Ode to a (Lonely) Piano

The family piano from my childhood.

After years of lessons, I can’t really say that I know how to play piano. I’m not quite sure what happened making those connections between the notes and my hands.

My mom was big on self-improvement and decided taking piano lessons was a good cause in that direction. She and my dad purchased this used spinet piano in the late 1950’s and found a place for it in our living room in Quincy.

A piano teacher was employed, Mrs. Jenkins, who lived up the street. I dutifully walked up there every week and sat next to her on the bench as she opened a John Schaum beginner book with such hope. Mr. Jenkins was always watching TV preachers.

I think my mom paid something like $20-25 a month for the lessons. I felt somewhat bad not really getting the concept even though I practiced at home, usually under some duress. Soon, my brother was walking up the street to Mrs. Jenkins too.

By the time I got to high school, I quit going to Mrs. Jenkins and now took lessons at school. While Mrs. Jenkins didn’t do recitals, Sister Arthurn, my new teacher, did. “Ebb Tide” was a popular piece at the time, and I chose that for my recital. Somehow, I memorized it and pulled it off. My mom was so proud! She talked about it for years.

I officially ended my piano career sometime in high school and had no regrets, even though I still did wish I could actually play. I would say hi to the piano when I was visiting Quincy but no lost love.

On a random day in May of 1986, when I was very pregnant with our fourth child and not thinking at all about pianos, my mom called. Surprise!

“The piano is on it’s way to you.” She announced rather than asked. She decided she wanted the space back in the living room and hired two guys from Quincy to drive it the 300 miles to me in the back of their pick-up truck. (Not at all close to piano movers.) “You took lessons the longest so it belongs to you.” Really?

So we found space in our living room and there it sat. The kids enjoyed banging on it and every so often someone would visit and actually play it.

Three years later, I set my oldest on the same path, piano lessons from a local teacher. He seemed to feel about it the same way I had. I can’t remember how long those lasted but kids # 2 and 3 also took part in the grand tradition of learning to play the same piano.

Our youngest asked if she could skip piano and try something else and I readily agreed. The lid stayed closed unless someone came over to play and then it really rocked!

Meanwhile, the piano became an excellent place to display the photos of the month. I rotate the pictures based on the birthdays of that month and significant events that have taken place. Halloween and Christmas decorations look nice up there too.

Enter the grandchildren! The young ones always open it and pound away. The older ones have their own piano at home and really do know how to play. It’s fun to watch them go at it and try out the pedals but I’m really done now.

Like my mom, I now want the space back and am ready to pass on the piano. It is horribly out of tune and two keys stick. I tried to donate it to a foundation, but no one got back to me. I then offered it as fr*e to all the sites and so far, no one has shown any interest. We can’t bear to just throw it out. 

As I write this, I’m listening to piano music. Kind of ironic, but it is one of my favorite genres.

I’ve discovered my hands are better at words than notes but someone can bring this piano back to the life it was built for.

Hoping it brings as many stories to the next owners as this one has for us.

Would you like a piano?

Hope for the best,

Tish

PS I still have a few pages from my John Schaum beginner’s Christmas album 🙂

The Scent of a Woman: a Memoir.

My first memory of perfume was the ever-present bottle of Revlon’s “Intimate” which always perched on my mom’s dresser. She only wore it for special occasions and regardless of the amount left in the bottle, my dad would replenish it every Christmas. It’s been decades since I’ve had a waft of that scent but if I ever would, my whole childhood would flash before me.

“Heaven Scent” was the first smell in a bottle I remember wearing, more because it was trendy, not so much because I liked it. “Wind Song” was another popular one with the girls of Notre Dame High. The hunt was still on for a fragrance that would be just mine and like countless others, I found it in Chanel # 5.

A spritz of that classic scent would transport me to faraway places where no one saw me as a figuring-it-out-somewhat-floundering-teenage girl but a savvy woman ready to take on the world. I loved the fragrance and it also began to show up for Christmas  in the iconic black bottle. I proudly displayed it on my dresser and sometimes carried it around with me if I needed a shot of confidence.

