A vet’s remembrance…

In Flanders fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses, row on row,
  That mark our place; and in the sky
  The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
  Loved and were loved, and now we lie
      In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
  The torch; be yours to hold it high.
  If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
      In Flanders fields.

The first time I heard the words to this powerful poem, my father-in-law, John Van Amburgh, was quietly quoting them from memory. He shared with me how he first heard the poem while serving overseas in the Army during WWII. The poem, written by Canadian physician, Lieutenant-Colonel Dr. John McCrae in 1915, describes the haunting loss of a friend and fellow soldier who died in the Second Battle of Ypres during WWI, the war to end all wars. Dr. McCrae’s poem is one of the most quoted from the first world war, and its reference to the red poppies growing over the countless graves of fallen soldiers resulted in the Remembrance Poppy becoming a recognized memorial symbol for all soldiers lost in conflict. Poppies were considered the battlefield flower because they were the first to grow back after war destroyed the landscape.

So on this 11th hour of this 11th day of the 11th month of this year, I pause to gratefully salute Poppa Van and all who bravely gave time, talent, and service to our country. With profound gratitude we honor those living among us who served and those who currently serve, as well as their families and loved ones who courageously “crack on” during the long absences of their loved ones in service. We all know someone…so…Who will you take a moment to reach out to in gratefulness for their service? 🙂 

Sister, Sister!

It’s no secret; I absolutely adore my sister. No, we don’t always agree and we often both try to boss the other (even though I am the oldest and wisest, don’t you know). We definitely have a mutual admiration and deep respect for one another. We genuinely care for and love each other. We are forever the two Folsom girls. And thanks to our formidable parental upbringing, we appreciate the fact we have each other as we age. As I speak with others, sadly, this is not considered the norm. I’ve been told on many occasions we’re quite unique; “freaks of sibling nature.” Hmmm…

I’ve spent the greater part of the past month with my sister. She and her wife recently purchased a stunning home. “Daisy” is a cheerful sunny abode in the trees of a quiet, quintessential New England town tucked into a beautifully peaceful neighborhood. While they both commute a little further for work, the idea of retreating back to Daisy on those select days makes the miles roll by in anticipation of the calm to come at home inside their Daisy.

As expected, and most especially during big life events, my sis and I share everything. This recent moving venture was no exception. With my toolbelt packed and a credit card I wasn’t afraid to swipe, I flew north to tackle all duties as assigned. From borrowed t-shirts when we couldn’t find something clean to wear to the sharing of a sibling COVID outbreak during the move, nothing was off limits (and thanks to science and due diligence, all are recovering well!). Uniquely throughout our lifetime together, whether it’s marriages, births, deaths, surgeries, cancer, aging woes, life decisions, moving homes, climbing mountains, or celebrating milestones, we show up for each other and participate in the experience side-by-side. This move was no exception. One of us can call and say “please come now,” and the other does. When one is down, the other picks up and runs.

Most gratefully, our close bond has proved beneficial when working together on behalf of our parents, especially in the past decade. While daddy and his humor are still with us, his former guiding compass now manifests in the gentle reminders my sis and I share with him on his journey. Dad was an only child and while he and mom raised us to respect the other, he gently reminded us we had each other when they were no longer with us. He also noted that whether we want to or not, “we all quote our moms and dads.” And, fun fact, daddy never misses the opportunity to remind us of this. Most importantly, he is very aware of our “team” approach now to his daily care and well-being. Little escapes the notice of “his girls.” Roles have reversed; together we are his advocates and softest landing no matter the situation. When he sees both of us approach him, or anyone on his “team,” he warns everyone to “brace for impact.” And sure enough, we never miss an opportunity to remind him we are this force of nature because of him. 😊

So today, I’m beyond grateful for my sis! I’m filled with gratitude for the life experiences and adventures we share, the sorrows we half, and the JOYs we double on this life journey. Whether you have sibling or not, I hope you to reach out to a person you consider a brother-from-another-mother or a sister-from-another-mister. Share a story, a laugh, or a walk down memory lane along with your gratefulness for their important role in your life. May you be blessed and be a blessing as you care for yourself and others. 😊

Gracious Saints…

All Saints’ Day…All Souls’ Day…All Hallows’ Day…Sabbath Soul…Dia de Muertos. From my perspective, this particular day provokes an emotional reaction. The first Sunday in November is marked as a day of special remembrance for those who have gone before in our worship service. This remembrance is sprinkled with responsive readings, special hymns, lit candles, the presentation of a white rose to a surviving family member, and clergy reading aloud the names of those saints from the congregation who gone beyond in the past year. As my Granny B. often observed, All Saints is the time “to open and honor the ‘thin space’ where all the saints meet.”

