My Little Composer

Years ago my father sometimes held revivals in small churches in southern Illinois.  Many of the churches either had no piano player (this was before the era of drums and guitars in worship) or a very untalented player.  Since he felt music was important for sharing the gospel, he came up with a solution.

He would give his daughter piano lessons and she could go with him to play at these services.

I was excited to learn to play.  Unlike most piano students who start with music books like “John Thompson’s Modern Course for the Piano,” my book was an old hymnbook.

 

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The first song I learned to play was an OLD hymn called “When I See the Blood.”  It was written in the key of “C” with no sharps or flats and a good place to start for a beginner where I could just play on the “white” keys.

After 10 months of lessons I was quite adept at playing all the songs in the hymnbook.  My teacher said I was the best student she had ever had and she wanted to teach me classical music.  I was so excited as I started this course of study.

Shortly after a few lessons in this new genre, my father felt learning classical music was money wasted.  He wanted someone to play in church.  Who needed to know how to play Bach or Beethoven?

Although I had no more lessons as a child, I continued to study on my own and took more lessons as an adult.

My music has been such a blessing to me – and I hope to others.

When I have experienced great “highs” and great “lows” in my life, music has been a release.  I can play lively show tunes or songs of praise in times of great joy.  When I have experienced times of distress or sorrow, music has also been a place of comfort.

Now I am enjoying one of the greatest joys of my musical experience.  My little granddaughter has a love for music and for the piano.  A few months ago I started giving her lessons.  Her parents say they never have to tell her practice – she loves to play and needs no prompting to play.

What is so sweet – last week she decided to become a composer.  She has a lot of stuffed animals she calls the wolf pack and she is writing a song for them.  “The Theme of the Wolf Pack.”  Not only is she writing the music – she also has words to go with the music.

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She is not quite ready to draw the lines and the actual notes so she has just written the letter of the note and has specified in some cases if it is the right or the left hand that plays the note.  She also has a repeat bar at the end so you can go back and play for the second verse she has yet to write.

It thrills this old grandma’s heart to be able to share this love of music and pass on a little of my own knowledge to the next generation.

Who knows?  Maybe some day she will write songs of worship for her generation to praise the Lord!

 

 

 

 

 

Papa Can Fix Anything!

My husband has a big reputation to live up to.

A few years ago our youngest granddaughter was given a beautiful carousel.  As she watched the beautiful colors and the animals go round and round she could not resist reaching out and touching them.  In the process, she broke one of them and the carousel would not work.

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Her mother and father both tried to fix it, but could not.  But she was not worried.  She told them to take it to Papa because “Papa can fix anything.”

When my husband got the carousel he knew he had to fix it because he could not disappoint the faith in him that this little girl had.

However, in his attempt to fix the carousel, he actually broke another one of the animals and now he had not one, but two errors on the carousel.

What to do?

He first went on line and tried to find the company that made the carousel to see if they had replacement parts or instructions on how to repair it.  While the company still was in business, they no longer made the original carousel  and had no replacement parts or instructions on how to repair it.

He then began calling all the repair shops, the jewelry stores, any place he thought might be able to help him.

After several weeks of trying to find someone to repair the carousel he saw an ad for a store that sold and repaired watches and clocks.  The store was in a small town some 30 miles north of our home.  Quickly he drove to the store with the carousel.  What a relief when the owner said he could repair it!

My husband was so glad he left the carousel with the owner without even asking what it would cost.

A couple of weeks later he got a call that the carousel was fixed.  The price tag was much higher than he had anticipated – but what price can be placed on a little girl’s faith in you.

It was worth all the effort and every penny as we watch her each Christmas still be so enchanted by the lights, the music and the animals turning round and round.

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And of course, she had to buy Papa a cup to declare how true it is that “Papa can fix anything.”

 

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Random Thoughts to Stay Awake

My youngest granddaughter spent Saturday night with us while Mom and Dad celebrated their anniversary.

She always seems to have a hard time going to sleep.  I’m not sure if her brain will just not shut down so she can sleep or if she keeps her brain going to avoid sleep.

After reading books and singing songs, I thought she would settle down.  NOT!

Every time I thought she was finally asleep she would sit up and ask some random question or make some random comment.

Such as:

Grandma, wake me up at 7 AM.

Grandma, there is a green light under the bed.  (We have an adjustable bed and there is a tiny green light which it is on.)

Grandma, turn on the jiggle. (Our bed also has vibrations for the lumbar spine and she calls it the jiggle.

Grandma, do you know what is 9 x 9?

Grandma, I forgot to say good night to Willie. (Willie is a stuffed character we play with when she is here.)

But the one that really was surprising was:

Grandma, our house looks like Picasso painted it.  (What eight-year-old has even heard of Picasso and what did she mean by that?)

I tried just ignoring her at one point but that did not work out too well.

It was “Grandma, Grandma” with each time the little voice getting louder.  Then a gentle jab on my arm.  When she still got no response the jabs became stronger and finally a gentle tap on my head.

She finally snuggled up close to me and went to sleep.

