Archive for the ‘On the Flip Side’ Category

I’ve had several people writing recently to ask if I had dropped over the face of the earth.  While it might seem that way, and, at times, felt that way, the answer is no.

Life intervened at the end of our spring semester with physical ailments of my own that I had to deal with this summer, and I’m just now getting back to some semblance of normalcy, whatever that might be.  Thanks for the encouraging notes and emails.  I do appreciate each and every one!

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To all mothers everywhere – Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy-Mother-s-Day-Mother-and-Child-in-Veil-PostersBefore I was a Mom,
I never tripped over toys
or forgot words to a lullaby.
I didn’t worry whether or not
my plants were poisonous.
I never thought about immunizations.

Before I was a Mom,
I had never been puked on.
Pooped on.
Chewed on.
Peed on.
I had complete control of my mind
and my thoughts.
I slept all night.

Before I was a Mom,
I never held down a screaming child
so doctors could do tests.
Or give shots.
I never looked into teary eyes and cried.
I never got gloriously happy over a simple grin.
I never sat up late hours at night
watching a baby sleep.

Before I was a Mom,

I never held a sleeping baby just because
I didn’t want to put her down.
I never felt my heart break into a million pieces
when I couldn’t stop the hurt.

I never knew that something so small
could affect my life so much.
I never knew that I could love someone so much.
I never knew I would love being a Mom.

Before I was a Mom,
I didn’t know the feeling of
having my heart outside my body..
I didn’t know how special it could feel
to feed a hungry baby.
I didn’t know that bond
between a mother and her child.
I didn’t know that something so small
could make me feel so important and happy.

Mother and ChildBefore I was a Mom,
I had never gotten up in the middle of the night
every 10 minutes to make sure all was okay.
I had never known the warmth,
the joy,
the love,
the heartache,
the wonderment
or the satisfaction of being a Mom.
I didn’t know I was capable of feeling so much,
before I was a Mom .


May you always be overwhelmed by the Grace of God rather than by the cares of life.

Thank you to one of my Kindermusik moms, Myra Stewart, for sending this on to me.    Happy Mother’s Day, Myra!

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I am usually known as an encourager, although from time to time I have been known to really wallow in pessimism and have one absolutely *terrific* pity-party with anyone and everyone invited.    But with the overwhelming, frequent soundbites each day of the “free-falling economy,” the “downward spiral on Wall Street” with “no end in sight, ” it’s sometimes difficult to keep a positive outlook.

I’ve thought a lot recently about something Franklin Delano Roosevelt said in his first inaugural address in 1933:   “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”    Fear is palpable in our country right now, especially in the media who feeds it to us daily on a frequent basis.

Yesterday, thankfully, I read something so encouraging about one CEO’s decision to not give in to the mindset espoused by the media that I wanted to share it here in hopes that this choice might spread rapidly across our nation like a virus.   It already did there at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

All it takes is one person making a conscious decision to look for an alternative to layoffs,  being willing to give up something in order to help out others in jeopardy of their livelihood,  asking other workers to come alongside and share with the load of keeping everyone employed.


Read about President and CEO Paul Levy’s alternative to layoffs here and how his staff responded to his request for sacrifice.

Their response, in my opinion, is akin to the actions shown by my grandparents’ generation in the Great  Depression when extended families and neighbors reached out to help each other when there was a need.

It reminds me of my parents’ generation – the so-called Greatest Generation – when they came together as “one nation” in World War II to fight to preserve the sanctity and safety of their families here at home.

It’s about time that my generation – the Boomers – gets off their collective blessed assurance and show that we are capable of  carrying that same torch to keep our nation whole and healthy as our parents and grandparents before us.   Our children and grandchildren deserve no less.

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Please forgive the lack of postings recently!   We’ve been running from one doctor to specialist after specialist to rule out any problems health-wise with our 13yo daughter.

Thankfully, it all appears to have been a complete blood-pressure raising scare induced by a nasty virus and dehydration.  We deeply appreciate the patience and encouraging notes, prayers, and calls shown by friends and Kindermusik families.   New postings to follow!  🙂

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I really, really love the holiday season, with all of its joys and wonders.

