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We visited the Milwaukee County Zoo last weekend.  I’m always drawn to the same animals.

I love the big cats and the flamingos.

I love watching polar bears, seals, sea lions and otters swim.

I enjoy listening to the little ones declare loudly what they are seeing.

I love the zoo signs that make all the grown-ups instant Biology Professors.

I never get tired of watching the people and the animals. I’m not sure which is more entertaining, but the interaction between the groups is definitely the best.


Growing through concrete

Yesterday I drove to Chicago and back to see a friend. I drove through the usual mess of road construction and major traffic snarls. The closer I got to the Loop, the more bogged down the traffic got.  As I sat (at a standstill) I glanced at the cement median. Along several cracks in the concrete, I noticed grass and wild flowers growing. Not just growing — thriving.

I considered taking a photo but I couldn’t reach my camera safely. (So I found some similar photos on Flickr. See gallery below.)

I thought about how sometimes we feel like those weeds and flowers. Hanging on by a few fragile roots, in the middle of a hot unforgiving place, with just a tiny fragment of space, little or no resources — but still finding a way to not only survive but to actually bloom.

That trite saying “bloom where you are planted” has truth. I’ve had to move more times than I have wanted. Each time, the process of leave-taking then starting over commences: the good-byes, the leave-taking, then being the outsider, mustering the bravada to carry on, and finally searching for the new “normal.”

I got my first teaching job in the summer of 1985. It was in a tiny town just east of Urbana, IL. The band room was surrounded by a tar and chip parking lot. As I prepared for the first marching band rehearsals, I was pleasantly surprised to see some lovely pink lilies pop up out of the tiny seam between the building and the pavement. My mom told me they were Resurrection Lilies. I later discovered other names for them:  Magic Lilies, Surprise Lilies, Naked Ladies, lycorissquamigera, and Amaryllidaceae.

They pop up out of no where (or seem to), bloom and then whither away all in a week or so. Each year I taught there (four, to be exact), I looked forward to seeing those lilies.

Beauty finds a way. Life finds a way. Always.


Then today, I saw this posted on a friend’s Facebook wall.

From Word Porn
From Word Porn


Quote from Tupac Shakur, photo by TTQ CC 4.0
Quote from Tupac Shakur, photo by TTQ CC 4.0
Quote from Tupac Shakur, photo by TTQ CC 4.0
Quote from Tupac Shakur, photo by TTQ CC 4.0

The Pages Project

used books
image by Don Shall, via Flickr CC license

Have you ever bought a used book?

I buy them all the time.

I love looking for great books at low prices at places like Goodwill, Thrift shops, and used book stores. I love buying a hard back novel for less than $2 or a recent bestseller paperback for less than a dollar. I also love taking them back to the store again as a donation if I don’t think I will want to ever read that certain book again.

I do not, however, like the fact that I sometimes have to put up with underlined passages, highlighting or even comments written in the margins. Unless it is a book I really, really have been wanting to read for a long time — I usually pass on buying a used book with any markings at all. The marks bother me, probably more than they should.

book ornament

I find myself trying to figure out why someone would underline that particular passage or word. I almost feel like I’m reading someone else’s journal or peeking at their notes or journal without permission.

Imagine my surprise at finding a website called “The Pages Project” that is devoted to preserving specifically this “marginalia.” The “about page” says that “the goal of the project is to demonstrate the layered expansion of meaning and insight that occurs through the marginalia left by ordinary people within printed books.”

photo by Erik Schmitt for The Pages Project


This is the article that led to this discovery: The Message Hidden in Classic Literature: How a graphic designer is paying tribute to marginalized marginalia.


If you have pages to share, follow the steps given under the “Submit a Page” tab.

By the way, a great source for buying good quality used books is Thrift Books. Most books are $2.99 or less and shipping is FREE! They have a pretty comprehensive list of search categories, but for some reason one must check “hide out of stock items” when searching. Why show items that are not available? That makes no sense to me.


Don’t judge a truck by one bumper sticker.

One of the little perks I give myself on a cold winter day on the way to school is a trip through the McDonald’s drive-through. I like their breakfast sandwiches. I realize it may not be the healthiest choice on earth, and that many people have philosophical issues with the place. But I enjoy an egg McMuffin, a sausage biscuit with egg or sausage and egg burritos now and then — I just DO.

Image by Mike Mozart via Flickr CC license. http://tinyurl.com/p4zt76t
Image by Mike Mozart via Flickr CC license.