Just having her snuggled up close to me and resting next to me for the rest of the night was more than payment enough for all the questions and jabs!

 

 

 

Once Upon a Time

A memory just popped up on my Facebook page where I shared a conversation I had with my granddaughter four years ago.  So funny!  Still brings a smile.

Zoe:  Grandma, tell me a story about Jesus.

Me:  When Jesus was a little boy.  (Quickly interrupted by Zoe.)

Zoe:  No, Grandma, say “Once upon a time.”

Remembering Grandma

Grandma Sechrest was the only grandparent I was close to, the only one that expressed love and an interest in me.  I also related more to her because she was a red head, like me.  All my life I was told that I looked like her side of the family – the Tates.   I never knew any of that side of the family.  I was told they were all “a bunch of Irish drunks.”  As I did research on my family history I discovered the Tates were not Irish but rather English.  So much for family legends.

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Grandma had a hard life, losing her husband while pregnant with her eleventh child.  He was shot by her oldest daughter’s husband, Wesley Smith.  I never was completely sure of the facts, but the two men had been arguing and Wesley had come into the yard at their house and shot Grandpa.  My father was only 14 at the time and I’m sure it caused a lot of emotional/mental damage.

Grandma was a big woman and pictures I have seen of her when she was younger indicate she was probably a big gal most of her adult life.  I have never seen a picture of her when she was young – but I always wondered what she looked like as a young girl.

She loved the fact that I also had red hair – the only grandchild that did.   As she grew older, she began to lose her eyesight to glaucoma.  When I came to visit, I  would stand in the doorway where the sun could shine on my red hair.  She also loved music and was proud that I played the piano.  I would always play the latest song I had learned on her old upright piano when we went to visit.

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She loved flowers and before she lost her eyesight her yard and house were full of flowers.  There was always a row of elephant ears planted along the house on both sides and in front.  As she began to lose her eyesight, she gave up the flowers in her yard, but she had flowers in her house until she was totally blind.  For awhile, my mother would come over and water the few plants she kept in the house even though she could not see them.  Just knowing they were there seemed to make her feel better.  It was a sad day when she finally had them take the last plants away.  My dad loved flowers too and I have often thought I get my love of flowers from them.

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When Grandpa was killed, all but two of her eleven kids were still at home and she raised them alone.  My dad and some of his brothers would often catch a train, ride to Iowa, Kansas or Nebraska to work in the wheat fields.   They would be gone for weeks on end and Grandma would have no idea where they were until they returned home after finishing the harvest.

When Grandma was in her 60’s she married a retired Southern Baptist minister, Rev. Green.  He and my Dad often spent hours arguing about “once saved, always saved.”

If Grandma got upset about something, she would begin patting her foot.  The more upset she got, the faster she patted her foot.  We grand-kids knew when Grandma was patting her foot very rapidly it might be a good time to go outside to play because she was about to speak her mind to our Dad or one of the other adults there.

It was at Grandma’s house that I saw television for the first time.  She bought a very tiny TV and I would love to watch it when we visited Grandma.  I thought she must be very rich since she could afford a TV.

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Grandma’s house always smelled of garlic and cabbage.  She loved cabbage and it seemed that she almost always had a pot of cabbage cooking on the stove.  As she began to lose her eyesight she had her salt/sugar and spices lined up on the shelf in order so that she could still find the right spice for what she was fixing.  She made great chicken and dumplings (which she taught my mother to make) and, of course, corn beef and cabbage.

As I am now a great grandmother myself I find myself thinking more and more of my childhood days.  My red hair, my love of flowers, my love of garlic and cabbage  –  Grandma lives on in me.

I wonder – what will my grandchildren remember about me when I am just a memory?  My prayer is that their memories will be good ones like mine.

Twelve Little Toy Animals, A Little Girl and a Big Imagination

A few years ago my husband and I bought our little granddaughter some toy zoo  animals.

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We assumed she would play with them for a couple of years and then we would pass them on to another small child.  We also assumed she would just play with them by herself.

Were we ever wrong!

From the very beginning she wanted someone to play with her and the animals.  In her imagination, she would take them to McDonald’s or to the playground.  Someone was needed to be their voice and order french fries for them or scream with delight as they climbed the monkey bars.

When Mom and Dad and Grandpa all declined the honor, I became their voice.  Thinking the novelty would wear off soon, I had no idea that four years later I would still be their voice.

Oh, the places we have been.

We started with trips to McDonald’s and to the park, but soon we went to even more interesting places like the museum, the mall and Kids Church.

When she began taking Taw kwon do lessons the animals also went to class.

Then there was school.

Oh the roles I have played!

  • worker at McDonalds
  • worship leader at Kids Church
  • school teacher
  • principal
  • unruly student
  • parent
  • Taw kwon do instructor
  • Taw kwon do student
  • museum curator
  • clerk at Walmart

Oh the places I have been!

  • playground
  • school
  • church
  • museum
  • Nana’s house in Missouri
  • Aunt Beka and Uncle Rob’s house in North Carolina
  • Sierra Leone

The animals have even taken on personalities and we have named them all.

