From 5th Grade and Beyond

“I don’t know – must have been about 5th grade.” Whenever I remember something of any kind of importance from my grade school era, I say that sentence. Evidently, 1978 was a watershed year for me. I haven’t really had much insight into this personal peccadillo until I recently made an effort to pinpoint the wherefores of what I have come to call “my 5th grade default.”  In the course of thinking about this, I remembered something one of my 5th grade teachers did that has had lasting influence.

Mrs. Crone was one of my 5th grade teachers. If I remember correctly, she taught us English. Mr. Gift did science and math, and Mrs. Sauerman presented us with history lessons. But, it is Mrs. Crone that stands out to me because she took a personal interest in my writing and my dancing. She encouraged me; she asked me to stay after school on more than one occasion to talk about writing and dancing and music. She played music in her classroom. She was unabashed in her enthusiasm for the arts.

One day Mrs. Crone asked me – and I agreed – to dance for our class.  She had all of the kids move the desks to the edge of the classroom, played the music from a record, and I can vividly remember her smiling a true, genuine smile throughout my ballet performance and leading the applauding and the standing ovation.

I don’t remember my peers’ specific reactions, but I know that this was one of the last public solo performances I did until decades later. My peers thought Mrs. Crone was a little “off.” She was weird. And, man, in 5th grade, I wanted to fit in. Hanging out with Mrs. Crone was not cool. So, I decided she was weird, too. I quit going in after school or talking about dancing or music or anything creative. I didn’t want to be weird. I needed to be cool – even if that meant giving up a few things.

For the next few decades I did some creative stuff: I still wrote some things; I was in drama and band; I directed a couple plays. But, I gave up solo performance (unless it was in the basement and involved some bad pop music, I didn’t dance in public again). In some way, I had perverted my teacher’s enthusiasm and support of my endeavors into a need to hide and not be different. Oh, sure, my peers helped, but I acquiesced all too easily. I didn’t want to stick out.

Have you ever had a Mrs. Crone? Someone who really believed in something you were doing – someone who unabashedly supported you – someone who you turned your back on? I am chagrined when I think about that. I wonder what kind of friendship we might have maintained had I been willing to accept her love and mentorship. I wonder if I might have had more solo performances well before I was 47. I wonder if I would have known that Mrs. Crone sang soprano, was active in an opera house for over two decades, and was a writer herself – before I read it in her obituary.

Mrs. Crone was teaching our class that sharing your art – whatever form it takes – with the world is a wonderful thing. She was teaching us to love and support each other in our endeavors. Maybe fifth grade was a little too young  to learn that lesson, but I’ve got it now. I’m sure my performance back in 5th grade was not standing ovation-worthy, but Mrs. Crone believed that creativity was. And now, some forty years later, I think I’ve got it.


March Madness

The cool thing about living is: there’s plenty of it for everyone. Enough to go around. Something for everyone. And, despite everyone’s varying needs and desires – or perhaps because of them – we can find what a little something to please everyone.

I was reminded of this when reading the New York Times Travel Section today. One article outlined a giant cruise experience; contrasted with that was a small Alaskan cruise. We have different needs and preferences when we travel – when we live.  Our world, wonderfully, offers more variety than any of us will ever be actually able to experience in a lifetime.

I never went on a drunken-Florida-show-us-your-tits-spring-break trip when I was in college.  Aside from one year when my dad and mom took us on a cruise, I didn’t do anything over spring break. Well, maybe I worked. Then and now, people like to fill their spring breaks with entertainment, discovery, travel, drinks, and rest. Now, I know not everyone gets a “spring break,” but I also know that even those who work where such breaks are not given seem to carve out spring getaways.

This year I worked a little, but I found my house and life filled up with children and pets; and, without straying too far from home, we have had some adventure right here.