I found a McDonald’s that is not far out of my way that has lightning quick, reliable service in the drive-through so I’m tempted to stop every once in a while.

Today was one of those days.


I didn’t sleep well.
Our coffee maker is on the blink.
I was hungry but didn’t want to cook anything at home.

So —

I drive up.
Place my order.
Dig around in my bag for some money.
Drive up toward the window to pay.

I find myself facing the tailgate back of a big red truck.
On the left side of the tailgate is a very large bumper sticker:

It says — I’m Pro-Choice on Guns.

Under that there is an image of a machine gun.

Instantly I am perturbed.  Irritated.  Upset.  Angry.

I work in an elementary school.

Guns and schools — well, we all know the horrific things that have happened.

I had to fight the urge to flip the guy off.

My friends know that I am not a frequent flipper.

I’m being honest here.

Not my usual response to these things.

But this bumper sticker really hit me wrong.

I did manage to restrain my flipping urge.


I looked further down to see what other tidbits of wisdom this guy had on his bumpers.

The next one I see is a large black-bordered white oval that simple says IRAQ in black letters in the center.

In smaller letters curving around the bottom of the circle were the words:

I served.

Oh.  My.

He served in Iraq.

I’m instantly ashamed of myself.

I send a silent apology and a fervent “thank you for your service” thought toward the red truck with all the mental force I could muster.

I give myself quite a “talking to.”

No wonder the guy wants a machine gun handy.  After living and working in Iraq I might want one, too.

I don’t begrudge him his gun sticker any longer.

The next thing that happened brought me to tears.

I drive up to the “pay here” window.  The young woman says — HE PAID FOR YOU.

I am flabbergasted.  Speechless.

Most people would react by paying for the person behind them, and I wish I had done that!
But I was all caught up in my inner drama.

I drive up to the next window to get my order.  The server has a huge smile and obviously knows what the guy had done for me, too.  I say “Thank you” with tears in my eyes and try to mumble something about what a nice surprise and that this has never happened to me before.  I don’t know what I said, really.

I looked around for the red pickup.  I wanted to say “thank you.”

I saw him heading toward the stoplight in the left turn lane.

Normally, I would need to turn left to get to school but I quickly drove up beside him in the other lane.  I rolled down my window and yelled “thank you” and gestured from my heart over to him.  He nodded and waved as if to say “no big deal” and then he drove off.

As I drove to school I mulled over  all the thoughts and emotions as I munched my burrito and sipped my sugar-free latte.

As a Christian the ramifications of “HE PAID FOR YOU” is glaringly obvious but equating my free breakfast with eternal salvation seems trite and ridiculous.

Why did this kind gesture surprise me make the tears well?

I surmised that it is because I was so mean and judgmental about the first bumper sticker.  Then already felling chastised by the second sticker, all my assumptions were blown away by the incredibly kind, thoughtful and simple gesture of his “paying it backward.”

This young man who risked his life in Iraq while I lived my comfortable Midwestern American life bought ME breakfast.

The point that stuck with me is that caring (or hurting, for that matter) for each other doesn’t always need to involve grand gestures.

Simple words and actions matter.
Do good things.
Mean thoughts can lead to mean actions.
Don’t go down that path.

Be kind.  Be generous.  Be spontaneous.  Be thoughtful.

Let’s do it.

Pay for the person behind you in line.  Soon.

I’ll tell you my story.  Please share yours, too.

Oh.  And the next time you see vet?
Gather your courage, and please take a moment to thank them for their service.

Into the Woods Philosophy

Though it drives our sixteen year old daughter crazy at times, our family often has “deep” discussions after watching movies, plays, musicals and sometimes after viewing art exhibits and the like.

We finally (in our fast-paced-first-world-lives one week after opening seems like “finally”) saw the new Into the Woods movie last night.

I’ve been thinking about various themes from the show —

  1. People make mistakes. So many mistakes.
  2. Even when you think you are doing “the right thing,” people often get hurt.
  3. Stand up for yourself. Stand up for what you believe is right. (Doing this is easier if you don’t have to do it alone; see #4).
  4. Being “in the woods” is confusing, sometimes scary, and often dangerous. Take a friend; don’t go alone.
  5. Actions often bring unintended (far-reaching, severe) consequences.
  6. It is impossible to protect everyone from evil and danger. Bad things happen; even to good people.
  7. Getting what you thought you wanted will not necessarily make you happy.
  8. Lies, deceptions, greed, stealing — never the best way to go.
  9. Beauty does not guarantee a happy life.
  10. Stay on the path? Get off the path to smell the flowers? Not an easy decision.  “Isn’t it nice to know a lot? And a little bit….not.” One of my favorite lines!

