Friday, September 27, 2019

Pray First


Mary on the prop, second from the left

Eastview Marching Band

Working toward those 10,000 hours


Treat time and my new dish towel

Next year I want to grow my own

Calvin's first run of a piece at college

Deck repair at the cabin!!! 

As Mary called them. . .the Aceys' 

Practicing our selfies

Are we bothering you? 
I've had the best week! A week without any eye doctor appointments or music teacher meetings. Just a normal week. I guess one could argue that if almost every week has extras then actually the free week is anomaly.  C'est dommage.

After a summer of tweaking my own set of "commandments" I finally have a list and I'm somewhat satisfied. Good bloggers are supposed to give numbered list to draw the reader in, to keep you in suspense, so I'm only going to give you number one today. I know you all will be checking your in boxes on the hour for the other nine. . .

The first of Sara's rules is to pray first.

To pray first when you can't find your phone.
Or the drivers ed info sheet.
When you get squash soup on your white shirt.
When your car is making a funny sound and you still have to drive 100 miles.
When you wake up in the morning with too long of a list.
When you wake up with just the right list.
When your skin is freaking out.
When your jaw is mixed up.
When your Facebook feed is dark.
When someone is sick.
When someone is really sick.
When there is a beautiful sunrise.
When the wild turkeys are in your backyard.

Monday was the ten year anniversary of my dad's death from pancreatic cancer. We did a lot of praying then but he still died. However, there were amazing moments and incidents all along the way that proved our prayers were heard and perhaps adjusted. We just don't have the whole picture yet, but I know. . .  it's good.

When I see wild turkeys, it reminds me of my father, and especially of that time.
I sure don't have all the answers about prayer. I only know that I'm happier when I remember to pray about everyone and everything. The closer I feel to God the happier I am. No matter what the outcome.

I just have to remember to remember.

Be with me and my family and everyone who happens to read this today. Help us to remember to remember, whatever that means to each of us. 

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Fall is Here

Calvin and Grandmommy on a lunch date

After returning to the dorm room to change shirts on game day

Marriage vows in action but there was a negotiation. 

First day of high school smile

Another picture with Oliver 

Hmmm. Not working yet. 

Fall Hair

Callie Kitty 

It's nice to have a friend

Day three

Tools of the trade

A heat gun? Really? That is trust.
Fall is here. My favorite season. It's the season of school supplies and candles, brisk air and even football games where we leave after the band marches.

Fresh starts.

But, I'd be lying if I said it wasn't any different this year.

Calvin is settled in at the University of Iowa. Mary had her first day of high school on Tuesday. We have become the parents of older children. Say it again a little louder, the days are long but the years are fast.

We got a new kitty. Yes. . . I'm known to adopt cats during break ups and goodbyes. Deal with it. I know what I'm doing. Casey said cats are better than drugs and alcohol. See. I'm okay. Healthy even.

Callie is her name. My sister Susan was quick to note the similarity between Callie and Calvin.

After I first left for college September 1986, my parents immediately moved to Maquoketa, Iowa. I never went "home" again. When I did go back to the house I grew up in, 206 West LeClaire Road, the doors were locked. I looked in the windows and I sat on the steps and cried. To be fair, my parents waited for me. My dad stayed in his job until I left and not one minute longer. God bless him for that.

The first day of college I met Bill. We had calculus and music theory together. We walked across the NIU campus day after day. We shared dorm life, which included listening to albums after dinner and binging on junk food. He made me cassette tapes of the Alan Parsons Project. We became friends who would not date for another eleven years. Calvin has felt this pressure the last ten days. Have I met her yet? Who is she?

It's different now. We have a family text chat and FaceTime and communication is easy. I'm thankful for that. Back in the day. . . we talked on the corded dorm room phone on Sunday nights for 30 minutes because the long distance rate was cheaper after 7:00 p.m.

What are your goals for fall? I've been formulating my own goals, including practice, teaching, writing and reading.  I also spent some time this summer working on my very own ten commandments. I'll still try to follow the ones from God, but these are my own attempt at rules for life (see Jordan Peterson and Gretchen Rubin). My own code of conduct. A behavioral wish list.

I'm going to share them with you here, one by one. Maybe you will like them or maybe you will have a better idea.

