Bless My Heart

the improvement of a southern girl


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The Problem with Authority

As I was working outside this evening I saw a group of girls pass by on their bikes. It reminded me of a memory of when I was in 6th grade. A friend and I were bumming around the streets of our mobile home park one afternoon. I don’t remember anything particular that we were doing, just hanging out as so many kids do on the streets of a trailer park. Being outside because life inside the trailer is usually tougher.

My friend’s dad came home from work and stopped to talk to her. I can not remember what was said, or how the conversation was exchanged, but I do remember the end of it. He told ME what to do. I back talked in some form or fashion. He left.

My friend told me later that her dad said that I was on “his list”.

What? I didn’t know what that was.

“You’re on his shit list.”

Well, I didn’t know what that meant. But I found out. He didn’t like me. He didn’t like that I didn’t follow his orders. He didn’t like that I had a different opinion that he. He didn’t appreciate my attitude.

I think I’ve made a lot of people’s “lists”.

I’ve really never thought about it too much, but something my husband said to me the other day sticks out in my mind. He said, “You just don’t like people telling you what to do.”

“Is that a bad thing?”, I replied.

“No. It just makes you who you are.”

Which, ladies and gentlemen, confirmed the fact that I married the perfect person for me 😉

It’s true. I don’t like anyone telling me what to do. Especially when that person has “authority” over me. Authority does not educate. It does not protect. It does not comfort. It controls.

Well… I don’t like people telling me what to do. I don’t like people trying to control me. Why? Because..

I need education. I need protection. I need comfort. I need the things that I didn’t have growing up. My parents were divorced and remarried and we were moving to Wyoming from Arkansas the summer before I turned 9 years old. Abby is the same age now as I was then.

My father was gone. My mother was there, but I can’t really say that she was present. She was busy keeping us alive and working nonstop to pay the bills. The siblings were 4, 5, and 7 years older than me. I remember being alone, a lot.

I remember finding things out for myself. A lot.

I remember mowing the yard and digging out the snow and changing my flat tires on the side of the road. I remember teaching myself how to bake, how to shave my legs, how to wear makeup. I remember teaching myself how to check the oil and change the windshield wipers. My momma taught me how to drive and how to love unconditionally. My momma is my hero, don’t get me wrong. She did what she could, but there was a lot to do.

I have no room in my life for the controllers. You were not there for me when I needed you to be there. You were not there for me when I didn’t know what I was doing. You were not there for me when I had room for you to be there.

You were not there for me.

So I became the controller. I became the leader. I saw the void in my life and I filled it with myself.

And it gets me in trouble.

It got me in trouble in high school. I mouthed off at my science teacher one too many times. I was pulled into the hallway and told if she could give me a trophy for the rudest student in the school, she would give it to me.

It got me in trouble in college. I walked out of a rehearsal when I disagreed with how the director was treating the music majors. We had a huge argument in his office. It cost me one year of school because I failed to take a major exam the next day.

Yes, it gets me in trouble with my husband. We learned that very early in the relationship, and still we work on it. Luckily, he is as hard-headed as I am.

I butted heads with people in my career for a good 5 years nonstop. Someone who wanted CONTROL over me and I refused to give it. I refused to sit back and be a sheep. To follow blindly and ignorantly. That is not who I am. It is so very hard for me to be controlled. I see things being done that I know are wrong. I see things I know that I could do a better job at doing.. and I want to do it. I am the leader. I am the one that gets things done when there is no one to do them. I am the controller.

I AM the authority in my life.

But there is a problem with that, too. Because as I stated before, authority does not educate. It does not protect. It does not comfort. And these are the things that I need.

All the traits that are good and right and make me who I am… get me in trouble sometimes. But sometimes they save me. It is a lesson I am learning, when to know the difference. What battles to fight, what battles to lose.

It’s okay to do both. I’m learning. Please have patience with me, I’ll have patience with you.

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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.