And I know things now,
Many valuable things,
That I hadn’t known before:
And take extra care with strangers,
Even flowers have their dangers.
And though scary is exciting,
Nice is different than good.
Isn’t it nice to know a lot!
And a little bit not.

from “I Know Things Now” from Into the Woods, by Sondheim

I by no means exhausted the list of themes from this show.  I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

Back Hoe Disconnect

I drive a lot more than used to.  I have three part-time jobs in various locations around Milwaukee, so I sometimes spend more than an hour a day in my car.

It is easy to get impatient especially with people who insist on running red lights (well, they SAW the yellow so that means they should go through the light even if it turns red before they get to the intersection, right?).  Sigh.  I also see too many people still talking on their phones (Please, people — hands free is at least a LITTLE safer than holding that blasted phone to your ear while you turn left in front of me crossing multiple lanes of traffic).  Don’t get me started on all the people one can see clearly TEXTING while driving!  Please all of you agree on the roads you want to use and the rest of us will stay off those roads. Seriously.

I grew up in a small town.  I used to describe it as 699 people and one stoplight (which was quite accurate at the time, I might add).  Now I drive past way more than 699 folks and several stoplights before I even get to the interstate!

Somedays traffic is flowing well, and the other drivers seem reasonably rational and semi-intelligent. As I cruise by all those cars, people, houses, businesses, companies — I sometimes feel disconnected and isolated.  I’m in my own little world inside my vehicle and everyone else on the busy highway is in theirs, too.

Angel of Grief imagy by Michael Schaffner via Flickr CC
Angel of Grief imagy by Michael Schaffner via Flickr CC

As I was driving one day recently through the city — I pondered the number of very large cemeteries that I pass going from one of my jobs to another.  I catch glimpses of intricately sculpted stones — angels, obelisks, crosses.  Row upon row upon row.  There is even a quite large pyramid in one of the graveyards I pass.  If I go a certain way, the interstate cuts through a military cemetery. There are rows and rows of solemn white crosses on gently flowing hills on both sides of of the highway.  At sunset the light is beautiful against the stones.

image by Just Add Light via Flickr CC

My most common thought about these cemeteries is that I wish I had time (or tell myself I should MAKE time) to go walk around in them on a nice day so I could look more closely at the interesting monuments and possibly take photos of them.

One day last week, I was driving along beside one of these huge graveyards and I caught sight of a cluster of cars and a back hoe out of the corner of my eye.  My heart lurched.  I felt sorrow for those people gathered there on the cold grey winter day to honor and mourn their loved one.  I wondered if the person was young or old, if the death was from illness or some tragedy, and even what kind of life they had led..  The back hoe was not very far away from the clump of cars and people.  It sat with the bucket facing the grave as if it was anxious to dig in immediately after the last prayer was uttered.

I felt like I was intruding on the privacy of the deceased and of the mourners.  What a very personal moment to be unintentionally sharing with all the people who happen to be driving by the cemetery at that exact moment. But I felt oddly connected to their sorrow.  I had sudden flashes of the many cold, grey funerals I have attended — too many.  I mulled those memories over as I drove on, away from the sad tableau.

public domain image:  "JCB 3CX Backhoe loader" by S. Lampkin, U.S. Air Force -
public domain image: “JCB 3CX Backhoe loader” by S. Lampkin, U.S. Air Force –

As several days passed, I wondered why this image (of the backhoe and the gravesite and the mourners) was sticking with me.  Why is it still there in my mind?  What am I supposed to make of this?

Obviously, we are mortal beings.  We live, we die.  It’s the circle of life (cue the musical production number).

hah!  Sorry.  I just saw Lion King (Broadway touring company) and it is still fresh in my music memory.

It doesn’t matter how big or fancy the tombstone might be — we all end up the same way.  Dust to dust.

Image by Lynn Friedman via Flickr CC license
Image by Lynn Friedman via Flickr CC license

But instead of feeling nihilistic about that fact, I feel a reverence for the fragility of our lives.  I want to be remembered for the good things I said and did, not for the way I let small irritations (or big ones) get to me.  I want to be kind and loving.  I want to be salt and light to the world. I want to spend more time with my family and friends and make more time for the things I enjoy doing, whether by myself or with others.  I want to keep my word, do my best at my work, and waste less time in general (FACEBOOK can be a time-wasting vortex).

