Bless My Heart

the improvement of a southern girl


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Why I’m the Band Director

I was a 10 year old tomboy. My chestnut hair was cut short around my shoulders. Unruly waves that fell and flew wherever they willed themselves.I had a tan of freckles across my nose and cheeks, and wore shirts that were two sizes too big.I rode my bmx bike to school every morning that the ground wasn’t frozen, stopping on the way back home to say hello to the horses that ate the tall grass in that pasture on Flat Creek. I was bitten by one on the side one day after I had offered it a clump of the good, green grass from the sidewalk. I didn’t stop to say hello for a few months after that.

It was the end of my 4th grade of school at Jackson Hole Elementary. My first completed year in this new town. The spring of 1988, right before the summer fires in Yellowstone that have still marked the park in slow healing scars. The girl from Arkansas had only a few friends – the boys that lived on the same street and rode bikes, played war, Super Mario, and matchbox cars in the homemade dirt tracks on the side of the road. A man came to our class one afternoon and left a simple lined sheet of paper by the door. A sign-up sheet if we were interested in being a member of the band in 5th grade. Write down your name, and put two choices for instruments.

Well, I didn’t know anything about band. How was I supposed to know what a flute or a trumpet or a clarinet was? Sure I wanna do it! What did Brent put down? Brent is my buddy, I’ll do what he is doing! Trumpet and Trombone? Sounds good, let’s go with that.

And that is how it began. I went into a little room and sat in front of Mr. Winston Blackford and he tried me out on trumpet and trombone. I became a trombone player. Although, I don’t really know how, seeing as how I distinctly remember not being able to make a good buzz with my lips. Trombone players are made from kids that can’t do anything else and have big lips. That was me.

5th grade was spent at the bottom of the section. I wasn’t a strong beginner. The only thing I had going for me is that I could play LOUD. Mr. Blackford liked to tease all the boys in the trombone section and tell them they were all getting whooped by a girl. I liked that. Then I figured out what I was doing. And I practiced. I got first chair, and I never looked back.

The band room became my sanctuary, my oasis. It was the place where my parents weren’t divorced. It was the place where I wasn’t the invisible little sister to my sisters, and I wasn’t the annoying “fat cow” to my brother. It was the place were I belonged, where I succeeded, and where I was needed. It was the place where I felt like I didn’t have to disappear. Depression and suicidal thoughts always dissolved when I walked into that room.

Mr. Blackford was my hero when I needed a hero. He believed in me, encouraged me, and only pointed out the good things that I contributed to the world around me. He gave me the ultimate hope when he said that I was good enough to get a scholarship one day. I was in seventh grade and we were walking around the track outside. It may have been the singular reason I started walking with my chin up, not staring at the ground in hope of invisibility.

I was good at something. I was good at music, and it gave me hope.

My mother and I moved from Wyoming to Louisiana the summer before my sophomore year in high school. Before I met any kids my age at my new school, West Ouachita, I met my new band director. Mr. Dale Liner was at the school the day I went to register. He came to meet me, dressed in shorts and a Louisiana All-Star Band tshirt and a smile. He shook my hand and laughed, saying that he knew I was coming (that’s a different story for a different time). I instantly felt welcomed and wanted. I had a home in the band room before I stepped the first foot inside.

I was a different kind of band kid for this southern town. I wore socks with my tevas and crazy vests and still had uncontrollable hair. But still, I made friends quickly. A group of misfits that had a love for the band room and unwavering respect for the director quickly accepted me as one of their own. They were my best friends. They still are my best friends. This is what you find in the band room.

Being drum major my senior year was a natural position for me to take on. I loved being in front of the group and taking as much of the load from Mr. Liner as he was willing to give. Once again, I had a director that believed in me – having more faith in me than I had in myself. I found out who I was on that podium. My weaknesses came to the forefront so I could face and conquer them, but more importantly, my strengths were highlighted for the first time in my life.

I was put on this earth to lead.

Fernando Jimenez came to the school one day and asked me to play for him. He was a strange man with an accent that was hard to understand, but we communicated through music. He listened to me play. He believed in me. He offered me the scholarship I was told I could achieve so many years before by my first teacher. It felt so natural, like this was the path that was set out for me. I went to Louisiana Tech and became a music education major.

I will be the first to tell you that I am not a great musician. My ear struggles to hear correct pitch and I could never just play a tune in my head without the music in front of me. I am not a natural musician. I have struggled with being a “good player” my entire career. I didn’t become a band director because I am a good musician. I became a band director because band was what saved me.

Music is what saved me.

