“P.S – Don’t Forget to Have Fun.”

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So tonight I held the bi-yearly ritual of going through my closet.

 

Cleaning house, as they call it. Getting rid of all those tops that I’ve only worn a handful of times. Old T-shirts with stains and tattered threads that even a Pinterest T-shirt quilt couldn’t breathe new life into. Skirts that no longer fit….and dresses that I no longer wear because it would require tanning, leg lifts and calf raises, and also frequent leg-shaving. Shoes that are wore plum through the soles. (Yeah, I’ve been told I’m an avid pacer….) That cute romper my friends talked me into buying from Forever 21 – that still has the tags on it and has been stashed in the deep abyss of my wardrobe and forgotten since the day I brought it home because I literally have no idea when or where I could possibly ever rock something like that. (Let’s be real…I don’t really “go out” anymore.)

And of course, let’s not forget all those things that almost didn’t make the cut the last time I went through my closet, because I felt like they were staring into my soul and begging for a second chance as I was bagging them up for the next yard sale so I quickly snatched them back, shoved them in my closet, and slammed the doors shut before I could change my mind about it. (Whew, that was a close one…)

Yeah, you guessed it. I STILL haven’t worn them… #Here’sToRoundTwo…OrMaybeFive

As all these things were being stripped off the hanger one by one and chucked left and right all across the bedroom floor, my clumsiness and utter lack of coordination caused me to pull the ENTIRE rod down, letting ALL my clothes tumble to the floor and make an even bigger mess – and also, naturally, whack me on top of the noggin.

Nice one, slick.

Now, please understand something. This is a crisis for the girl whose entire wardrobe is all-things color coordinated and arranged according to sleeve-length.

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Wasn’t kidding…

Which brings me to another valid tangent…why in the world do they call it OCD if the letters aren’t even in alphabetical order? STU-to-the-PID.

But I digress…

So in the midst of all this I stand up to take care of this newfound dilemma and lo and behold there it is, on the overhead shelf, concealed behind stacks of hoodies and blanket scarves – that I should probably also go through.

My high school keepsake box. (Dunnn dunn dunnnnnn….)

Thinking the mess could wait for a little detour trip through memory lane, I reach – no, more like excessively strain on my tippy toes because my 6’2” husband wasn’t home yet – to pull it down from the shelf.

Dust bunnies? Seriously? I mean, I haven’t been out THAT long……have I? How rude.

So I wipe the gray fuzz away with my sleeve and open up this box to find some long-forgotten artifacts of the life I lived before college tuition statements, electric bills, car loans, resumes, cover letters, and W-2 forms.

Amidst all all the hilarious letters my friends and I used to pass in class, yearbooks that conceal some pretty embarrassing junior high headshots, certificates for my nerdy-ness and dedication to FFA and dance team, leftover senior pictures, my valedictorian speech (**Face palm** sweet Jesus, did I really say all of that corny “Don’t forget about me and I won’t forget about you” crap in front of everyone???) and my fifteen-sizes-too-big cap and gown, there was one thing that made me freeze right in my tracks.

A graduation card – written by one of my favorite teachers ever – which was given along with a College Survival Guide that really did offer some comfort during all those late night study sessions, tears, and finals.

While I am undeniably grateful for everyone who watched me walk across that stage with pride to receive my diploma (without tripping, I might add!) and took the time to fill out hundreds of cards full of “Congratulations!” And “You’re going to do amazing things!” this was the one graduation card that I decided to keep out of all the others. It wasn’t the fact that it was Hallmark’s fanciest piece of work. In fact, it was fairly simple cardstock engraved with a plain Jane script.

It was what was hand-written on the inside that convinced me to tuck it away, with the premonition that I would one day need to read it again. And believe me when I say this – I needed to read it then just as much as I needed to read it tonight.

“P.S – Don’t forget to have fun.”

I know. Pretty deep, right?

So here I am, sitting in the middle of my bedroom floor, clothes still strewn out everywhere, with a complimentary goose egg on my head reading these words.

