I would be attending a jazz concert where I would see the ensemble my son directs perform ahead of a trip to Pittsburgh next week.

My son, Charlie, is the director of instrumental music at William Tennent HS in Warminster, PA. His ensemble along with the Jazz ensemble from Lower Moreland HS in Huntington Valley, PA were the only two high school jazz ensembles to be chosen to perform at the PMEA – NAFME all East Coast Convention next weekend. Tonight’s concert was a send-off performance for family and friends.

The two ensembles took the stage together and alternated playing standard jazz tunes. They were both amazing! These young men and woman were fearless. They performed together, they played alone, they improvised. More importantly it was obvious they were having a ton of fun. While each ensemble played, the other listened attentively and was tapping along.
The ensembles joined on a number to finish out the concert. It was an unbelievable ending to an amazing evening of Jazz.

What was extra special was the fact that my son was the private student of Erin Stroup, the director of Lower Moreland. Charlie took private saxophone lessons with Erin in high school, and then student taught with him while in college. Here they were tonight, standing on the stage as colleagues whose goal is to keep jazz alive and well. They have done a fantastic job lighting that spark within their students because tonight they were on fire. I wish I could figure out how to share the video I shot on my phone!

It was obvious tonight – the future of Jazz is in good hands.

Timing

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“Trust the timing of your life.” ~ Unknown

I have been thinking about timing a great deal lately. Some people are always in the right place at the right time. When that happens to me I think it is a miracle because I am usually operating like a gerbil on a wheel most days.

Take my morning drive to work for example. I live about a 10 minute drive from school. I try to leave around the same time each morning, but some days getting up and going is harder than others for a variety of reasons. If I leave by 6:55 I can usually cruise along, but if I leave at 6:59 the ride is longer.

First there is the bus stop at the edge of my development. The bus to the high school stops at 7:00, and the students saunter their way to the steps and slowly board the bus. Then there are the stragglers who are in no hurry at all. They meander down the street to the awaiting bus and slowly enter. Next, I have to manuever my way between the parked SUVs that have been warmly housing the sleepy teens. If I am first to the stop sign the friendly bus driver might wave me to turn after the red lights stop flashing and the safety arm retracts. If not, then I may have to wait until the line of traffic behind the bus makes its way through the intersection.

Once I am out of the development, I go a short distance and turn onto a beautiful winding road that is a small piece of heaven. It is idyllic and tranquil, that is until I spy in my peripheral vision a deer or an occassional steer that gets loose (I stopped and called the local police that day).

When I get to the end of that road, it is a right and then a quick left. Only on the mornings I leave the house a little later, the right turn happens only after 20-30 cars go by. I know the car behind me must want me to jump in at any opportunity I get, but they don’t know that I have that quick left to make, and I don’t want to be rear-ended!

There is only on traffic light between home and school, and most days I get the red. I am not sure if this is an actual fact, or just a fact in my head, but when I am sitting at that red light not one car passes through the intersection in either direction until their light is yellow. I guess their timing is not much better than mine!

Two more turns, and I will be safely at school where I know my timing is always right because when I get to the parking lot my handicap space is there waiting to greet me.

Since Last March

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Don’t just count your years, make the years count. ~George Meredith

I “borrowed” this form from Elisabeth Ellington who “borrowed” it from Fran McVeigh.

Since last March, I joined the gym.
The gym where I meet my sister on Monday nights for Aqua Fit class
The gym where I look longingly at the machines my body can’t handle
The gym where I walk in the pool & count the laps back and forth, back and forth

Since last March, I lost my mom.
The mom who was just seven weeks short of her 91st birthday.
The mom who never complained about her ailments
The mom who was happy all the time and grateful for the littlest things
The mom who inspired the hashtag #livelikelucy

Since last March, I celebrated the 1st anniversary of my husband’s quadruple bypass.
The celebration that reminded us of how lucky we both were
The celebration that took us to Lancaster, PA to see Jon Dorenbos
(the inspiration for the trip to the ER) in person

Since last year, I turned 60.
60 the age I use to think was old
60 that came with a new awareness of time
60 the age that I am grateful I have reached

Something Good

Every day might not be good, but there is something good in every day. ~Unknown

I have been in a funk lately. The last six weeks have been a challenge.  My mom passed at age 90; I turned 60, and Daylight Saving time began. It’s not enough that I am already sad and melancholy, but now I am plunged into darkness by 5:30 each evening. I haven’t been able to write, and my usual inspirational music is making me teary.  I think I need to have a Moonstruck moment, smack myself, and get over it!

I don’t mean get over my mother’s death or turning 60 that quickly because I really do need time to process and come to terms with each of those things, but they can’t be all consuming.  My daughter gave my mom a kitchen magnet with the above quote on it. My mom used to quote it to me often back in the days when we could still have phone conversations. Angela also gave my mom a small charm on a present one time that said “celebrate life.” Boy did my mom do that!  She celebrated life until almost the very end. She died on a Thursday. On the Friday before my sister-in-law and I went to visit her. Mom had fallen out of bed twice that week, and when we got to her room she was taking an afternoon nap which was unusual. Even though she was weak and tired, when an aide came and asked her if she wanted to go to the salon and get her nails done she said, “Sure.”  That would be her something good for the day.