The back hoe might be revving its engine, but I’m not going to keep looking at it or listen for the sound of its motor.
I’m going to keep looking for the beauty in each person, each minute, each day — and keep looking for that beauty in myself, and in the world around me, too.

Exit the Vortex

Image from page 173 of “The electro-therapeutic guide, or, A thousand questions asked and answered” (1907)

Just when you think everything is settled and sailing along fairly smoothly, opportunities and options may appear that send it all back into the blender.

I sometimes use the phrase “I got caught in a vortex” to excuse my (occasional) lateness or my (frequent) disheveled appearance.

My life seems to have gotten caught in a vortex again this last month or so.  I admit it freely; I could have avoided getting caught in this vortex.  I actually sought it out this time, though.

Sometimes you’ve got to toss the question out there.  If I’m not happy, what can I change?  What can I do to make change happen?

If you can’t make external changes, the changes must come from inside — change your expectations, change your attitude, change what is in your control, explore options that seem “impossible.”  In my case, exploring the options made the changes happen — both externally and internally.

Image from page 27 of "Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation" (1920)
Image from page 27 of “Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation” (1920)

I’ve been having knee problems since sometime last spring.  I am not sure if it was walking miles and miles for several days on the concrete sidewalks of NYC, having my knee crammed into the back of a seat at the Broadway show we saw, twisting it as I got off the bus one time (when it wasn’t lowered and I thought it was).  Or if it is an accumulation of too many years of standing, dancing (yes!), hiking and too many years of carrying too many pounds.  At any rate, this summer I went through several doctor appointments, a little physical therapy and finally an X-ray.  The reading of the X-ray determined I needed an MRI on my knee to clarify or pinpoint the issue(s).  I decided to take a whole day of sick leave to take care of this appointment (plus the wonderful mammogram that also needed done).  The day chosen for these appointments was Tuesday, September 23.

Going back a couple of weeks — I had tentatively decided to look for a different part-time teaching job.  After school started this fall, I had several surprises of a negative sort pertaining to various aspects of my current job.  I was unhappy and frustrated, and decided it would not hurt to see if there might be anything more reasonable for me t0 do.  I applied for, and interviewed for a job at a school closer to my home (meaning less time driving) and with a much more reasonable work/time load to pay ratio.  I was able to do the interview after school one day so I didn’t need to cause any undue drama or alarm at my current job.

Image from page 322 of “Modern music and musicians : [Encyclopedic]” (1918)
Also, several week ago — I applied for a free-lance choral editing job at a well-known music publishing company with headquarters here in Milwaukee.  I just happened to see a request for applicants from one of the senior editors at this company (who also is a well-known composer/conductor).  The request was posted on a Facebook page for Wisconsin Choral Directors.  It sounded like an interesting opportunity and a great place to get a foot in the door so I sent my cover letter and resume immediately.   I assumed there would be many, many applicants and had no great expectation that I might ever hear anything more about it — but I thought it was worth a try.

Both of these opportunities were “Blown’ in the Wind.”  (That song kept running through my mind during the day all this came together.  You’ll see why.)

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

On that Monday, September 21, I had pretty much decided I would not be hearing an offer from the interview the previous week.

Twenty-four hours later I had two job offers and the opportunity to completely rearrange my work life.  I took the chances.  I seized the day.

I didn’t have much time to consider but the options fit so perfectly together.  Everything seemed to align all at once.

The answers were not blowin’ in the wind, they were etched in the sand under my feet.

Since I already had the whole day off on that Tuesday, I was able to visit the new school to meet with the principal, see the school and visit the music room (which I hadn’t been able to do the night I interviewed).  I also had time that afternoon to meet with the choral editors at the publishing company to discuss what they needed me to do.

Image from page 134 of "Religious emblems and allegories : a series of engravings, with suitable letter-press, designed to illustrate divine truth" (1868)
Image from page 134 of “Religious emblems and allegories : a series of engravings, with suitable letter-press, designed to illustrate divine truth” (1868)

Long story short, I resigned from my current job that night.  I taught just three more days, finishing out the week and saying many tearful goodbyes to the wonderful students and teachers there.

I started teaching at my new school the very next Monday, and started training at the editing job the next afternoon.

