reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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two broken wrists. and the saga continues. [k.s. friday]

and the saga continues

bananas.  they were $.49 lb.  we picked up a bunch and walked to the register.  a moment later, with no question or drama, we paid our $1.17 and left.

the next step in my two-broken-wrists saga is occupational therapy.  not because we do everything with our hands.  not because we write with them and open doors with them.  not because we use them for our personal hygiene or because we cook with them.  not because we drive with them or dress with them or shake hands with them.  but because using my hands IS what i do.  the therapist asked me how long i have played the piano.  53 years.  it’s what i DO.  so getting my wrists back to pre-snowboard-fall is imperative to me.  there are no other options.

before we went to this first appointment i, responsibly, called our healthcare insurance company – the one we pay $29,000 a year to – the one with the slogan ” for the care you need at a price you can afford” – to check in about the coverage of OT.  i was told, after much menu-choosing, that i am limited to 20 visits and that the cost will be $50 per visit.  with the OT’s recommendation that my getting-these-wrists-back-trajectory would involve appointments twice a week, that would add $400 to the already-$2400/month in healthcare costs.  bracing.  impossible.

the OT office checked in with me to remind me of my appointment, coincidentally, just after i hung up with the insurance company.  i told them what i had just learned and they insisted i was wrong.  “no,” i was told, “we have never heard of molina charging ANYthing for a copay.”  I asked them to please double-check for me and they assured me they would and that they would apprise me at my appointment.

when i arrived, the receptionist checking me in told me that they had their 23-year-insurance-veteran in the office check and that there would be no copay.  i asked them to provide a written document to that effect so that if and when i was billed i would have recourse.  they assured me that they would triple-check and to stop back after my appointment.

at the end of my appointment with the therapist, the receptionist told me that “no, you don’t have to pay $50 per visit.  it’s actually worse.  instead, you have to pay 100% of all fees until your thousands-of-dollars-deductible is met.”  what?!!!!  now this is the third story i am hearing about the same service with the same provider and the same insurance company.  who am i to believe?

i stood there and literally cried in front of the receptionist in the middle of the waiting area.  you mean to tell me that our $29,000 a year doesn’t really cover much of anything???  this is blatantly wrong, grossly outrageous.

bernie sanders, if you have listened to him speak, has given a example of the perverted and pathetic healthcare in this country.  he speaks about a family who makes $60,000 a year and that this family must pay $12,000 for healthcare.  “that’s 20% of their gross income,” he bellows.  what i wish he would add is this next example:  consider a couple who makes say $65,000 a year (this is the magic healthcare cliff for two people and only $5000 more than the previous example).  that couple will pay anywhere between $24,000 and $29,000 for a policy that will still have high deductibles and yet (clearly) not actually have good coverage.  i want to jump on the bernie-bellowing-band-wagon and yell, “that’s 45% of that couple’s income!!!  what is wrong with that???? EVERYTHING!”  how is it that we can live in this country, the richest country in the world, and have the worst healthcare for our populace?  how is it right to set the populace up for financial disaster when they have to deal with the eventual health scare, injury, illness??  (on a side note, i won’t even beGIN to start talking about Covid-19, for i have nothing good to say about the administration’s handling, lack of information or truth, and unpreparedness for this pandemic that will truly test the resiliency of our country.)

when i could take a breath at the receptionist’s desk i asked, “what do these appointments cost?”  how much is my professionalism worth to me, i am thinking.  i earn my living playing the piano, i am thinking.  i have fifteen albums of piano music, i am thinking.  i am a pianist, i am thinking.  i just need care for my wrists so that i can do what i do, i am thinking.  at what cost, i am thinking.

but healthcare is not like bananas.  i was told, “we can’t answer that.  we don’t know.”  i beg your pardon???  “billing handles that.  and it’s different depending upon insurance plans and whether or not you have appropriate insurance.”  i beg your pardon???? “what if i just wanted to pay cash right now?” i ask.  “you can’t,” she says.  “we don’t know what it costs.”

i wonder if it would be more if i paid cash – after all, i’m not an overstuffed insurance company that has the capacity to deny portions of the billing or disallow costs or base payment on the coding used to describe my treatment, while at the same time accepting ridiculously high premiums from clients with the knowledge that the insurance offered is incomprehensibly lacking.

no.  i’m just a person who needs her hands.

we left, went to the store and bought more bananas.