It's quiet here. I start teaching next week. The piano will have new Hamburg hammers and a new action. The piano kids will come and we will get back into the routine.

Dear Lord,
Bless Calvin. Bless his practicing and studying. Bless his dorm life. Keep him safe and mostly happy. Bless Mary. Help her scatter her joy in a new school with new people. Bless the piano kids coming back next week. Bless Bill and the cats. And everyone we know.  Amen. 

Friday, August 23, 2019

Dropping the Boy at College

Last walk of summer with sunset over Sky Hill Park. 

Never too old for trains.

Dorm Life.

Sibling Rivalry.

Home away from home.

Rain from the sky, rain from my eyes.

Leaving the nest.

Coincidental symbolic situation.

Rosie finds a quiet (and clean) spot

How many cameras do normal people take to the fair?

Mary toward the front with the white scrunchie and blond ponytail.

Calvin collects fifty cent pieces and we got this one for change at the French fry stand--they are never really too far away. . .

It's more than true.

The great Minnesota get together.


From right to left we have Big Dog and Bungie Dog, Cowie and . . . just kidding. 

Books and animals. A new TV, a vintage apple computer. Treasures of the boy. 

Mary made Calvin a whole stack of letters from home.
My recurring dream is that I'm moving back into the dorms and I have to fit two grand pianos and thirty houseplants and antique dishes. . .

It's been an epic week. It actually feels like a month since Monday. I can't keep my head on straight. I don't know what day it is or when the next marching band rehearsal is. The printout of my calendar ended on Wednesday. I haven't looked at a list or my bullet journal. We have no groceries.

I'm letting myself mope a little. Don't worry, I won't stay here too long. I promised Bill on his way out the door that I would only listen to Dixie Chicks Godspeed five times this morning and then I would turn it off and go dig some hostas at a friends.

Tristen's mom said she was dropping off her heartbeat at college yesterday too.

Before you go down too deep, we do have a Kotrba Family group chat and FaceTime and this morning Bill is putting Etudes, Preludes and Fugues and two piano cushions in the mail. I guess the U of I piano practice rooms don't have adjustable chairs.  We talked to Calvin three times yesterday.

It's the strangest emotion ever. It's like "joygrief." What do you call that? You are so proud and excited and happy for your kid--and yet you have to take care of your own grief at the passage of time. Let's face it, when you got a good kid you are going to miss them when they leave. It's normal.

I'm uplifted and buoyed by all the ones who've gone before. All the great kids who transitioned to being great friends with their parents. And Bill and I are great friends with our parents. There is great hope to accompany the normal melancholy.

To the parents of littles? Advice? Protect your marriage and other significant relationships. You will need/return to them. I also found myself thinking about the single moms I know who went through this alone. I'm sorry if I didn't get it before. I should have done more for you.

Second advice? Don't give it all to your kids. Keep something for yourself. I'm gonna write my book and get piano coaching and make my house and garden my sanctuary.

I'll still be driving back and forth to marching band. And trying to listen better.

Mary? You can't write much about your teen kids these days but I know she's going through the same thing as me. Missing her best friend but also ready to fly!

It's not a polished blog entry. But I have to go dig some hostas.  Dixie Chicks are all done for today.
Love to you all.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

My Love Follows Where You Go

My Love Follows You Where You Go
More wishes than a thousand hearts can count for you
More smiles than a merry-go-round
The sweetest ending to a bedtime story told
My love follows you where you go
More laughter than a kindergarten out to play
One Sunday morning song that says it all
More summer than the California beach can hold
My love follows you where you go
Future like a promise
Your city of gold
Stubborn in your bones and
Jesus in your soul
Seeing you stand there
Starin' at the unknown
I won't pretend that it's not killin' me
Watchin' you walk away slow
Take forgiveness, take a prayer, take the deepest breath
And take the answers in your heart
When you wake up and the world is cruel and cold
My love follows you where you go
Future like a promise
Your city of gold
Stubborn in your bones and
Jesus in your soul
Seeing you stand there
Starin' at the unknown
I won't pretend that it's not killin' me
Watchin' you walk away slow
More freedom than a field of flowers in the day
More beauty than a mornin' after rain
Up the steepest hill, a dark and crooked road
My love follows you where you go
Future like a promise
Your city of gold
Stubborn in your bones and
Jesus in your soul
Seeing you stand there
Starin' at the unknown
I won't pretend that it's not killin' me
Watchin' you walk away slow

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Filling the Quiet Spaces

Bill and Sara across Monet's Lily Pond

Some of the legal treats in Amsterdam

Me in a Swanky Paris Hotel

Calvin and my mom are out in Glacier this week. Mary is at band camp. It's just me and Bill here. A small taste of the future.