I enjoy the anticipation of seeing a loved one’s face when they open a gift and find something they had deeply desired but did not expect to receive due to the high cost or time-expenditure involved in obtaining it.

As a musician, I love being a part of the holiday build-up, participating in so many Christmas programs – as a musician, a director, and an educator.   Providing holiday music to willing listeners who enjoy and praise your efforts is always a joy and pleasure.

I even enjoy shopping to an extent – when I am able to get out *early* in the morning around 7:30 or 8 AM before the mall’s parking lots begin to fill with the crazies who cruise up and down the lanes, looking for that one spot closest to the door when they could easily have parked their car five or six slots further down the hill and walked up, saving time *and* gas.

I love remembering Christmases past and sharing family stories with my children, now old enough to appreciate those of  family members no longer with us and to enjoy hearing their own versions of those they shared in as very young children.

However, this Christmas season we had a new experience that I could just as soon done without.

The day after my previous post, my mother-in-law’s home, located nearby, was broken into and ransacked.   There wasn’t really anything of monetary value in her home to steal – only sentimental and precious items that drew their value from their previous owners – all family who are no longer living.

According to DeKalb County police, the intruders are suspected as being juveniles looking for game systems, flatscreen televisions, laptops, etc. that they can easily turn around and sell for $50 or less in a couple of hours.

When the burglars couldn’t put their hands quickly on anything like that in her home, they weren’t satisfied until they had basically taken every drawer out and dumped it, pulled everything out of every closet and off every shelf in the process, leaving behind a complete and total mess all over the house.

We were advised that we would be contacted by a DP detective who would handle our case, but seeing as there wasn’t a great deal stolen and no apparent clues left behind, there’s not a great deal of hope for recovering what was lost.  If we saw anything or anyone suspicious in our neighborhood, we should contact the DCPD immediately and let them know.

So, this year, we weren’t worried about whether or not we’d get all our shopping done in time or all the packages wrapped before running out of scotch tape.  We didn’t really think about whether or not the UPS tracking number was messed up, saying only, “Shipper info received” for three days with no change in location *anywhere*.

Instead it was whether or not it was even safe to leave our own home unattended for a few hours to go visit other family members and share Christmas with them.

We were finally able to relax yesterday and enjoy a pleasant Christmas Day with our children and extended family, sharing a good meal and relishing the chaos of gift-giving and package-demolition that a family with nine members creates.

Then today – another reminder that there really are individuals out there whose sole intent is to take what doesn’t belong to them only because they’re too lazy to work for it like the rest of us.

We had a young couple, male and female, come to our door this afternoon, clipboard in hand, wearing name badges with an AT&T logo in the lower right-hand corner,  saying that they were with AT&T, going door-to-door, checking with AT&T customers about their bills and whether or not they had received a reduction in monthly fees as had been reported.  (their words)

According to them, there had been a number of complaints in our area from AT&T customers that the reduction had not come through in their bills and this couple’s job was to check on the status of our satisfaction with AT &T.

One of their first questions was whether or not we have only phone service or phone and internet service.  (Shouldn’t this information already be in their system?)

When I asked if they had any identification, they both pointed to their name badges (which, coincidentally, did not have an individual picture on them – more on that later), and the young woman laughed, saying, “No, really, we’re here to help you eat up some of the leftovers from all that food you had yesterday.”

When I replied, “Well, you’re out of luck – there’s not much left”, her response was “No biggy.”  (Is this really a professional reply from a professional marketing surveyor?)

At this point, my personal radar is screaming – WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?

When they finally got to the point of asking about our billing, I used the convenient tool I always use when asked something by a marketing individual that I don’t want to answer:

“My husband handles all that.  He’s gone to the store right now (which did happen to be true), and he’ll be back in 30 minutes.”

The young woman replied, “Well, we’ll be going down the street and looping around.  We’ll be coming back by here in a little while.  If we see him, we’ll stop back by.”

When I asked where they were parked, they both gestured down the street and vaguely replied “Down there.”  (which I did look in that direction – no car was to be seen.)

