Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Donna Day-Childhood Cancer Happens, you can help!

Several years ago a friend of mine emailed me the story of a woman that was choosing hope every day.  She took the time to write the story of her daughter's life.  Many of us chose to read.  Many of us cried.  Sometimes Donna's story was hard to read, but read it I did.  Later that year, I was listening to the Lurie Children's telethon waiting to hear another family friend speak, and I head Jeremy and Sheila.  

Donna Hornik's Storysong

Today all over the web bloggers are coming together to write about Donna and ask you to help fund childhood cancer research.   Many people would lay down in the face of tragedy.  Not Mary Tyler Mom!  This family continues to do amazing things even though they lost their child.   Their family chooses hope everyday. 

I can't imagine, nor do I want to even consider what losing a child looks like.  Tragedy can touch anyone at anytime, that lesson fate has taught me well.  What I haven't learned is how to reach out to others in loss, this is a lesson that MTM can teach me and I am all ears!  (Actually, MTM is one of the people who encouraged me to write my blog--so for all 6 of you that read my words--thank her and Laura!)

The Donna's Good Things St Baldrick's fundraiser is coming! 
Donna's Good Things St Baldricks March 29th

Oh and What is Donna's Good Things? 
An organization that honors a CHILD by doing good things that 4 year old Donna never had the chance to do.   It is amazing and is a labor of love!  

So what can you do to help a family "parent" a child who has died? Well for this family, they are looking for donations.  The money you donate to specific pediatric cancer research could help someone you love. 

So, in that respect please:

  1. Donate in support of the Donna's Good Things head shaving event for St. Baldrick's. Click here for details or to donate.
  2. Purchase a St. Baldrick's "Super Heroes Save Lives" t-shirt featuring Marvel characters Iron Man, Spider Man, Captain America, Thor, and The Hulk. All t-shirts sold through February 28 are credited as support from Donna's Good Things. The t-shirts can be seen and purchased here.

Piano Teacher

Robert was a piano teacher.  I can remember the little kids and their parents coming through our door to meet him.  The families would interview him, but he was also interviewing the family.  He would ask to make sure that the child had a genuine interest in music.  He wanted to instill a lifelong love of music in his students.  To him, it didn't matter if they took piano for one year or ten as long as they loved music.  He was not one of those teachers that demanded hours of practice each week-although ironically, most of his students did practice a lot.  They flourished under him.  I saw timid small children develop stage presence and confidence. 

Since he died, his piano has sat silent.  It haunts me, I don't play it because every time that I do, I end up in tears.  Munchkin however, has free reign.  He can play it whenever he wants.  I have taught him to not bang or kick on it when he was very little so he sits on the bench and plays the keys.  He loves to explore the sounds that the keys make.  He is absolutely intrigued by the tuning process and will sit and watch the piano tuner when he comes.   My heart aches with the things that Robert misses on seeing.  Keep in mind as soon as he could sit up, Robert had him on the piano bench next to him.  Robert would play and Munchkin would imitate him at four months old!

When Munchkin was 2 and 3 he took group piano classes in his Montessori school.  He loved it and did very well.  He was reading already so he mastered things much faster than other kids.  He was young so I didn't push him right away into a teacher, but for 3 years I have been on a quest for the "perfect" teacher for us. 

I have interviewed more than I can count.  Some use a method that I just don't care for-and since he reads very well, isn't necessary.  Others won't take a kid until a certain age, regardless of the innate desire of the child...nope that rigidity isn't what I was looking for.

One of the biggest obstacles is finding someone who doesn't have any preconceived notion of Munchkin in that he is our child.  Do I expect that he will have a love and talent for music, ABSOLUTELY!  Do I wish that to be held over him and have him held to a different standard than his age peers...NO WAY!  Why is this an issue--we live in a very small town, many of the music teachers that are well known taught either my husband or myself OR took lessons from my husband 20 years ago.  That is a mighty high wall for a six year old! Couple that with my desire to not drive 45 minutes round trip to one of the colleges and it is difficult to say the least.

After years of talking and interviewing, I found a person who has no associations with the local schools and therefore didn't know us.  She is FABULOUS!  She and I exchanged email questions for a few weeks.   We spoke on the phone for over an hour.  She uses a method series that I was unfamiliar with, but was kind enough to lend me the books so that I could review it myself (it is new to the market after Robert's death, but I really do like it! I also like the fact that Munchkin won't be reusing any of "daddy's music" and will have his own books--hopefully holding his own identity in music!)  We were on a waiting list for a spot to open up.  I had been on that list for several months.   One day, Munchkin asked if he could learn piano again, and she happened to call me that day to say she had an opening!