I’m feeling refreshed and challenged in many new directions.  I’m incredibly thankful for these opportunities and have had a very strong sense of peace about the whole thing (even while I was in the vortex of it all!)


The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind




Back-to-School Soul Food

image by The Tromp Queen, CC license; sunrise over Lake Webster
image by The Tromp Queen, CC license; sunrise over Lake Webster


I cannot ope mine eyes,
But thou art ready there to catch
My morning-soul and sacrifice:
Then we must needs for that day make a match.

image via Flickr CC by Marc Crumpler "early morning rainbow"
image via Flickr CC by Marc Crumpler “early morning rainbow”

My God, what is a heart?
Silver, or gold, or precious stone,
Or star, or rainbow, or a part
Of all these things, or all of them in one?

My God, what is a heart,
That thou shouldst it so eye, and woo,
Pouring upon it all thy art,
As if that thou hadst nothing else to do?

Lotus flower

Indeed man’s whole estate
Amounts (and richly) to serve thee:
He did not heav’n and earth create,
Yet studies them, not him by whom they be.

Teach me thy love to know;
That this new light, which now I see,
May both the work and workman show:
Then by a sunbeam I will climb to thee.

image by Cindy Cornett Seigle via Flickr CC: Some really pretty sunbeams. Sullivan County, Indiana.
image by Cindy Cornett Seigle via Flickr CC: Some really pretty sunbeams. Sullivan County, Indiana.

poem by George Herbert 1633




The Colorful Clouds of Rho Ophiuchi Credit & Copyright: Jim Misti and Steve Mazlin, (acquisition), Robert Gendler (processing)

Ineffable Creator,
Who, from the treasures of Your wisdom,
has established three hierarchies of angels,
has arrayed them in marvelous order
above the fiery heavens,
and has marshaled the regions
of the universe with such artful skill,
You are proclaimed
the true font of light and wisdom,
and the primal origin
raised high beyond all things.


M.Giuliana D.M.  ray of light, via Flickr CC license
M.Giuliana D.M.
ray of light, via Flickr CC license

Pour forth a ray of Your brightness
into the darkened places of my mind;
disperse from my soul
the twofold darkness
into which I was born:
sin and ignorance.

image by Brian Wolfe "good teacher" via Flickr CC license
image by Brian Wolfe “good teacher” via Flickr CC license

You make eloquent the tongues of infants.
Refine my speech
and pour forth upon my lips
the goodness of Your blessing.

image by jane Hewitt "good teacher" via Flickr CC
image by jane Hewitt “good teacher” via Flickr CC

Grant to me
keenness of mind,
capacity to remember,
skill in learning,
subtlety to interpret,
and eloquence in speech.

Image by Manuel, via Flickr CC
Image by Manuel, via Flickr CC

May You
Guide the beginning of my work,
direct its progress,
and bring it to completion.
You Who are true God and true Man,
Who live and reign, world without end.

image via Flickr CC license 2.0 Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike by Trey Ratcliff "Islamic Peace"
image via Flickr CC license 2.0 Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike by Trey Ratcliff “Islamic Peace”

–St. Thomas Aquinas

These beautiful prayers were posted on a friend’s Facebook wall recently.

The words have stayed with me.

I decided to add a few photos and share them here.

I hope you find a spark of inspiration.


ALSO — I recently discovered these great poetry books.  Great stuff for those who ASPIRE to INSPIRE!

Teaching with Fire: Poetry that Sustains the Courage to Teach, edited by Sam Intrator and Megan Scribner
Teaching with Heart: Poetry that Speaks to the Courage to Teach, edited by Sam Intrator and Megan Scribner
Leading from Within: Poetry that Sustains the Courage to Lead, edited by Sam Intrator and Megan Scribner


Photo credits:

lotus flower image:  via Flickr CC by Richard IJzermans: A beautiful lotus flower in the forbidden city, Beijing China.

One Mom’s Advice for How to Succeed at College (and Life)

image by Kellan, via Flickr CC (Goodbye (redux))
image by Kellan, via Flickr CC (Goodbye (redux))

I posted this last year, but I updated it just a tiny bit.  REposting because this is still what I want him to hear as he goes out the door.

To my nearly 20-year-old son as he prepares to leave for college (again) this weekend:

Dear Ben,

You’ve seen these lists.
I’ve posted at least one list on your Facebook page.
I KNOW you read everything I post on your page, so maybe this is redundant.


via Flickr CC image by Rachel: Sunday Drive
via Flickr CC image by Rachel: Sunday Drive

It is amazing to me how fast these years have gone. You don’t realize yet how fast time truly does fly. Soon you will. It picks up speed during college and never slows down after that.

