Conversations About Pie


We all tell them. Some of them have more truth to them than others. Sometimes the most horrible stories are the ones we tell ourselves.

But there is no doubt that stories are an integral part of human civilization.

I learned long ago, for whatever reason, people tell me their stories. I’ve written before about stories, and if you like, you can also read Everyone Has a Story and The Stories We Tell and the Stories We Don’t.

Yesterday, I met a man who shared part of his story with me. It was a polite, casual conversation, but the significance of it was not lost on me. Stories are life. Stories are recollections of where we have been, and guidance for where we are going.

So, I met this man at the grocery store. He is an older gentleman, and he skillfully, and mindfully places my groceries into my reusable Chico bags. Then he surprises me when the transaction is complete. He takes the cart that he’s placed my bags in, and heads for the door.

He’s going to take my groceries to the car for me!

I should mention that I am currently in Florida, and this man works for a chain of grocery stores called Publix.

If you have not had the pleasure of shopping at Publix, I highly recommend it.

I said to the man, “I haven’t had someone take my groceries to the car since I lived in the Midwest!”

He replied that it was one thing that sets them (Publix) apart from other stores.

At that, I chuckled as I said, “Well, that and the best Key Lime Pie I’ve ever had!”

The conversation then progressed to how lemon meringue was his favorite and Publix’s version is not quite as good as a chain restaurant he frequents.

He then told me about his time as a cook in the Royal Navy, and how very fresh ingredients make all the different in cooking, as well as in pie,

This man shared part of himself with me, and spoke of how proud he was to have spent 16 years (so far) working for this company because of what they give back to people.

I got so much more than just groceries delivered to my car. I got a reminder of the goodness of humanity. I received, just a glimpse into the heart of a man who loves lemon meringue, and being of service to others with grace, respect, and kindness.

I think I would have enjoyed a much longer conversation with this man. I have a feeling he has an abundance of interesting stories. Yet I am truly grateful for the experience, and for the small reminder that goodness abounds in this world, simple pleasures, like a favorite pie, can brighten any day, and that when we are brave enough to share just a little bit of ourselves, authentically, we are often rewarded beyond measure.

And, I should have picked up one of those key lime pies while I was there…

Valentine's Day

I've never thought Valentine's Day was a big deal. It's too commercial, the roses are too expensive, the now cliche heart shaped box of chocolates (bad for my diabetes) and all the hoopla...

Why would I want to wait three hours for a table at a restaurant that I could normally be seated in 15 minutes??

Nope, never cared much for it.

But my wife does.

This is our first Valentine's Day as a married couple. We've both been excited this week because we get to spend a three day weekend together...the first weekend alone since our honeymoon.

We've both been extra lovey dovey lately...but I dropped the ball.

Miscommunication can quickly shift the energy of a situation.

Tomorrow starts our weekend alone, and the last time we will see each other for at least two months...and we had a fight.

I did not understand the importance of this particular day to my beloved. This day. Not the weekend closest to this day, but this day itself.

There are a lot of changes going on at work, and I have been busy with a few surprises for our weekend together...and my lovey dovey energy kind of dropped off today. Looking forward to the weekend, I forgot about today. I didn't REALLY forget...but my acknowledgement of this day was not quite what my wife would have liked.

It may sound like my wife is high maintenance...she is.

I'm high maintenance too...we both own it.

To be fair, she did not see the meme of Obi-Wan that read "You've got the droids I'm looking for" that I reported on Facebook this morning.

I guy version of marking the day.

She acknowledges my romantic side as well...I am a poet, and thoughtful gift giver...

I just don't dig Valentine's Day the way she does...but that's where I erred.

It's like making the bed in the morning. She likes a nicely made bed and I think it's a waste of time...but on those rare days she asks me to make the bed, I do it... because I love her.

If my transferable skills were serving me today, I would have made a bigger deal out of today, no matter what surprises await her this weekend... because I love her.

So my beloved, if you happen to read this before you sleep tonight, or even before you catch that early flight to come spend the weekend with me, please accept this as an apology. What's important to you is important to me, and I'm sorry I forgot that.

I can't wait to hold you close and whisper in your ear just how much I love you.

Sweet dreams mi corazon.

Curse of The Modern Family

My sister in law just gave birth to a beautiful little girl a few days ago! In preparation for the blessed event, my wife has been spending every weekend in Michigan (she lives in Iowa) to help out with my three nieces before mommy has the baby.

I've been in New Mexico for a month now, and I've found out that I have a challenge...knowing what time it is where my family is.

My kids are in Iowa, and have been staying there. Easy to figure...their Central Time Zone is one hour ahead of my Mountain Time Zone.

With my wife however, she keeps traveling between Central Time Zone and Eastern Time Zone. Based on her teaching schedule, I can usually tell where she is going to be, but not always.

I mistakenly thought she was going back to Iowa now that our beautiful niece has arrived...


She's staying in Michigan until she has to go to her college alumi weekend this weekend...still Eastern Time Zone...different state.

What time is it here? What time is it there?

Can we talk on the phone, text...Facetime?

First world problem to be sure, but also indicative of a mobile family in the 21st century!

Self-medicating with music

Typically when we hear the term "self-medicating" we hear it in relation to food, or shopping or illicit drugs, alcohol...the list goes on and on. My oldest daughter taught me something today about self-medicating with music.