Is it possible to have a mid-life crisis at 23? A mid-mid-life crisis, perhaps?

Kidding…

But there was a slight epiphany or “lightbulb flicker”. And I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a concussion.

So…yeah. Confession  #4,576. Sometimes I forget to have fun. I get too absorbed in conquering my extensive to-do lists, bottomless schedules, endless bills, and even those stupid dust bunnies on top of my closet shelf that I forget to take in the moments that really do matter and make the most of all the blessings I’ve been given.

I am alive and healthy today. Check.

I have a job. Check.

I have faith. Check.

I have friends, family, and a great husband. Check.

I have a roof over my head and food in my refrigerator. Check.

I have coffee, sweatpants, and Netflix. Check, check, check.

Annnnnddddd I have Best Choice frozen peas to ice this bump on my head. We’ll put a special check mark next to that one.

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When I look back on the past five years of my life since I received that graduation card, there’s nothing that alarms me too much. I mean, I’ve never robbed a bank or anything and I’m pretty sure last time I checked there’s not a warrant out for my arrest, so I must have done at least that much right. There’s been a lot of good times in my life followed by some not-so-good times. I’m definitely no mathematician, but if I were to calculate it all up I would say my laughs to tears ratio is relatively normal for a young becoming-of-age woman.

However…

There have also been numerous times when my stress, fears, and overloaded schedule compromised what could have been some pretty awesome opportunities and memories. Some of which could have probably been added to that keepsake box…or even started a new one by now.

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Seriously. Don’t be Grumpy Cat. Don’t be that guy.

I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer here and dwell too much on the “Could’ve, would’ve, should’ves” of my past, but I will say that I would have said “yes” a little more. (Relax, I’m not talking about drugs or rides in sketchy vans here…)

I would’ve taken that chance when I was asked if I wanted to join Sigma Alpha in college. Ate out with those girls after late night Friday class instead of going home to an empty apartment because my roommates were already homebound for the weekend. Studied abroad one more time – but this time in Costa Rica. Ripped the tags off that romper for a fun night out with my best friends that I never hardly see anymore – but said I had housework and lesson plans to get caught up on instead. Visited my favorite sunday school teacher in the nursing home I drove past every day on my way to and from work just one more time before she passed away and was gone forever. Sang karaoke at the state fair when invited to the stage by a complete stranger, just because I secretly like to sing. (If you ask my shampoo bottle, I’m not half bad…)

Yeah, buddy. All this from a five year old graduation card in a forgotten, dusty box…

So take it from the girl who is 99.9% pretty sure the Energizer Bunny is her spirit animal. When life gets a little crazy? Slowwwww. Dowwwnnnnn. Learn to let it go and let it be. Make time, even when there’s not much left at the end of a long, hard day or week. Go out with your friends. Wear that romper. Try out for that part in that play. Get that edgy haircut. Jump out of that plane (with a fully-functioning parachute, of course…) Turn off the T.V and break out that Monopoly board with your family. Date your husband or wife. Let your hair down. Take a drive. Take a vacation. Do anything you gotta do to smell the roses, or whatever.

Oh, yeah. One more thing…have a little fun, will ya?

 

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13 Things Playing the Piano Has Taught Me About Life

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Tonight I sat down at the piano and just…played.

Not for fame. Not for Facebook likes or YouTube views. Not for a Sunday School worship service or ladies quartet special at my church, which I’ve been playing for for about eight years now.

Not for anyone…but me.

Mind you, I do not get this luxury very often. Between juggling lesson plans, grades, FFA activities, parent teacher conferences, professional development days, an hour commute, dirty laundry, bills, and the dishes from last night’s dinner this doesn’t really leave me with much “play time” to my crazy days anymore.

But something amazing happened tonight. As I sat down at the bench, slid open the fallboard, and my fingertips started dancing on ivory and ebony, I was taken back. Back to the days of do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do. To the days of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” To the days of learning the power of hold and release of the sostenuto pedal and how to correctly place my hands. To the days of memorizing the treble clef scale by the acronyms “Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge” and “F-A-C-E.” To the days where I first learned to play piano at twelve years old.