My parents, around 1991.  My mom NEVER liked having her picture taken; it was a big deal to catch her unaware in her beautiful clothes, jewelry, coiffed hair, and spotless makeup. When she was next to dad though, he would make her laugh and coax her gently into relaxing so the snapshot was natural. She passed in 2016 and I miss her every single day, but especially on certain remembrances like today.

Ironically, I find myself deeply nostalgic and profoundly grateful every year on this solemn day. Grateful for all who came before me, whose shoulders I continue to stand upon. Grateful for the treasured stories, the powerful memories, and the lasting legacies of these saints. Grateful for the opportunity to reflect on the transformational stages of my own life journey. Grateful for each new day and the chance to clear away the broken parts while exploring new paths to grow in grace and hope. 

So today, take a moment to reflect on the saints in your life.  Who are you particularly grateful for and why?

A longtime friend sent me this poem early this morning; she was thinking of my mom and me:

In the ­struggles we choose for ourselves,
in the ways we move forward in our lives
and bring our world forward with us,

It is right to remember the names of those
who gave us strength in this choice of living.
It is right to name the power of hard lives well-lived.

We share a history with those lives.
We belong to the same motion.

They too were strengthened by what had gone before.
They too were drawn on by the vision of what might come to be.

Those who lived before us,
who ­struggled for justice and suffered injustice before us,
have not melted into the dust,
and have not disappeared.

They are with us still.
The lives they lived hold us steady.

Their words remind us and call us back to ourselves.
Their courage and love evoke our own.

We, the living, carry them with us:
we are their voices, their hands and their hearts.

We take them with us,
and with them choose the deeper path of living.

— Kathleen McTigue, “They Are with Us Still”

Here’s hoping we never lose sight of the gifts gratefully given to us by those who come and go before us…for when one is missing, the whole is somehow less. “For all the saints who from their labors rest…” May you be blessed and be a blessing as you care for yourself and others, my friends.

Moving through JOY

I opened my inbox to find this message: “As one who reminds us to experience JOY and to enJOY each day, here’s a poem for you…”

I sometimes forget that I was created for Joy.

My mind is too busy.

My Heart is too heavy for me to remember

I have been called to dance the

Sacred dance of life.

I was created to smile

To Love

To be lifted up

And to lift others up.

O’ Sacred One

Untangle my feet

from all that ensnares.

Free my soul.

That we might

Dance

and that our dancing might be contagious.    ~Hafiz~

Special thanks to the Reading Goddess, R, for reaching out to share this reminder, for sensing my heart, and for singing JOY back to me through poetry. May this gentle reminder spark JOY as you untangle your feet to inspire gratefulness around you today. Be blessed and be a blessing, friends. 🙂  

Ode to my Piano

“She’s packed with all her parts and loaded safely on the truck! We’ll take great care of her and get her there safe and full of beautiful sound.”

The She is K.Kawai, aka “KK” aka “KayKuhWahee.” Our youngest daughter named her KK because saying the full name was too challenging for her at age 2.

KK is our family’s beloved 50-year-old grand piano. She is living the sum of her life thus far through four generations of piano and vocal practice, professional voice lessons, opera workshops, family recitals, singing hat shows, choir retreats, duets, trios, quartets, oboe with other instrument accompaniments, and much more in our family. KK never complains and always works to full potential, no matter how challenging the player on her keyboard.