As soon as they left, walking down the street, I ran inside and called my husband on his cell, telling him the story as quickly as I could.  He had been heading for the store to pick up a prescription for our son, but immediately turned around to come back and look for these people.

My daughters and I watched as the couple continued down the street and back up the other side, literally going door to door, finding very few people at home today.  (I suspect some of our neighbors were out at Stonecrest, scooping up after-Christmas bargains.)

I tried repeatedly to call 3-1-1 – the non-emergency number for DeKalb PD, but had no luck reaching anyone.  Frustrated by this, I decided to go ahead and call 9-1-1 even though it really wasn’t an emergency situation as I think of an emergency.

The 911 operator was very helpful, taking down my information and reassuring me that they’d have someone out there soon, which, amazingly enough, happened within 5 minutes or so.

In the meantime, my husband had come back and stopped this couple, standing literally in his mother’s carport at her door, and had asked for their supervisor’s name and phone number.

He was given a single name – Bruno – and a 1-866 number that our daughters googled and found to be an ATT customer service number with the full menu of options to select from that drives *all* of us crazy.

He also asked for their names – Jamie and Rusty, which they wrote down – but couldn’t really verify this with their badges as he could not see them that well outside the van.

By the time the police arrived, “Jamie” and “Rusty” had continued on up the road and around the corner on the next side street.  My husband had continued to ride around the neighborhood, keeping an eye on them, talking with AT&T on his cell, asking about ID as well, but the police somehow missed them when they left our home after speaking with me in our yard.

It became very obvious to me that not only was I unnerved by this, but our daughters and next-door neighbor as well.   All of us were on edge, wondering if these people were legit or not.

My oldest daughter had called AT&T while this was all taking place and asked them if they could tell us if they knew of anyone from their company in our area going door to door.

She was advised that if the couple was legitimately representing AT&T, they would be wearing picture  ID’s – not just name badges.  Not only that – they would not come inside the home or ask to; they are prohibited from doing that.

Other information we found out was that any representative should have a letter of authorization as well as a number to call to verify their identity business.

When David had asked for their supervisor’s name and phone number, he was given the previously mentioned name and number written on the back of a poorly photocopied sheet of various monthly plans with an ATT logo at the bottom.  No letter of authorization of any kind was shown.

In the process of riding through the neighborhood, David found a car parked on the side of the road on another side street just above our home.

As he drove by the BMW after writing down the tag number, he saw the young woman, “Jamie”,  walking up the hill to the car.  She waved and flagged him down, asking if he was following them around.

When he told her that he was just keeping an eye on the neighborhood, she told him that he’d better be careful – the police might pick him up because she had called them, telling them that a man was following them around. (The police later told us that no such call had been received.)

My sweet, gentle husband informed her that that was fine with him, and she might want to be careful, too, because we had called the police about them.

Bottom line?

We still don’t know for sure if the couple was really asking for information as representatives of AT&T or on a fishing expedition of the neighborhood homes.   By the time a second unit of the DeKalb PD came back by and talked with us, the car and couple was gone.

The police officer that spoke with us then said that he had been involved in a similar call recently in the area that did turn out to be a legitimate follow-up by a different media company.   It also involved a couple, male and female, that, because of the physical appearance of one of them, caused questions to be raised in the minds of the homeowners who were approached at the door.

He also advised us that sharing the information with our neighbors (which we did and continue to do) is the very best thing we could do to protect ourselves and our neighborhood.

In his words, “You’re out here (in the area) all the time.  We’re only here 10% of the time.   You know who belongs here and who doesn’t.  Stay alert and continue to watch out for anything or anyone suspicious and report them.  That helps us out to protect you.”

So I’m left wondering if I panicked over nothing, or did I possibly give a potential burglar cause to stop and say, “Nah, I don’t think I’ll mess with this neighborhood.  Too many busybodies.”

Was I overly sensitive to a woman who struck me as very unprofessional in her demeanor, or was she, in my husband’s words, possibly just a college student out to make a few bucks between semesters?