And it got me thinking about all the things I’ve learned from one childhood hobby that became one of the greatest blessings and saving graces in my entire life so far.

I’m sure if I thought about it even harder I could come up with way more than just thirteen, but this is what I scribbled down on a notebook so far…

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1 – Success takes time and effort.

Every now and then we get a guest speaker at church who leads a sermon if our regular pastor has to be gone. Usually, this person is one of our missionaries that only visits once a year with their beautiful wife and twelve children. (Kidding…but only about the twelve kids part, not the beautiful wife, just to clarify.) As if all the fancy brochures, PowerPoint presentations, and polaroids of their family camping on the beaches of Puerto Rico, feeding the malnourished children in Africa, or holding a baby kangaroo on an Australian safari isn’t enough icing on the cake, lo and behold, one of them just so happens to be a piano playing and singing prodigy. So, essentially what happens is I get a day off to sit back for a change and listen to someone else play – and it’s so show stopping and jaw dropping that I sink down in the pew utterly mortified in my own ability and solemnly swear I’ll never touch the keyboard again for as long as I live.

Because there’s no way on earth I’ll ever be that good.

Seriously. It’s like Keeping Up With the Modern-Day Beethovens and Mozarts. But then I have to stop and think of where they began and how they got to where they are today and remind myself that I have just as much potential, if I want it bad enough. I know it’s cliche, but whoever first said that practice makes perfect really knew what he or she was talking about. Because afterall, the only way to ever master anything in life is through trial and error, failure and triumph, and a dedication to keep on keepin’ on through it all.

Oh yeah, and also by not comparing yourself to others all the time.

2 – Never underestimate the power of “The Rest”.

This may sound redundant, as I have blogged on this before…but…there’s something to be said about pausing in life, if even for half a beat. We often fear the pause because it challenges us to give up all control and just be still in the moment we are in, but if we follow through it refreshes us just long enough to land that next note perfectly.

3 – Sometimes you’re the melody, sometimes you’re the harmony.

You will have Your Days. You know, where it’s your turn to be in the spotlight and carry the main tune that everyone recognizes. Like on your high school or college graduation. Your birthday. When you land that big promotion or win that award. Walking down the aisle on your wedding day. Announcing your pregnancy or gender reveal to family and friends with all things silly string, glitter, and colored balloons.

But sometimes, it’s your turn to be in the background while someone else takes the main lead. You will find yourself doing a lot of behind the scenes work or playing the accenting chords that are less noticed, but yet are still very necessary to the overall song.

Just remember your solo is coming some day.

4 – Be bold.

Until just about a year ago I utterly AVOIDED playing any songs in the hymnal that had two sharps, five flats, or several arpeggios. (For those of you are musically challenged and secretly trying to Google search this right now…this is code for songs and notes that are VERY. VERY. HARD.) I was afraid of failing and messing up in front of the people who loved me the most – which is ridiculous for the sole fact that they are the people who love me the most. So, I skipped them. Found easier songs. Stuck to the familiar.

But here’s the problem…for all those years I sure missed out on a lot of beautiful songs because I wasn’t willing to take that risk.

Never again.

5 – Just keep going.

Ugh, nothing cooks my grits or embarrasses me more than missing a chord or hitting the wrong key and it suspending loud through the sound system for all to hear.

Happens. All. The. Time. Take for example, last Sunday, when I completely skipped an ENTIRE line of “Victory in Jesus.”

Now, a younger twelve year old version of myself would have stopped immediately, apologized to the entire congregation, and made everyone restart the entire verse over again until I got it right. No, perfect.

But here’s what happened instead because I have since lived and learned.

I just laughed it off and kept playing.

And you know what? Nobody noticed, because everyone was focused on worshipping Him – as it should be – and not criticizing me. I think I could use a bit of this wisdom in other areas of my life as well.

