The Power of a Moment

It was the summer of 1974 and I had just completed the first grade. My mother, brother, sister and I had recently moved into an apartment sans my father. My parents had recently separated, and all had changed in my world. One afternoon while my younger brother and sister were off playing in other areas of our apartment, I was curled up reading a book in the living room. My mom invited me to join her beside the large, console stereo that sat behind our sofa. She was sitting in front of the open cabinet doors, flipping through a stack of albums. My mom loved music, and had a wide variety of albums by artists that reflected her varied taste. She invited me me to sit beside her and told me she had something special she wanted me to hear. Holding up the album cover so I could see it, she said, “This is one of my favorites, and I want to play you something on it.” I hadn’t remembered seeing this cover before. She carefully took the album from its white paper sleeve, secured it on the turntable, and flipped on the power switch. She placed the needle carefully on the correct track, then looked at me and said, “This is Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1. Listen. Music like this always tells a story. Close your eyes and see what story comes to your mind with each part. Just listen.”

As the music wafted through the air, I watched my mom lean her body back against the stereo cabinet, close her eyes and smile a soft smile. I sat still, listened to the music and reflected on her words from a six-year-old’s perspective. As I watched, it seemed as though the music had taken her away to a special, happy place where all was right and good. I liked that.

It was around that same time that I started taking piano lessons. A friend had given my mom some old piano music. Among the collection was a book of classical music for earlier/intermediate piano students. She opened that book to page 51 — Theme from Piano Concerto No 1 by Tchaikovsky, and told me that she would love it if I would learn how to play it.

That initial moment and the one that followed held great significance for me, although I wouldn’t recognize the significance until many years later. I grew up secretly loving classical music since it wasn’t “cool” for an adolescent or teenager to admit such a thing. After several years of taking piano lessons, I was finally ready to learn this special piece of music and honor my mom’s request. Unfortunately, not long after I really started learning it, I had to stop taking lessons due to unforeseen circumstances. I eventually learned this piece on my own, but it was never as polished as I would have liked or it should have been. Despite this being the case, each time I played it, my mom would look into the living room and smile that same soft smile at me. She never said anything, just smiled. I smiled back, knowing that we understood each other and the memories that understanding held.

Many years later, my daughter started taking piano lessons. This prompted me to think about taking lessons again. For my initial assessment, I played for my ever-patient and wonderful teacher, a rather crude rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1. I remember telling my mom this, and she seemed proud and happy that I had started taking lessons again, and would be playing this piece.

Fast forward to an afternoon in the early fall of this year. I looked through the mail and saw that our season tickets for the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra’s Masterworks Concerts had arrived. I read through the season program, and noticed that the program for the November concert would feature Igor Kamenz, a brilliant and very accomplished pianist, performing, yes, you guessed it, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1. I could hardly wait for the concert date. The anticipation of hearing this piece performed live was equivalent to Christmas morning to me as a child.

As Mr. Kamenz approached the piano at center stage, I felt the emotion build within me. I sat mesmerized as his fingers danced across the piano keys and the orchestra joined him to beautifully perform this piece in full splendor. Tears formed in my eyes and my heart swelled with the memory of the many times my mom looked in on me as I  played the much simpler version of this piece, but especially with the memory of that initial moment when she invited me to listen to this piece for the first time. Just the two of us, sitting on the floor by the console stereo when I watched her take in the music, and she invited me to do the same. It was a powerful memory. A powerful moment.

You never know when something as small as inviting someone to listen to music will make an impact. I invite you to remain open to all the seemingly insignificant moments in our life, especially with our children. You never know when a moment will really matter and make a true difference that will last a lifetime.

I don’t think my mom ever realized the power of that moment we shared, but I know I do and always will.

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Filed under Gratitude, Making a difference, Parenting, Something to think about

A Lesson From The Geese

Yes, a lesson from the geese. I know it sounds strange, but I have learned over the years that life lessons can be found in the most unlikely places. A recent life lesson came to me one afternoon from a gaggle of geese as I hurried to pick my daughter up from school.

