What’s to be in ’23?

I don’t know about you, but it appeared the holiday season zoomed by, sometimes quite literally. From Thanksgiving through Christmas I intentionally chose to put certain expectations on the back-burner in order to simply BE—be present, pay attention, and savor the moments of precious time together. Overall, it was the easiest holiday because we were together. I let go of over-the-top expectations and anxiety about detailed perfection. The meals were not lavishly chic or garnished. The back porch tree fell over and broke during strong winds and icy storms. The cats were circling and hissing. Laundry piled up. Outdoor water faucets froze. Daddy didn’t know it was Christmas and struggled to make sense of it. The greatest part: we were together. We laughed and cried (it’s not Christmas until someone cries). Played games and watched movies. Baked (until we ran out of sugar) and ate. Talked and stayed up too late. We were together. Several airport runs later, everyone is safely back in their home places and our home is far too quiet. The memories prevail; we were together.

So here we are and here we go. This year is soon passing and the next one is on the horizon in a few hours. Frankly, I am thrilled to still BE. New opportunities, possibilities, hopes, dreams, and our stories march onward as Chapter One of 2023 begins. The history of each of us has always been in our collective stories. The new year gives each of us unique ways of crafting and sharing those stories. Even as we continue to reflect on the past year, we cannot help but crave a peak of the one ahead.

As I’ve shared before, the Scottish phrase “auld lang syne” literally means “old long since” or for “old time’s sake.” I cannot ignore the Scottish blood running in my veins when it comes to reflection and pondering “for old time’s sake.” This lifelong practice offers sacred opportunities to take the wisdom and experiences from the past year forward in order to build on their lessons. The changes, growth, missteps, triumphs, sorrows, and JOYs bring focused perspective. I want to do better, to give more, and to love more.

So, my friend, may I offer these reflections of gratitude and gratefulness as we open the Book of 2023:

Thank you for everything you do…the big things and the million little things each day.

Thank you for the unique gifts you give throughout the year…most especially the priceless ones from your heart.

Thank you for bringing JOY to others fortunate enough to know you; I’m grateful to be one of them!

Thank you for marveling at ordinary days in the most extraordinary ways.

Thank you for simply showing up, paying attention, speaking your truth, and letting go.

Thank you for understanding that it’s ok to not be ok.

Thank you for taking the blank page of each day to write the words as your story unfolds.

Thank you for rewarding others with your smiles, hugs, strength, and comfort.

Thank you for trusting your “circle of persons” as the real treasures in life and happiness as true wealth.

Thank you for doing your personal best and allowing the rest to take care of itself.

Know you are seen, heard, and loved for who you are and what you choose to be in your story. I’ve come to accept how little in life means more than faith, hope, and love, and choose to sprinkle these generously. Gentleness and humor keep my faith, hope, and love alive because they are everywhere when we seek them. These “big three” are most prominent for me in ordinary things like cooking a meal, sharing a conversation, singing children, laughing from the belly, making music, reading a book, dancing when no one is watching, hugging, helping my daddy, and walking in the woods—simple everyday actions where cream gravy soaks in and homemade grace shines through. The world and our souls crave this. May this be so in 2023. May wondrous dreams and wishes take you to remarkable places. When the storms of life swirl, may an angel gently hold your hand in comfort and strength as you prevail. May quiet time with yourself allow your everyday actions to soak in and grace to shine through as you celebrate all that is in 2023. Happy New Year!

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!

November enters…

There are everyday blessings; no need to look far

To know at a glance just how special they are.

A leaf falling slowly to a littered forest ground

A squirrel scampering a tree trunk all the way down.

The geese honking above on their trek south

With a frog croaking response from its mouth.

The quick gust caressing softly a freckled cheek

The sun’s rays warming aged bones that often creak.

As we look to autumn shifting with the cooling northern breeze

Our time for grateful reflection starts this first November eve…

Day One of Gratefulness: What did you observe in your daily life today, just one thing, that made you grateful? Take a moment to say THANK YOU for this one thing. Today, I’m grateful for outside observations on my walk and the words to share them with you.

As we move through this time of reflective gratefulness once again, may you take a moment each day to breathe deeply, show up, pay attention, speak your truth, and let go to the possibilities. Be a blessing and be blessed, and remember to care for yourself as you care for others, my friends.


It’s been a while, but I opened a memory box today where beautiful words from young writers tumbled into my lap.  Written by this precious class last year, their words shared simple reminders for daily living and resonated on a quiet November afternoon:

Give thanks for each day and thanks for each night; for lovely little flowers and the stars shining bright.

