Charlie Performing in Thoroughly Modern Millie

Many of you know about my fabulously talented kids as I toot their horn unabashedly, here, there and everywhere… Charlie, a junior at Boston University, is singing/dancing/acting in a student-led musical this weekend, entitled Thoroughly Modern Millie.

Bothered to distraction that I’m missing it, I hunted down a YouTube video that shows him performing.  He is on the right side of the screen after the men enter.  “There are those…I suppose…”, his solo, will help you spot him (tall blonde with red lettered sweatshirt) and give you a glimpse of his amazing voice.  Enjoy!!

Oh, and no, it isn’t your computer…the video is dark…

Charlie: way to shine!!  Break a leg tonight!!

Unable to view?  Visit: YouTube – BU Stage Troupe cast of Thoroughly Modern Millie performs opening number. or


Where Love is Transmitted

A whole hour.  Today I spoke with my son, Charlie, for a whole hour.  He is a busy junior at Boston University, so our chats are usually squeezed between his activities and classes–short snippets, sweet snippets but snippets nonetheless.  Today, though, we shared a whole, spacious hour.

He told me about the musical he got a part in, the intricacies of quantum physics (he is a physics major now), his terrific roommate,  how he schedules his days, his patient Spanish professor, his “things are going really well” girlfriend.  I shared happenings at home: empty-nest angst and adjustments, new ventures, financial frustrations, updates on friends. We gel well, Charlie and I.  Actually, it has less to do with me than with him–he gels well with everyone. As others say, Charlie has never met a stranger. An hour with him is all honey, sure sweetness.

At times during our conversation, I realized I wasn’t hearing what he was saying, instead I was delighting in his voice, his cadence, his being ringing through the receiver.  I was listening to his essence more than his talk. I was smiling at who he is.  I was with him.  I’ve done this since he was a baby–reveling in the sound of him, hearing his soul spill up and out and joining it, coming close beside.

I wonder if God has similar feelings about time with us, His kids. Does He ever get lost in us as we present Him with our petitions, our protests, our pleasures?  Does He know us so well that He knows what we’ll say next, so He checks out and delights in just being with us?  Is the “being with” more important than what is said or even desired?

Maybe, as I glimpsed today with Charlie, “being with” means two, regardless of distance, are actually with one another.  Maybe in “being with”, we’re together in spirit.

If so, I’m betting that is where love happens, the place where love is transmitted…in the being with…

In Flight

Third floor corner room.  Lofted beds, huge window.  Emily has a new home.

We moved most items on Friday, her music audition day.  Saturday came, though, the final good-bye. It was a glorious fall day–cool, sunny and fresh.    We arrived at St Olaf around 9:30am.  Freshmen and their parents were everywhere, actively moving bedding, furniture and clothing from SUV’s to dorm rooms.  I’m thinking Norwegians are natural organizers, as things were arranged to make move-in a breeze: we never felt hurried or had to wait.   Parked feet from the dorm door, we unpacked the last items–full length mirror, laptop, clothing, quilt–and climbed the open stairwell to her new home on the top floor.  Determined to do one more “mom” thing, before she was officially launched, I climbed the rickety ladder to her bed and wrestled the bedding over and under the plastic twin-sized mattress.   The quilt–made with love and signed by her church family and grad party attendees–was the final piece put in place.  I was done making home for her, with her.  Today she makes her own home.

Loose end tie-up came next: piano audition, work-study assignment, flute lesson scheduling.  Along the way, old friends were encountered, new friends made. Parents eyed each other knowingly, we were all struggling.  Students happily grouped and gabbed about what lay ahead.

We sat in the commons and munched hamburgers and chips at the college’s picnic lunch.  Then she disappeared, off to a friend’s dorm room.  She was gone for hours.  Rich and I sat, realizing this was a good sign, yet hating that we were missing these last moments with her.