The typical scenario in our house on school days finds me choosing some sort of upbeat music to gently wake my children up with. I leave this playing in their bedroom until it's time to head out the door.

This morning was challenging. For whatever reason (perhaps for the simple fact it's Monday), my oldest was having a meltdown. She was upset I forgot to wash the clothes she wanted to wear, she was refusing to take her meds, refusing to get ready for school, refusing to listen...

After persuading her to take her meds, she was even more upset and stalked off into her bedroom. I was exasperated, but tried to continue my morning routine. I soon noticed that the music I had left playing had changed. I heard a cover version of Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds."

The significance of this is not apparent for most of you, I'm sure, until you know that my daughter has been listening to this song over and over again lately. She often sings along with it as she listens over and over and over.

Part of the hook says, " 'Cause every little thing's gonna be alright."

It hit me...she was using the song to soothe herself.

My beautiful, intelligent, spirited daughter was self-medicating with music...and I couldn't have been prouder.

What my fingernails taught me about my life's direction

Frequently my mind creates what my beloved refers to as "non-sequiter." This may be the only mention I make of this, or not, but I won't make a habit of prefacing when one of these seemingly random thoughts is coming up. When discussing with my loves the nature of our personalities, for the first time in my life I was referred to as "high maintenance." I thought that surely this was an exaggeration, so I decided to confirm this with my office mate and trusted adviser who happens to be the massage therapist at the hospital I work at.

She was working at the office computer and I was buffing my nails in a chair further behind the desk. I said, "If I ask you a question, will you give me an honest answer?" She replied, "Sure."

"Do you think I'm high maintenance?"

"Yes" she said evenly, with no hint of emotion in her voice.

With some mock indignation, and some authentic indignation, I again protested. We discussed it a bit and after hearing her reasons for the label, I conceded. I have learned if a majority of the important women in my life are all voicing similar opinions, the degree of validity is certainly high.

The reason I was buffing my nails, was not one of aesthetics, or vanity however. It was one of practicality and necessity. I am a classical guitarist, and use the nails of my right hand to play. They require regular filing and buffing to be in good shape for playing.

I had to laugh after the discussion I'd just had with my office mate. When she asked what I was laughing about, I said, "Note to self: don't ask someone if they think you're high maintenance when you're buffing your nails!"

We both got a good laugh out of that.

I would like to thank my fingernails for the moment of insight they provided just the other day.

I'm in what I consider to be, for the most part, a dream job. I've long wanted to provide music therapy services in a hospital, and I when I started this position little more than a year ago, my supervisor told me, "I don't know what a music therapist is supposed to do, so you do what you think you should do."

Bingo! I get to create my own program from the ground up! My vision can become my reality! Woo hoo!

But I still tell people that I don't know what I want to be when I grow up (I'm 36).

I have SO many interests! How do I figure out what I want to devote my time and energy to?

I was recently discussing my education and plans for it with my beloved. I am currently finishing a MAE in visual impairments (I used to work for the Iowa Braille School) and I'm trying to decide what my next step is. Temple University offers a PhD in music therapy, the only program in the country currently. Colorado State University offers a Master of Music focusing on neurologic music therapy, something I'm fascinated and passionate about...and most of the work is online, so I don't have to spend time away from my children. Then there's the EdD option at my local university.

I wondered though if a PhD would lend more weight to getting my research and my ideas noticed. My beloved explained that the PhD was more of a scholar's degree and the EdD was more of a practitioner's degree.

That fateful day when I was filing and buffing my nails I thought to myself, "This is an awesome length for performing, but I need a practitioner's length."


I'm a practitioner. I am a clinician and educator and researcher and a practitioner. I am not a scholar. I may engage in scholarly pursuits at times, but I am a practitioner.

My nails need to be of a length that they may not optimize the sound from the guitar strings, but they also do not get in the way of drumming a variety of instruments or interfere with other healing work.

I am a practitioner.

To give you the raw realizations as they occurred to me, I'm including excerpts from the email I sent to my beloved where I was processing this new insight:

I also had an insight about my fingernails that I broadened to my life as a whole... Thinking again about advanced education and the idea of the EdD being a practitioner's degree...I need to keep my fingernails at a practitioner's length, not a performer's length. No, I won't get quite the same sound out of the strings, but the nails will be a better length for more things, like hand and frame drumming. I have to decide what areas of music I want to be a performer and what areas I want to be a practitioner. I may be satisfied with not being a real performer in any areas...I was watching old Simon and Garfunkel videos this morning...Paul with the guitar singing and Art singing...that's it. Simple, clean and very nice. But I also thought about learning the Middle Eastern rhythms on riq and doumbek to accompany belly dancing...But really it's about the practical application of those things for me. Yes, it's fun to perform in church, but I see that more of a sharing of skills and talent for the benefit of the Society as opposed to a true performance. How can I use what I learn by learning the Middle Eastern rhythms in my work? How can I translate those skills to drum circle facilitation and healing and journeying? Some MTs are performers. On their websites they list private MT services and offer themselves as performers for weddings, funerals etc...that is not my calling. I think I am a researcher at heart because my intense curiosity and constant questioning but I am also very much a clinician...a practitioner.
All of this from the realization that I needed to shape my nails.