Love Changes Everything

This morning,¬†when the house was quiet and I was doing some research online, my husband switched on the white-noised vacuum. It¬†interrupted my thoughts. As he approached our computer area, he asked me to move. I pulled my chair away, and the vacuum sucked up the dirt, dust, and crumbs under the computer desk. In an instant, he kissed my forehead as I scooted my chair back into its home…and I beamed. (I think I am still smiling.)

A young boy, a little hesitant, entered a classroom with walls plastered in bright colors. He didn’t know what he¬†would find inside the doors. A teacher greeted him with outstretched arms and a welcoming smile, an opposite experience from his past year. Happiness followed.

A little girl looked up at her mother with uneasy eyes. She knew she had made another mistake to add to her already-too-long-to-enumerate list of mistakes. Instead of a forming a¬†frown, her mother swept the girl into her long arms, encompassing¬†a little body filled with worry and¬†a little heart filled with sorrow. Her mother whispered into her¬†ear, “I love everything about you.” The little girl’s furrowed brow released its hold as if her brain and heart were releasing fear, worry, and regret. Vector-Valentine-Heart-of-Hearts-10-by-DragonArt

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Love changes everything.

The Piano Lesson

A small house adjacent to the campus music building housed a baby-grand piano and a salt-and-pepper-greying, bright and cheerful piano teacher.  I knocked timidly on the door, waiting for someone to open, holler, or invite.  (Maybe what I was really looking for was a sign.)   A few moments passed, and I repeated the knock, a little harder, mimicking the pounding of a nervous heart in my chest.

I had grown up around instruments.¬† I received my first 3/4 size violin at the tender age of eight, with accompanying private lessons.¬† I knew how to tell a half-rest from a quarter, a whole note from a sixteenth,¬†and how to count in time with the measure.¬† But the only person who taught me piano–ever–was my father (in what little “spare” time he had between building a demanding business and community,¬†family, and religious activities).¬† I had even taken a half-hour or hour voice lesson during each semester in college.¬† But no piano.

Still, I promised my mother I would take at least one semester of piano.  And, graduation was right around the corner.

My heart took another leap as a daisy-yellow VW Bug (vintage) pulled into the small driveway and under the carport adjacent to the little house.

The piano teacher bounced out, pulled reading glasses from a chain off her chest, and asked, “Are you my 3:30?”

“Yes.”¬† The word squeaked out like a babbling child.

“Well, let’s have in, then.”¬† She chuckled at her self-made rhyme, and I followed her to the front step where she unlocked the studio and ushered me inside the brick-red door and toward the piano bench.

“Did you bring something to play for me?”

I only nodded and pulled an old, green hymn book, the one I pulled off its usual place atop my piano earlier that morning.  I turned to a familiar hymn, one I had practiced many an hour just to say I could play a hymn.  I rested my fingers (and untrimmed fingernails) atop the black and white pallet, ready to paint some music for a woman I barely knew.

Painting–now that’s something I knew how to do.¬† I was even getting a minor in art.¬† But I didn’t have a brush or smock or canvas to speak of here.

I got through one verse, only making minor mistakes.¬† As I lifted my hands from the keys, she pulled her reading glasses to the end of her nose so she could look me in the eye over the lenses.¬† She paused and then offered, “Good.¬† But you’re making this really difficult on yourself.¬† You don’t have to shift your fingers so much.¬† Just find a fingering that works, and shift less.”

Okay.  But how?

She pulled the hymn book toward her and thumbed through until she found, “Be Still, My Soul.”

“Let’s try this,” she offered.

“I can’t play this.”

“Sure you can.¬† Try.”

I placed my fingers on the opening notes with my best, brave-girl effort.  It was still a sad attempt.

“Okay, try this way,” she said as she offered new fingerings and let me know when to lift and press on the pedal.

She continued to coach me through the notes until our half-hour lesson finished, with her committing me to cut my nails and practice, practice, practice.

I promised.

I leaned into the door to exit, waved a goodbye, and saw what must have been her 4:00 approaching.

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I felt the exuberance of accomplishment, of learning something new, of honing skills that had been lying deep inside myself for years, untapped, untouched.

And, I was excited for next Tuesday at 3:30 p.m.

Same studio, new lesson.

Cursive? or Print?

Which do you prefer?

Were you taught to write in cursive? When?

I was taught (and graded) on cursive handwriting¬†in third grade…Mrs. Jordan’s class.¬† And, I struggled to get a B-.¬† “Why do we need to learn this?” our class inquired of our teacher.

“It’s faster,” she responded.¬†Indeed.

Cursive was tough stuff for me as a struggling third grader; now I prefer it to printing most of the time.

Well, a dear friend of mine and current student of medicine¬†asked me recently, “Do kids still learn cursive?”

I replied, “Some of mine have…but not all of them were taught¬†cursive writing¬†formally–and my older ones still print most of the time. Why?”

“Well, I was just reading that losing¬†the ability to write in cursive can be a symptom of dementia. I wondered if people were even learning it in the first place, and what we’ll do if we don’t have that symptom to eval for anymore.”

Good point.

I have read that people with dyslexia write better with cursive and should be taught how to write in cursive as soon as they are able.  As a person who has struggled with both handwriting and (mild) dyslexia, I can attest that cursive is easier for me.

On another note, I was thinking that maybe teachers are so bombarded with information to teach children for their end of year testing (you know, those lovely bubble tests?) that maybe they feel pressed for time with teaching and cannot afford the “expense” of spending so much time on the dying art of cursive writing. You don’t exactly “bubble” your answer in cursive or print, now do you?

Christopher Columbus…he sailed the ocean blue!

Well, following a teacher work-day Friday, the “normal” weekend (which, around here, is often anything but normal), and Columbus Day yesterday, I was a happy mommy to kiss my kiddos goodbye this morning for them to spend a day learning and bringing home bags full of papers, reading books, and various other homework items.¬† ūüôā¬† And, with the advent of Columbus Day, I am often reminded of a little poem (forgive me for not knowing the author) that we used to sing when I was in grade school:

Christopher Columbus…he sailed the ocean blue./He found a continent in 1492.

That little poem I learned way-back-when helped me numerous times when I was called upon to answer date questions in later history classes.¬† ūüôā¬† So, today I want to give a shout-out to all¬†teachers…young and old, mine and yours…and everyone else’s (& especially today to my children’s current teachers).¬† All of you are amazing to devote your own education, time, efforts and energy to the teaching of our next generation.¬† Thank you for who you are and for all that you do!¬† You have touched my life, my family, our communities, and our¬†nation.¬† Your impact will be felt for generations!¬† What you do each day is worth all the work, long hours, and frustrations.¬† You are making a difference.¬† In years to come, we may not remember your names or faces, but we will remember some little couplet or phrase, some tidbit of information or life lesson we learned while in your presence.¬†¬†Under your tutelage, we became better individuals, more responsible citizens, and more equipped to face further educational and vocational opportunities.¬† Just as Christopher Columbus had people who supported and believed in his revolutionary ideas, you have supported and believed in us…sometimes when no one else did.¬† With your help, we enlarged our own minds and perspectives.¬† We may not be discovering continents, but we are engaging in various other efforts to bring continents and people together through diplomacy, friendship, and building a world of love and peace together.¬† Thank you, teachers, for believing in the impossible!¬† You have opened new continents of knowledge and enlightenment to us, empowering each of us to live better, more educated lives.¬† You are amazing!