I’m sure I took a bottle of #5 with me when I left for college but soon it no longer seemed to fit the girl I was evolving into. Musky incense was the new fragrance, not the church kind.

I have no scent memories after that until a dear friend presented me with a bottle of the perfume, L’Air du Temps (The air of summer) around 1976. I don’t think it was for my birthday but a surprise gift. “It smells like you.” she said. I loved the fragrance and have been wearing it every summer since. At the end of September, I ceremoniously put it away to pull out again the following May.

“Baby smell” was my signature fragrance for many years. Sometimes the sweet elixir of newness, sometimes sour scent of spit-up. The season of life that seems to last forever comes with its own unique offerings for all the senses. My going-out times were rare in that era, and I never thought about spritzing something on for an ordinary day like I do now.

Over the following years I would try a random perfume sample at a rare visit to the department stores. Someone who looks like they are dressed to go and perform surgery is always offering a new scent to try. I was in search of something that might “smell like me” for the rest of the year and eventually found it in Cashmere Mist. Light and not overpowering like so many.

Done. Finally, by this “Act Three” of life, it’s good to have few things settled, minor as they may be, to have more energy to devote to all the things that aren’t.

But on Tuesday this week, during a sacred time with a lifelong friend, she presented me with a small bag. Inside was a bottle of the life of my dreams I was pining for in my angst filled high school years.

Chanel # 5. I sprayed it on my wrist and felt no more longing, just satisfaction.

Whatever I was hoping for, in the seasons of waiting for my life to really begin, had been delivered. It all, of course, looked different than I imagined but the end result was the same, gratitude.

The familiar scent had come back around, it now smells like contentment. I’m wearing it everyday.

Hope for the best,

Tish

Top photo credit Image by <a href=”https://pixabay.com/users/domeckopol-610494/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=1460067″>andreas N</

Falling Into the Season

I guess you could say, I’ve surrendered to fall. Don’t worry, I’m not going to change “favorite seasons” from summer and I don’t think I’ve ever sipped a pumpkin spice latte but by the second week of October, I’m all in.

My little orange lights arrived (Fairy lights) and I’m having fun placing them around the house. My kids would have liked these a few decades ago but I don’t think they were a thing when they were around the table. There sure wasn’t an Amazon to drop them off the next day. My granddaughters are getting my extra strands to decorate their rooms.

It’s “different” this year as everything is. I picked up my gourds and pumpkins during a masked visit to Trader Joe’s instead of the farmer’s market. Tom and I are probably the only ones who will see my cute mantle display as no one comes over right now. The pumpkin carving tools might stay in the drawer this year as the annual family event is up in the air.

The October Makeover is almost done and was quite satisfying. Only the drawers and closet need the task of the tank tops-to-sweaters transition. All the summer dishes are away, I already made chili once and the fireplace goes on every morning.

The traditions and rhythms of the season provide a stability in the midst of uncertain times, as they always have.

Even in the pandemic, the days seem to fly by in this third-third of my life and I don’t want to miss a one. Chilly, warm, damp, dry each holds it’s own wonder. Funny, but I’m intentionally adding more steps and miles to my Fitbit this fall while simultaneously slowing down to notice the nuances of the most dramatic seasonal change of the year. Amazing how the amount of leaves on the ground in the yard changes the composition of the view every day.

I don’t want to wake up on Thanksgiving and wonder what I missed by not looking up or out.

Flipping on the orange lights every night, just for me!

So this fall, I’m laying out my clothes the night before so I can RSVP yes to the later sunrises at the beach, grabbing my shoes to get out again for another walk before dinner to see what’s changed, ordering mums along with my groceries and putting them in every room. Filling up with beauty and reading less news. Autumn immersion so to speak, it’s going well.

How about you?

Hope for the best,

Tish

PS: Check out the book, Bend: When Life Dares You to Break. Here is my Amazon review: You can order signed copies from BethLueders.com

50 Year Legacy – How I Met My Husband: Part Four

Arriving home from our honeymoon.

Senior year started for us in the fall of 1971. After the fun day at our friend, Janet’s, I was hopeful that Tom would begin to notice me other than a friend, but I had to wait and see.