There are some quiet spaces.
Too quiet.

The MacPhail institute was last week--I got to spend time with the MacPhail piano kids and also my teaching friends. Again, it was a small taste of what it would be like to have a social life. To go to dinner with friends a couple nights a week. It was nice. Piano teachers are nice.

A lot of my projects are complete. Monday morning I woke up with no kids and no colossal obligations. It was like the first day of summer.

I'm dropping Calvin at the University of Iowa three weeks from today.

At the Hotel D'Orsay in Paris there was jazz playing every morning in the glorious Parisian breakfast room with cheeses and honey and croissants. And a silver coffee service. Good cheeses. Good honey. Good butter. Good jazz. Fruit is overrated. If you are trying to be gluten free or dairy free or sugar free I do not recommend France. I did not ask for decaf coffee.

We have come to the close of 5:30 a.m. piano practices, but I'm still waking up at 5:30. Eighteen years of 5:30. It could be that I will wake up at 5:30 for the rest of my life. It's so quiet, I'm gonna put some jazz on for Bill. Never mind that he is not awake yet. I need to fill the too quiet space. We still play CDs on the six CD carousel player. Eighteen years ago on a rainy day in March when the house was being built and I was pregnant out-to-here Bill ran speaker wires through the whole framed house so that we could have music in every room. We didn't know there would be blue tooth. . .and iTunes.

Bill Evans at the Village Vanguard will do. Something with My Foolish Heart. Through the whole house.

There are no speakers on the porch. It's the only room. I can't hear the music very well sitting out here writing.

Never mind, it is filling the space.

Eighteen years. That was a long project. From nighttime feeding to board books to big kid toys to driving.

What if you got to do it all again with what you know now?
I don't think I would have done very much differently.
You do the best you can with what you know at the time.

There are all these things in life that everybody goes through but then when it's you, you wonder how you will do it. Childbirth, death of a parent, teaching someone to drive. Kids going to college.

I'm hopeless. I spent my entire childhood dreading the day my sister would leave for college and fearing losing my grandparents. Those things happened slowly but surely. And, of course,  it turned out there was more joy to come. But it was never the same. A new same. I'm hopeless, but wise enough to not get stuck for too long.

I'm excited for Calvin. He's so ready and it's a whole new glorious world. I loved college. It's just gonna be an explosion for him. I'm also excited for Mary. Calvin got some years as an only child before Baby Sunshine came along, now she will have some years here alone. We all need to be loved alone.

And I'm excited for me and Bill. We love a project and this has been a good one. It's been the best.

My Romance is playing now. Bill Evans has always been my favorite jazz pianist. I can hear it a little.

Filling the quiet spaces.

Dear Lord,
Much of the time there is so much music and conversation and noise. In these quieter times, help fill the space not just with jazz piano CDs but with your presence and reassurance of the joy in change. Thank you for the blessing that family life has been and will continue to be. A new same. The blessings yet to come. Bless Calvin and Janel out in Montana and Mary alone at band camp. Bless Bill and I and our projects. Bless our quiet spaces. Alleluia.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Eighteen Years of Music and Books and Trains

The kid is eighteen.

Eighteen years ago we headed off to Burnsville Ridges Hospital and came home with a nine pound bundle of conversation joy. At first, Calvin loved music and books and trains....

But then. . . came vacuum cleaners. So many vacuum cleaners.

I didn't know I wanted a boy. I thought I wanted a girl. Then when we had a boy, I thought to myself if I'm gonna have a boy he's going to be a sweet boy.

And he was.

And then I couldn't imagine not having a boy.

And now he will be a sweet man. A good man.

And he still loves music, and books and trains, and he even still loves vacuums a little.

God bless you Calvin!
Happy birthday.