Something happened this week that kind of made my toes feel a touch stepped on. It was nothing big and I am all but certain it wasn’t meant the way I took it. But I made the foolish choice to allow it to get me out of sorts for a bit. Frankly, I overreacted!
Then perspective kicked in.
A friend from Erie lost her mom to an illness and lost her sister-in-law just days later to violence.
Another friend from Erie lost her dad to a heart attack.
A “young man” – he’s closer to my baby sister’s age than mine – is battling stage 4 cancer. It’s ravaging his body and they were hoping he would be stable enough to return home. The pictures of him with his kids and wife were heart-wrenching to say the very least. It doesn’t look good and they are treasuring every next breath he takes. Barring a miracle, he is nearing the end of his journey in this life.
I’m oh so homesick this year. Strangely, so are both my sisters. The silliest things – a favorite Christmas movie, baking a traditional holiday sweet treat – have been causing tears and fond memories. I’m missing my grandparents an extra lot for some reason this year. Maybe it’s the fact that their great-granddaughter’s wedding is in just a few weeks and they won’t be there. I’ve shed quite a few tears today remembering holidays spent at Grandma and Grandpa’s house and wishing that just once more I would find myself packed into Grandma’s kitchen with my mom, my sisters, my aunt, my cousins and grandma cleaning up from the Thanksgiving meal (after which we’d all sit down to work on a puzzle – it was a thing, trust me). Grandpa and his Christmas ties, Grandma’s Christmas village, a fire in the fireplace . . . and that ridiculous motion activated Santa Clause – which would bounce up and down and sing “Jingle Bells” when you walked by – that always scared the tar out of me when I came down in the mornings when we would visit over Christmas!
I cannot be with any of the extended family this year and I’m rather pouty about it. And that “toes stepped on” thing from earlier?! Yeah, that doesn’t even register right now. And I still have my siblings, my children, my spouse, my parents, and my nieces and nephews. There is a rich legacy handed down from grandparents – who constantly welcomed strangers into their home and did whatever good they could in the community where they spent their entire married lives – that I am lucky enough to be a part of. So tomorrow, there will be a great big meal in the evening with the traditional entree as well as some things that have become traditional pieces of the meal in recent years. My “almost-son-in-law” will join us as will an honorary daughter who needed a place to call home for the holiday. I will enjoy the laughter, make more memories, take advantage of the gift of technology to schedule a “Google Hangout” with my sisters, and revel in the fact that those I love know I miss and love them.
Hug your loved ones a little tighter, spend just a second longer sitting at the table and laughing, and cherish whatever stage of life you find yourself in. For those who are grieving this holiday season because a loved one isn’t with you, this song keeps running through my head so I’m going to share it here:
So far, I’ve spent about 21 hours getting assignments, assessments, discussion questions, group discussion topics, exit questions, and “tech tool of the day” stuff ready for the Spring semester. New textbook (yay!) meant time for an overhaul. Have to edit assignments since I teach one section in a “normal” classroom setting and teach the same class in an online, self-paced setting. But I’m so glad I work part-time in the education industry with it’s cushy hours and vacation times where I have all this time off from anything work-related! I’m just kidding. Most of the people I know are very intelligent and realize that good teachers do not get all of Christmas Break completely “work-free”.
But seriously – loving the way that the semester is shaping up. And I’m still having a hard time wrapping my brain around the fact that I am heading into the Spring of my FIFTH year teaching at Iowa Central Community College!! My tenth semester as a College Professor. Wow!
December 30, 2014 was the fifth anniversary of the day we moved into Fort Dodge, IA. There are times that I think, “Has it already been five years?!” Other times my brain runs in the opposite direction – “We’ve ONLY been here five years?”
Maybe it’s because so much has happened in those five years –
- One child graduates from Cosmetology school
- Two children graduate from high school (to be followed by the last child in the family this Spring)
- One child graduated with her A.A. and will complete her B.A. in May
- I’ve directed 5 shows at the local high school (with number six auditioning in late February!)
- I’ve taught nine semesters as a college professor (starting number 10 in 11 days!)
- I’ve played in the pit for 3 shows at the college (and the fourth starts soon!)
- Hubby has done a number of weddings and, sadly, funerals.
- Eldest child has gotten a full-time job and moved out on her own.
- One child is engaged and getting married before 2015 ends
And my list could go on. Have there been negative experiences? Sure. No human being alive is completely free from frustration or difficulties. But there has been so much about our time here that has included really good things! So happy anniversary to my family and I! Can’t wait to see what the next five years holds!
This summer has been a big one for me on a personal level. I’m very aware that what feels monumentally huge to me is, in reality, not a major crisis by any means. But it is a very clear sign that the next phase of life is upon me, like it or not.
My oldest landed herself a full-time job and took on the responsibility of renting a house with a roommate. She moved out in the late Spring just as my two college students were coming home. We went from four living in the house during the school to five over the summer. The two ducklings in college will leave in just about a week to head back to campus. Today, I was hit with a reality I hadn’t really thought of yet – we will be a family of 3 living in the house. The Laupp family hasn’t been that small since 1993!