As I drove along the road leading to my daughter’s school, I noticed the geese a few hundred yards ahead walking along the side of the road. When I got closer, the leader turned and started walking across the street. The others naturally followed. I quickly realized that I couldn’t pass them before they were in the middle of the street, so I stopped and waited for them to cross. And waited. And waited. And waited.

I have never seen such a slow crossing of geese in my life. They took their sweet time, even pausing midway for a rest. At first I was extremely irritated as I didn’t want to wait for them to saunter across the street; I had children to pick up (child #2 to be picked up at an area high school) and music lessons to get to on time. However, once I accepted the fact that I had no choice but to wait, I put my car in park, opened my windows, turned off the radio, and shifted my paradigm. I decided to be still and enjoy the moment. I took several deep breaths. A gentle breeze blew the crisper air of fall into my car. Leaves softly flew through the air, just released from roadside trees that had turned gorgeous shades of bright orange and red. It was a beautiful, peaceful moment. One I wouldn’t have had if it had not been for the geese.

I thought about how difficult it seems in our busy lives to actually take a moment, or two, to be still and take in life. To just “be” and nothing more. The minutes I spent waiting for the geese actually  filled my spirit more that day than I could have ever expected.

I was reminded that our children need moments to “just be” as well. I sometimes notice each of my children laying across their beds staring into space. I think they are naturally doing what adults need to be reminded of– they are being still and just “being.”

This is the time of year when things start ramping up activity-wise. On top of normal schedules, we add holiday shopping, parties, festive events, and entertaining to the mix of our already busy lives. While all of these things are fun and enjoyable, they can still add stress and busyness to already hectic schedules. Let’s all take time each day to be still and just “be.” Even if it is just for five minutes, take the time.

Oh, and if you don’t feel like you have the time to be still and take a moment, don’t be surprised if a gaggle of geese cross your path and give you the opportunity to experience this life lesson when you least expect it. If that happens, embrace the moment. You will be glad you did! :)

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Forever Marked: Memories of 9/11

In the last day or so, I have noticed many people posting/tweeting about 9/11/01. As a nation, we don’t want to forget, and we shouldn’t. People are sharing where they were, who they were with, and encouraging all to always remember the thousands of people that lost their lives that day. I remember my mother telling me that there would be several days in my lifetime that I will forever remember, in addition to the “big” days like graduation, my wedding, and the birth of my children. She said that these days will undoubtedly make an indelible mark on my memory– I would always remember exactly where I was, who I was with, and how I was feeling. Among her significant days were the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., and the day Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon. 9/11 is one of those days for  me.

A particularly significant event in my life happened at the exact time a plane hit one of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. I was with my husband at my OB/GYN. I was several months pregnant with our second child, and the purpose of that day’s visit was to hear the heartbeat of my baby for the first time. The doppler was on my belly when the door of my exam room opened and a nurse leaned inside. The fast-paced thump thump thump thump of my sweet daughter’s heart echoed through the room at the exact time the nurse said, with a look of horror in her eyes, “an airplane just crashed into the World Trade Center!” Fear and disbelief along with excitement and joy raced through me at the same moment. The memory and the  juxtaposition of these two events will be with me forever.

I believe that most everyone knows someone or knows of someone that has some connection with 9/11. In today’s world, six degrees of separation is several too many. I think it is more like two to three degrees. Whether they once worked at the twin towers, Pentagon, or the airlines, knew someone that did, or were connected with one of the people that worked to rescue victims or clean up the rubble for the many months following, I believe most everyone has a connection to that day in one way or another. My husband worked at a law firm in one of the towers years ago, my sister-in-law lost a relative and friend, one of the flight attendants was from my area, and a friend lost her next door neighbor. My list could go on and on. I’m sure yours could as well.