Remember Grandma always says, “It’s Monday; then it’s Friday. It’s Monday; then it’s Friday.” She’s right.

First of all, let me say that I’m incredibly proud of you and that I love you more than you can imagine.

I can’t resist the urge to impart some words of wisdom before you go, though. Brace yourself for the forthcoming flow of wisdom because here it comes!

image via Flickr CC by CameliaTWU Senescent maple leaf Herastrau Park, Bucharest, Romania
image via Flickr CC by CameliaTWU
Senescent maple leaf
Herastrau Park, Bucharest, Romania

1. LISTEN TO ADVICE, but find your own path. People will tell you which class to take, which Prof to avoid, which dorm is best. What is true for another person may not be true for you. Gather information, investigate and decide important questions for yourself. Don’t rely on what “everyone” tells you.

2. GO TO CLASS. This really should have been number 1, but I’m not that great at lists, following advice or thinking in a linear fashion. But you already know that and I digress. There is no way to succeed without BEING THERE. Yes, sleep is important. So is eating and socializing. But the main reason you are there is to LEARN stuff, to gain knowledge — and you can’t do that if you aren’t in class. Seriously. Don’t skip. Figure out how much each hour of class costs and imagine throwing that money away or burning it. That is what you are doing when you skip.

3. BUILD RELATIONSHIPS. I could have said “make friends” but I believe there is more to it than just making friends. You will find people who make you better at being you, who make you feel more alive and more interested in the world. Avoid the people who create turmoil; those who are more interested in what you can do for them than in who you are. Making friends is fairly easy, but keeping them isn’t as easy. Invest time in people wisely. Choose carefully. Some of the friends you make in college will be your friends decades from now. One of the best ways to do this is to be in and to stay involved in a music organization.

4. Find your PASSION. (I know — trite but true). In your baby book, there was a page for “Mother’s Wishes for Baby.” I couldn’t put into words what I wanted for you at that time, but this is what I wanted to say then and still want to say now:

I want to you be healthy. I want you to have enough challenges so that you grow in faith and courage but always enough tools, resources, and friends to meet those challenges. I want you to have a job that doesn’t feel like work; a job that you love so much that you are thankful each day you get to do what you do and get paid for it. I want you to have confidence, compassion, joy, respect, curiosity — LOVE. Aspire to inspire.  In short: Do what you love and love what you do.

5. TRAVEL. Save money and plan for trips. When opportunities to travel arise, turn over every rock to make it happen. Go, see and do.

6. THINK DEEP THOUGHTS. Let your imagination run. Dream. Set some incredible goals. Have great conversations. Have some adventures. Keep your sense of humor. (You’ve got this one down pat, already!)

7. BEWARE OF THE VORTEX. Don’t sit alone in your dorm room (unless you are studying or have homework!).
Please be aware of how much “screen time” you are spending. Don’t be that guy who sits there for five days playing video games and eating Cheetos. You are better than that.

8. REACH OUT. If you feel overwhelmed, depressed, out-of-sorts, unhappy or lonely — call someone. You can ALWAYS call home. 🙂 Also — If you are lost or confused in a class, go see the Prof. Just do it. It is the best way to get back on track.

9. While I’m on the home topic — FAMILY IS FOREVER. Hopefully you’ve already picked this tidbit up. Family will be there at the hospital, at your life events, at whatever. We’ve got your back. Through thick or thin you are stuck with us (in a good way).

10. KEEP YOUR WORD. Mean what you say and say what you mean. Don’t lie. You don’t have to say everything you think out loud, though. Be kind. Have integrity. Stand up for what is right, even when it is not the easy thing to do. Learn to say “no.”