My new housing was an off-campus apartment I shared with a friend from the dorm. Setting up housekeeping was so much fun! I saw Tom at the Intervarsity events, but we no longer had the shared dorm as another connecting point.

The first weekend after moving in, there was a knock at our door. Tom! He brought his bike into the neighborhood bike shop in the next block for a minor repair and decided to pop by. I tried to play it cool like it was no big deal but inside I was so excited!

Turns out, that bike needed a lot of repairs that fall. Or at least that was the stated reason for all the visits. By October, Tom was stopping by without the bike. I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on but decided not to ask and just enjoy the slow change in our friendship.

The last weekend in October, he went to an IV conference in Champaign. While he was gone, I decided to knit him a scarf as the weather was definitely changing. It seemed like somewhat a bold move on my part but I kept knitting away all weekend until it was done.

Tom arrived back Sunday evening and came to see me right away which I took as a good sign, so I presented him with the scarf. He looked so happy and to my complete surprise, gave me a nano second thank you kiss. Then I knew, it was on!  Celebrate your Kissaversary!

June 10, 1972

The rest of that year we spent most of our off-school time together. I was falling deeply in love but still we didn’t talk about our relationship’s future. Our parents met each other at our college graduation and connected well. But where was this heading?

I took off for Italy for the summer for a mission program and the letters flew back and forth between us. I still have them and am rereading them now.

All along I planned to relocate near Tom in the Chicago area and find a job when I came back from Italy. He was starting seminary and the summer separation was long enough. But a week before I returned, I had one of the most powerful God encounters of my life where I clearly heard to return to Quincy instead.

August 18, 1973

“But what about Tom?” I pleaded with God. “You will marry next summer” was the answer that came. “Well please tell him!” I begged.

The day I returned, Tom picked me up from O’Hare and whisked me off to a forest preserve to walk and talk. By the end of the day, we were engaged.

I did return to Quincy and he stayed near Chicago and we saw each other once a month until our wedding, August 18, 1970.

Books could and probably will be written about all the years since then!

Hope for the Best,

Tish

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Cost: $225 but for this week only I am offering $100 off, $125, Offer expires October 8. Respond to this email for details.

50 Year Legacy – How I Met My Husband: Part Three

After four months of hanging out, Tom and I were still “just friends.” One January day, I noticed him enter the dining hall of the dorm where we both lived. This was a common occurrence, but this time wasn’t like all the others.

As I waved to him, I really noticed him and suddenly (really!) felt like I was falling in love. I also had a strong sense in that moment that we would marry. I was blown away and he was clueless. I didn’t know what to do with this but knew if I told him of my changing feelings, he would likely split. So, I said nothing (to him, my girlfriends knew all about it!)

In the ensuing months, our interactions were often both in and outside of the dorm, and we showed up at the same Intervarsity events. Tom considered me a “good friend” and once confided in me about a girl he had a crush on. I tried to be supportive but that was hard!

By the end of our junior year in college, 1971, we had known each other for about nine months and for about five of those, I was quite smitten with him. It was not reciprocal. Not that he had spurned my affections, he didn’t know about them.

Then came one of the most romantic gestures of my life! It was the last spring evening in our dorm. Everyone was packing up to go home for the summer, including me. A knock came to my door and of course there was nothing unusual about that.

When I yelled, “come in,” a friend presented me with a bouquet of field flowers in a crockery pot*. Lovely! Next, however, a pillowcase was slipped over my head and I was led away down the hall! I could hear some of my friends laughing and was definitely intrigued, “what was going on?” I was excited when I heard Tom’s voice 🙂

The little procession moved outside, and a car door was opened for me to climb in, pillowcase still on. Of course, it sounds frightening but wasn’t in the least as I trusted the friends I was with. The drive took about fifteen minutes, I had no idea where we were.

The car came to a stop and I was led out for short walk. The pillowcase was finally pulled off and the scene in front of me on the country road was the scene of a most beautiful sunset with an old-fashioned iron rail bridge nearby.

Tom must have been paying attention to my comments over the months about my love of both old iron rail bridges and beautiful sunsets because he had orchestrated the whole event.