Dutifully, we went to the meeting for freshmen parents while she went to the meeting for freshmen students.  Then four o’clock came, the official freshmen welcome ceremony in the gymnasium.  The faculty, in caps and gowns, processed to trumpet fanfare.  We sang a hymn.  Speakers spoke.  I rubbed her back, stroked her hair, straightened her necklace–she let me, she didn’t resist.  My eyes spilled, I wiped them dry.  The chaplain said a prayer.  Then came the benediction and recessional–it was over.  Parents were instructed to say good-bye, students were to move immediately to the field house.  Dads smiled bravely, moms teared up.  Hugs flooded the room.   I held her tight, then stroked her cheek and said “Goodbye sweetie, love you”.  She hugged me back saying “I love you, Mom”.   She hugged her dad, then kissed his cheek.  We turned away as she turned away.  I turned back but could not find her–she had become part of the mass of freshmen moving the other way.

Rich and I wandered a bit, forgetting where the car was parked.  It was okay, we had time…lots of time.  Eventually, it came into view.  As I reached for the car door, two birds emerged out from under the front of the car and flew away, one right after the other.  I felt my eyes widen and jaw drop.  God must have put them there to make sure I got the message: our nest is empty.  Charles & Emily are gone, in flight, our work is done.

St Olaf’s classes started today.  I watched the online live stream of the commencement ceremony.  It was lovely, well done.  She is in good hands, is ready for this and has everything she needs.  God is with her and she with Him.  What more I could ask for, I do not know…

One chapter has ended, a new one about to begin.  For now, I sit in the white, print-less space between chapters  sobbing.  Grief is good, not to be skirted.  I’m allowed, but must not linger.  A new chapter calls.  I can almost…yep, almost…see it from here.

Adoration Today

Slemish, mountain in County Antrim where St Pa...
Image via Wikipedia

Every Thursday morning I spend an hour in a Catholic chapel, they call it Adoration.  I sit in silence and pray, read, pray, read, pray, pray, pray.  Today, I randomly opened books situated nearby. What I read stuck, so I share it here…

I will restore you to health
and heal your wounds,’
declares the LORD
Jeremiah 30:17 (yep, the Bible)

The prayer-book bookmark sat at March 17th,  St Patrick’s Day.  The brief bio said: Patrick started evangelism of Ireland at my age and in 33 years he converted the entire island–peacefully, no bloodshed.  He died at the age of 77 having brought Jesus Christ to those who ripped him from his homeland as a teenager and made him their slave.  In the Middle Ages, Ireland was known as the Island of Saints as many churches and monasteries bejeweled its landscape–what a tribute to what God can do through one surrendered soul willing to reach toward those who wound his heart, steal his young adulthood. (pic is of the mountain where St Patrick shepherded as a slave)

A devotional book of “words” from God opened to a page that spoke of how God wants families to stay together, how both mothers and fathers are responsible for the well-being of the children, how mothers can’t bring what fathers bring and fathers can’t bring what mothers bring–children need both parents.  Some don’t grow up, some stay children and refuse to take responsibility, they harm their own children.  Parents are responsible for the moral and physical well-being of their kids and when a spouse threatens that, it is permissible to leave the spouse or remove the child from harms way.  Protect your children.

Just before leaving…

A hand on the shoulder from a fellow pray-er, asking how I’m doing.  She knows my struggle–some Thursdays we talk, others we don’t.  “It’s really hard right now” is all I can muster, as tears well up.  She rubs my shoulder and assures me she is praying and that things will get better in God’s time.  I believe her.  She takes her seat, I grab a tissue for the well is spilling over.  I cannot see.

Moms Not Alone

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=women+coffee+meeting&iid=5065830″ src=”″ width=”380″ height=”253″ /]“You’re the senior mom.  I mean, the mom for the seniors.” wound its way to me just now, while filling my cup at the coffee shop’s refill station.  Without looking, I sensed the smiles at the slip of the tongue.  It comes from a table of moms busy planning for the school year, a committee of hearts committed to the well-being of their students, their children.

