Friday, April 22, 2016

The Golden Piano

I don't remember where this piano came from but I do know this: I kept it in hopes that someday I'd have a real grand piano. They say that having a picture or some kind of visual of your dream is a good way to keep it alive. So I held on to this little golden piano.

Now, I'm parting with it. It's item # 30 on my list of "50 things to part with before I'm 50".  My dream has come true. I can part with the little metal replica of what I really longed for.

Another piano I will be parting with soon is the first piano I ever played. It was my Mother's first and only piano. She bought it as a young woman with her own money. It will be item # 50 and will be re-located to the home of my Mother's first daughter-in-law.  Nancy married my Mother's first-born son who was killed in a tragic farm accident when he was 26. I'm glad she can keep it.

I have to say that this has been one of the more difficult things to part with on my list, even though I thought I was ready.  Yesterday, I dusted it off to get it ready for it's new home and I was a bit emotional.

I don't know that I was actually playing the piano in this picture. LOL!
My Mother says I just wanted my picture taken!  So she dressed me up and curled my hair. 
I was happy as could be on this piano until one day my piano teacher bought a beautiful Yamaha baby grand and I was no longer content with our Wurlitzer.  From the first moment I laid eyes on that baby, I wanted one. I started praying for one and have kept on asking for over 30 years.

Playing a duet with Donna Houser - my piano teacher (on her baby grand).
Preparing for my senior recital on the Yamaha at Mrs. Houser's home.
On February 6, 2013, my very own baby grand arrived at my studio. It was my Mother's birthday and we had a frightful snow storm, but the piano movers braved the roads and came anyway.  My prayers had been answered.

My very own Yamaha baby grand.
My kitten loved the piano too.  She'd spend hours on the lid gazing out the window.
Bad kitten!
Finding the baby grand has a unique backstory.

After suffering from debilitating depression, I decided to see a counselor who encouraged me to do something I loved to do as child. Clearly, that was ice skating. "I want you to go ice skating", she said. That's not what I expected to hear from a professional therapist. But I took her advice to heart - about a year after she suggested it.  I know, I'm a little slow. What good could that possibly really do anyway, I wondered.

I had always loved ice skating, but this time, when I stepped onto the rink during a public skate session, something happened inside me. I could feel a new electricity and an idea was borne. A week later, I was at a rink in Harrisburg, at 6:00 a.m. with a new pair of skates and a determination to learn how to figure skate - for real!

In the following weeks, my husband and I sat down and decided that if I was really going to pursue the dream of doing a big Christmas concert, I should have a grand piano to practice on. He would contact our local bank and start the process of borrowing the money to buy one. We prefer not to borrow money, but for some reason, my husband was open to this idea.

We decided together how much we could afford to borrow and went on with our day. I kept going to the rink as usual and he promised to make arrangements with the bank.

One morning, about two weeks into my skating endeavor, I walked into the rink and my coach began a conversation with me.

"Hey - you're a musician - do you know of anyone who might want a grand piano?"

"Well........I might.  What kind of piano?"

"It's a Yamaha, baby grand."

"What color is it?" (I had my heart set on a shiny black one just like my teacher's.)

"It's shiny black", he said in his adorable British accent.

The next morning after skating, I went to his house and played the piano. It was the perfect size for my little studio. It was everything I had wished for. As it turns out, he and his family were moving back to England and didn't want to risk moving the piano across the ocean. This was a fact he couldn't tell me at the time when I asked why they were selling it. Due to privacy issues with a new job he was taking in the UK, he couldn't tell me anything.  

The good news is, I got a piano and the bad news is, I lost my coach. But that's a different story.
He took what we offered and it was such a great deal, we didn't have to borrow the money after all.

Do you have a dream?

Find a small replica or picture of that dream and keep it where you can see it often.

Don't give up on it. Enjoy the journey until it comes true. I know - that seems like an oxymoron when I've been suggesting we let go of things - but there is a time and place for holding on to something that represents a future dream or goal. Trust your instincts when evaluating your "stuff".