Was I possibly judgmental to someone who apparently has not had the benefits of education and socio-economic upbringing that I had?

I don’t know;  I cringe at the thought of that kind of bigotry.

But I do know this – I’m not going to go through another Christmas, looking over my shoulder, wondering if someone’s watching our house, plotting to break in.

My New Year’s resolution that is actually *not* for New Year’s but today, December 26th, 2008 is this – I’m going to be more proactive – notifying our neighborhood watch that successfully got the speedbreakers installed on our street not to let down their guard, but to keep eyes and ears open.

We are a community of families that just happen to reside in nearby homes who need to look out for each other just as neighbors did when I was a child.

No longer can we be content to just stay in our homes, contacting only family members and immediate friends via phone, mail, and email.  We have to reach out to those we recognize by sight here in our neighborhoods, even when we don’t know their names.   Our family’s peace of mind may depend on it.

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 That’s what I’ve been hearing lately from folks wondering if I’ve dropped off the face of the earth.  I have to say that, in some ways, that actually might have been preferable!

I’ve been swamped, preparing for a music conference this coming weekend where I am responsible for three sessions (YIKES!) while caring for our soon-to-be 18-year-old daughter who has had her wisdom teeth removed and is coping with mega-sized chipmunk-style cheeks.  Again – YIKES!

On top of all that, we’ve had two funerals this week to deal with – one, the father-in-law of a very dear friend, and the other, a gentleman who was the sweetest, kindest, gentlest soul I think I’ve ever known.  The last ten days or so have been tough in many ways.

I’ll be back this Saturday evening with a *LOT* of good things to share – about this fall, our Kindermusik schedule, and our studio events.  I might be out of sight, but the blog is *definitely* not out of mind! 🙂

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One of the many musical hats that I wear is that of Children’s Choirs Coordinator at Zion Baptist Church in Covington, Georgia.  The Children’s Choirs, otherwise known as the Joyful Noise (preschool) and S.T.O.M.P. (grades 1 – 5) meet on Sunday afternoons at 4:45PM each week, beginning usually in mid-August after school starts. 

This year, due to various church activities which required some cancellations of our time slot, our choir year didn’t even begin until September 16th.  Our choir rehearsal schedule was often interrupted.  In October we missed one week due to Fall Break for Newton and Rockdale School Systems, who both use a balanced schedule.  In November, the Thanksgiving Celebration by the Adult Choir and Orchestra on November 18th meant that almost all of our teachers, including myself, were involved that Sunday afternoon preparing for the service that night, and our class didn’t get to meet that week, either.  

To catch up and give us additional rehearsals, at the beginning of November, I asked the children to come in not only 15 minutes earlier on Sunday afternoons (4:30 instead of 4:45), but also Wednesday afternoons at 5:30 before AWANA began at 6:00. 

This meant giving up precious play-time and hanging-out time with friends between dinner and AWANA on Wednesday nights and coming in earlier on Sunday afternoons – prime play time.  It meant that moms and dads had to make a special effort to get home from work on Wednesdays to pick up their child/ren and get them to the church.  I wasn’t sure, at first, how many would be willing to sacrifice any or all of that just to come to choir. 

Well, since most of my blog readers weren’t fortunate enough to be there tonight to hear them and see them in action, I can testify that these children did that and more.  They sang; they signed; they drummed; they danced, jived, and clapped.  They just kept on giving when most adults would have long given up, moaning, groaning, whining, and complaining.  I couldn’t have asked them to do anything any better than they did.  And they did it all with a smile on each face and a song in their hearts.

To their parents, thank you for your faithfulness in bringing the children to practice, for your willingness to put up with shifted schedules, for your patience when we ran late on Sunday afternoons, and especially for listening to us sing the same songs over and over and over again.  You have beautiful, loving children, and I know you know that, but every parent needs to hear that others think that, too.

To “my kids” as I call them, I love each and every one of you, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your wholehearted commitment to the choir and to your dedication to sing praises to the Lord.  You make Sunday afternoons more than worthwhile.  You put a smile on my face and in my heart, too.  

You guys rock!