Taking my seat across the room, I watch as they sip their frozen lattes, lean over agendas and affably check off the must-do list.  I know that scene, I used to wear the committee mom hat.  The meetings were all the same: friendly mothers gathering to boost our kids’ educational or extra-curricular experience and divvying up the long list of items that always ensued.  Sometimes we knew each other–our kids were friends or we attended the same church.  Other times our “hello” met a new face.  Often we shared more than the plans and the list, often we shared struggles about our kids.  One mom, usually the extroverted one, would break the ice with something like this:  “No matter what I do, Johnny won’t do his homework!” The rest of us would look at her, then at each other and nod knowingly–we could relate.  One by one we’d give what we had: “Oh, I’m so sorry!  You know, I just read somewhere that if you do this…” or “Ugh, that is the pits!  My Susie went through that, you know what we did, we…”  Then another would share her parenting struggle, then another and another.  Suddenly it didn’t matter who had the biggest bank account or the track star child–we were all in the same boat, barely staying afloat.  Parenting–the great equalizer.

Hmmm…as I reflect on the times I shared a parenting frustration, what mattered most wasn’t so much the advice they gave or even that they sympathized.  No, it was the awareness that these moms were “with” me, that I was not alone, that they cared.  Oftentimes, I’d drive home a little lighter than when I came, even when my to-do list made Jaws look like a goldfish.

I gaze, trying to get through my thick skull (now that empty-nest-ness is upon me) that I’ll never again be a committee mom, I’ll never again huddle around a table with other moms tackling tasks and sharing struggles.  No, those days are over, that stage of life has ended, that work is done.  Emptiness.

“Are we going to meet again?  Are we going to meet weekly?” The dark-haired one with reading glasses, the obvious committee head says as they step out the door.  Even though they’ve spent hours meeting, they’re going to meet again.  If their committee is anything like the ones I’ve been on, they’ll meet again–they’ll make sure things needs doing–to help their children, of course, but also to gather, to share and remember they’re not alone…

Motherhood on Mother’s Day

Hear! Hear!

As we honor mothers today, I recommend taking a few minutes to read The Trouble with Motherhood by Christine L. Carter, Ph. D.

I’ve lived this one, and for too many years–many mothers have.  It kills the spirit, deals death and can’t be good for the kids or the marriage.

She doesn’t mention it, but personally I’ve found that prayer and focusing on my relationship with God, as well as dropping the crazy pace, does more than make for a less stressed, swell-ish mom, it models to the kids how to do life in a way that carries depth and meaning and is life-giving to others as well as oneself…and isn’t that what good moms wants?

Happy Mother’s Day to you moms out there!  For heaven’s sake (quite literally!) put your feet up! :)

And to my mom:
Quote from my 2008 Mother’s Day post says it all: “I owe a huge debt to Mom, she is one of those rare souls who loves greatly, without reservations.  Even when she can’t swallow my words or actions she loves unconditionally and prays without end for me. She is the kind of mother that is unheard of nowadays in that she serves not only as my natural mother but as my spiritual mother. She has helped me realize how important this whole mothering thing is…it really impacts the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.”
Happy Mother’s Day!!  Love you, Jodi!!

(pic is Mom and my brother…this is embarrassing, cannot find a handy pic of her and I…that needs to change and soon!)


Spelled in fluorescent green in the yard one night, our daughter was asked to the prom.

Per his request, we parents accompliced the surprise:  solidify a time when she is home, he is available;  keep her downstairs  watching “24” during glow stick arranging and doorbell ringing; call her up, while enveloping her pj cami with a zip-up the front sweatshirt…

Then we retreated, let the two mingle and marvel at the glow in the dark.  Chuckles and chatter floated through the front door.  We heard but did not hear, felt but did not know.  Finally, I grabbed the camera, scooted out and took a snapshot (isn’t he clever? :).  For a moment I interrupted their privacy, but it was for posterity.  I saw no other way to grab this moment–I knew there’d be regret if “PROM?” became a memory without a memento.

Back inside, Rich and I smiled and wondered.  Would she say “yes”?  Would they share an evening of elegant splendor together?  They took their time talking and sharing.  For hours we never knew.