9/11 is one of those days my mother told me about. I will never forget that moment. That day. The loss of life and the beginning of life. Each year I pause, as many of us do, and remember. I give thanks for the gift of life and mourn the sacrifice of life. I appreciate the fragility of life, and am pulled back to the place of remembering the importance of each and every day. Both the big things and the little things that make up the fullness of life. Remembering our most precious commodity, time. Time doing the things that matter. Time with those we love. Time. Embrace it, and never forget.

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Taking Control at a Young Age

My daughter has had migraine headaches since she was very young.  While she wasn’t able to be formally diagnosed until she was five years old, her pediatric neurologist agreed that she has had them at least since she was a toddler.  He has taught me a lot about migraines in children, and helped me understand that they manifest and “look” different in children.  I remember many times when she was as young as two years of age watching her hold her head, crying.  The best remedy for the headache was for her to “sleep it off,” preferably in a quiet, dark room.  When her headaches got to this point, she wouldn’t eat or drink anything, so taking medicine to help alleviate the headaches wasn’t a possibility.

Fast forward to her at eleven, and she still deals with migraines on a regular basis.  Over the years we have identified her triggers and tried many strategies to cope with them.  Currently, she is  trying biofeedback.  One suggestion the biofeedback therapist (as well as other people over the last few years, including her neurologist) made was to consider eliminating gluten from her diet.  Her daughter had migraines when she was younger, and this dietary change seemed to make a difference for her.  I asked my daughter what she thought of this suggestion on our way home, and she said, “Oh, I couldn’t do that!  I love my gluten.  I can’t give it up.”  She was familiar with what products did and didn’t have gluten as it has been a topic in our household over the years.  I dropped the subject.

A week or so later, my daughter came to me and said she had made a decision.  She told me she had decided to try a gluten-free diet for a month.  I was surprised and happy with her announcement.  I told her that I supported her decision, and would help her in any way I could.  I also told her I was willing to join in her effort so she wouldn’t feel like the “odd person out” in our family.  I doubted the guys in our house would totally give up their gluten.  :)

Today marks a month of my daughter and me being gluten-free.  I have to admit that at times this decision has been hard, but overall it hasn’t been that big of a deal.  My daughter has spent time reading about the benefits of being gluten-free, and thought hard about options of what she can eat on a daily basis, especially what to prepare for her school lunches.  Many restaurants offer gluten-free menus, so dining out hasn’t been that much of a challenge.  We have both sought out ways to create some of our family favorites like cookies and waffles with gluten-free flour.  I even made scones the other morning that, I believe, were even better than the ones we have made for years.

Another positive change is my daughter’s awareness of the food she is eating.  She now brings two lunch boxes to school as she is packing more fresh vegetables and fruit, all things that take up more space.  We have made a variety of protein smoothies for her breakfast (I haven’t quite convinced her to add anything green to them yet) and have found great options for snacks.  Overall, she has adapted well to this new way of eating, and doesn’t have a desire to go back to eating gluten right now.  And the best news is that she has only had three migraines in the last month — welcomed improvement!  I am definitely proud that she is taking control of her health and making decisions that are good for her.  I look forward to her recognizing even greater results in the coming months.

Special Announcement:

I am very excited to announce that my picture book, FRECKLES and The Great Beach Rescue, is now available as an ebook!  It is available on Amazon Kindle and Apple iBooks now, and will be available on Barnes & Noble Nook and Kobo formats in the near future.   Please check it out and feel free to share the news with your friends.  Thank you!    http://ow.ly/th1ym

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Having a Dream and Making a Difference

I have shared another version of this story in the past, but it is worth repeating…

I remember the day like yesterday– January 16, 1995.  I had just woken up and was preparing for my day while my husband of a few months still slept, or so I thought.  I was in the kitchen when I heard a booming voice from our bedroom say, “I have a dream!”  I looked toward the bedroom and wondered if my husband was talking in his sleep.  I waited for a second, and hearing nothing more, I went back to what I was doing.  A minute later, I heard the voice again, “I have a dream that one day…”  He definitely had my attention and he wasn’t talking in his sleep.  I walked into our bedroom and saw him sitting in bed, holding a book by Martin Luther King, Jr.  open to his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.  When my husband saw me walk into our bedroom, he cleared his throat and started reciting the speech from the beginning, in as much character as he could muster.  He read the entire speech as I stood there watching.  After he finished, he closed the book, then looked up at me and said, “It’s Martin Luther King Day you know?  He has always been one of my heroes.  I read his speech to you in honor of him, what he stood for, and all that he did.”