As if that wasn’t enough, my baby turned 18 this summer. Yes, my youngest duckling is now a legal adult – a fact he takes great joy in reminding me of often! He will be a Senior in High School this year. That means that by this time next year, I will not be sending ANYONE to a K-12 educational institution. *gulp* Since 1996, the fall has meant that is was “back to school” time. My son – my baby – was born in 1996. When he graduates next Spring, life changes for us. After 19 years of sending kids back to school, they will either all be working full time or heading to college.
At times like this, I cannot help but wax nostalgic; maybe even a little teary eyed. As I think about the last 23 years when most of my energy and time was focused on being “Esther/Margaret/Janessa/Jay’s mom”, it’s strange to realize that the time is coming VERY SOON that I won’t be needed in that capacity as much. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve done what I think is a decent job of developing my own interests so that I won’t be at a total loss when they are all gone “for good.” But this “new normal” feels weird.
As I think back, I realize it’s the little things I’m going to miss.
It’s knowing that we will watch Anastasia and Swan Princess on every road trip. And there WILL be singing along. Guaranteed. Even in their late teens and early 20’s, this is the norm.
It’s the fact that they always requested food like pudding cups, animal crackers, fruit snack, and goldfish for their snacks on road trips. And they had better be animal CRACKERS not animal cookies. I only made that mistake once!
It’s knowing that my oldest and youngest daughters will pack nearly their ENTIRE wardrobe when going on a vacation because, as they say – “I don’t know what I’m going to want to wear!”
It’s the random quoting of movies at any given moment (consider yourselves warned!).
It’s the bursting into song – usually a musical theater number – inspired by the most random of statements.
It’s the annual trip to Cedar Point and always making sure we caught the ice show!
It’s the random imaginary worlds or completely off the wall stories they create all while laughing themselves silly.
It’s the random ponytail holders and bobby pins EVERYWHERE. (I’m pretty sure they multiply when we aren’t looking!)
It’s the informative conversations with my son about video games I understand pretty well now but have never played.
It’s knowing that mac and cheese MUST be served with hot dogs because . . . well, that’s just what we do!
It’s the stain from swing chains that I can never get out of a certain child’s clothing because . . . well . . . she still goes to the park swinging on a REGULAR basis.
No parent gets all the way through the experience of raising kids without wishing that life provided a few do-overs and I will be the first to say that I was FAR from a perfect parent. But I have been blessed to watch some creative, talented, imaginative, smart young people come out of my home and I could not be more humbled to know that I was chosen to be their mom. To my ducklings, “Love you Forever, Like you for Always”. To the moon and back.
It’s late, I’ve had a long day and I should be in bed. But there are some thoughts I just have to share.
This was family weekend at Luther college so I was off early Saturday morning to go see my youngest daughter, Nessa, who is a freshman at Luther. I brought two of her friends, one who graduated with my daughter and is now in culinary school up in the Twin Cities, and another who is a Senior in High School. My travelling companions were in choir with Nessa when she was in high school an there are two other “choir alumni” at Luther college as freshmen this year.
At the end of the day, the music department held a concert featuring all but one of the choirs. I loved getting to see Nessa and the two other freshmen I mentioned earlier perform with their respective ensembles. The friends I had brought with me were enjoying the concert as well. When Nessa’s choir had finished singing, she (and her roommate who is in choir with Nessa) came and sat with us for a bit before participating in a massed number at the end of the concert.
One of the choirs began a piece titled “Ubi Carits” by Ola Gjeilo. The three Fort Dodge Choir Alum sitting near me gasped – they had done the exact same piece the year before and it had been a choir favorite! Two of them simply closed their eyes and enjoyed the moment. One of them mouthed the words along. There were even a few tears. I saw one of the other freshman from Fort Dodge after the concert and she admitted to shedding some tears as well. I don’t know this for a fact, but I would wager that all five of the FDSH students/graduates that sang that song were taken back to treasured performances of that piece.
That’s how it is for us performing arts geeks. You hear a choir sing a song that you did “once upon a time” and you instantly transported back to that moment in time. But you also feel an instant connection to the ensemble performing the piece just then. The members of that choir may never know that they inspired a moment but it doesn’t matter. The moment happened and now that “new” ensemble has a tiny piece of your heart because they helped you remember a precious moment.
That, my friends, is the power of a song.
There is an old hymn entitled “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” that contains the line “Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by thy help I come.” As a child, I did not understand what the cranky old man from Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” had to do with faith.
Then I found the word Ebenezer in scripture and was even more mystified. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned a little more about the usage of that word and what part it plays in faith. After a series of battles between the nation of Israel and the Philistines ended when God caused confusion among the Philistines which allowed the people of Israel to defeat them, Samuel raised a huge stone as a memorial to God’s provision. The word Ebenezer comes from the Hebrew words Eben ha ezer which means “stone of help” (check here for even more details!) In I Sam. 7:12 we read, “Then Samuel took the stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”
Ever since I discovered what “raising an Ebenezer” meant, Ebenezers have become a significant part of my faith walk. No, I’m not running around putting stones down everywhere! Most of my personal Ebenezers are in the form of jewelry (ask me about my thumb ring sometime!) or tattoos.