So I decided that it was time for me to stop sliding down the rabbit hole and start embracing life again – find the something good in every day.  What better time than in the month of November, the month of Thanksgiving? While it is OK for me to feel sad, or lonely, or melancholy, it isn’t alright to stay there too long.  

Today my “something” is the fact that I am caught up with all my grading! Now I know it will only last for a hot second, but I am going to enjoy tonight with a cup of tea, my new Autumn throw (one of my birthday presents from my kids) and a new book to read.

What is your something good?

A Mother’s Love is Eternal

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I haven’t posted in awhile. Back to school had me tied up the first two weeks of September, but I never dreamed of what would keep me from writing the rest of the month. My mom passed away on September 20th. Although she was 90 and had been suffering with dementia the past few years, I did not expect it.
I visited her on Labor day with my daughter and two grandsons. She played catch with Parker using her hip pillow, and called out my name when Nolan started crawling out of her room. She hadn’t said my name in a long time, yet she told me to “watch him!” She was laughing and clapping. Seventeen days later she was dead. Though I was not ready, it was her time, and I take solace in the fact that she did not linger and suffer too long. It was a very quick two week decline.

This is really the second time I have lost my mom. The first was when dementia took away her ability to carry on a phone conversation, or give me advice. That took some getting use to, but I still always enjoyed our visits and so did she.

Below are the Words of Remembrance spoken at her funeral. I wrote them with some input from my brothers and sister and my nephew did a wonderful job delivering them. It is the best writing I have done in over a month because she was the best mom a girl could hope for, and was easy to write about. I would have written more, but we were limited on time allowed. Mom memories just might be creeping into my blog posts as I work through this “new normal.”

“Lucy was not the typical mom of her time who would bake cookies or crochet scarves. Lucy worked outside of the home as long as we can remember. Whether it was at Klein’s or Wanamaker’s or selling advertising with Al, Lucy spent most of her working years in the sales industry, and she was very successful. Her grandchildren knew how to recognize a John Wanamaker’s box before they could read. They knew it held something special she had purchased with her employee discount just for them.

But like Mary, in the story of Martha and Mary at the time of Jesus’ visit, no matter how much time work took up in Lucy’s life, she was never too busy to take one of her four children to whatever activity was on the calendar. From sports practices, to scouts, music lessons and more, Lucy was our chauffeur letting us listen to whatever radio station we wanted until we were old enough to drive ourselves and coax her into letting us borrow her car. Some of the greatest conversations were had sitting with Mom in the car in the driveway right outside of our house. It was in those times you knew you had Mom’s undivided attention. You could tell her anything, and she would offer gentle advice and make you feel like you were doing a great job and could accomplish anything.

Lucy was the epitome of optimism. She never complained or had a bad word for anyone. The words that most often come to mind when thinking or speaking of her are: kindness, joy, laughter, sincerity, smiles, and Sinatra.

Lucy was devoted to her faith and the Blessed Mother. She was a regular church goer until her health prevented her from attending. However, that did not deter her faith life. She continued to say her 54 day rosary novenas until just a couple of years ago. When any of us were in need of extra prayers for a special intention, we would make sure to get on Lucy’s prayer list because we believe she had a hotline to heaven.

For as “saintly” as Lucy appeared, she also had a little bit of a mischievous side, like when she would wait for the trolley car to go by so she could sneak into her house without being heard because she was coming home late from a date, or when she let Matthew drive the car before he was 16, or when she would pose for pictures with her grandsons pretending to be smoking a cigar, or when she came out with one of her infamous one-liners – you know what we mean. She certainly lived up to her motto of “celebrating life every day.”

In her last years, dementia stole some of those cherished memories from her, but it could never shake her happy and loving spirit. She continued to light up a room with her smile. She continued to sing her signature song – “If I knew you were coming I’da baked a cake,” and she continued to dance on her walker, which her caregivers fondly dubbed the “Lucy Shuffle,”

We would like to thank her wonderful caregivers at Rose Garden at Ann’s Choice. We could not have asked for a more loving group of women who treated Lucy with such dignity and respect. This really put our hearts and minds at ease especially during Lucy’s last days.

We would also in a very special way like to thank, Nancy, who Lucy called her Guardian Angel. Nancy has been Lucy’s personal valet for at least the last 15 years, taking her to doctor’s appointments, the hair salon, or to meet friends for lunch. She has been the coordinator of Lucy’s care at Rose Garden. The staff there was surprised to learn she wasn’t Lucy’s daughter. They remarked about how well our family got along and agreed on all things pertaining to Lucy – noting that this was not always the way things happened between family members.

This is Lucy’s legacy. She raised her children to be caring. She welcomed their partners as if they were her own children. She idolized her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She taught us what it meant to be an incredible parent, a supportive partner, a loyal friend, and she showed us how to be happy in life and always look on the bright side.

So while we may be very sad, we need to remember the words from “City of God” – “Let our tears be turned into dancing” because that is what Lucy would want us to do.”