Wow.  My husband definitely caught me off guard, which he likes to do.  At first I didn’t know what to think.  Now, after eighteen more years of powerful renditions of the “I Have a Dream” speech, I too have come to understand and respect even more all that Martin Luther King did to make a difference in our country.

A few years ago my husband and I were in Washington, DC, and we took the time to visit the Lincoln Memorial.  After reading the Gettysburg address inscribed in the walls of the memorial, we stood in the exact spot where Dr. King gave his renowned speech.  It was powerful to be at the memorial of one of my favorite presidents, but add to that the opportunity to imagine what it might have been like for Dr. King to look out over a sea of people covering the mall, listening to his poignant words…well, it was amazing.  I thought again about how much this man accomplished during his life, and what a difference he made.

I think one of the things that impresses me the most about Dr. King is the fact that he believed strongly that one person could make a difference, and he was willing to devote his life to standing up for what he believed was right.  As parents, I believe we can all make an effort to encourage our children to stand up for what they believe is right.  I am concerned that many young people don’t have much drive and passion about things that really matter.  I know there are many youth to whom this characterization doesn’t fit, but overall there is clearly room for our youth to improve.  It is important to have passion.  To have conviction.  To be willing to make a stand.  To make a difference.  It is our responsibility to share stories of the great leaders like Dr. King, so our children can understand what standing up to make a difference looks like in our history.

Today is a perfect day to start the conversation with our children about living a life that models the good things that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood for, and all he and other leaders before him and since did to make a difference in this world.  Maybe our children will be inspired and carry that into their future, and their children’s future.  Now, that would be a great thing.

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Filed under Making a difference, Parenting, Something to think about

When You Know Better, You Do Better

I recently had Mohs surgery to remove yet another basal cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer.  This one resulted in 8 stitches on the left side of my nose.  The vain side of me is pretty upset that I now have a one-inch scar on the most prominent part of my face.  The tiny, red spot appeared only a month or so before my annual skin exam, so that was the plus side.  Since it was caught early, the size of the area removed is much smaller than it would have been a year from now.

Unfortunately, I have had many of these skin cancers over the last 25 years.  I grew up at the beach, and with fair skin, blue eyes, and reddish brown hair, I was a magnet for sunburns.  I have had more than my fair share of them.  Sunscreen wasn’t really a known product when I was a child, only tanning oils.  I do remember my mom slathering a blob of zinc oxide on my nose as a young child on occasion, but only on occasion.  I have many memories of using lots of Noxema, and sometimes vinegar to help stop the pain from the inevitable sunburns I would get after a day at the beach.

After my first basal cell removal at age 20, I became more aware of protecting my skin.  Since then, I use sunscreen and wear hats when I am outside for  long periods of time.  It was hard for me having grown up in an area where people regularly compare arms side-by-side to see who has the better tan.  I have now lived in an area away from the beach for almost thirty years, so the pressure to have a tan is less than it was when I lived at the beach, but it still somewhat exists.  I have decided that having healthier skin is more important than having temporary “color” in the warmer months.  I know that the more I stay out of the sun, the fewer skin cancers I will have, and the lower my chances are of developing a melanoma, which can be life threatening.  I understand that another benefit of staying out of the sun is that I will (hopefully) have fewer wrinkles when I am older– not a bad thing at all!

When my skin cancers started surfacing, I went through a period of being upset that my parents didn’t do more to protect my skin.  I was mad that they let me spend long days at the beach without regard for my skin and the burns that would result.  It took me a while to realize that they honestly didn’t know any better.  Once I knew better about the hazards of sun exposure, I made better choices.  I now wear sunscreen every single day, and I wear hats when I am outside for a period of time.