S.T.O.M.P. Choir, Zion Baptist Church, Covington, Georgia

Hugs to you all from Miss Merri

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This video is a very special video because it reunites two men who were good friends, close friends years ago, providing the listening public with some of the most enjoyable, haunting, and thought-provoking music at a time when the music world was filled with rock-and-roll and anti-war rhetoric.  They later split up their act in bitterness and anger.  I never really understood the why.  It wasn’t really important to me at the time.

But this particular song, performed here in 2003 in New York during the “Old Friends: Live On Stage” tour, is very, very special to me.  In early 1970, when I was reeling from the sudden, unexpected death of my grandfather, it was given to me on my birthday as a gift of love, comfort, and support, a statement of unconditional love from a young man willing to come alongside me and help me bear this almost unbearable burden.  

Almost five years later, on November 16, 1974, I married that young man, the love of my life, who gave me this song and life has never been the same.  Together we have been blessed with and successfully raised five beautiful children.  We have stood alongside each other over the years as we buried our fathers, our grandparents, aunts, uncles, my sister and my mother.  We have stood together at the hospital beds of our children fighting to live, wondering how on earth we got there, but still reaching out for each other’s hand, needing that connection, that “bridge over troubled water.” 

Most recently, we’ve had to walk another new road together, caring for my beloved 84yo mother-in-law who has lived across the street from us for almost 30 years and who now resides in a nursing home not too far from our home.

On this day, as I remember our wedding 33 years ago, I dedicate this video to my husband, David, the love of my life. 

Sweetheart, I love you more today than I did yesterday, but not nearly as much as I will tomorrow.  I offer this to you today as you gave it to me back in 1970.  We may be older and grayer like Simon & Garfunkel in this video, but we’re still sailing and I’m right behind.


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This week I’ve been a little below the radar due to the fact that I’ve been teaching music in my church’s Vacation Bible School.  Each day I’ve had three rotations of children coming through my choir room, singing, dancing, signing, having an absolute blast!  As near as I can tell, I’ve had somewhere between 150 – 170 children each day.  🙂

1st and 2nd Grades Rotation - VBS - Game Day Central 2007 - ZBC

Tonight, as I sat down and began to cull through my email and check on favorite blogs, I ran across a video that simply took my breath away.  As a mother of a special needs child, I understand the sacrifice and stamina required of a mom to care for that child.  The resolve and dedication of this mother and her daughter is truly inspirational. 

Born with birth defects resulting in only two (2) fingers on each hand and no legs below the knees, Hee-ah Lee’s mother refused to put her up for adoption or place her in an institute.  She cared for her as if she were perfect.  

Today, 20 year old Hee-ah Lee has confounded the so-called “experts”.  She is an inspiration to all come in contact with her, no matter the medium or setting.  Hee Ah began playing the piano at age 7 for therapeutic purposes, but she is now a concert pianist, using adjusted piano pedals to perform in concert on her own.  I hope you enjoy listening to and learning about Hee Ah Lee, the “Four-fingered Pianist” from Korea as much as I have.

“You play with your heart and head not your fingers,” Hee-ah says.

To learn more about Hee-ah Lee, visit her website.

Tip of the hat to Sunny Kira of Musik and Motion!

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WordPress.com is an amazing group of people who constantly seek to give their members the best, the newest, the greatest tools for blogging that you can find anywhere.  Recently, I was able to upload video clips from my piano studio’s Spring Recital to Youtube.com, but I didn’t want to place them in a series of separate posts on this blog.  WordPress.com has made it possible for me to create a separate page on this blog for the sole purpose of my piano students and their Spring Recital.


If you will look up at the very top of the page here, just above the boy with the red shirt, you will notice a tab that says “Piano for Everyone!” Click on that tab and you will find, for your listening pleasure, video clips of my students’ performances in recital.  The first set consists of their piano solos, and the second set is our “Singspiration” time, consisting of pieces chosen by the students themselves for the purpose of playing music that family and friends could sing along while they played.  I hope you enjoy their performances.  It was an enjoyable evening for everyone there.  We had a blast!

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