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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1980. no balloons. [k.s. friday]

no balloons

1980.  it’s not often i have listened to this song since four decades ago when i recorded it.  i was a mere 20.  listening to it warbling now, in the way that only old cassettes can warble, has been a mixed bag:  this cassette master, with little studio experience, with reel-to-reel recording, with no auto-tune for my young nervous soprano-ish voice, with too-sweet flute lines and picked guitar, measures-too-long-instrumental-interlude; i am catapulted back.

it is shocking to hear the innocence.  it is shocking to hear the pain.  if my wednesday post this week was too much, i would hasten to add that this will be as well.  this is a song about stripping a young woman of choice, of what should be the blissful love of first intimacy, of no justice, of no opportunity to process.  it’s the story of sexual assault in the late 1970s.  it’s the story of sexual assault any time.  it changes everything.  every trajectory.  it’s my story.

NO BALLOONS is a song of the times.  especially for someone who listened to john denver, james taylor, carole king, joni mitchell, bread, loggins and messina, america, england dan & john ford coley, the carpenters – the A-team of verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-interlude-chorus.  simple melodies, simple instrumentation, simply written, simply sung.

i can’t believe i didn’t write it in the vein of led zeppelin or kiss.  it should have been a screaming heavy metal song, full of pointed weapons of anguish, of power-stripped anger.  instead, it sounds like a sweet love-gone-bad song, “you take away my hopes, my dreams, you give me no balloons to fly.”  only it’s not.  it’s about no air.  no breath.

“and now with my eyes closed, i no longer see the pain in yours or feel it in mine…”  and that was a product of the times as well.  i closed my eyes and silenced my voice.  i stopped feeling it.  or did i?  “and i cried as long as the rain lasted and when it stopped i stopped.” was it really that simple?

until this week i really never thought i would share this song again.  after all, the song is 40 years old; i’m an alto, perched firmly on the tenor shore.  but somehow, between the #MeToo movement and the swirling-around-us-in-the-world-contention and public court battles in recent media and the lack of regard for those who truly need help or healing and my aunt’s texted article and the weeping inside of my younger-self and my silenced-silence, it felt like it was time to be vulnerable and candid and believe that our muddy-boots-narratives might make a difference for someone else.

we each have a story, a timeline, an arc that takes us through this life.  things we want to remember in detail, things we desperately want to forget.  things we have lived boisterously out loud, things we have lived in despairing silence.  the tapestry that holds all these threads together is the soul of our experience, the way we can hear others and truly listen, the empathy we can employ in a world that seems to cite MeFirst instead of UsTogether.

i wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone.  i’m pretty sure that every day since those-dark-days-in-the-late-70s i have both been affected and have effected because of them.  i have made choices and non-choices, taken action and had reflexive reaction.  i have searched for answers.

but i also know that my heart was blown open.  i am not standing on a different rung of the ladder, too high up to understand or remember, too discurious to ask, too blinded to see, too discriminating or apathetic to care.

i am next to anyone who needs me to listen, really listen.  i am next to anyone who needs me to jump and catch their balloons before they have flown too far to reach.