6. Just listen…

Sometimes I play in the dark with the lights completely off. Or I close my eyes. This is partially because I get bored when I’m home alone and find funny piano challenges on the Internet, but it’s mainly because I can’t look at my hands to be sure I’m playing everything right. I can’t see the notes or read the words to sing. I can only listen…and feel…and then something amazing happens. The music just flows from my heart and guides me through the rest of the song.

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7. You’re never too old/too young to learn.

I read an article the other day about an 83 year old man who started taking piano lessons for the first time ever in his life after his wife passed away, with no former musical interests or experiences. I also read that Mozart began composing music when he was just three years old.

So…to answer your question about whether or not you should take a chance and do all the things you’ve always wanted to do because of your age – um, yeah. You should totally do them, regardless of what statistics show or society thinks. Life’s too short to sell yourself short.

8. Raise your voice.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good accompaniment without vocals every now and then, with nothing but instrumentals. But I am going to counteract my former statement from above in  Number 6 for a second just to say that when nothing makes sense, when you’re not sure where to go or what to do, when you stand for something you believe in with your entire being, when you are in the deepest dumps or are on the highest mountains – raise your voice. Not in chaos. Not in disrespect. Not in burning flags, vandalizing private property, or name calling.

But in song. In harmony. I think you’ll find that more people will hear you that way.

9. Use your talents for the greater good.

I’ll never forget the day my piano teacher came to me and said that she was moving away and getting married. I was not only scared of losing a great friend, but I was also terrified…because that meant that I was now the new pianist for our church. I was in junior high and was anything and everything short of an expert, especially compared to her. I had really only been playing for about four years and pretty much only knew how to play “Jesus Loves Me” and “Amazing Grace.”

But the opportunity to use a God-given talent for the purpose of honoring and glorifying Him in song by showing leadership in my church turned out to yield one of the greatest blessings in my life, and before I knew it I was learning new hymns left and right.

10. Rhythm counts.

I don’t think there’s anything more annoying than a metronome…and yes, I have watched Peppa Pig before…

Life ticks away, one beat at a time. You never slow it down, and you can’t exactly speed it up either. But what you can do is learn to pace yourself in order to get some flow…some rhythm. When things get crazy and every day blurs into the next, learn to slow yourself down so you don’t skip over any notes. If every day is a drag and you’re constantly bored, learn to pick up the pace so you don’t miss a beat and get left behind. (Also, we should probably do a Freaky Friday thing and swap lives so maybe I can get some of my sanity I had before I became a teacher…just kidding and I am ordering my metronome off Amazon right now as we speak…)

11. You can always find your way back to “The Middle C”.

Ah, the Middle C. I call it Home Key. The center key of the piano, where every beginner player learns to read notes and translate chords from. It’s the starting point for almost every song, and quite arguably the most recognizable key of them all. But sometimes we have to leave the Middle C….branch out a little and hit those really high or really low octaves if we want to really make some music and find our full potential.

This sort of translates into becoming of age. Leaving home. Finding your own place in this big old world. Sure, it’s always scary at first…but you know why they call it the Middle C??

Because no matter what, you can always find your way back to where you started – because it’s the center of everything.

12. Collaborate.

I love me a good piano solo. I’m talking Adele or some classic Stevie Wonder. Absolutely beautiful. But…

Have you ever heard a violin duet with a piano? An organ? A guitar? An entire choir  or orchestra?

That, my friends, is what you call music. Everyone – of different walks of life, of different experiences, of different styles – harmonizing together in one song.

13. Remember you’re not the only key on the keyboard.

88 keys.

52 white, 36 black, all different sounds.

1 instrument.

Infinite potential.

If I could rephrase this to say anything else worth saying at all, I would tell you this.

There are 7.4 billion people

With all different nationalities, races, beliefs, etc…

In this 1 world

And I believe that there is still hope for us, if we can figure out how to make it happen together.

**Insert mic drop.**

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