I wonder, does God ever go to such lengths for us?  Does He ever set people in motion to help ready us for His glowing invitation?  As we stare numbly at the “fascinating” lives of others, does He ring us up and call us out into night where His illumined invitation is readily discerned?  Does He ever say “Come. Let me whisk you away, let me dine you, let me swirl you.”  Would we believe Him if He did?  Would we have the guts to say “yes”?  Would we trust Him to escort us into a fairytale evening resplendent with glitter and gold?

Trust, for me, is difficult…I’d be suspicious.  I think I’d wonder what He’d want in return or what disaster was plotted for my “good” as I entered His limo.  Sweet moments visit, yet they never linger.  A full evening of Jesus and I out on the town dining and dancing without disaster descending seems remote.  Nothing is pure, nothing untainted.

I look at the alternative: deny the invite, say “thanks, but no thanks”.  It leaves me alone, without a killer date with the Man to end all men.  I stay at home, staring numbly into the “fascinating” lives of others.  Safe in my self-erected bubble I never know what it is like to dine and dance with the Lover of my soul.  Risk stares and flashes me into fear…I stay where pain can’t find me.  Buried alive, years pass by and, even though the doorbell keeps ringing, I stay tucked in the underbelly of my life fearing what may happen if I say “yes”.

“Yes” is an ongoing assent to whatever comes in the arms of my Lord.  Decked to the nines and eating escargot, the roof may fall in or the floor give way.  It is true, there is no guarantee.  All that is assured is that He will stay with me.  He will hold me and lift me from the rubble, doubled in pain or completely unscathed.  Solace may never visit, hope remain unseen, yet He promises to be present if I stay and not run.  He’s a man of His word, He cannot be unfaithful.  Risk stares, but I do not notice, for the Eyes of my Love enthrall and fill.  I stay and see and hope that maybe someday there will be another moment where we swirl in step beneath the mirrored ball, lost in each other.

Emily nodded that night.  She and her friend are going to the prom.  The “yes” is taking form in the purchase of a gown, shoes, hairdo…all prom ladies know it, all who say “yes” to the invite know.  Much to prepare for, much to anticipate.  “Yes” has a price and there is no guarantee, but one never knows unless one smiles and says “Yes, I’d love to go to the prom with you.”

Charlie’s 20th!

Twenty years ago, on April 10th, he emerged from within and changed our lives forever.  5 1/2 weeks premature, he was “Boy Hill” for days…but then we knew, Charles Alexander it was…he was “Charlie”, after my much beloved grandpa, his deceased great-grandfather–a man whose bear hugs, personality and love of music Charlie inherited and whose birthday is only a day later…Charlie did you know…

Immediately we shifted priorities, lifestyle, plans for the future.  Young and clueless, we fumbled and stumbled, it wasn’t pretty.  He was a bright light in a messy marriage and a motivator to figure it out…his smiles and charm took our breath away, they still do.

Two years later the light doubled: Emily, his sister, was born.  Even as an infant, Charlie took to her.  Bending over, diaper sticking out the top of his pants, he’d look her in the eye, smile and say “Hi Emily” in just the sweetest 2-year-old voice you can imagine.  In many ways they were complete opposites: in temperament, outlook, modus operandi, yet fast friends they became.  Sibling spats happened–I don’t want to paint too rosy a picture–but they learned to work them out, which worked to deepen their bond.  I hope they get to attend each others 90th birthday parties…with tears in my eyes, yes I do hope…


When he was young, everyone was his friend.  Invited to birthday parties by the boatload in grade school, we knew he was connecting well with his peers and was just as much fun for them as he was for us.  Birthday gift shopping for kids I’d never met was “just the way it is” those early years.

He loves being ‘with’ and celebrating people and they with him.  Even though we cannot be with him this birthday, I know others will.  Charlie not being surrounded by loved ones on his birthday seems impossible, for if friends aren’t there he’ll just make friends with whomever is there.