 

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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NO BALLOONS ©️ 1980 kerri sherwood

 

 


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put your fingers on the keys. [d.r. thursday]

putyourfingersonthekeys WITH EYES jpeg copy 2

nine.  i have nine fingers i can use right now.  and, like chicken marsala, i am putting them on the keys and following the music.  two weeks after breaking my wrists i was back playing and directing.  who needs wrists anyway?  who needs all ten fingers?

music can’t be stopped.  it’s in the sound of the sunrise, the sound of your baby waking up, the sound of the clink of coffee cups.  it’s humming as you ready for your day, singing along in the car, laughter shared over the phone.  it’s in the hug you give your children as you drop them at school and the help you give your aging parents.  it’s in dinner you prepare for loved ones, and in the volunteering you do for a local service organization.  it’s in the walk in the woods, a stroll by the water’s edge.  it’s in the quiet weary at the end of the evening, the sighs of a life-day done well.  it’s in dreams and in hope. and it can’t be stopped.

we will always turn to the arts for comfort, for meaning, in joy and in sorrow.  the music follows us; it surrounds us.  it waits silently, ready to volume-up when necessary, hush-down when needed.  it’s background.  it’s foreground.

we need only put our fingers on the keys.

read DAVID’s thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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CHICKEN MARSALA ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

 


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what you do. [k.s. friday]

ymad

“what you do will live beyond your lifetime.  it transcends the things of this earth.”

(YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE ©️ kerri sherwood)

when i think about my sweet momma and my poppo, my big brother, my godfather uncle allen, my grandmother-mama-dear, more beloved family and dear friends – all who have left this earth – i don’t think about their jobs or upward mobility, their income or the status symbols they owned.  i don’t think of the timeline of their school or work or whether they had finished a degree or if they had even gone to college.  i don’t ponder awards or certificates they received or resorts where they may have vacationed.

i think about what a difference they made in my life. my mom’s devotion to cheery kindness, my dad’s quiet and stubborn thoughtfulness, my big brother’s goofy humor and ability to tell a story in all its details, my uncle’s absolute commitment to his fun-loving smile no-matter-what-was-happening.  i think about the joy my mom experienced when my dad brought her grocery-store-flowers.  i think about big bowls of coffee ice cream with my brother, neil diamond playing in the background.  i think about my uncle generously paying for my very first recordings in ny, diligently holding me up and gently pushing me.  i think about simple moments with them.  in what could be a crowded-with-information-obituary in my head for each person, i hold a piece of their heart instead.  they have made a difference in this world.  they made a difference for me.  i remember.

(from THE FAULT IN OUR STARS)  “you know, this obsession you have, with being remembered?  this is your life!  this is all you get! you get me, and you get your family and you get this world, and that’s it!  ….  and i’m going to remember you.  …. you say you’re not special because the world doesn’t know about you, but that’s an insult to me.  i know about you.”

 

we live on an infinite continuum of opportunity.  chances to bring light and hope to others.  deeds we can do out of kindness, goals reached by collaborating together.  we face choice just as soon as the sun-peeking-over-the-horizon wakes us.  we innately or intentionally decide, we head in a direction, we live a day.

 

“We’re all traveling through time, together, everyday of our lives… All we can do is do our best to relish this remarkable life.  I just try to live everyday as if I have deliberately come back to this one day, to enjoy it… As if it was the full, final day of my extraordinary, ordinary life.” (from ABOUT TIME)

 

this song. i have performed it countless times.  in nyc’s central park for tens of thousands of people, in small medical clinics, in large oncological settings, in chicago’s grant park.  at a pharmaceutical conference in puerto rico, outdoors with the lance armstrong tour of hope.  across the country, in pajamas and jeans and all-dressed-up.  in theatres and at walks/runs, in schools and churches.  for organizations including y-me, the american cancer society, gilda’s club, young survival coalition, susan g. komen foundation, the annual breast cancer symposium.  and each time, heidi and i, working together in performance, fighting back tears.  the list is profound.  not because of the innumerable times i have sang this song, but because of all the people in these places and behind the scenes, joining together, remarkably touching the lives of others:  those they know and those they may never know.

we make a difference.  in every arena of our lives.  every place we go.  every interaction.  every gesture.  every assumption.  every conversation.  every every-thing.  every single thing.

what intention will we have?  will we be positive or negative?