I was so touched and hopeful than the turning of our friendship into something more was happening. Wouldn’t you? But not yet.

I returned to Denver in the next weeks to work and hang out with my friends. During the summer, we wrote letters back and forth (I still have his) but Tom’s to me were all about how to grow in faith, very epistle-like.

My feelings grew stronger through our absence. Right before school started, we met at a mutual friend’s home for a fun day. I couldn’t wait to see him again!

After that day, for the first time, it felt the air was shifting, maybe there was hope after all! To be continued….

 

Hope for the best,

Tish

*Still use the same crockery pot for dried flowers.

 

 

 

50 Year Legacy – How I Met My Husband: Part Two

After a life-changing summer in 1970 in Denver*, I returned to my campus to begin Junior year. I was new in my faith journey and wasn’t sure how to keep growing after I left Colorado. Before I left, I asked my new friends how to find other Jesus followers on Western Illinois’s campus as I didn’t know any. They told me to look up two campus groups called, Intervarsity and Campus Crusade for Christ. I had not heard of either one of them.

On my first day back on campus, I was hurriedly exiting an elevator in my new co-ed dorm. Such a rush that I literally ran into a girl carrying a poster, which got knocked down by the collision. I profusely apologized and picked up the poster for her. It was announcing an event for Intervarsity that Saturday night called an “Action Bash.” I was stunned.

Right away I explained to her, Becky, that I was planning to find Intervarsity! She invited me to come to the event then asked me if I knew Tom Suk. I didn’t. She told me he also lived in my dorm and that she would introduce me to him at the event.

So, with some excitement and trepidation, I went to the Action Bash event, September 18, 1970.

I clearly remember walking into the Lab School on campus where it was held and finding my new friend, Becky. She walked with me to the gym where she pointed out Tom who was playing basketball. His longish hair was pulled back in a ponytail, and he was wearing a white tee shirt and blue jeans.

Becky motioned him over and he stopped playing and walked over to meet me. We chatted a bit but not long. Later that evening, I decided to walk to the Student Union where all the campus groups were hosting activities that same night to meet new students. Tom and I left the IV event at the same time, but not by intention, and walked up together.

I don’t remember when I saw him again, probably in the dorm in the cafeteria. In the ensuing weeks, we became part of the same IV group and saw each other fairly often. No sparks yet. I wasn’t looking to fall in love, and he gave me no reason to think he was interested.

We did pair up to lead a Bible study together in the dorm for non-believers which required some extra connecting and found we worked together well.

After Christmas, things began to change….

Hope for the best,

Tish

*See 50 Year Legacy – How I Became a Jesus Follower: Part One.

50 Year Legacy – How I Met My Husband: Part One

Tom and Tish in college.

50 years-ago I started following Jesus (as told in July) and two months later on September 18, 1970, I met the man I would marry. Another amazing story! Watch for that to unfold this month on Thursdays.

For some time, I thought our initial introduction between two college students, was a simple meet and greet (more on that next week.) Then I found out there was a back story: Tom already knew who I was. In fact, we both lived in the same dorm the previous year.

Like the rest of the country, college culture was rapidly spinning in the late 1960’s and co-ed dorms were a new thing, at least for the Midwest. Considering that my all-female dorm freshman year had strict hours and no male visitors except for family, this was quite a jump!

My work-study job sophomore year was sorting mail in the new dorm, a perfect fit for me as I have a life-long devotion to writing and receiving letters. One of my co-workers in the mail room was George – a good friend of Tom’s from high school. But Tom, George and I were never at the same place at the same time for an introduction. Tom did his own inquiries, “who is that girl?”

Meanwhile, as part of my “experimental” lifestyle, I spent a few weekends each quarter in Chicago. On one of these Saturday nights, I wandered into a bookstore in Old Town after a performance of “Hair,” the outrageous musical of the time. Soon I was sitting on the floor of the store, intensely engaged in conversation with a guy who poured out that he had no reason to keep on living. He finally agreed not to harm himself.