I’ve noticed that even when he is down or struggling, joy is present–God is present–the light in his eyes  doesn’t waver.  Difficult days and released dreams seem to deepen that light…wisdom and knowledge grow in the crucible of his heart.  I think he knows that forever he is loved, that no matter what happens, he is loved.

Charlie has been given much: he is bright, talented, trustworthy, self-motivated, responsible, fun loving, socially proficient, emotionally intelligent and spiritually aware. His heart is open, he loves greatly.  He could choose almost any path and be true to himself in it while advancing its cause.  His leadership style emerges in relationship: he has a knack for helping those around him rise to the next level.  Many look up to him, many more than he realizes–he inspires without effort….dare I say, his parents are known to watch and take notes…

Unable to take credit for the child he was or the man he is, I simply celebrate he who has been given.  Charlie’s birthday gift to us was himself, is himself.  God kissed our life forever because…

Happy Birthday, sweet Charlie!  Momma loves you!!

Emily’s National Scholarship Award

Earlier this month, our daughter, Emily, received a national scholarship award at the Music for All (a.k.a. Bands of America) National Festival in Indianapolis.  One scholarship is awarded each year–this year it has her name on it…WOW!

Must share the press release just received…so happy for Emily and the Orono band students/staff (Dr K., can you hear me?) she represents.  Way to shine, Emmie!  Way to SHINE!


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – When Emily Hill sat at the Music for All National Festival high school banquet, the announcement of her name as the winner of Music for All’s $1,000 William D. Revelli Scholarship took her by surprise. “I couldn’t believe my ears. My jaw just dropped, and I was shaking in disbelief the whole time,” she says. “I couldn’t believe that I was being recognized for something as amazing as music.”

A pianist since she was a small child, Emily is now a flutist, vocalist and student teacher at Orono High School in Minnesota. She attended the Music for All National Festival with the Orono High School Wind Ensemble, invited to perform at the National Concert Band Festival after a taped audition process.  The Music for All National Festival includes the National Concert Band Festival, the Middle School National Music Festival, the Orchestra America National Festival, the Sandy Feldstein National Percussion Festival, and national honor ensembles in band, orchestra and jazz band. Emily says the Music for All National Festival had a profound impact on her. “I learned so much from the instructors, and I became a better musician through all the things I learned at Festival,” says Emily, daughter of Richard and Jodi Hill.

Her director, Dr. Donald Krusback, nominated Emily for the William D. Revelli Scholarship. The scholarship was established in 1993 in honor of the late Dr. Revelli’s contributions to music education. This $1,000, one-time scholarship is awarded annually to a student selected from submitted nominations from the directors of ensembles and honor musicians invited to perform at the Music for All National Festival who intends to attend college as a music education major.

After high school, Emily plans to study music education in college. “It has always been my dream to make a difference in a person’s life,” she says of her career choice. “ What better way to do that than through teaching students the greatest gift of all: music?”

Dr. Krubsack, says Emily is the best student flutist he’s seen in 20 years and that she does an outstanding job as a concert band teaching assistant. “Emily is a poised leader, respected by her students and her peers,” says her director. “I have never met a high school student so excited about pursuing her career.”

Now in the midst of a college search, Emily says she is grateful for the financial and moral support of Music for All and the Revelli Scholarship award. “This scholarship will help remind me of the difference I can make in the world through teaching music,” she says. “It is truly a blessing to be granted such an honor. I will never forget the feeling I felt that night, when the importance of music grew inside me even more than I thought it could.”