He started lessons with him a month or so ago.  He loves it.  Every Friday night he gets to go and "play games" while I listen.  He responds well to her and she just loves him.  I can see how well she treats and stretches her students to learn.  It is comforting for me to see him flourish!  I am glad that instead of bringing heartache for the both of us, it is something that Munchkin is thoroughly enjoying. 

She teaches to HIS style, which is something ROBERT was always doing and clearly differentiated him in the marketplace.  Munchkin's teacher has figured out that he loves creativity and he is learning the fundamentals through improv and games.   I could not have picked a better fit for him!   I am grateful that this woman was placed in our lives and will hopefully help me to help Munchkin develop his own love of music!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Looking for the Beauty

We are having a record breaking winter in terms of snow fall. 

I LOVE SNOW.  Seriously, I used to gripe and complain and tell Robert every year how much I missed snow.  I love the looking at a snow globe out the window. 

Now that I work at home, I don't have to worry about driving in it, or more specifically, I don't have to worry about who was driving next to me or around me. 

When I look at my facebook feed, it is full of moaning and groaning about mother nature, winter, snow and ice. 

I get it.   People are tired and want to fast forward to spring. 

Here I am still enjoying the snow.   I have taken a different approach.  I have been taking this opportunity to admire the beauty of snow. 

In the past I had seen pictures of single snowflakes and I always admired the beauty of them.

This year I have started taking the opportunity of all of the snow to start snapping pictures of snowflakes. 

I am taking the time to capture the beauty of my circumstance.  I can't change the seasons, so I am working to find the beauty exactly where I am.  I am not complaining or wishing away the snow and cold.  I am deliberately taking the time to stop and look around.  

I am by no means a "good" photographer, however, I am pretty happy with the way the pictures that have turned out.    As I was sorting through my pictures this morning,  I was reflecting on this.  

Perhaps the secret to being content in any situation is to find the beauty around you.   Children are good at this.  My Munchkin is an expert at it.  I have him to thank for helping me to find beauty around me.  I am more observant because of him.

My challenge to you is to stop for just a minute and find the beauty around you.  I promise that it will not be wasted.  

Charlie Brown....

Robert had a signature song....whenever anyone asked him to demonstrate his piano "chops" he would break out into a rendition of "Linus and Lucy" it was one of his favorites to play and people usually knew the tune.  He would play it daily claiming that it made for a good "warm up" on the piano.  For years, that song has brought me to my knees in tears for no reason and I have been quick to shut it off.  It was too much.

Charlie Brown Christmas was on TV.  I watched it with Munchkin.  He loved it.  He did think that Lucy was very mean to Charlie Brown and he thought that Charlie should have told her to stop being a bully-but he loved the show.

On Friday night we had valentine's dinner at my parent's house.   As my dad flipped through the channels, I heard the soundtrack and I inhaled sharply.  Munchkin let out a "STOP THERE PAPA" and he was hooked all over again.   He watched everyone skip Charlie Brown when it came time for valentines and declared that the kids he went to school with were mean.   If he was there he would be Charlie's friend.  

One of the strangest things for me is that I get to watch Munchkin find joy in something that Robert and I used to.  He has such a deep belly laugh and I love to see him smile.   It reminds me of Roberts grin and it brings me joy.  For a fleeting moment, it feels as if my life is coming full circle.  The only thing missing is Robert.

Sunday, February 9, 2014


Last night we were having one of our nightly conversations.  We were talking about the 10 Commandments as God's rules for our lives.   I paraphrased a few of them into things that Munchkin could understand and my translation of adultery was that "God says we can only be married to one person". 

Munchkin looked perplexed..."But mama, what if God wants you to get married again?" 


My head filled with a million thoughts...
-what if I want to be married again?
-would I ever have anyone as special as Robert again?
-Why am I even having this conversation with a 6 year old?
-Why on earth do I even have to explain how people are technically married, but not really married when someone dies?

My head was spinning with the speed and depth of my thoughts.  

I took a breath and answered him as best as I know how. 
"If God puts someone in our lives then there are things that mommy could do in the church to get married again and it would be ok"

Thankfully, for the moment he was satisfied with that answer, because honestly, I am not sure that I am up to discussing a Catholic annulment with him!

He went to bed without further exploration of the topic.

I however, was still reeling.   I am sometimes silenced by the thoughtful questions that he has for me, and I remind myself that I am his first and best teacher and I answer him in ways that do my best to nurture his curiosity and make him feel safe and valued for his questions.  My hope is that when he is a teenager, I can still be his source of information instead of having him get answers from the media. 

I realize that as painful as his questions sometimes are, that his curiosity is normal.