The Obvious

I walked in to Starbucks today, a little frazzled from the morning drop-off which always seems rushed and out of control, and stood looking for a seat at the window. Waiting for my brain to kick in, anticipating the tea that would help that process. And I heard “Jenea Hooge” (my maiden name) spoken behind me. It’s not a common name, to say the least, so I knew someone was speaking about me. About former me. Weird. I turned and saw my dear, sweet P.E. teacher from junior high, smiling broadly. I love that lady. She gave me an example of a strong, funny, kind woman at an impressionable age that has stuck with me through the years. And she remembered me. I wasn’t lost in the fog of thousands of kids she has taught, remarkable due to my shy, can-I-please-fade-into-the-background personality during those years. She recalled me clearly, and fondly. She beamed, gave me a hug, and spoke of meeting Marc a few days prior.

“You have a wonderful husband,” she said.

“Well I think so,” I replied.

“And wow!  You just have a wonderful life!”

Incredulous pause.

There’s a time-stopper. A day-maker. A life-giving compliment to end all compliments. I couldn’t believe she said that, in the very best way. I felt loved and affirmed and thankful. It bounced me out of myself immediately, able to view my life from a distance, and I saw in that moment that what she said was true. It was like magic. And it changed everything.

When I get bummed because my hair isn’t cooperating, or the weather isn’t exactly as I had hoped, or I have to tote the kids to one of their bajillion activities while they complain that I brought the wrong snack, I will remember that statement. It will bounce me outside of myself once again. Give me perspective on how very thankful I should be. (I need attitude checks often, so I’ll be remembering her comment a lot.) And because it was the best thing anyone has said to me almost ever, I plan to say it to others.

This Thanksgiving, may that be my mantra. “You have a wonderful life.” Hallelujah and thank the Lord, that is true. As I sit in my warm, fairly clean house, full of people I love and way too much food, I will remember Mrs. Loomis and her kind act of pointing out the obvious. What a gift.

Music Therapy

I’m looking out the window at a guy in his car.  My view is limited to the bottom half of his face, his mouth just at the top of my line of vision, and it is moving a lot.  Singing along with a song that must be playing.  Tapping his knee below.  He loves this song, emphatically digs the lyrics and the drum beat.  And it’s reminding me that music is awesome.  I’m listening to some right now, myself.  Greg Laswell if you must know, because at this time of year, with the cold and the clouds, his melancholy piano and love-lorn lyrics fit.  A few days ago I was painting to Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto album and it was bliss.  The sun pouring through my giant kitchen windows, green tea in my cup, happy for a bit of alone time.  I was sick – the beginning of a decent cold – but the music, the sun, the painting, made it better.  This guy’s music is making his day better, too.  It’s cold outside – thirty degrees below normal and a shock to everyone’s system – but he’s singing to a familiar song and that’s something.  Sometimes that’s everything.

I recently watched an amazing documentary about the power of music in helping heal the minds of dementia patients.  How giving them access to music that has mattered to them during their lives awakens their minds, opens pathways to memory and passion and revives an interest in living.  I get it.  Completely.  My husband and I have been telling each other what songs should go on our dementia playlists in case we need them someday.  The music we love is like a family member.  The loss of it would be unbearable.

In high school, when homework was overwhelming, or my heart was on the verge of broken, or the cold and clouds got to me, I would go for a drive and listen to music.  And it would help.  Simon and Garfunkel warmed me during those hard adolescent winters.  “I am a rock.  I am an island.”   Snow falling, tears and anger, smoking in my car with the windows cracked.  Trying to work it out as we all must.  Cat Stevens and Don McClean’s Vincent on my headphones in the hospital, sicker than I understood.  My companions one lonely night, sore from failed IV attempts, scared and alone if not for them.  James Taylor on a rooftop with my best friend, summer air, stars aloft and the wide world before us.

The list of musical therapy I’ve received is long: Josh Ritter has made me look on the bright side more times than I can say.  The Weepies calmed me down amidst the frantic pace of L.A.  Beyonce clearly knows I need to dance.  Deathcab for Cutie, Lyle Lovett, Michael Jackson, Alison Krauss, Bruce Springsteen, Josh Garrels, Counting Crows, Paul Simon, U2, Indigo Girls, Waterdeep, John Mayer (no kidding): they’ve made life better.  Joyous and times and merely bearable at others.  Like the guy in the car outside, like the patients with Alzheimer’s, I need it.  That’s all I wanted to say today.  An ode to Music.  Hopefully Music appreciates the effort.