11. Be a good neighbor. Always vote. (Sliger family rules!)

(and this addendum since last year — )

12. ANSWER YOUR PHONE when we call!  If you can’t talk right then, fine.  Text us and let us know when it would be a good time to talk.  We MISS you!  Have a little sympathy for the old parental units now and then.  It doesn’t matter what we talk about  — we mostly just want to hear your voice.



image by Martin LaBar Bradford pear leaf, sooc via Flickr CC
image by Martin LaBar Bradford pear leaf, sooc
via Flickr CC

Roses after Rain

Princeton roses after rain, photo by The Tromp Queen, CC license
Princeton roses after rain, photo by The Tromp Queen, CC license
Princeton roses after rain, photo by The Tromp Queen, CC license
Princeton roses after rain, photo by The Tromp Queen, CC license
Princeton roses after rain, photo by The Tromp Queen, CC license
Princeton roses after rain, photo by The Tromp Queen, CC license
Princeton roses after rain, photo by The Tromp Queen, CC license
Princeton roses after rain, photo by The Tromp Queen, CC license
Princeton roses after rain, photo by The Tromp Queen, CC license
Princeton roses after rain, photo by The Tromp Queen, CC license
Princeton roses after rain, photo by The Tromp Queen, CC license
Princeton roses after rain, photo by The Tromp Queen, CC license


O my Luve’s like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June:
O my Luve’s like the melodie
That’s sweetly play’d in tune!

As fair thou art, my bonnie lass,
So deep in love am I:
And I will love thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry:

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt with the sun;
I will luve thee still my dear,
When the sands of life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only Luve,
And fare thee weel a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho’ it were ten thousand mile.

I was walking from Princeton University to Westminster Choir College shortly after a brief summer rain. I couldn’t resist taking photographs of some lovely roses as I strolled along the sidewalk. The poem popped into my head as I was cropping the photos.  I realize my roses are not red, but the poem insisted on being included in this post.
*poem by Robert Burns


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I’m thinking I may need to take a hiatus from my Joy 365 project posts.  I have enjoyed the challenge and the attention I’ve had to spend to notice joy, gratitude, inspiration, etc. But my life has become much more complicated in the last couple of weeks.  I will see how it works in the next few days, but I may need to revise the parameters a bit.  (Since it is my challenge to myself, I declare that is a valid plan!)

I recently started a new job.  I’m a long term substitute music teacher at two elementary schools (for the regular teacher’s maternity leave).  I am teaching K-8 general and choral music.  I travel between two schools three days a week and spend the whole day at one school the other days.  I plan for many classes each day, including a 70 voice middle school choir and a 6th grade music appreciation class!

I’m greatly enjoying this new opportunity and challenge, but it will not leave much time for blogging, I fear.  I’m also still accompanying the Milwaukee Children’s Choirs (Girl Choirs East and West).

Another issue is that I miss creating the posts I used to write.  The posts that were longer and more thoughtful about topics I mulled over for quite a while before sharing. I have nearly 28 drafts that I have worked on for various amounts of time, and I want to focus on those drafts when I have time to write.  I also miss answering comments and questions.  I feel a bit disconnected from readers and followers.

For April, I will post photos from the Art in Bloom exhibit — hopefully one per day (since I’ve figure out how to schedule posts for the future!)  This recent exhibit at the Milwaukee Museum of Art was beautiful and VERY inspiring to me on many levels.  I hope you find inspiration, too.

Thank you, as always, for reading and following.




images for inspiration — final days of march

March 27

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March 28

"Set your heart on doing good. Do it over and over again, and you will be filled with joy." by BK   Attribution-NonCommercial License
“Set your heart on doing good. Do it over and over again, and you will be filled with joy.” by BK  symphony of love  — Attribution-NonCommercial License

(See more Buddha quotes here.)

March 29

"Strawberry fields en Central Park de NY - en memoria de John Lennon" by KINO   Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License
“Strawberry fields en Central Park de NY – en memoria de John Lennon” by KINO
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

March 30 — Art in Bloom at the Milwaukee Art Museum

From Jean Selep at Selep Imaging Blog — Art in Bloom 2008 at the Milwaukee Art Musuem

Read about this event here: http://jeanneselep.blogspot.com/2009/03/anticipation-milwaukees-art-in-bloom.html

I took lots of photos of this year’s event which we visited today!  It was spectacular!!  I will share them and my thoughts about the day in a blog post very soon.

March 31

"Brightness: www.InnerFla.me website quotes by Andrew Jones" by Andrew Jones   Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License
“Brightness: http://www.InnerFla.me website quotes by Andrew Jones” by Andrew Jones
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

March Inspirations: Another Week

Monday — Old Oak Tree

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I mentioned that I had a couple of job interviews last week.  I ended up getting both jobs!  One, being a sub for the local HS, I only got to  do for two days!  Because the other job will be as a long term music sub (K-8 general and vocal) for the rest of the school year.

