On Teaching

Last week, I found out that one of my former students in Massachusetts passed away suddenly.  Ironically (or perhaps not), I thought about Ed Sunday night and told Steve, "I should write him a note this week and see how he's doing."  Later, I found out that he died the next day.  Life is short, friends; too short to leave things unsaid, to worry about what others will think, to value things that don't matter.  Act now.  Love now.  Give now.  Focus on what matters. Ed was 73 years old when he began taking piano lessons from me in the summer of 2010.  I'll never forget that first week - he came in with a stack of big note, EZ-read piano books, a mini audio recorder, and an enormous amount of self determination.  We started at the beginning: landmark notes (Frances Clark method), folk songs, rote songs, and technic exercises.  Within the first year, he was sightreading simple songs, harmonizing folk melodies, and playing teacher-student duets in the studio's spring recital.  He was dedicated.

In our second year of study, he began learning key signatures and counting in unusual meters.  He performed solo in the studio recital earlier this year.  Our last lesson before I moved was at the end of July.  In those final weeks, Ed began asking questions about chords, harmonic progressions, and inversions.  He was curious and he truly loved learning.

Every week when he came into his lesson I would ask, "How are you doing today?"  His response always caught me off guard: "Oh, I'm much better, thank you."  "What do you mean 'much better'?"  I'd say.  "Were you sick?"  "No, I'm fine.  It's just that people always pay attention when you say 'I'm doing much better,'" he'd say with a grin.  I smile when I think of him looking down now, saying, "I'm doing much better, thank you."

What a privilege we have in teaching.

Teaching to me is not just about music or experiences.  It's about people - people like Ed who want to build on a lifelong love of music, people like Bobby who love to create, and people like Matthew who love to explore and build with musical patterns.  What an opportunity we have as teachers to engage with others, interact, and share musical experiences.  I am so grateful.

Do What Matters

Do what matters.

This is my new motto.

When you really stop to think about what matters in life, the world seems to stop spinning quite so fast.  There are so many things in life that vie for my attention every day - emails, bills, people asking me to do more, my iPhone in general, you get the idea.  But do they really matter in the bigger picture?  Not so much.

Sometimes things happen that put things back in perspective.  You make choices about what you are going to do and what you are going to leave undone. 

Sound familiar? 

This happened to me last week.  The decision seems easy at the time but it makes you stop and think.  How often would I make this same choice on a normal day?  How often do I scroll through Instagram during our after dinner conversations?  As recently as last night, I'm embarrassed to say.  How often do I fret about meeting the expectations of others or getting everything done in a day?

This is a reminder to myself: Do what matters. (Forget the rest.)

Life is Good

Oh my goodness, what happened to September?!  Suddenly, it's cold enough to need scarves and sweaters (and salted caramel mochas) and it's dark by the time we sit down to dinner in the evenings.  Yes, the weeks are flying by but every day is so fulfilling.  I absolutely love the work I am doing!  Life is full, life is busy, and life is very rewarding.

Life is good, y'all.

I used to be afraid of change.  In some ways, I still am - it's different, uncomfortable, and unfamiliar.  But you know what I'm learning?  Despite all this, change can be a good thing.  Really good.  The past few months have been full of change for us but it's good change.  It's a growing kind of change.  I jumped back into the life of a full-time student (which I love), Steve recreated his daily routine, we've been humbled by God's goodness to us (more than we could have asked for), we found a new church home (and joined the choir!), we defined our new "normal."  There have been a few challenging moments for sure but when I consider the number of wonderful, new opportunities we've both had of late, I find I can be nothing but grateful for all this change.

Every day is a chance to make things happen, learn something new, or teach something.  I came across an awesome quote in my reading this week: "Doing creates knowing" (Patricia Miller).  This holds so much truth in so many areas of my life right now.  Go and do this week.  Don't just think about it or talk about it or wish about it.  Go and love.  Go and teach.  Go and give back.  Go and live life to its fullest.  Go and make it happen!

xo, Ashley

P.S. Next month, we'll be celebrating our first anniversary!  Can you believe it?  What an adventure this year has been!  So grateful.

Life Lately

Life lately has included a whirlwind, 24-hour trip to Memphis; an adventurous trip to the new Wegmans; several evening jogs together (a new thing for us); candlelight dinners with our new PB dish towel napkins; a marathon thank-you note writing session (several more to come!); 20% off our registry completion at Macy's; finding out our GPS was stolen out of the car sometime last week; an October blizzard with 22" of snow; an unexpected, 4.5-hr. trip to the ER; and calling in sick to work (I have NEVER done that before!).

Let me backtrack. Monday, I was in teacher-mode. I had my quiz materials ready, I had my book bag packed, I had my lesson materials prepared. Thirty minutes before I would have walked out the door, I saw him sit down in the middle of making lunch. His heart was racing. He was breathing as if he had just come back from a run. He felt too lightheaded to stand. I helped him upstairs to lie down. Thirty minutes later, I called in sick to work and we were on our way to the ER. I kept thinking, "How do I do this? How can I be strong enough for both of us?" Sitting in the waiting room, answering questions from the nurses, trying to calm his nerves, listening to the same news stories on repeat - it was an experience that stretched and challenged me. "You're my hero," he whispered. I just shook my head. "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." Philippians 4:13, I thought to myself. After a few tests (with normal results), they sent us home.

The next few days were long ones.

He, trying to rest and recuperate; me, trying to keep up with teaching, meetings, cooking, phone calls, etc. Sometimes, it feels like I'm on a roller coaster. Sometimes, I think I need that to remind me - Live while you can. Never take anything for granted. Enjoy the little things. Dwell in the moment. As I sat next to that sweet, sleeping man, I prayed that on days like these, I could be strong enough for both of us. "Cast your cares upon the Lord for He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7. In the midst of phone calls to the insurance company, doctor's offices, and the hospital, I prayed that I could learn how to care for him - in sickness and in health. I prayed that I could be the shoulder he leans on in times of weakness. Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken." Psalm 55:22. I prayed for a peaceful heart.

Now, at the end of a long, restless week, we're beginning to see signs of improvement. He got a good report at the doctor's office today and he even had a glass of wine waiting for me when I got home from choir tonight! I, for one am exceedingly thankful.