Tuesday, March 31, 2009


The great weight-loss battle continues. For the last 8 years or so, I get so close to a certain goal, but can never quite drop below it. I was less than a half pound away last week, and now I'm almost five pounds heavier. Still eating well, still exercising...just incredibly frustrated...

Last night at Bible study, I was reminded, like the Israelites, that courage in the battle must be followed by endurance in the race. And so...I keep pressing on.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


I know, I know...I must be getting old, because I'm sounding like my parents. But I can't help but contemplate the changes between my generation and the students I currently teach. Don't get me wrong...I have a handful of truly wonderful students (and they definitely outnumber the tough kids). But I had a situation last week that is still getting under my skin.

I have a student with chronic attendance issues; when he is at school, he comes with chronic behavior issues. I had to remove him from my room last week. The teacher he went to "visit" on time-out had him write an apology to me. It went to the effect of:

"Dear Mrs. Music (couldn't even use my name),

I think you are stupid. You are rude and mean and I'm not sorry. You roll your eyes at me, and I didn't do anything wrong, so I rolled mine back."

This particular letter went with a referral to the principal. I'm not going to use this forum to view my opinions of how the situation was handled, but I will say that when I later spoke to the principal, I asked when I could expect an apology for his disrespect in the classroom and in the letter. I was told, "you'll probably never hear it."

Which leaves me wondering, where is the accountability for our young people? When do they have to answer for their actions? Aren't we doing them a disservice by not having clear expectations at school and home?

This is just one situation. I have students who will walk past me in the halls when I ask them a question, refusing to make eye contact. Things like making eye contact and speaking when spoken to seem to be a dying art. Yet, these are such simple things that go a long way to showing others that they are valued and respected.

People ask me what I teach, and the obvious answer is music. However, I'd like to think that I'm teaching students about life, and I use music as the avenue. It's weeks like this that make me wonder if I'm even on the right track.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Deep in the Heart

Oh, the conversations I have with Dayna on our commute home in the afternoons. This was overheard today:

"We used to be in Omaha, but now we're in Texas!" (We were actually in Gretna, a town 15 miles out of Omaha.)

Monday, March 23, 2009

All the King's Horses and All the King's Men...

You can't unbreak an egg. That's the lesson Dayna learned tonight. A tough lesson for a 3-year-old. This weekend, we went to the Amana Colonies in Eastern Iowa. They have a tradition there of dying the most beautiful eggs. They used to use the dyes from the woolen mills (but because of toxicity now use food coloring) and seal the color and eggs with glue from the furniture factories. These hand-dyed eggs are the most vibrant colors. I bought myself a dozen this week, hoping to put them out for years, remembering the great weekend we had with our friends. (Can you see where this is going?)

Well, apparently, these vivid colors were just a little too tempting for small eyes. Before I had a chance to display these gorgeous eggs, Dayna had pulled herself up on her tippy-tippy-toes to take just a little peek. Those eggs came a-crashing down. All twelve were broken.

Dayna spent some time in her room while I finished some phone calls and thought about what to do. I confess, I was initially put out that I had spent the money for beautiful eggs that I can't use. But, the more I thought about it, the more I sensed that there was a lesson to be learned in all of this.
When Dayna emerged from her room, we counted twelve broken eggs together. Twelve eggs that can't be uncracked. Twelve eggs that will never again be beautiful Easter decorations. Twelve eggs that very soon will start to stink because they've cracked.

It's kind of like sin. Once it's out there, it can never be undone. And if you don't deal with it, you're going to start to stink...even worse than a dozen rotten eggs.

But, we don't have to stay cracked. Jesus can take those sins and as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12) We will still face the consequences of our sins, but we no longer have to walk around as stinky, cracked eggs. In fact, God will turn us into something new and beautiful. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

5 Little Words

Marriage isn't easy. Don't get me wrong...I have a wonderful husband. It's the marriage stuff that gets hard. We both have our moments of being selfish and lazy...not investing in the other person. I forget to intentionally respect my husband and he forgets to intentionally love and cherish me. It's not that we don't love and respect each other, it's just that we don't take the time to do it intentionally. How easy it is to become roommates instead of husband and wife.
I've been thinking lately about 5 little words that God gives us in the Bible...how those 5 little words could start making little changes that can grow into big changes in our marriage. We all know about the 3 little words...and those are great words. But honestly, how often do they become habit, and we say them without really thinking about them. It's important to say them, and say them often, but sometimes we need to go further.
So, exactly what are these 5 little words, and where can I find them? It's easy...just remember 5 words in Luke 5:5:
Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets."
What a strange thing Jesus was asking Simon to do. It didn't make any sense. But look at Simon's response: "but because you say so..." It didn't matter that Christ's request was odd. He said to do it, and Simon obeyed.
How would our relationships change if we take Simon's attitude: "but because You say so." I don't feel like jumping up and welcoming home my husband from work...I've had a long day, too. But because Jesus says to honor my husband, I can do this little thing for him. I don't really want to play cards tonight...I'm tired and would rather crawl in bed with a book. But, I know how important this is to him. "But because You say so"...I need to let my husband know that his interests are important to me as well. Dan speaks the language of acts of service. "But because You say so", I need to pick up my own efforts around the house to let him know I love him. I may not want to mop the kitchen floor today, and our marriage won't hinge on whether or not I do it, but as a way to let my husband know I respect and honor his wishes, I can step up my efforts "because You say so."
Easier said then done, "but because You say so", I need to start.