I went Monday to the two elementary schools where I will be teaching to sign some papers, to see the buildings, and to meet some of the faculty/staff.  One of the schools is several miles away from the interstate on a country road.  From the outside, one can see the school was built onto an old brick one-room schoolhouse building. Outside the front door, a bit off to the side, is a huge ancient oak tree.  I stopped to take in its strength and silhouette.  I thought of all the students that tree has presided over — all of their comings and goings, all the days of learning and playing.  I felt a sense of “place,” of being rooted, and at that moment I was assured that once again, I will be where I belong, where I need to be right now in my life.

Tuesday  — Girls play “The Voice”

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At the end of the young girls’ choir rehearsal I accompany on Tuesday evenings, the girls were given a few minutes of free time because they had worked so hard to learn the new music.  The girls began playing “The Voice” and self selecting into groups of judges, performers, score keepers, and one girl who sat off to the side watching. It was so fun to watch them disappear into their imaginary world of play!  I enjoyed seeing them choose their roles, some switching roles several times, and that one girls who felt most comfortable sitting to the side watching the whole thing (with a shy smile on her face — I don’t think she was unhappy or upset — she just wanted to watch instead of be involved.)

Some girls were natural and instant leaders.
Some struggled to decide where they fit in.
Some felt comfortable in supporting roles.
Some tried several different approaches.
Some needed to have a friend by their side.
Some stood in the spotlight and sang, pouring out their heart and soul.
Some kept track of what everyone else was doing and tried to impose order on the chaos.
One watched with a shy smile.

I thought about how this “play” the girls created relates to grown-up lives. Hmmmmmm —-

Wednesday — Being the “Sub”

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I was subbing at the HS again on Wednesday.  I think my favorite moments are when I have conversations either with an individual student or a group of students that gets “real.”  I catch a glimpse of the “real” person behind their public persona, and/or they catch a glimpse of my “real” self.  I try to be genuine in all situations, but being a sub is a pretty artificial scenario so it often takes a bit of convincing and ice-breaking until any sort of tentative temporary relationship can be established.  I’m thankful when that happens.  Those moments are why I continue to “aspire to inspire!”

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Thursday — Another first day

Today I spent the day getting acquainted with the music teacher for whom I will be long-term subbing.  I met most of the students at one of the elementary school where I will be teaching.  The most common question I was asked by the students was, “Can you play the piano?”  🙂  Happily, my answer was an emphatic — “YES!”  It was a good day, and I’m looking forward to the joys and challenges of the weeks ahead.

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Friday — HUGE Smile

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At lunch (new music long term sub job school) — a student was recognized by one of the teachers with a good-bye cake.  She called the student up, and told everyone in the cafeteria that this would be his last day at their school.  On Monday, he would start school at ta new school.  She had a large sheet cake so that everyone could have a piece of cake to celebrate this student’s time at the school with them.  Everyone applauded and cheered. He had the HUGEST smile on his face. He was absolutely BEAMING.  (p.s.  The young man has Down Syndrome).

The SCARED is scared of all the things you like.

I have faced many fears this past year.

I have a few more to face in the very near future.

I found this wonderful video in my inbox this morning.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/58659769″>the Scared is scared</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/biancagiaever”>Bianca Giaever</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>

Here is some of the takeaway wisdom from the 6-year-old narrator, for when things get scary:

Hold your breath, and close your eyes.

Say “whee!”

Find some fur to hold onto.

There will always be another time together next spring.

If something feels like it’s closing, just say, “that’s fine!” And let it go. Think of something that you really like to do, until the nervous has gone out of you.

And always remember: when the scared feeling comes into you, the scared feeling is scared of all the things you like.

— quote from Feed Your Spirit, daily devotional.

This is my March Inspiration for today, Sunday, March 16.  Enjoy.

Getty Images: March Inspirations 7

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Just a few days ago, Getty Images announced a new embed feature that will allow people to access and share photos from its extensive library of images for non-commercial purposes.

Read the whole WordPress article here.

Access to use all these wonderful Getty images?
Definitely INSPIRING!

I chose this image of the Yosemite Valley because seeing this specific view literally took my breath away. Then, when I could breathe again my eyes got teary.  It is one of THE MOST beautiful natural vistas I have ever seen. I could have stood there for hours.  I felt awed by the spectacular and extravagant beauty of this world.  Yes, I’m a Christian — but I don’t see how anyone could look at this place and not feel the presence of the Divine.

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Embed from Getty Images