This one time at Band Camp

This morning as I sip my coffee I feel a sense of calm I haven’t felt for a few weeks. Our days of afternoon boat rides with the wind in our hair, afternoon visits to the Lakeside Creamery and evening campfires seems like a long time ago. I have spent my weekend picking up the remnants of a cyclone called Marching Band that surges through my household every year at this time.

My son began his senior season of marching band with the start of band camp on July 27, 2015. Band camp is much more than band geek jokes. For marching band members it is a place to welcome and initiate rookies, to gather on the field in the heat for two weeks to memorize and rehearse music, learn dot formations and march until their legs ache, their feet are blistered and they’ve consumed liter after liter of water to prevent heat exhaustion. It is also a place for them to participate in team building activities and games. At the end of those two weeks they have become a cohesive group, a community within themselves; a marching band. If you sit and watch them rehearse during band camp, you’ll see them play it over and over again and wonder if they’ll ever get it right. Once you see them play what they’ve learned at the Parent Show which concludes band camp, you’ll notice with the blink of an eye, it’s all coming together. For any marching band parent, it is an amazingly beautiful thing to observe.

I am an active band parent, a marching band parent and nurse and I reside on the band booster executive board. Band camp is a busy time of year for us too. For the band parents it’s about fitting 60-70 kids for uniforms and altering them, fundraising and selling spirit wear, organizing events, meeting new parents and making them feel welcome and comfortable knowing that marching band is a good place for their child. There’s also eating on the run, rehearsals that run into the late evening, and getting ready to do it all over again the next day; in addition to the full time job you have to be at early each morning.. As the marching band nurse it’s also about being ready to treat whatever ailment they have when they come off the field and reassuring them that they can get back out there and march some more.

All of these things have happened to our band families these past few weeks. My house is a mess and I am way behind on household tasks. I haven’t had a decent home cooked meal for two weeks and sleep deprived is an understatement. Through the course of the marching band cyclone the activity seems never ending and overwhelming at times. All of those feelings disappear instantly the moment I see my son at a high school football game or marching band competition looking sharp in this navy blue uniform, holding his trombone high in the air, marching and playing music with his community; the marching band.

Ice cream

Ice cream makes people happy. Have you had a bad day? Here, have some ice cream. Do you feel like a few minutes out of the house on a summer evening? Go out for ice cream. Do you have a small victory to celebrate? Eat ice cream.

I am a life long ice cream lover. When I was a kid, my parents or my grandma would walk my little brother and I to the seasonal soft serve ice cream place down the street. We’d look forward to it opening each spring and would be sad in the fall when it closed for the season. To this day I still marvel at the perfect symmetrical curves of the soft serve ice cream in a cone. One of two things would always happen during my childhood walks to get ice cream. My brother would either drop his and I’d secretly snicker to myself or my father would pull a “let me clean that up for you” maneuver if the ice cream cone melted faster than my brother could eat it.

Ice cream is year round for me. My husband and I have a variety of it in our freezer. Who cares if it’s thirty below zero outside and snowing, I’ll be in the house in my robe and slippers eating ice cream.

In years past, the hospital that I’ve spent my career at used to hold “Ice Cream Socials” a few times a year. Chocolate, strawberry or vanilla ice cream with all the sundae fixins’s served to you by hospital administration. I’ve seen people skipping in and out of those ice cream socials as if they were children without a care in the world. It was just enough to make you smile and get you through the rest of a long hospital day.

My inspiration for this post is my recent vacation. For a second summer now, my husband, our teenaged son and daughter and I have rented a cabin and a boat on Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. During our vacation week, we’d spend our days on the water with the wind in our hair and our evenings in front of a campfire. Each late afternoon when we should be thinking about dinner, we’d hit the local ice cream joint called “The Lakeside Creamery”. Sure one could drive there but it’s more fun to go by boat. Once the boat is secured, step out and steady your feet on the wobbly square shaped inflatable dock. Now walk up the four flights of steep wooden steps to get that ice cream. The smell of waffle cones will taunt you as soon as you begin to climb the steps reassuring you that the shortness of breath you’ll have after walking up the steps will be worth it. Once you get in the door you’ll stand in line for a few minutes as the strong wristed staff quickly scoops ice cream into cups or cones but they are efficient and the line moves quickly.