  • Giraffe boy
  • Hippy Hippo
  • Charlie Cheetah
  • Ellie Elephant
  • Winnie Warthog
  • Barbara Bear
  • Ted Tiger
  • Gary Gorilla
  • Ralph Rhino
  • Lexie Lion

And the last two have really become best friends.

  • Zoe Zebra
  • Macey Moose

I think their names and their becoming BFF is probably because my granddaughter is Zoe and her BFF is Macey.  Whatever we are doing, taking a piano lesson, going to McDonald’s or on the playground at recess, these two are always together.

As she grows older the animals come out of their special home (a big plastic box) less and less.  Just when I think I am through being their voice, she pulls them out again and says with a big smile:

Grandma, let’s play with the animals!

To be honest, I do sometimes get a little tired of playing with them.  Yet I know I will miss the day when the animals are never invited out of their box to play with us.

Then, my little girl with her big imagination will be no longer little.

Hey Zoe – let’s play animals!

 

 

 

 

 

The Cycle of Life

My parents died in the same year – Mom in April and Dad in August.  I remember my sisters and I looking at each other and saying “We are now the older generation.”

Until that time we could think of ourselves as young – it was our parents’ and their siblings who were old.

But now that generation is gone and we are the old ones.

Even then, still in our 50’s and 60’s, we did not really feel old.

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But time has passed and we are slowing down.  We look at each other and see the wrinkles, the grey hair, the slower gait and realize we have come to the last chapter in the book.

With that in mind, recently I have seen so many posts on Facebook of the next generation – my daughter, my nieces – becoming grandparents and it has made my heart so happy.

Watching them and their excitement at having grandchildren brings back the memories of that time in my life.  I relive those wonderful days of children and grandchildren.  Now I rejoice in great grandchildren.

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I love this picture of my youngest grandchild.  She is 8 now but this is still a favorite memory!

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When this little grandson was born, doctors were not sure he would live and said if he did he would be a weak little guy.   Today he is 6 foot 6 inches tall and anything but weak or little.  God is good!

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Love this picture of our youngest son with two of his children welcoming their baby sister.  All three are grown up now but still a joy to me.

Seeing their joy, seeing the next generation take the stage – it brings me such satisfaction to know our family will continue on.

Shakespeare said it well:

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,

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Each stage of life has had its blessings and its difficulties.

Those carefree days of childhood with little or no responsibilities.  Still, there was the pressure to do well in school, trying to “fit in” with the other kids.  Hoping to make friends.

Young adulthood brought the joy of first love and marriage and babies.  What excitement those first years of marriage brought.  Yet, there were sleepless nights with babies who would not stop crying, worries about meeting the bills.  For me that time also brought sorrow as my husband was killed in an accident and I struggled as a single mom with two young girls.

Middle age came.  Finally, jobs were more stable and money problems were less.  The kids were at a age to really enjoy adventures with me and many evenings were spent playing board games, shopping or just “hanging out” together.  For me there was new joy as I found love again with a wonderful man who loved my girls.  However, I began to realize my body was aging.  I could still do what I did in my 20’s but it took me longer and I was many times exhausted by the end of the day.

Now old age has come.  This body refuses to do what it once did.  Not only does it take me longer to walk the mall, I simply cannot shop as long as I once did.  My husband and I love road trips but even those have to be shorter and I am exhausted for days recovering from the trip.  Still, there are joys in this stage.

I can get up before dawn, sit with a cup of coffee and watch the sun raise.  Or, I can turn over in bed, pull the covers over and sleep until long after the sun has risen.  Lunch and dinner can be a gourmet meal with our best china sitting at our dining room table sharing a great conversation with my husband.  Or, we can eat pizza on paper plates while sitting in our recliner and watching a movie.  There is a great deal of freedom to just do whatever I want to do.

Realizing that my days are much fewer than when I started this journey called life, I am more appreciative of each one.  Thankful for the sunshine, for the rain.  Thankful for the silly jokes my husband tells, for the scrabble games we play.  Thankful for the phone calls from grandchildren checking on me.  Thankful for the hot shower.

A study by Laura Carstensen, a psychologist at Stanford found that as people age they got happier and their emotions bounced around less.  Our drama-filled days seen to lessen as our negative emotions such as sadness, anger and fear become less pronounced.

Psychologist Karl Pillemer interviewed over 1,000 older people for his book,  30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans.  He found that:

“Many people said something along these lines: ‘I wish I’d learned to enjoy life on a daily basis and enjoy the moment when I was in my 30’s instead of my 60’s,’” he says. Elderly interviewees are likely to “describe the last five or ten years as the happiest years of their lives.”

So my advice to those in the earlier cycles of life:

Enjoy each moment.  Do not let the difficult times stop you from enjoying all the good times.  This day, this moment in time will not come again.  Look for all the good in your life and savor that experience.

As for me knowing I am playing out the last chapter of my story, I take comfort in God’s Word.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

May my last chapter be my best!

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Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/what-is-so-good-about-growing-old-130839848/#xr2BBzFeUxqfgrfg.99