“the truth is, I now don’t travel back at all, not even for a day.  …  live life as if there were no second chances.” (ABOUT TIME)

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read DAVID’s thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

 

 

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YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE ©️ 2003 kerri sherwood

 


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quarter rest. and the beat goes on. [k.s. friday]

quarter rest

quarter rest.  one beat of silence.

with these broken wrists i have moved from a whole rest to a quarter rest.  i have made progress playing my piano and my broken-wrists have told me when to be silent.  in the silence the earth keeps spinning, we trek around the sun, everything keeps keeping on.  but for a moment, i rest.

we are each granted rests upon entrance into this orchestra-of-earth.  sometimes they are chosen, sometimes they are not.  always they are necessary.  it is in your quiet that others make noise, that others speak, that other timbres color the muted.  the hush is yours to own; the rest is yours to take.  the silence both sometimes frighteningly deafening and sometimes a grand relief.  the metronome really never stops.

(a reprise of paragraphs from 8.13.2015 post): at 1am, we walked to the lakefront. away from as many lights as we could get away from, we laid on some old steps, bricks and mortar digging into our backs so that we could gaze straight up, watching the night sky for the meteor shower.

the streaks of white light across navyblueblack make us draw in our breath. i’m wondering how far away this meteor is…how it is that we, here on earth, can see this amazing sight. such a big sky. such tiny bodies in contrast lying on the ground, waiting for the symphony to start, waiting for the downbeat, the symphony that has been continuously playing, the downbeat lost in centuries upon centuries of time gone by. like any good piece of music, it’s the rests in-between the notes, the rests in-between the meteorstreaks, that build the anticipation, that create the emotionflow, that bring tears to your eyes. each burst, each streak of whitelight is a miracle, a tiny moment exploding in time, so far away, in vast vastness.

time stretches out in front of us. and behind us. we are tiny and we are big. we gather in the moments, we breathe them, we rejoice, we worry, we ponder, we move. there is no downbeat and the symphony is already playing, has been playing and will continue to play. always. it is magical. and it is vast.

and the beat goes on.

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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TRANSIENCE from RIGHT NOW ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood

 

 

 


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treading water. watershed. [k.s. friday]

watershed the songbox

i don’t feel as much in-a-boat as i feel that i am relentlessly treading water.  but there was no handy treading-water bitmoji and i remember the exact moment that this bitmoji showed up on my snapchat mapping…in the middle of a lot of treading.

treading, treading.  guessing at why what-is-happening is happening – in wide concentric circles around us, tightly close to us.

i can only guess, as i type this with these two now-familiar broken wrists, that this is a watershed time.

watershed pronunciation

definition 2

and today, both valentine’s day and d’s birthday, i want to express gratitude for this man who is standing in the water with me – waves crashing over us, undertow threatening to pull us down, riptide ever present – and holding my fiberglass-cast-encased hand.  the person who is equally as perplexed at this time, who takes turns with me being alternatively flabbergasted, philosophical and soberingly pragmatic.

he continues to zip my jacket, buckle my seatbelt, paste my toothbrush, carry my music, pepper-mill my breakfast and dinner, put the ernie straw in my coffee.  he has learned the fine points of where-on-the-head to place hair conditioner, how best to tie plastic bags on my arms, what stool will work best at the piano, which wine glass i can pick up at the end of a day.  he has watched me learn how to hold mascara with two hands and pull up girl jeans by the belt loops.  he has been treading water with me as we look to the horizon.

maybe this watershed is the thing that elicits change.  at the end of 2019 i could feel it coming.  and i can now, with all authority and certainty, say that the change is not that i will, smack dab in the middle of middle-age, become a professional snowboarder.  nope.  but there may truly be things out there i just didn’t see or consider.  perhaps the things that are vexing us, stunning us, deeply disappointing us, are just the things that will propel us.  ah, if that just didn’t feel so pollyanna-ish.