The biggest decision of the day is which delicious flavor to choose. I try to pick flavors I don’t ordinarily eat at home. The day I wrote this I’d chosen a classic; a single of scoop chocolate ice cream on a sugar cone. When they handed me my ice cream cone, I carefully pushed the ice cream into the cone with my tongue to prevent it from breaking the cone and falling off. With each stroke of my tongue, I slowly and purposefully turned the creamy, rich milk chocolate ice cream into a perfect sphere, my mouth watering as I savored every bite. Finally, I’d worked my way down to the sweet crunchy sugar cone, mixed with chocolate ice cream. It only completed the state of euphoria this ice cream cone had given me. Once the ice cream cone has been completely consumed, a feeling of emptiness occurs. Not to worry though, we’ll return soon.

Gator Pride

Marching Band Season begins at 0900 7/27/15. Here’s something I wrote about one of my first experiences as a high school parent.

White plumes stood proudly on top of navy blue shakos. The golden autumn afternoon sun spotlighted navy blue uniforms with gold trimmed sleeves and a gold buckle on a white sash across the chest. All eyes were focused forward on the task at hand. They’d memorized every note and every dot in preparation for this moment. The band stood in perfect formation until the announcer asked “Drum majors is the band ready”. The drum majors answered the call with a sharp salute. “Are the judges ready” the announcer asked. The judges indicated they were ready with a wave. The announcer permitted the band to perform. “Perry Hall High School Marching Gators you may take the field in competition”.

The drum majors conducted the band as they marched and played in perfect harmony. Brass instruments were pointed high in the air indicating confidence and discipline. The color guard danced synchronously with the music letting their flags flow with the melody. This marching band performed what seemed to be a flawless field show.

There were three categories of marching bands in competition that day. The category depended on the size of the marching band. Each marching band performed their field show with the same level of intensity. While the judges were deliberating the host school performed their own phenomenal field show.

Waiting for the judges to deliberate seemed like an eternity but it forced me to reflect back upon the events of this marching band season. It was a first for our son. He was a freshman trombone and trying to adjust to high school. He carried a heavy load of honors and gifted and talented courses and was deeply involved in preparing for his upcoming Sacrament of Confirmation. My husband had just begun graduate school. I was in a job that I was severely burned out in and had just accepted a transfer to a new department. In the beginning we had difficulty adjusting to this new chapter of our lives but our family soon began to march in sync with the band.

We’d attended every high school football game and marching band event that our son had performed in that season. The band had taken first place in the two previous competitions and marched away with “Best Overall Effect”, “Best Visual”, “Best Color Guard”, “Best Percussion” and “Best Music”. This band was on fire!

The judges were finished deliberating. The drum majors from each band were called back onto the field to form a line and face the crowd. They all stood at attention and with good sportsmanship, applauded each band as their award was announced. Finally, our category of bands was to receive their awards.

With eight bands in the category, our son’s band was in the largest category. Eighth, seventh, sixth place bands were called. I sighed with relief and my body was starting to tingle. Our son’s band had not been called. The fifth, fourth, third place bands were called. My heart was beating uncontrollably now. Our son’s band still had not been called.

The second place band was called and it wasn’t our son’s band. My husband and I looked at each other with tear filled eyes. Time had stopped for us at that moment with the realization of what was about to happen.

Seconds later the news roared through the microphone, “With a score of 82.738, Best Music, Best Effect and Best Percussion, the Category 3A 2012 Maryland State Championship goes to The Perry Hall High School Marching Gators”. My husband, our daughter and I flew to our feet, embraced and cheered until our vocal cords hurt. The Perry Hall crowd in the stands erupted with foot stomping cheers and applause. From across the stadium we could hear the Marching Gators celebrating their victory in a similar fashion and we knew our son would be so excited and proud. This fine marching band had won what was rightfully theirs; what they’d worked so hard for. They were Maryland State Champions.

Tomorrow our son will begin his final season with the Perry Hall High School Marching Gators as a senior trombone and the low brass section leader. This state championship experience as a freshman inspired our son to take his music to higher levels and participate in multiple extra curricular music ensembles in addition to Marching Band. As a parent, I couldn’t be more proud.