It is bittersweet to convey the emotion of making music on a piano and what it means personally to me. One of my earliest memories is being on the bench of a piano my maternal grandfather was playing at a singing convention on the grounds of a Methodist church in Texas. On that particular afternoon, Grandpa Brock was playing gospel songs from a new Stamps-Baxter songbook while leading the congregation. Granny let me sit beside him on the bench if I promised to be “church-quiet.” When he leaned down to ask me what he should play next I told him “Jingle Bells.” As he always did, he began a gospel introduction with flair and I started singing with the congregation soon joining in. Likely there has never been a better gospel rendition of “Jingle Bells” ever created at a singing. He also sold out of the new songbooks that day. 🙂

Fast forward a bit and I’m sitting on the bench of Grandpa’s piano in their home while he’s tuning it. I traveled many a Saturday morning as his tuning assistant. As a treat for good behavior, he would play anything I requested so he could “test the action of the soundboard and make certain the tuning tines are tight enough.” He would also play popular radio tunes while showing me specific notes and chord progression. I was completely fascinated, thus it was time for “formal classical lessons.” At age 5, my remarkable teacher, Ruth Ann Lively Hoffman, merged great patience and kindness with firm and consistent musicianship. Grandpa and mom knew her well and trusted her classical method for teaching and reading music. She is also the blessed soul who nurtured the lyrical, gentle, and sensitive side of my musicianship while challenging me technically in profound ways. Ruth Ann poured her extraordinary talents and skills into three generations of our family (accompanying mom when she sang and then teaching piano to me, my sis, and my oldest daughter). She remains a treasured musician, mentor, and friend of our family always.

KK’s actual introduction to my musical world started when I was 10 one early morning with Grandpa at Oak Cliff Music Company in Dallas, Texas. This was around the time I was serious about being a concert pianist; I was a determined pre-teen. As he was tuning and I was playing afterwards, Grandpa decided it was imperative we had a “grand”er piano for daily practice, especially if one of us decided music was our intended career path. He told me that day: “Music in general, especially music created on a piano, stirs my soul. Master the art and feed your soul, Bethy.” While my sister endured piano lessons because mom made her (she wanted both of us to read music well), she was much more serious about singing. As I practiced and memorized classical piano works, B created lyrics and ran around the room singing them to classical pieces. As it turns out, sis was the better piano player AND overall musician! Not only did she complete a doctorate and make music her life’s work, but we raised another musician in the next generation as well. Perhaps DNA had something to do with it? My bet (and profound thanks) is on Grandpa Brock.

While not my forever calling, my love for music in general and piano in private continued through the formative and college years well into family life with M and our daughters. Even as an elementary principal, one of the many grants we wrote for additional funding involved an electronic set of classroom piano keyboards so our remarkable music teacher could teach our learners beginning piano. She organized three after-school clubs: Singers (choir), Ringers (handbells), and Fingers (piano). It’s no secret the research shows basic keyboarding and piano knowledge not only enhances musical talent in all other instruments; it builds stronger brain connections in reading, writing, math calculations, and problem solving. And yes, I was invited to play with them on several occasions and KK always helped me practice.

So our beloved KK is pedaling north today to my sister’s beautiful new home. While sad because I will miss her and her formidable daily presence in my life, she remains within our family where her calling and service are needed for more important missions. KK will be the wonderful sounding board to an extraordinary voice teacher (B) while living with a master pianist-in-residence who will nurture her (A), as scores of talented young opera singers encounter her percussive precision. Once she’s settled and properly tuned, I have little doubt she will vibrantly sing in her daily life as an instrumental liaison for musical excellence.

J.S. Bach noted, “There is nothing remarkable about it…all one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.” Maybe so, Herr Bach, but to me, KK’s 88 piano keys of ebony and ivory delicately balanced within a maple case will always reflect the sounds of a million, brilliant colors in my brain. When words fail, your music, KK, speaks volumes to the mind and soul; thank you. Thank you for resonating and flowing in constant service through my heart, mind, and musical soul all these years. Thank you for a half century of precious musical moments, powerful memories, and familial connections within the four generations of our family who play you. May those who encounter your glorious action and rich tones play and sing volumes of musical greatness for generations to come!