this life is bigger than anyone can ever live it.  that includes us.  treading water in the watershed might be a time that forces dynamic change.  like everyone, i wish i had some prescient inkling of what’s-out-there, what-will-happen.

my perceived lack of control is maybe a misperception.  maybe that which has taken away control is conversely granting control, granting the creativity that comes with grabbing onto flotsam and jetsam in a sea that seems to be swirling.  maybe the grasping-at-straws is grasping-at-ernie, a touchstone that seems flimsy and unimportant, but which actually is grounding, rooting, and gives voice to more solid footing, less wave-action, more direction-choosing.

the watershed is here.  moment by moment we stare at it.  we roll our eyes, we yell at the angst-y details, we shake our heads in confusion, we stop and stand still and, yet hyperventilating from treading, we wonder.  we try to breathe, to center, to be in the eye of the storm.

holding hand-cast, we look forward and we guess that this ain’t the last watershed on the horizon.

 

download WATERSHED from AS IT IS on iTUNES or CDBaby

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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WATERSHED from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

 

 


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two broken wrists. [k.s. friday]

two wrists

day 4

it broke more than both my wrists, that snowboarding fall last monday.

it broke my ability to do many things for myself.  it fractured my independence.

it exploded my previous gratitude of those around me, loving and caring for me.  it expanded a dependence on others, particularly david.

it broke through my vulnerability threshold.  it made me acknowledge my modesty and encouraged me to try to stand tall in my new temporary disability.

it broke what i knew about others around me.  it both surprised me in all the best ways and surprised me in all the worst.

it broke my assumption that all things – all my relationships – all my work – would stay the same.  it shattered any sense of security.

it further broke my trust in our country’s healthcare coverage.  it pointedly drove home that point.

it broke through any calm-in-the-storm-around-us i had found.  it exacerbated a profound sense of worry.

it broke my muse.  it scared me, really scared me, and it made me wonder if i would play again, write again, perform again.

day 5.  my quiet piano welcomed me into the studio.  i stood in front of it.  determined.  and i played.  nine fingers, not ten.  not the hand-span of all other days, but never mind.

day 12.  eleven days after breaking them i still wake up, after night’s elusive sleep, surprised to see my wrists, well, more accurately, my cast and hard splint.

i think, “here we go,” and i set out to see what’s beyond two broken wrists.

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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whole rest. [k.s. friday]

rest

two broken wrists.  there’s not much that can stop me, but two broken wrists has done it.

it is profound what you do in daily living with at least one hand.  really everything.  this is my fourth day on this hand-less journey and i know there’s a long road ahead.  i am not a good patient and the inability to perform the simplest of tasks has been world-stopping.  i had to teach david how to ‘properly’ wipe my mouth, put on girl jeans, comb out wet hair.  he has to hold my coffee cup (and yes, a wine glass or two) with the infamous sesame street ernie straw, feed me every bite, help me sit up from laying down, open doorknobs, pick up my cellphone so i can voice activate it, wipe my tears as i cry in frustration.  the list goes on and is only limited to your imagination.

i wanted to have a tiny window into my beautiful daughter’s world.  My Girl tells me lots of coaching and instructing stories from her high mountain snowboarding career, but i have never stepped on a snowboard.  i wanted to physically experience the board under my feet, even a tiny grasp of how she feels.  so we have planned for a long time to take a lesson and surprise her with our tale.

this week was wisconsin ski and snowboard week and for a mere $29 you could purchase lift tickets, rental equipment and a group lesson.  it seemed perfect.

and for an hour and twenty minutes it was.  a really difficult sport, we stood on boards and managed to learn the slightest of skills.  until that little girl on skis was in front of me downhill just a bit.  not really well-versed at turning and, clearly, less versed on stopping, i worked to avoid her.  the stop and the fall were simultaneous.  tailbone down i clearly put out my hands to help my fall, the first do-not-do-this rule.  instinct took over; reflexes prevailed.  that was step one in this two-broken-wrists tale, this whole rest.