Being a marching band and band parent is no different from other extra curricular activities. It’s about carting kids around after school, weekends full of activity, late night homework, a messy house, and eating on the run. It’s also about watching your child socialize, evolve and enjoy themselves in their chosen activity. Lucky for me just as soon as my son marches out with the class of 2016, my daughter will march in as a freshman trumpet with the class of 2020 and I get four more years of moments like that 2012 USBANDS Maryland State Championship.

Right of Passage

When my firstborn was a young child with a little boy voice he used to exclaim, “Mom I’m growing up fast!”. I’m going to quote my grandmother here and say “Tell me about it”. Yesterday my husband and I stood outside and watched the driving instructor arrive at our house, honk his horn and orient our firstborn to the controls on the dashboard of the car he’d be taking his driving test on. A look of fear was written all over his
face as he backed the car out to depart for the MVA. I expressed my worry and my husband said “we’ve done all we can for him, it’s up to him now”, and he was right. We’d gone through “look both ways, come to a complete stop, watch your blind spot, check your mirrors, signal your intentions” over and over again. Now it was time for him to apply it. Driving is a major right of passage and these right of passages are becoming more intense. As a freshman we watched my father stand behind him as the Bishop anointed him with the Sacrament of Confirmation. As a sophomore we picked up the pieces when his first girlfriend broke his heart. As a junior we watched him cross the stage to receive his class ring and officially become an upper classman. Now he was about to embark on the scariest right of passage yet, driving a car. Independently mobile. Putting his life and the lives of others in his hands. For me the act of letting go and allowing my child to drive without us is unnerving, yet seeing him fail the driving test would be painful too. 
After he pulled away my husband mowed the lawn and I went to the gym. I said a prayer when I knew he’d be testing and had a vigorous work out. 

My husband was finishing the lawn when I returned home from the gym. The text came just as I’d gotten out of my car. “Guess who passed their driving test” was typed in all caps with exclamations. He did it! My husband and I cheered victoriously as if our favorite football team had won the game at the last second. 

I’ll always worry but I’m going to enjoy this right of passage of our son’s because he’s just so proud. In three more years I’ll have an instant replay when we experience this with our daughter. 

Something you don’t see often

I saw something today that I have never seen. I wasn’t going to write about this but I feel I have to.

My daughter and I took our dog to the vet today. He’s had an ear infection recently and his ear is still red and itchy so we wanted to make sure his ear infection has not returned. They finished examining him fairly quickly and we were on our way. While we were standing at the check out desk, I observed the other customers in the waiting room. A mother and son were standing in line with pet supplies waiting to board their two dogs. They had that happy anticipating vacation look on their faces. There was a woman who was being dragged from the treatment area to the door by her big dog. She looked like she couldn’t wait to get out of there. There were two women sitting in chairs with their cat in a carrier. The cat was quiet and so were they. My daughter and I had our own things we were happy about as well. After I observed the room I noticed a husband and wife exiting a room. The husband was carrying a pink leash and the woman was crying. The woman nodded to the veterinary employee behind the desk who whispered “I am so sorry for your loss”. It occurred to me that while everyone in this waiting room was there for a specific reason these people where there to say good bye to their dog, a member of their family. My daughter and I just looked at each other and she squeezed our dog in her arms to embrace him. I felt so helpless. I thought these people would be gone when we walked out of the animal hospital to go home. Instead they were sitting in their pick up truck with red faces, foreheads touching and they were sobbing so hard their bodies shook. As a nurse, scenes like this are never easy but something we learn to deal with. As a dog owner, I am thankful ours is young and healthy but I truly dread this experience when it is our dog’s turn to cross the rainbow. Moral of the story, go home and give your pet a hug. Unfortunately they get sick and die just like humans. Enjoy every moment with them. They are family.