Step where I step…

It’s no secret I enjoy hiking, especially with my sister. I may be the oldest and bossiest, but it’s one of the times she’s in charge. I listen and respect her vast experience, wealth of knowledge, practicality, and sheer grit. We have racked up many miles through our years on foot with some stunning scenery, unique opportunities, and funny stories along the way.

Our recent exploration west (the first hiking trip together in six years) led us into the Black Hills of South Dakota. The drive west was its own road trip adventure. From the Atlantic Ocean through the amber waves of prairie and farm lands to the Badlands and majestic mountains of the west, stunning formations, exciting explorations, fresh air (Ponderosa Pine!), time together, and extraordinary views dominated each day’s adventures. We even hiked down into Wind Cave (another story for another day).

As little girls, we hiked with our dad in the summers while on vacation at the same working ranch in the Rockies of Colorado. Before each trail hike, we always looked up in awe of the daunting task ahead wondering if our momentum, lungs, and little chicken legs would get us to the top (and, let’s be honest, excited to see what snack daddy would have for us at the top). Of course, when we reached the top, taking in the view, eating our snack, and basking in our accomplishment, our perspectives grew. Daddy innately understood why we needed to climb a mountain every now and then; it was his quiet way of teaching us about life’s challenges and hardships. When we climbed mountains, we faced hurdles, obstacles, and problems to solve while on the trail using our attitude, effort, and strength. When we faltered, he always reminded us to “step where I step.” We experienced first-hand how these same personal super-powers on each mountain hike are ever-present within us as we overcome challenges in everyday life.

On our first morning, my energy and anxiety were high and ready to go. It was hot and we did a loop trail of about 3.5 miles early in the morning. On the rocks, never my favorite, Beck reminded me to “step where I step” as a way to encourage me forward. By the time we completed this first hike, my muscle-memory kicked into familiar gear. With so much to explore in the first day, I wanted to keep going but listening to my body was paramount in the moment. The temp was hovering 98 and my body was still adjusting to the altitude, so it was time for less sun and lots more hydration.

Step where I step“…simple words with powerful punch. While each of us desire our own path, it pays to sometimes stop a moment, take a deep cleansing breath, and start again with proven steps. These steps often showcase the personal super-powers to keep on climbing the path. The mountain (or the cave), no matter how big or rocky it is (and I swear it grows as I climb), is no match for the faith and desire to successfully climb. Attitude, effort, and personal strength are everything in life, especially in climbing. Mountains are meant to be climbed. Problems are meant to solved. All are critical learning experiences; some in sorrow and sadness, others in success and JOY. Each mountain serves a higher purpose to showcase how stronger, wiser, resilient, grace-filled, or hopeful we are in physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual ways.

While we often can’t control what happens to us, we do control how we see and climb the mountains in our life. We can look at the mountains as being in the way or as THE WAY to personal growth and success (or as momma would sing to remind me to, “bloom and grow forever”). We always have a choice. We can stand at the bottom overwhelmed and initially defeated, or we can dig down deep in our resource well to find the very best way within ourselves to climb onward, encouraging one another, just like Beck: “Step where I step!”

South Dakota was a fantastic adventure! The trip helped to re-center, recharge, rejuvenate, and restore after six challenging years. So here’s to each of us finding clever ways to fearlessly hike the mountains and caves in our paths on our journey. And please know I’m hiking (and singing) beside you. Feel free to step where I step. Please take care of yourself as you care for others; may you be blessed and be a blessing, friends. 🙂

May it be so…

Some days just absolutely knock me to the ground in stunned despair. On a good day for most of us, it is often a challenge being a parent, spouse, child, sibling, friend, educator (we are all teachers and learners even if not formally trained), care-giver and kind human being. Navigating an aging parent with Alzheimer’s, maintaining a company from a home office, keeping living beings alive, finding time for self-care (what does that actually look like?), cooking meals, running errands, doing homework, helping friends, assisting neighbors, writing, working on causes, making calls to politicians, sanitizing a house in a lingering pandemic…daily meanderings I take for granted. But as this next week starts, so many have no daily meanderings to take for granted.