Friday, March 13, 2009


Don't get me wrong...I wouldn't change a thing. I can't imagine a day going by without Dayna in my life. The precious, funny, witty, smart, tender, compassionate child who has turned my world upside-down and inside-out.

When we made the decision to adopt, we never once thought we were settling for second best. The whole "if we can't get pregnant, we can always adopt" scenario never described us.

But the fact is, we did try to conceive a child first. However, after several years, we came to the realization that we were wasting resources, effort and money when there was probably a child out there who needed us NOW.

It was a no-brainer for us to start the adoption process and enter our "paper pregnancy." However, we also had to let go of the dream of looking into a little face and wondering if he had daddy's nose, or mommy's eyes...would her hair be curly like mommy's, or *shudder* bald like daddy's? We had to come to the realization that we will probably never look into the face of our descendants and see any trace of our genetic material in them.

Once the decision was made, it seemed as though we never looked back and considered these factors again. Until a few weeks ago...I was reading a list of random facts posted by a girl I once knew. She was adopted as an infant from Korea, and had shared that she had never seen a person who shared her genetic material until she first looked into the eyes of her son. It had never dawned on me that while I had to let go of the possibility of never seeing my genetics in my future generations, my daughter never had a choice about seeing it in her previous generations. She will never look into another face quite like hers until, God willing, she gives birth to a child of her own someday.

So while genetics seem to be stopping with me, I still have my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, sisters, nieces, nephews, etc. I don't imagine that I will *ever* be in a position where there isn't someone around who shares my DNA. Dayna, on the other hand, is starting completely from scratch.

I wonder how we'll be able to help her through her questions of identity down the road. I pray God gives me the wisdom...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Teacher Appreciation

Last week was Teacher Appreciation Day here in Nebraska. I can't say it was much of a big deal to me, as I missed the special lunch at both of my schools (by being at the other school).

However, each year when this day comes around, I can't help but think of the teachers who made a difference in my life, and helped shape me into the woman and teacher I am today. Sure, there are a handful of truly terrible teachers I had along the way (and I'm sure I didn't make their jobs any easier). And there are several teachers whose names I remember, but I can't recall any remarkable things I learned in their classes. Then there are the great teachers whose classes I enjoyed...I soaked up every morsel I could because they were fascinating and made their subject interesting. (Could it be that I LOVE to quilt because I had a great geometry teacher in high school?)

But two teachers really stand out in my mind, and both contributed to my decision to become a teacher. The first wasn't a teacher I had in school. Meredith was the first (and only in my esteem) piano teacher I ever had. (I studied with two others in college and grad school, and while they may be better musicians, they don't hold a candle to the lessons I learned from Meredith.) I was at the tender age of five when I had my first piano lesson. I was absolutely mesmerized by Meredith, her home, her piano...everything about her. I went home that day and told my mom that I was going to be a music teacher just like her when I grew up. I have never strayed from that childish vow. Later that year, I played in my first recital. The big piece? "The Big Green Frog." Whoever played before me had left the bench a bit too low on the piano. In all my gusto, I plopped myself down, swung my little legs back and forth (because they didn't reach the ground), and played my entire piece from memory...all an octave too low! When I had realized my mistake, I was mortified! Meredith simply came alongside me and told me that it was the "froggiest" song she had ever heard. That was the beginning of 13 years together. In hindsight, I probably spent more time talking than playing, but I could think of no greater thing each week than to please Meredith. When I graduated from college, she had these words for me:

Dearest Alaina,

Her feet didn't quite reach the floor as she sat on the bench. She had long, beautiful golden hair, a shy smile, and was very enthusiastic about learning to play the piano. The lessons were always fun because she always told me a little about her day before we started the lesson. Sometimes she was funny or excited about what had happened during the day, and there were times when she was sad. But those few moments of quiet talk each week were the building stones of what became a warm and special friendship. Her music gave me great pleasure also as I listened to her "graduate" from a little piece about a frog to Rachmoninoff's Prelude in C# Minor. I was so proud when she played the Prelude at contest from memory. It was her finest moment at the piano.

Now she is a beautiful young woman, and a great part of that beauty is her faith in God and her willingness to let Him direct her path.