Sitting on the Porch

Never estimate the value of sitting alone on someone’s porch. Today marked the second time I have sat on this particular porch. Each time I visit, I observe something new. The many trees on this street create a leafy paradise of shade. The branches sway back and forth and provide a comforting breeze that lightly blows over my tired feet, which are now in flip-flops. There are smells too. Various scents of plants and flowers around the porch and in the distance the smell of someone’s supper cooking taunts my own empty stomach. I focus my attention to the homes within my view. Each house has a different size, shape and floor plan. I wish I could visit each one so I can imagine what life would be like in them. One house across the street catches my eye. It is the house with the bright red door. It seems odd that this house would have a bright red door but I want to continue looking at it because I like the color. I don’t have my glasses on but the siding appears to be rust colors on gray stone. On one side is a rectangular window and the other side has a bay window. There is a flag hanging proudly near the front door. On top of that house is an old stone chimney. Why the red door? When I finish staring at the red door, I glance to the house on the right. This house also intrigues me. From where I am sitting, I can only see the side of the house and parts of the screened in sun porch. There are no bright colors on the door but this has it’s own unique personality. It is a home of historical interest that has outlived the family that owned it. Although it sits empty for now, I know that it will soon be cared for, lived in and loved. The possibilities are endless. I look forward to the next time I visit this porch. Who knows what I’ll notice.

The hell of Nursing School

Everyone has their own hardships in life. I’ve had my own as well. Getting through nursing school was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I was young, immature and I thought I knew everything when in reality I knew nothing. Luckily I had nursing instructors that were scary and hard on me but taught me to be a good nurse. A safe, effective, kind and caring nurse. I was also fortunate to have made a nice group of friends in the dorm that walked beside me through the hell of nursing school. We had our good times and bad but we all made it through that nursing program. After graduation we lost touch as people do but were able to reconnect on facebook years later.

I’m sorry to say that today I learned one of these girls passed away yesterday at the young age of 49. Hearing of people passing away at a young age only makes me even more thankful for my life as it is and the people in it. I was at our community swimming pool with my family when I learned of my friend’s passing. After a few minutes of communication with another nursing school classmate, I did the best thing I could do at moment. I got in the water and played catch with my kids and their friends. I knew that somewhere through that blue sky my friend was smiling down at me. Rest easy JHSON class of 1994 friend.

Through the Woods

I don’t consider myself a skilled outdoorsman by any means. I’ve never been camping. I can’t build a fire. I’ve never shot a gun. I don’t believe in hunting innocent deer, rabbits and squirrels for game or even eating the fish we catch. I do appreciate being outside in the sunshine, rain or snow. With my family, I enjoy fishing, hiking and being on the water. When my son suggested hiking this morning I did not object. I was beginning to have a craving for it. I’m not sure if this particular craving for nature stemmed from recently watching multiple episodes of Mountain Man on The History Channel or if my subconscious mind was telling me it was time to get a nature fix.

We arrived at our favorite hiking location, checked the map and chose a trail. This time we chose a circular trail that we’d never been on before. On this trail, we’d pass our favorite part of the river and continue on further reaching a lost pool and wrapping around in a circle to return to our starting point. The sky was cloudy and gray when we started out. There was a slight drizzle of rain but the trees sheltered us from it. The sound of passing cars slowly faded away and was replaced by singing birds and rain on the trees. As we walked I deeply inhaled the smell of fallen leaves, the damp earth and the moisture in the air from the river and the rain. We dodged spider webs, walked over branches and through the mud. The clear river flowed in the direction of where were going, showing us the way, beckoning me to be part of it just as it does each time we visit. As we crossed a small portion of the river, instead of walking over rocks to avoid getting my feet wet, I walked through the water feeling it enter my hiking boots, soak my socks and refresh my feet. We proceeded on to our favorite part of the river where we like climbing over large rocks to observe the rough current. After a few minutes we went further into the woods in search of the lost pool. We kept going after we found it. As we continued on my husband realized this trail was longer than what the map indicated and we weren’t even close to the end. The rain was coming hard now and the trees could no longer shelter us. I found myself becoming frustrated because it felt like we were lost even though my husband said we were still on the trail. We turned around and started walking in the direction we came. I focused on walking quickly through muddy puddles and jumping over branches as if I was in an obstacle coarse. Finally we approached the portion of the woods that was familiar to me, that I knew would lead us out of there. I relaxed and enjoyed the trail and physical challenge of the hike. Once again I allowed the river to soak my feet as we crossed it and continued on. We finally reached the end and found our car. My muscles ached. I was soaked and looking forward to a shower and hot coffee but I felt rejuvenated and ready to face the outside world again.

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