I don’t know about you but I’m still numb, sore, bruised, and bleeding from last week. Challenging dental work aside last Tuesday, the devastating news in our country unfolding as I sat in the dental parking lot listening to NPR polarized me. My thought processes were numb from failed comprehension of who/what/why/how again and again and again. My eyes and nose were sore from ugly snot-sobbing. My soul was bruised from so many losses in a repeated way. My heart bled uncontrollably for grieving communities. As an educator, a former school principal, and one repeatedly trained in school crisis response, I quickly filled to my brim with shards of overwhelming anger, profound sadness, and raw fear. If you are as well, I am so sorry. I see and feel your sharp edges of pain.

There is much to say, yet no words to say it. There is much pontificated, yet no action for change. There is much promised, yet only broken promises remain. We just keep coming back to the same insanity and expecting different outcomes while innocent lives are lost over and over and over and over again. Quite frankly, there will never be enough time or energy for more marching, donating, phone-banking, or card-writing to make this better. Period.

How is it we still keep showing up at this same unbelievable place and we still do nothing to change the pace or place for the better? Why should our children and future generations believe us? Who actually feels safe in their own home knowing assault weapons may be loaded and ready for use by your next-door neighbor? Instead of always pointing fingers (remember, three are always pointing back to you anyway), when do we finally take reasonable action to mitigate further opportunities? Few demand total gun control; we have a Constitutional Amendment to ensure this right. What is advocated is reasonable gun safety, gun responsibility, and gun “common sense” for our country. Leave the military weapons and weapons of mass destruction to “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State.”

In addition to the indescribable pain from ongoing tragedies of these past few weeks, there is additional pain triggered for all who have previously lost a loved one to prior violence in our schools, markets, theaters, places of worship, streets, homes, gathering spaces, and more. These places, in theory, should be safe, yet why is it so many in our country can never put the shattered pieces of their hearts, souls, and lives back together because they were unsafe due to repeated mass shootings? There are more guns than people in the US. We’ve had over 200 mass shootings and 27 school shootings so far in 2022. Pause a moment to acknowledge this gut-wrenching fact as it sinks deeply into your soul. Everything is on the line at this moment of our collective history. We are the only country in the world with these staggering statistics. And the world is watching and taking notes. We, the United States of America, “one nation under God,” are a nation in trouble at every level and in every way. No one, no one is safe.

Tomorrow on Memorial Day as we do each May, we officially honor and pay tribute to those who sacrificed all for the good of their beloved country. We remember those who lost their very lives giving each of us the opportunity to live our lives in a country of so much possibility. Accepting this current status quo, this cycle of social brokenness, this complete denial of repeated issues is unacceptable. We must move forward. We must reverse denial. We must show up, pay attention, seek to speak truth, and allow the real work of change to occur. We know better and must do better; in this very moment. Compromise and partisanship on the part of ALL elected officials and ALL political leaders is the start of this change. Americans (especially children) deserve to be placed first before any political careers or agendas (new campaign reform and term limits would also assist in this requisite). Nothing else is acceptable moving forward. Those who previously fought and gave their lives for these American freedoms are owed the same dignity, strength, and courage in this moment of our country’s history as they did in their final moment sacrificing their life.

As I work to pick up the emotional pieces, lament the evil and sin, and search for Divine Mercy, hope emerges slowly. Hope, Faith, and Love, especially UNconditional Love, gently nudge me to realize overwhelming good exists when we allow for the common good. I affirm I am a strong, loving, committed soul who is willing to say out loud it must change. Change is now. We cannot and should not continue on the current path; a new path on this journey is possible, and most frankly, expected moving forward. And as a dear friend reminds me, “There is so much work to do…families to comfort, children to reassure, and political leaders to remind…we’ll march, donate, call, write, and show up; yes, we will.” Yes; I will continue to do all these too-familiar things. And gratefully, as my daddy always notes, “Hope springs eternal.” May we each find our own deep well of dignity, strength, and courage to make it so this time. Yes; may it be so THIS time; may it be so…

Personal note: Emotions run high when our sensibilities are challenged. Writing is one way I process my anxiety. I have other coping mechanisms and cling to the Divine along with my beloved family / friends for hope in the sorrows and joys of life. While I also remain grateful for the freedoms we have according to our Constitution; it is time to update the law. I choose to support two combined organizations close to this hot topic: http://www.everytown.org and http://www.momsdemandaction.org Most importantly, I vote. Whatever your choice, please make your own voice heard and make a voting plan to have your voice and vote counted. Every election matters because you, your voice, and your vote matter.