I discovered today, that there is a place in my life that serves as a HUGE Ebenezer.
Hubby and I had the chance today to go back and visit our Alma Mater, Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. My dear husband was especially excited to visit the campus. The baseball program was stopped a couple of years after we graduated (hubby played for three years) and needless to say, he was disappointed. The program will start back up with the 2013/2014 school year and due to a VERY generous gift (something in the neighborhood of $5 million) a brand new stadium has been built for the program! Hubby wanted to see the stadium and, if possible, meet the coach. He not only got to meet the coach, he was gifted with an official team hat! To say he was as excited as a kid on Christmas morning would be an understatement!
Everywhere we went on that campus, we found fond memories joining us on our walk. From memories of the old baseball field – I spent many hours in the stands! – to the dorms we lived in, the memories were everywhere and quick to find us!
In the Faculty Hall of Honor, I found pictures of three of the music profs I studied with.
Doctor Richard Stewart (“Doc Stewart” as he was affectionately known) was the director of Chorale, the vocal ensemble I was in, but he was so much more than just a director. He was a surrogate father, a mentor, and a teacher who understood the importance of investing in the young adults he was working with. So much of who I am as a musician and director is due in large part to that man and his instruction. My Sophomore year started on a really lousy note and this man was one of a few professors who took a vested interest in helping me walk through the issue and come out stronger on the other side. He was, hands down, my favorite teacher ever.
I was very involved in the theater world on campus. Dr. Orpha Galloway was the music director for each production I was involved with. She not only gave me the chance to be onstage, she also took a chance on a college junior with a passion for musical theater and allowed me to serve as assistant vocal director for a production of Sound of Music (I worked with the nun’s chorus!). She definitely possessed the skill to handle the job herself and it meant the world to me that she allowed me to stretch my own talents in such a way!
In the fall of 1991, I had one class and a directed reading (think independent study with LOTS of reading!) and Joyce Horn had agreed to be my faculty supervisor. I was trying to juggle college, marriage, and being a mother of a newborn during that semester and Joyce insisted that I bring my newborn daughter to our twice monthly meetings. The actual academic discussion only took a few minutes so she spent the rest of the time loving on my daughter. As a young wife and new mother living 2 hours from her own parents, this “adoptive grandmother” touched my heart and did much to keep my sanity intact. I doubt she knows just how much her willingness to love on my daughter touched a young mom’s heart!
We saw the building where we went on our first date to an on-campus concert, took a picture of our first apartment (over there to the right!), reminisced about the various places that were significant to our relationship and experiences, and marveled over how much has changed. As we wandered all over campus, faces of friends kept running through my mind. Many of them I have stayed in touch with (thank you Facebook!) and I am blessed to still call them friends. As we prepared to leave, I was overwhelmed with how deeply I was affected by my time on that campus. So much of who I am as a musician and a theater “geek” is due to the experiences I had on that campus and the leadership I worked under.
As if all of this wasn’t enough, we have spent some of our time in Grand Rapids driving past the homes we lived and the place where the girls took dance class. Our conversation has been full of “I remember . . . “, “Oh my gosh, that’s where we . . . ” and we’ve spent a couple of days with dear friends who were neighbors for a few years and we’ve reminisced about our shared experiences more than 10 years ago.
Grand Rapids, Michigan is a HUGE “Ebenezer” in my life. It was in that city that I met my husband, had all four of my children, “found myself” as a musician and theater performer, made lifelong friends and took my first steps into becoming who I am supposed to be. Spending time remembering all that happened here has shown me so clearly just where and how God has led. I’m reminded of how blessed I am and excited to see what is yet to come!
They left a legacy built on the solid rock.
Their footsteps led the way to the firm foundation.
Their faith in Jesus you could see in the way they lived.
They knew the greatest gift that they could give
Was the legacy of heaven.
I wrote those lyrics and sang them for the first time 11 years ago. One year ago I sang it at my grandmother’s funeral.
Let me be frank for a moment – my grandmother was not perfect and there were times that we drove each other crazy. But she loved me, of that I’m sure. Sometimes she struggled to know how to show it but she got it right often enough that I know she loved me.
It’s strange the things I miss most now that she’s gone.
The bulletins she sent me every week when I was college; just so I would know what was going on in my home church.
Meeting her (and occasionally a co-worker) at the local restaurant for “coffee” after I got out of school and she got out of work. It wasn’t really a big event. Just myself, my grandmother, and another woman I’ve known most of my life enjoying a refreshment after a day of responsibility.
The women’s bible study she used to hold in her home that she allowed her teen-aged granddaughter to be a part of.
The tin with saltine crackers in it.
The laundry hanging on the line in her side yard.
The rocking horse that I used as a child. My children also used it.
Her love of onion sandwiches and bran cereal with orange juice on it instead of milk.
“Doing” corn at the end of garden season.
The Christmas Village she set up every year.
I loved her, am proud to have been named after her, chose to share her middle name with one of my daughters and miss her terribly. Many people were glad to call her friend. I was lucky enough to be related to her.