Music for All (MFA) is one of the nation’s largest and most influential organizations in support of active music-making. Headquartered in Indianapolis, MFA uniquely combines regional and national music-event programming with awareness campaigns and advocacy aimed at expanding access to music in schools and communities, including significant support of the IPS music education programs. A 501(c)(3) not-for-profit educational organization, MFA’s programs include 25-plus annual events, including the Music for All National Festival, the Music for All Summer Symposium, the Bands of America Grand National marching band championships and Regional marching band championships across the country. Learn more at

Music for All’s efforts have been supported through successful sponsorships including current partnerships with National Presenting Sponsor, the Yamaha Corporation of America; Official Uniform Sponsor, Fred J. Miller, Inc.; Official Corporate Sponsor, Wenger Corporation; and Corporate Sponsors, SmartMusic®; NAMM; and Remo, Inc.; Associate Sponsors Vic Firth, Inc., Denis Wick and McCormick’s Enterprises; and Preferred Travel Partners, Music Travel Consultants and New Horizons Tour and Travel. Music for All is also supported by the Arts Council of Indianapolis and the City of Indianapolis, by the Indianapolis Cultural Development Commission and by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

(photo is Emily with Scott McCormick, President and CEO of Music for All. Photo provided by Jolesch/Music for All.)

Sweet Hotness

Key into the glove compartment, along with the title.  Taken away, forever away…

She left us gracefully, silently.  With 295,000 miles, a window tired of rolling, a seatbelt stuck in “clicked” and many other quirks, she gave up the ghost.  Transmission went out–our sleek, black ’93 Camry saw her last, at least with us.

Rich–my husband–claimed her, she was his.  With affection he dubbed her “Sweet Hotness”.  She rode like a Lincoln and sported tinted windows, a sunroof and a six CD player.  Luxurious? No.  Stylish? Never. Love affair? Yes. Like an old married couple with one passing away, he coaxed her, even in her failing final days, to stay in it, to stay with him.  Oil changes performed personally.  Fluid levels perpetually topped off.  Wipers updated often.  Tires rotated–so she’d believe she had far to go.  He boosted her up, even as she ebbed… 

Then came that fateful December day when she couldn’t anymore.  Forward movement ceased, only reverse–a direction not suited for our forward-focused life.  We parked her off to the side and let her rest.  Like a loyal labrador, she faithfully sat in our driveway, greeting us upon arrival.  We knew we had to release her, but waited til we were ready.  She was still ours, even if we couldn’t ride her.  She belonged here, with us, even though she was gone.

She arrived when our kids were in grade school.  Used, inexpensive and well cared for, she was a steal.  For years, Emily–our daughter–was the only one able to maneuver the stuck seatbelt, and maneuver she did.  Her small willful hands had the touch that made it release–yet sometimes she’d give up and wriggle under the lap belt and behind the shoulder belt instead.  When the belt became impossible we took turns sitting there, ready for sacrifice upon impact.  Sweet Hotness never knew impact, though.  She hummed through traffic and was an easy keeper of boundaries.  Side swipes and rear-enders she averted with aplomb.  Like Marilyn Monroe entering a crowd, vehicles sensed her approach and made way–she was Sweet Hotness, what else could they do?

Even though a 4-door sedan, she was Rich’s sports car.  Her spacious trunk brimmed with bulging golf bags, dirty towels and spiked dress shoes.  As long as she was with Rich, Rich was always ready for a round–I think he loved the thought of it, even when snow forced courses to close.  Sweet Hotness?  Pretty sure she enjoyed the sports car status too, especially when the extra rear-end weight helped her move through snow and ice.  Beyond practicalities, though, I think she was happy to tote irons and woods, as it made him smile…

She doubled as a family car.  When the wagon went on hiatus or Rich preferred her wheels, the four of us would pile into her upholstered, spacious seats for a trip from A to B.  Conversations, laughter and singing surely still resonate deep within her interior.  She provided space for many memorable family moments: road trip games, sing along songs, corny jokes, deep discussions and even heated arguments.  Her comfy seating and smooth riding also promoted R & R.  Sweet slumber happened, and, when it did, it seemed she rode a bit quieter than usual.  I kinda think she liked us all…

Yesterday a children’s charity tow truck hoisted her up and hauled her away.  It was time, three months of mourning had passed.  She’s gone, yet, who knows, children may ride her once more.  With a new tranny, window crank, seatbelt, oil pan, she may glide the highways again…she may help another family move forward in life.  If so, may the residue of familial love and affection that filled her belly bless them mightily…and may God protect them on the highways and byways of life.