Goose Sense

As spring continues to blossom, the geese are flying back, laying nests, and leaving their mark in our neighborhood pond area these days. Their presence is firmly and clearly evident as they announce their return, thus I always reflect fondly once again upon one of my mom’s favorite life lessons. Something simple yet profound, she reminded us each spring and autumn of this story because, perhaps, we needed occasional reminders to tap into our inner goose-sense. Today is one of those days…

Everything in nature happens for a reason and scientists have discovered why geese fly in the “V” formation.  As each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird immediately following.  By flying this way, the whole flock adds at least 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own.  Truth #1:  If we share a common direction and sense of community, we can get where we’re going quicker and easier because we travel on the power of one another.  Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go it alone and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front.  Truth #2:  It’s important to stay in formation with those who are headed in the same direction we are going.  When the lead goose gets tired, he rotates back into the formation and another goose flies point.  Truth #3:  It pays to take turns doing the hard work–with people or with geese flying.  Geese honk from behind to encourage one another and the others up front to keep up their speed.  Truth #4:  We need to be careful what we honk when we honk from behind! 🙂  Finally, when a goose gets sick or wounded and falls out of formation, two geese fall out to follow her down to help and protect.  They stay with her until she is able to fly or goes to the great sky beyond, then they launch out on their own or with another formation to catch up to their group.  Final truth:  If we have the sense of a goose, we will stand by each other no matter what. 

Here’s hoping our collective goose-sense and these basic truths find new and better ways to prevail! Please take care of yourself as you care for others and may you be a blessing as you bless others. HONK! 🙂

Iconic Legend

This world lost a treasured soul yesterday. This one is for you, LaRue Miller…may you rest softly in eternal Love, grace, peace, and learning, beautiful sainted one.

We often attempt to live our lives backwards…wanting more things, more education, more money, more order, more control, all in an attempt to do more of what makes us happy in this life.  The way it actually works is the reverse.

“You must first be who you really are and then do what you need to do in order to have what you need and want in life. The smiles and trials will come and go but your true self should always shine the brightest.”  ~ LaRue Miller

Mrs. Miller chose to embrace and actively live this particular pearl of wisdom with her signature grace and unconditional love. Gratefully, her personal philosophy will live on in the generations of lives she touched throughout her teaching career of 55+ years as well as her volunteer work in the very town and home where she grew up, raised her own family, and gave back everyday of her fruitful life. To hear her voice a thought was to participate in a master class of communication and collaboration from deep within her soul. Her obvious passion for learning and teaching, her quiet strength, and her pearls of wisdom were discreetly dropped into any conversation. To read her personal story was inspiring. To hear and witness firsthand how she led with her story and shared it everyday of her life was a modern miracle. Her determined ability to see and draw out the personal best in each soul was legendary. These were just a few of the touch-points in the powerful legacy of LaRue Miller.  And while she would never admit it, she was and will forever remain the most insightful part of something profoundly extraordinary because she, LaRue Miller, was the catalyst.

Mrs. Miller would often share how she was humbled and honored to have her legacy carried forth in the classrooms of the school bearing her name.  One of her proudest moments was the morning our superintendent called to inform her of the decision. Even today, when you visit or volunteer at the campus bearing her name, you will find telltale signs of her subtle influence:  a picture or book here, a quote there…all reminders of her majestic influence and continued inspiration.  She deeply loved her community, her namesake school, her church, her former students and their families, her beloved friends, and most especially, her own impressive family. 

As the first principal of her namesake school for the last eight years of my educational career, I remain forever grateful for her wisdom, enthusiasm, stories (especially those when she taught with my mom), collaborations, and hugs; she was so generous with those hugs!  🙂  She knew her story, she communicated her story so incredibly well, and she always led with her story every single day!