I do not force excellence out of my students, but we still achieve it. I have faith that they can do what they don’t believe they can do. We have fun. We push beyond their perceived limitations. I see their faces light up when they go above and beyond and succeed at something for the first time in their young lives. I let them laugh at me. I let them know I expect their best. I see them come to my class with a smile when they have no other single thing to be happy about in their life.

I see them being saved by the music.

And that is why I am the band director.

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Pain and a Plan

I hate my back right now. Here’s the deal. In middle school I came down for a rebound. Something happened. Something hurt. I spent the rest of the game laying on my stomach with an ice pack. The doctor said I pulled a muscle. Said to stretch.

Pshhh. It’s more than that.

Long story short: Saw a chiropractor and thought it helped until one adjustment left me in paralyzing pain after I drove off. Cried in a grocery store parking lot for a good 20 minutes until I was able to move.  I finally got an MRI about 10 years ago and found out I had one ruptured and one herniated disc. Old damage. Yeah, it happened in middle school… The Doc told me I would have to have surgery one day but for now I was young and to go home.

That was it.

I’ve been lucky and it hasn’t been a problem in 3 or 4 years. But, as I’m currently falling apart in my 32nd year on Earth, it has flared up again. There was not one moment where I injured it again; I think it was just from gradual irritation as I spring cleaned around the house and garden these last few weeks. Having a bad back is terrible. Not only does it cause immense pain, but the cause of the pain is INSIDE the body, so you can’t really prove to others how much you hurt. Like, for instance, you severed your arm (or, at least, fingertip, as two of my coworkers have done recently). You have a nice, big bleeding wound with evidence of your pain oozing all over the place. “Wow. Look at that! That must hurt like hell!!”

That doesn’t happen with back pain. It’s kinda like a headache… Nobody seems to really believe how much you hurt. Unless, of course, they have been there.

Let me show you a little something-

source source

You know how the thought of a dentist hitting a nerve while he is drilling your tooth makes you cringe? Well. Think of a bad back pretty much doing the same thing, only the nerve is your Sciatic nerve and it sends pain exploding down your back, butt, leg, and toes, making it feel numb at the same time so you feel wobbly and can’t walk correctly. You can’t stand up straight, because that only presses onto the nerve more. It feels pretty much like death, and nobody can tell. Except, of course, for the wails of agony and a face that I have only made during back pain and childbirth (pretty similar).

Good news is, I’m on the mend. After a weekend of doing bupkis and then regretfully having to take two days off of work, I feel as though I am recovering. These last three days have been nothing but Ibuprofen, ice packs, heating pads, and sleep, on constant rotation.

Another bit of good news…. two little blonde beauties have been learning how to do the dishes this week 🙂

Yay for chores!

In other news… we started a little challenge on Sunday. We spent a freaking butt load, and I mean BUTT LOAD of money (over $1200.00!) on groceries and eating out last month. We are challenging ourselves to eat every meal at the house. I am documenting it all and will have a post on Saturday of all of the meals for the week. No happy meals for the girls! No eating a fast food lunch when we forgot ours at home! No hitting up the local restaurant at 7:00pm because we are all too tired to do anything else! There is only one exception that I know of for the month, a trip to Six Flags. Other than that… game ON.


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A pause and a breath

Hey there. It’s been a long time.

I’ve had the best of intentions – truly, I have. But you know how that goes….   I approached the last few weeks of teaching at school and it seemed as though the whole world landed on my head. Ouch! I’m on summer break now, though, so all is well on the home AND work front. I’ll give you the short run of what has been on my mind these last few weeks –

  • My foot problem. I think I’ve mentioned before about my foot hurting me before and after runs.. it hasn’t gotten any better. I definitely have some sort of issue with the joints in the ball of my left foot.  It has put running on a hiatus for about two months now, but I tried a 2 miler today with different shoes and had good results. I am hoping that it will lessen with the different shoes. I’m not sure, but all internet research leads me to believe I have sesamoid problem.
  • My workouts with the Man are still going strong, but I unfortunately haven’t lost any weight 😦 I’m getting a lot stronger, though.. so I’ll keep at it. And I will have to tell you that I’m getting some nice thigh and butt muscles from the squats that weren’t there before 🙂
  • We, the family, just got back from a week-long vacation on the Florida gulf coast. It was beautiful. The day after we left we heard that the oil had made it where we were. This spill is devastating to me. So much bigger than people realize, I fear.
  • This summer is all about baking experiments for me! So far this week I’ve tried pumpernickel bread, sourdough, and a failed healthy cookie. I will share the recipes when I get something right 🙂 I’m not sure how making bread everyday is going to help me lose weight, but it’s something I’m willing to work around. I love my carbs!

Since I’ve neglected posting for a while, I thought I might give you a little slideshow of what’s been going on… hope you enjoy!

I have no excuses now – I will be back!