This is a good lesson for everyone, young and old– when you know better, you do better.   Everyone makes mistakes.  I know I have made many mistakes as a parent, but I hope that when I know better, I do better.   I have tried to instill this lesson in my children since they were young, and hopefully they will do the same for their children.

Now I am going to put on my sunscreen, my hat, and enjoy the rest of this beautiful day.

What we are reading now:

Me:  Wonder by R.J. Palacio

My son (14):  Baseball Great by Tim Green (he has read this many times)

My daughter (11):  The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall– she just HAD to reread this series :)

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Filed under Great Books for Children, Parenting, Something to think about

Really, Where Did the Time Go?

The new school year is in full swing.  My daughter is now a middle schooler and my son is a high schooler.  Both of them have entered their new realms with enthusiasm.  They were ready for new challenges and eager to move on to the next level of their education and social development.  Looking at them, I can’t believe they are already at this stage.  In my mind, I can instantly be transported back to their infancy, toddler years, or early elementary days.  Those days truly don’t seem that long ago.  Where did the time go?  Really, where did it go?

I have never been a parent that wished for either of my children to hurry along a particular stage of childhood, no matter how difficult it may have seemed at the time.  I have known many parents throughout the years to say how they couldn’t wait until their child got through the “terrible twos” or couldn’t wait until their child finally started school so they could have a life again.  I am sure that deep down these parents weren’t wishing this time away, but merely wanting to get through a challenging period and on to one that wasn’t as taxing from a parenting standpoint.

I remember when my son was a baby, many friends and acquaintances would tell me to treasure each day because the years go by so fast.  “In a blink of an eye, he will be going to college,” they would say.  Of course, at the time I could hardly imagine that happening.  I also felt a little annoyed each time I heard that, thinking these parents were exaggerating and had it wrong .  I was immersed in the world of diapers, no sleep, and adjusting to my new role as mom.  Now, as I begin the new phase of parenting a middle and high schooler,  I realize these parents are right.  I can see the time of being an empty nester right around the corner.

I know many friends and family members that have now joined the empty nester community.  Some have handled the transition well, and others have had a difficult time.  If parenting during the teenage years were particularly challenging, this time can be a welcomed change.  I have heard some people say that God made teenagers with all their challenging ways and ideas to help prepare parents for the time when they leave the nest.  Even though I am only in the early stages of the teenage years, I can see how that is true.

I admit, I cried like a baby when my son “graduated” from middle school.  He had been at his school for twelve years (he started as a toddler at a Montessori school), and it was hard to imagine him not being there any longer.  I can only imagine how hard it will be for me when he graduates from high school.  My children (and husband) already tease me about how much of a mess I will be when that day arrives.  So, bets are on that I will be in the camp of having a harder time when my “baby” leaves the nest.

Author Gretchen Rubin has a wonderful 2 minute video on her website (www.happiness-project.com) that captures the essence of my sentiments.  I really love her books  and all that she shares with the world.  Check out the video, but make sure you have a tissue or two in hand–  http://theyearsareshort.com.  After watching, I am sure you will definitely understand what I am feeling (if you didn’t already) and possibly shift your perspective and attitude towards parenting.  Hold on and cherish each moment.  It is such a short time.

I have two special announcements…

-Freckles, the main character in my books, now has a Facebook page!  I invite you to check it out– http://www.facebook.com/funwithfreckles.

Also, FRECKLES and The Great Beach Rescue will soon be available as an eBook!  I am so excited!  I will keep everyone posted!

What we are reading:

Me:  Five Lessons- The Modern Fundamentals of Golf by Ben Hogan (hoping it will help!)

My son:  The Rush for Gold by John Feinstein

My daughter:  Emily Windsnap and the Monster from the Deep by Liz Kessler

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Filed under Gratitude, Parenting, Something to think about, Uncategorized