The story of this young woman's life is just beginning and it has been my pleasure to have had a small part in it and I can't wait to see what's next!

Alaina - all my love and best to you! Psalm 118:14 "The Lord is my strength and song..."

Wow! To have a mentor you deeply esteem have such kind words to say leaves me speechless and humbled. Meredith was so much more than a teacher.

Fast forward to middle school...never a shining time for young adults. It takes a truly special person to love and teach kids at this age. Mrs. Verdoorn was my truly special person. She taught literature in 7th and 8th grades. She must have made an impact on me in 7th grade, because in 8th, I asked to be her teacher's assistant. (A fancy name for a free period everyday.) Eighth grade was the year when my life started to fall apart (or at least so it seemed...isn't everything dramatic in middle school?) Several family crises were happening that year, and I felt at the time like my problems were being shoved aside. (Again, in hindsight, probably not the case.) Mrs. Verdoorn genuinely took an interest in me. Because she knew my older sisters and the issues they were facing at the time, she became a very compassionate ear for me to bend. I remember at the end of eighth grade, I learned how to do needlepoint...I made her a framed sampler to hang on her wall at home. After I left eighth grade, Mrs. Verdoorn got remarried, changed her name, and her function at the school. She finished the last 20 years of her career as the guidance counselor. I can't think of anyone better suited for that position. We've stayed in touch through the years. She attended my bridal shower and wedding, then later a baby shower when we were waiting to bring Dayna home from China.

These women were great teachers because they cared about me as a person...not just a student. When the time was appropriate, as our relationships continued, we got to the point where we could truly call each other "friend."

So when I'm having one of those days where I just don't feel like I'm making a difference, I remember these two women. I stop to say a prayer of thanks for having been shaped by them, and another that God might use me to shape one of my students in a lasting way.

Remembering Aunt Sharon

I found one again. Sitting there behind the TV on the entertainment center, underneath more dust than I care to admit in my home. A small, shiny piece of confetti that says, "I love you."

In early 2001, I learned of my Aunt Sharon's diagnosis of lung cancer. We were told to make the most of our time with her, as we probably had about 6 months left to spend together.

When I was baptized as an infant, Aunt Sharon was chosen as one of my godmothers. When I moved to Nebraska, Aunt Sharon became my second mom. She made sure I was fed well on major holidays when I couldn't go home. She took care of my birthday each year, letting me know she thought I was someone to celebrate. When I was planning my wedding, she helped my mom make my wedding gown. My mom would make part of it in muslin, mail it to Aunt Sharon, who would fit and mark it, then send it back to my mom. She was a great woman.

Well, we made the most of 2001. My parents came out to Nebraska and stayed from March until November. We took long trips, short trips, weekend visits...we made memories.

Whenever Dan & I would visit Aunt Sharon, we would buy a bag of Hershey's Hugs and hide them all over her house. That way, even after we'd gone, Aunt Sharon would know we loved her and get a hug from us. When she finally had to sell her house and move into an apartment in town, she was still finding hugs. (Meanwhile, we were at her apartment leaving more as a housewarming gift.)

Not to be outdone, Aunt Sharon bought a tiny bag that held hundreds of little "I Love You" confetti pieces. Shortly after we bought our house, Aunt Sharon went through, scattering the love.

Aunt Sharon's six months of memory making stretched into 3 1/2 years. We lost her in June of 2004. She was 62 years old. This week would have been her birthday. How ironic that on her day, I discovered another confetti. Thanks, Aunt Sharon. I love you and miss you more than words can say...can't wait to see you again!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Under the Radar

Last night at Bible Study, our teaching leader made the point that it is dangerous to deliberately sin with the intention to confess and ask forgiveness later.

I recall a season of the television show "Survivor" years ago where the woman (who eventually won, I believe) was as nasty as she could be to so many of the people on the island, and yet she regularly claimed Christianity. (I am in no way acting as the judge of her heart, as only the Lord knows.) What I do remember is how people I know who are skeptical of Christianity to begin with were even more turned off to things of God because of this woman's very public attitude. She outright told the cameras that it was okay for her to backstab people because she could confess and be forgiven when she returned home.

So I got to thinking...in my job, working with various buildings and administrators, each having different "rules", how my attitude can be just as cavalier. Because I float between buildings, I can fly under the radar. It is easy for me to claim ignorance to the rules of a particular building, and I have often uttered the phrase, "It's easier to beg forgiveness than ask permission."

And so, I sit here convicted that this attitude is not a good representation of what God wants the world to see. Next time I want to "stretch" the rules, I need to remember that while it may be easier to beg forgiveness, the right thing to do is to ask permission.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

I'm Lovin' It

Dayna is most definitely your typical All-American kid. We can barely go a mile down the road without Dayna seeing a familiar landmark and hollering out the name of her favorite restaurant: "'M' for Mommy!"

I hope it takes awhile for her to figure out the truth!