four days ago i took for granted every little thing my hands (and arms) did for me.  i could play the piano at any given moment, grab a pencil and jot a lyric, readjust the bench, open the blinds and let the sun into the studio.  today the studio is dark, the piano quiet, the pencils waiting.

instead, moment by moment i am aware of every move i make, every single thing i need assistance with.  i work each day to gain one more tiny ability.  we have slowed down to a crawl and are abiding in each minute, one by one.  i appreciate david’s help beyond mere gratitude or words; his commitment to my every-single-movement is humbling.  our friends and family have reached out with offers of meals, company, words of encouragement and vast amounts of humor.  we are right here in this very moment.  presence defined.

i wonder about my piano.  i know that my right hand in a hard fiberglass cast is on hiatus.  i think that maybe my left hand, which is in a hard splint, might have a beensy chance at a few notes, regardless of the ensuing pain.  when i was 19 i broke three fingers on my left hand slammed in a steel church door.  they were splinted but i was fending for myself making a living for college as a musician and so i relentlessly started playing with those fingers anyway.  this too-early-in-the-healing-process-playing prevented full healing, so i am cautious now.  the piano is a part of my soul and so i honor the process of getting-back.

in the meanwhile, in the way that only the universe understands, after these last months, i seem to have needed a reminder of being loved and cared for, a reminder of attending to ‘now’ with no dreaded worry of ‘next’, a reminder of what’s truly important.

last night i held a fork.  it was pretty amazing.

oh, and – the little girl skied on, unaware.

read DAVID’s thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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weddings. [k.s. friday]

my best friend with frame

we are watching.  two lovely young women, the daughters of dear friends, will be married this year.  we will be attending each of these weddings.  i will have the honor of playing at them.  they are excited, immersed in the details of their ceremonies and their receptions, the times that people will gather around them and celebrate their joining of lives, of families.  it is a time of immense joy for them and it’s certainly fun to be included, hearing about gowns and venues, songs and vows.  they are amazed at how quickly these days are approaching.  it’s that life thing.  it keeps moving. faster and faster.

when my niece got married on the beach, she had her dj play instrumentals of mine as her bridal party, including me, walked across the sand.  but a couple weeks ahead, when we were talking about all the tiniest details, she asked if maybe, just maybe, i could write her and her husband-to-be a song, something that would be solely hers as she walked toward him over the warm beach, bright sun low in the sky.

this is the song i wrote for them.  no time to run to nashville or even chicago, i ran to a studio in town and quickly recorded it, just piano and voice, nothing fancy.  i was moved to hear it broadcast over the sound of waves, watching as she walked into a new chapter of her life, directly to her best friend.  and now, there’s so much more.  life keeps going.

i wore a pink dress with puffy sleeves (yes, shockingly, a color) for my other sweet niece’s wedding.  twice as long ago, i was touched at being included.  i have watched her grow (she’s amazing!) and have watched as she and her husband have built a home together and lovingly raised their two boys.  life.  keeps moving on.

i recently heard from a nephew of mine after a pretty long time of silence.  he sent a picture of he and his husband together and i was thrilled to see him looking so content, so in-his-life.  it keeps moving.

we are at the age when many friends’ children are marrying.  each time we attend a wedding or send off a gift we watch as two people decide to be together, through thick and thin.  we wish them more of the best than the challenges, but we know that the challenges are also the glue.

each story is not as simple as it sounds.  we know that.  moving in together, whether post-wedding or no wedding at all, sharing a sink, worrying about life’s constant worries, dividing up household responsibilities, traversing family dynamics, navigating gigantic decisions, choosing which direction to put the toilet paper on the roller…life as two is both more difficult and less difficult than life as one. and, in the way of how it all works, the time of life both moves in slow motion and flies by.

it helps when you choose it with your best friend.