Entertainment: The activity youngest son put on the calendar this year was going to a drag show to see a few of RuPaul’s drag raceRuPaul competitors. Did you know that drag shows start late at night and never on time? Now you do. Also, so you know: it’s almost as interesting watching the people who go to drag shows as watching the shows themselves. And, you can mark this in your “good things to know chart”: chatting with the guys that tend bar is entertaining enough that you really don’t have to drink much to have a good time.

Discovery: With eldest son home from abroad and looking for jobs and apartments in the area, there has been some discovery. We have a lot of jobs in our area. There’s a good variety of housing in this area. Both apartments and jobs are easier to coordinate if one has a car. Still, with persistence and planning wonderful discoveries are out there to be made and planned for.

wineTravel and Drinks: I lived in Moscow almost a year. I didn’t visit the Kremlin until three days before I went home. Many of us – indeed, I would posit all of us – live in or near interesting places. And, often, we are blind to them. There are interesting things to do in and around our own towns. We might need to look outside of the traditional boxes, but our communities all have something to offer. Get the newspaper; look online; talk to your neighbors. We went to three live music shows (two of which were totally free), all of which were held in cool local places with food and drink available.

Four of the five of us here this week also took kickboxing classes (for a minimal charge – you know, if you talk to people, they will often cut you a deal). And, I was able to engage several times with the wonderful community of writers and poets that we have in our area.spring flowers

With five people and two animals in a condo, it has been a pretty mad March so far, and with any luck, we will continue finding the right activities in the right places for the right people – and, enjoying ourselves along the way.

Join me.



A Song We Must Sing

My two younger sons and I drove over 3300 miles in the past two weeks. During that time, we listened to all kinds of music, some comedy, and an audio book. In listening to all of this music, we mined both my sons’ musical preferences (modern show tunes for the elder; nails-scratching-a-chalkboard pop for the younger), as well as my old iPod which houses everything from Indian flute music to Kanye West to Gregorian chant to James Taylor to Michael Card.

It is this last musician as well as his contemporary, Rich Mullins, who gave me pause as we were barreling across Nebraska. Here is a sampling of their lyrics:

“Come to the table and savor the sight: the wine and the bread that was broken, and all have been welcomed to come if they might. . .” (Michael Card)

“…with these our hells and our heavens so few inches apart, we must be awfully small and not as strong as we think we are.” (Rich Mullins)

“There is a joy in the journey . . . there is a wonder and wildness in life. . .” (Michael Card)

Wait, what? Christian music that extols happiness and joy? Christian music that invites and welcomes all? Where was the finger pointing and condemnation? Where was the over-politicized message that real Christians must believe certain ways in order to be with God? Absent. Not there. Regardless of one’s personal spiritual beliefs, in this music, one can hear an understated joy in being a seeker of Jesus.

As I drove and rode, I wondered why have we allowed “Christian” leaders and politicians to boil faith down to a set of prescribed political and cultural beliefs? Why are “Christians” focused so much on hollering at people about politics instead of finding the “. . . rhythm and rhyme, the free verse of the poem of life” and living it. (Michael Card) How many would-be seekers of Jesus have turned tail and run when confronted with politicized sermons and prayers at the people instead of for the people?

I used to stun my high school girls by revealing that I was in a sorority. Even more to the point, I nearly caused them to faint when I told them I was president of my house. In talking with adults now, I can usually cause about a 22 second pause in the conversation if I reveal that I was a mission-school trained missionary for a short period. I can extend that pause by revealing that I also taught in Christian school for four years. Want a full minute pause? I can create that by telling the story of when my eldest son was told that if he didn’t tuck in his shirt, he would go to hell or the time that I was told by my Christian school colleague that I would go to hell for having my ears double pierced.

Organized Christianity has both inspired me and disgusted me – more of the latter in recent years. However, hearing the lyrics from Michael Card and Rich Mullins reminded me of the core message of God: I love you.

So, I wonder: regardless of our political stances and spiritual beliefs, how many of us might benefit by revisiting that core message and extending it to people – all people.

I love you.

That’s it.

Join me.