Give thanks for new crayons like red, green, and blue.  Give thanks for special moments when your wishes do come true.

Give thanks for a puzzle or your favorite teddy bear and even the thrill when you’re lifted high in the air!

For a wonderful hug, a band in the parade, a bath, or a new toy; for any little thing in your day that brings great JOY!

Give thanks for walking, hiking, and the snowflakes from above, especially give thanks for being with the people you love!

Give thanks for the oceans, the salt, and the sand; the sweet and simple pleasure of just holding someone’s hand.

Give thanks for saying “please” and “thank you” each day, and especially for hearing the words “I love you” along the way.

autumntrailMay we all take time to reflect on not only the blessings, but the giving of thanks…each night and each day!


“We are most alive when our hearts are conscious of our treasures…” ~ Thornton Wilder

This is the gift–to hear and enJOY life’s opportunities every single day. Truly, there is something in every day and in every season to celebrate with thanksgiving as treasures along the journey…to be more aware of what we have, to appreciate again and again all the wonderful things money cannot buy (the wind in your hair, the sun on your face, a child’s laughter, a loving family, and more).

As we wrap up this school year, it’s important to take a moment to focus on things as though we are seeing them either for first time, or in my case as LME princiPAL, for the last time. With 34 years of educational opportunities, it is time to personally move to another phase of this journey called life.

Before I leave this fast-growth learning community in the most capable of hands, please allow a little poetic license to share some final pearls of pirate wisdom and TREASURES…

T = Take time to breathe, to try something new, and to be THANKFUL.  The most precious things in life are always right in front of you.  Trust and be amazed!

R = Remind yourself and others to relax, rejuvenate, rest, and reward.  Play is important for all ages, most especially when you need to recharge your battery and take in the abundance of life each day.

E = EnJOY the ride…the good and the not-so-good!  Expect adventures and entertain a few wild ideas to enhance this big, bold, grand, astonishingly beautiful world.  After all, it’s not the destination, but the journey along the way…

A = Always allow grace to shine forth…hold yourself and others to a standard of less perfection and more grace…every.single.day!

S = S-T-R-E-T-C-H your mind, mindset, body, heart, and soul to uncomfortable levels.  We often find new possibilities, answers, and options just outside our comfort zone!

U = Understand and forgive others even when they do not deserve it; this is usually when they need your understanding and forgiveness the most…

R = Respect yourself first; respecting others will be easier then.

E = Entertain new opportunities by saying YES…engagement, enlightenment, and empowerment start with each of us!

S = Savor the simple, profound, JOYful moments; these will become the milestones to your personal life story.

EnJOYAll these TREASURES are present in the many JOYs of my educational journey at LME.  One of the surest and most encompassing JOYs comes from the great works and excellence of others around me.  While some may not appreciate the idea of thriving on others’ successes, it is more than enough to have the honor and privilege of being a part of something profoundly extraordinary because I chose the role of catalyst in the process.  We can all be a ladder, a lamp, or even a lifeboat on this journey…here’s hoping your heart is always conscious of your TREASURES; enJOY the journey!

Note:  VanAmGram will become a personal blog on July 1, 2016 and will no longer be associated with LaRue Miller Elementary.


We are THANKful!

As we wrap up this exciting week of learning at LME in anticipation of our first holiday break, we are truly grateful for the following gifts:

1.  Our Midlothian Education Foundation surprised four IMG_6119of our extraordinary teachers today with a grant award of $3,934.95 for the clever “Telling Stories, One Stop At A Time” animation club.  Under the outstanding direction of Amy Clark, Andrew Morgan, Scott Fiorenza, and Katie Bergvall, students will work with innovative animation stop-motion to create digital stories and more during presentations.  Stop-motion software allows artists to work one frame at a time to create video and moving images using pictures drawn with sound added later.  Think of the big animated movies out today; this is what our learners will use!  Congratulations to our animated team and many thanks, MEF!

2.  The LME learning community gathered and gave 4,939 canned and boxed food items today during LME Rally!  WOW!  Winning classes are Kinder = Mr. Pendley, 1st = Mrs. L. Bergvall, 2nd = Mrs. King, 3rd = Mrs. Milne, 4th  = Mrs. Dickard, and 5th = Mrs. Lassetter.  Thanks for giving time, service, and resources to those most in need this holiday season!