The following week, I met with my psychology prof to talk about the need to set up an all-campus hotline for suicide prevention. He put me in charge of it! I don’t remember the details of how that got set up, but it did. One of my tasks was to spread small posters all over campus announcing the hotline, my name was on the posters. Tom noticed them.

He told me later that every time he saw a poster, and there were a lot, he said a prayer for me as he knew I was the girl from the mail room, George’s friend. When I asked him what he prayed, he said he had a sense that I was troubled too (got that right!) and without knowing any details, began to ask God to help me out.

We still never met, and I took off for Colorado that summer. I’m sure Tom’s prayers were part of the amazing story of what happened that summer! How I Became a Follower of Jesus: Part One

Next week I’ll pick up the story of what happened at the end of that summer.

Hope for the Best,

Tish

My Best Tip for a Happy Marriage*

1976

Before you got married did you have a “must-have-in-a-spouse” list?  How about a “this-is-what-I-expect-out-of-marriage” list? You might not have ever written it down but you knew what was on the list.

Although you might not have realized it right away, you probably didn’t get it ALL, right?

In a good marriage, most of the time your spouse/marriage will meet about 85-90% of your expectations of what you signed up for in a marriage, whatever was on your list. Take a minute to review your list, am I right?

10-15% of the time you might be frustrated or disappointed.

The choice is now yours:  You can give thanks for the 85-90%, celebrate and concentrate on that and be glad for what you’ve got OR you can focus on the 10-15% and feel deprived, depressed and whiny.

How happy you will be in your marriage depends on which perspective you choose.

Hope for the best,

Tish

* I am celebrating my 47th anniversary (August 18, 1973) and will be sharing a few popular marriage posts on Thursdays through August.

 

The (mostly) Universal Marriage Quirk*

Circa 1979

Turns out that the thing that most attracted you to your spouse in the first place is often the same thing that drives you the most crazy!

Let me show you a few examples….

Spontaneity is so fun when dating…making decisions in the moment for what’s next, ready anytime for a fun adventure.  You really like that quality in your spouse until it is time to PLAN something or to pin down details.

A “free spirit” personality can stand out in a crowd of conformists but becomes  frustrating when the wisest choice becomes to go with the flow.

Creativity is a delight to observe whether it is in the arts or crafts until mundane tasks get neglected too often.

Athleticism is a real draw unless sporting events fill your entire social schedule.

Careful with money can feel over-restrictive when you just want to have some fun.

Gorgeous can involve very high-maintenance or expensive services to preserve that beauty.

Sensitive can flip to moody.

Hard worker sometimes feels like someone’s always at the office.

Next time you feel an annoyance coming on, try to flip it back to the “other side.”  How does this thing that bugs you, serve you?  Can you look deeper and find the original trait and give thanks?

It helps to look at your own foibles through the lens of finding the strength on the other side too.  I haven’t yet identified just which of my attractive traits keeps my cabinet doors open all the time but I’m sure there is a connection!

Hope for the Best,

Tish

* I am celebrating my 47th anniversary (August 18, 1973) all year and will be sharing a few popular marriage posts on Thursdays through August.

Six Phrases to Say Everyday to your Spouse.*

I am celebrating my 47th anniversary (August 18, 1973) and will be sharing a few of the popular previous marriage posts on Thursdays through August.

Here are 6 daily phrases that go a long ways in a marriage…

How was your day? A key component in a good marriage is to maintain connection on everyday life before issues of scheduling, problem solving and other hot topics consume all the available time.

Thank you.  It is easy to say thanks to others all day long and forget to bring simple gratitude home.  Yes there is a lot of give and take in a marriage but make sure some of the give is thanks.

You look great! You hope so right? Complimenting each other goes a long way and it is important to not let yourself go and stop caring what you look like for your spouse.

 I’m sorry  OK, so you might not use this one every day but keep it handy for the little things as well as the big ones.  True, “Love covers a multitude of sins” but you still need to say sorry.

I love you. Remember the impact those words had at first?  They STILL do!

That’s so funny! Laugh together daily, there will always be something if you look for it. Comedies count too but highlight the humor in your day-to-day.

Any other phrases you would recommend?

Hope for the Best,

Tish

* Re-post



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