 

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

 

wedding pic with website

MY BEST FRIEND ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood

 


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the organ bench. [k.s. friday]

organ pipes

no one else.  there was literally no one else i knew who took organ lessons.  eight years old and i was the only one.  everyone else i knew took piano lessons.  they went to the new local music store –munro music on larkfield road in east northport – and had lessons in itty studios downstairs and came back upstairs to pick out sheet music from a big wall featuring the latest hits and books of collected artists, written out for various levels of piano-playing ability.  me?  i went to mr. i-never-knew-if-he-even-had-a-first-name sexton’s house (now, think about the torture my peers had with that name) and took organ lessons in the addition adjacent to the garage.  there was no wall of sheet music, were no cool guitars hanging up begging to be purchased, no amplifiers or drums.  just that one organ.  no windy or ode to billie joe or i’m a believer easy piano for me.  it was beautiful dreamer and long, long ago.  and hymns.  lots of hymns.  but i had been asking for lessons since i was five and the little chord organ that was my grandmother’s was moved aside and a ‘real’ organ with two manuals (keyboards) and real pedals and cha-cha button settings was added to the corner of the dining room that was next to the kitchen and the living room.

when i was ten i tearfully played the pipe organ for my brother’s wedding, the processional as my sweet sister-in-law walked down the aisle to my big brother.  yesterday i was talking to john whelan, a master celtic accordionist the exact same age as me, and we talked about the first real gig we did.  his was at 12 and he actually got paid.  mine was this wedding and, for obvious reasons, payment was out of the question.  i got to wear a really pretty peach-colored party dress and white shoulder stole and wept my way through the difficult piece.

after some time, i somehow convinced my parents that they needed both an organ and a piano and they signed me up for piano lessons.  joan ostrander, the very chic music teacher, was my first piano teacher and i adored her.  she pushed me and i adored that too.  i spent long hours practicing on the piano bench with my dog missi sleeping underneath, my dad whistling in the background.

in years to come i studied with the teacher-of-all-teachers alan walker and was convinced that the piano and i were kindred.  i taught more piano lessons on long island (and later florida and even wisconsin) than i can remember, back then driving from one house to another, delighting in each student’s joy playing the piano and progress no matter the pace, hoping to emulate the teaching style of this amazingly kind man.  after lessons we talked life and ham radio and ate open-faced crunchy peanut butter sandwiches.  music is not just about music, you know.

during my undergrad, i studied piano in college with one of the professors but kept bringing in pieces of original music and kept veering off course from assigned large scale pieces, hoping he wouldn’t notice.

as no real surprise, i majored in music composition, the first (?) step toward living as an artist, the first step in a road that leads to here and now.  so much in-between.  the gigging composer music timeline is filled with albums, concerts, performances, cd sales, radio and tv, qvc appearances, barnes & noble and borders, listening wall placement, phone calls, yamaha, traveling, shipping and more shipping, recording labels, carrying boxes, standing in the rain on flatbed trucks playing and singing, driving, driving, driving, press releases, graphic design, writing, recording, supportive family and friends and coworkers and a person named hope hughes.

but that organ.  it has kept on re-appearing.  somehow it is one of the threads that has woven its way through my life.  there aren’t that many of us out here:  people who play the organ, who can finesse a chosen timbre through the pipes and who can actually play lines of bass notes on the pedals.  those lessons from the very beginning somehow set the stage for me to work for three decades already as a minister of music.  conducting choirs and handbells and ukulele bands and worship bands, choosing music for services and performing groups, leading and shaping worship and, yep, playing the organ…it has been a constant.  there are days that i will pull out all the stops and play as loud as the organ pipes will allow.  its bellowing echoes through the sanctuary and i giggle as i think of my ten year old self, sitting on an organ bench in williston park on long island and crying.

what would i have thought if i had known that fifty years later i would still be sitting on an organ bench?

canyon love

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