There is a beautiful book in every classroom on her campus called The LaRue Miller Legacy, written by students and staff about her incredible story the first year her campus opened. It is heartwarming and comforting to know her legacy book project will continue to assist young learners and leaders in practicing the speaking skills and story-telling Mrs. Miller herself modeled throughout her lifetime. She believed strongly young students needed positive role models as they developed language and communication skills through shared conversations. During my tenure on her campus, she modeled this weekly in small groups, during parent nights, at campus-wide family functions, and so much more. She also encouraged students and their families to document their life stories and lessons for future generations. It is our responsibility and honor now to take up her story for her so the exceptional life and legacy as the school’s namesake will never be forgotten.

Thank you, Mrs. Miller, for honoring us with your legacy. Thank you for being the approachable, personable, smiling living legend we needed with much grace and unconditional love.  Thank you for blessing my family and countless other families in a million, brilliant ways. Thank you for small talks, short walks, laughter, storytelling, remembrances, books, smiles, hugs, and all those spaces in between where cream gravy soaks in and grace shines through them. Thank you for knowing and sharing the secret to a well-lived life is in giving…giving your support, encouragement, respect, presence, talents, gifts, service, time, and love. Thank you for believing in and actively living the sacredness of The Golden Rule throughout your long and fruitful life. Thank you for being a deep and special part of those you served and those who served with you. Thank you for actively living, sharing, and always reminding all of us, “the goal is simple…to help you achieve yours!” 

To the Miller Family (her school family and her personal family): May great love and precious memories wrap each of you in comfort and strength to help soften the edges of her physical absence as you face each new tomorrow…bva

Open the book…

In just a matter of hours, it is time once again to start anew…to set our sights on new possibilities, to trust new opportunities, to nurture new hopes and dreams as we begin Chapter One of 2022. What?!? In some ways this year has flown by, while in other ways, it’s a lingering reminder of all things 2020. Regardless, there is hopefulness and opportunity in coming out of 2021 and potentially on the other side of this pandemic. Will 2022 possibly bring this to fruition? Who knows? While the history of each of us has always been in our stories, if nothing else, 2021 continues to give all of us unique ways of crafting and sharing our stories, at least for a few more hours. We will sing the song, make the toasts, and hope for the best when in reality, who really knows. But even as we continue to create our stories and synthesize this collective human experience, we crave a look ahead.

The Scottish phrase “auld lang syne” literally means “old long since” or for “old time’s sake.”  After continued reflection and pondering during 2021 “for old time’s sake,” this past year has been personally transformative, pushing me to create better situations while quietly finding ways to assist others. In reality, this mindful practice has kept me more focused on what I consider important. Likewise, the new year ahead offers more sacred opportunities to take the wisdom and experiences of this past year forward “for old time’s sake” in order to build on these foundational lessons. The changes, growth, triumphs, missteps, JOYs, and sorrows of each experience bring fresh and clearer perspective to do better, to do more, to give more, and to love more.

So…as I do each year, I offer this abundant challenge to us all as we open the book of 2022 to:

BE in the moment.

Breathe deep and fortifying breaths.

Encourage one another.

Forgive with grace.

Keep promises.

Forgo grudges.

Apologize.

Share softer answers.

Work to understanding.

Walk more.

Seek adventure.

Smile at strangers(even through your mask).

Examine personal demands.

Think first of others.

Be gentle and kind.

Laugh more.

Help carry burdens.

Cherish inner dreams.

Learn a new skill.

Be bendable and not breakable.

Observe the beauty and wonder of the world.

Ask questions.

Explore options.

Express thanks.

Welcome others.

Speak your love over and over and over again and again and again! 

The spiritual gift of actively living this challenge with grace and gratitude fills the soul with hope as time marches onward. Hope, and new beginnings in particular, constantly and gratefully prevail in all our daily humanness. We are truly more resilient than we often think. The most challenging paths and trails often lead to the most beautiful places. Learning never ends. So, yes, it’s time to open this new book of 2022 and start chapter one in faith, hope, and love as we craft our stories in the coming year. May the new year bring to you and yours bountiful blessings filled to overflowing and may you be a blessing to others as you are being blessed, my friends.  Happy New Year! 🙂