3.  Finally, our KC (Kindness and Compassion) Club designed and implemented The Thankful Tree (like the The Giving Tree) for our campus while sharing ways and ideas for helping others to be thankful for each day.  The response to their video and the idea truly “leaves” us breathless…way to go!

Here’s hoping you enJOY a fun, festive, fall holiday with those you hold dear.  May the blessings of the season remind us all to #LoveServeCare everyday!  🙂

Note:  Students have a holiday from November 24 – 28; we will see everyone back on Monday, December 1st! 

Thanks and Giving…

Thanks1 Thanks3 We celebrated our annual Family Thanksgiving Feast today with great thanks and giving indeed!  From the traditional meal to great conversation during all six lunches, families noshed in fellowship, tradition, and fun.  Special thanks to our cafe ladies and volunteers who fedThanks4 over 1100 LME family members.  Thanks to our learning community for joining us today.

In the process of sharing, several learners and their families Thanks2stopped by the “thankful tree” to post their blessings and drop off canned and boxed food items for our big food drive this week.  Our Student Honor Council reports we have over 2500 products in just two days…WOW!  Please keep them coming through Thursday!  As always, thanks for sharing the love by giving this week…and throughout the year!  🙂


Who is a teacher?

NTD1On this National Teacher Day, it probably goes without saying we have extraordinarily talented, outstanding educators at LME…heart, mind, and soul!  Yes, I’m biased, but it’s my blog after all…  🙂

With this respectfully noted, I asked some older learning friends for their specific thoughts today about our teachers.  Please enJOY their comments:

Who Is A Teacher?

A teacher is someone who see of us as unique persons and encourages our talents and strengths.
A teacher is someone who looks beyond my face and sees inside my soul even with eyes in the back of her head (just like mom).
A teacher is someone with a special touch, a smile, someone who takes time to listen to all sides and is fair, even when I mess up.
A teacher is someone with a caring heart who respects and understands even when they don’t want to and even when I want him to only take my side.
A teacher is someone who looks past bad choices to see the hurt and pain in others even when she has a tough day herself.
A teacher is someone teaching all of me, not just certain parts of me.
A teacher is someone building my confidence and raising my worth in life.
A teacher makes a difference in my life, affects my family, and pushes me to my future!#thanks

Bless you, LME staff, for the work of teaching and learning you do every single day!  Happy National Teacher Day; Go Team Miller!

Our Vital Volunteers

You’ve likely heard the saying:  Kind hearts are the garden; kind thoughts are the roots; kind words are the blossoms; kind deeds are the fruit.  We are abundantly showered in daily volunteer blessings at LME with the BEST Volunteers in the MISD Garden!

volunteers1We celebrated our All-Star Volunteers today with a huge Miller Rally, presentation, and special breakfast.  Under the direction of music teacher, Amber Grant, the Miller Singers performed a delightful piece for all to enJOY.  Special grade level “speakers” shared various heartwarming words of thanks while the entire student body cheered on them on during the Rally. Everyone enJOYed the scrumptious breakfast provided our entire LME staff.

Team Miller was on their top game today.  Special thanks to volunteers2our Volunteer Committee who orchestrated this big event…Ms. Cole and team, you truly blossomed today!

There is something profoundly majestic in young learners gathering as an entire student body to show their appreciation to our daily volunteers.  THANK YOU seems so small compared to all they do for and with us…we are so grateful for the dedicated time, talents, gifts, and service our All-Star volunteers and MVPs provide each day at LME!  Here’s hoping you find a way to volunteer soon.  🙂

Grant Award

It’s a special day when you’re presented a check for $1,000 checkfor math and science education materials!  Thanks to the forethought of the ExxonMobil Educational Alliance Program, Mr. Walid Alameddine, VP and COO of Victron Energy, presented us with a check today to purchase math and science resource materials to further expand and enhance our math and science learning opportunities. The Alliance is designed to provide all ExxonMobil retailers an opportunity to invest into the future of their communities through educational grants to neighborhood schools. Stringent requirements and special criteria must be met before grant awards are distributed; Mr. Alameddine ensures he secures grants for our area on an annual basis.

As always, we are so excited to put these funds to great use in our math and science classes.  STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Math) education is an essential component in 21 Century learning.  This continued support from our community partners is most appreciated.  As one young learner noted today once the announcement was made, “Yeah, Mrs. Van, everyone knows that math and science ROCK!”  Thanks and “rock on,” Mr. Alameddine, Victron Energy, and the ExxonMobil Educational Alliance Program.