From the Wurlitzer, to the Yamaha at my teacher's home, to the golden piano to help me hold on to my dream, to the figure all ties together. It's the beauty of accumulating something and then being able to let go.

It's a beautiful thing to let go of old things and make room for the new. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

High Voltage Dress. BEWARE!

There are 2 yellow dresses hanging in my closet. One used to be full of electrical charge and the other is just a yellow dress.

As I part with "things" I'm learning a lot about why I hold on to stuff.

I look at it this way: every item has varying degrees of voltage. Some things are loaded with emotion and memories and are very "alive" with emotional electricity.  Other things have no voltage whatsoever and getting rid of them is as painless as grabbing a wire that has been cut off from the power supply. There is no life left in it and you receive no harm to your physical body by touching it. Therefore, it's no big deal to let it go.

The dress on the left (above) was a very special dress. I felt really pretty in it. Besides the fact that yellow was my Mother's favorite color, I was very slim at the time I purchased it and I wore it for my very first CD release concert "Under The Big Blue Sky". I even had special yellow shoes to match.

Wearing my yellow dress at my first CD release concert in 2000.
To this day, having matching shoes always feels like a luxury item to me because I rarely had special shoes to match an outfit when I was growing up. They were either white for summer or black for winter. When I have a pair of shoes that perfectly matches a special dress, I feel extra lucky.

One day, my Mother and I were driving somewhere in the car together. In what seemed like a random act, she reached over with her index finger and poked my thigh. "You're getting fat", she said. I was horrified. My Mother had never spoken to me about my weight. I don't tell this to condemn her because, honestly, I've said some things in my lifetime that have shocked me and have been just about as horrible, so it's only to give you a sense of how words, formed like seeds, can be planted, take root and grow - no matter who says them!

I don't recall much after that, but I can tell you that a long time later I was getting ready for a concert in Canada at a church and I will never forget putting on my special yellow dress and suddenly realizing that the skirt was very tight in my thigh area. A very horrific feeling came over me. Had I really gained that much weight?

From that day on, the yellow dress became a measuring stick for me. If the skirt was too tight, I sunk into deep shame. I began to be very self-conscious about my weight and how my clothes fit...or didn't fit. I'll never forget the bathroom in the church where I first became aware and overly concerned. I don't even remember much of the concert, just that moment in the bathroom.

I began a slow descent into obsession with weight gain/loss. I began to be afraid that every bite I ate (even healthy) was going to immediately jump from my mouth right to my thighs. I remember reading Karen Carpenter's story and her struggle with an eating disorder. At the time I read about it, I pitied her but could not relate to her. Years later, I found myself struggling with some of the same issues.

A few weeks ago when I spotted that same yellow dress in my closet, I pulled it out and smiled. Ah yes. It was always full of sparks in years gone by. I remembered the apprehension I'd feel when I'd start to put it on - wondering if I could fit into it or not. If I could, I felt relieved. If I couldn't fit into it, I felt ashamed and overwhelmed.

The downward spiral would begin.

I've been on a journey for the past year. I'm learning to eat well, exercise regularly and make healthy choices, for healthy reasons and stick to it! Our bodies benefit from healthy choices no matter the reasoning, but it leaves our soul in poor condition when we are making good choices for the wrong reason. We can become obsessed with how we look (or don't look). And I've been there.

You may or may not remember my post about The CSD Diet.  (The Christmas Show Dress Diet.) The goal I set last year has been reached but in a much healthier way, thanks to much prayer and perseverance. I've lost 20 pounds and been able to keep it off. But it's not over. I have to continue to make good choices - and for the right reasons! That's no small task, as many of us know.

I'm ready to let go of the yellow dress. The sparks that came from that dress no longer exist. I look at the dress and smile and I feel ready to move on. I'm not even going to try it on. It's moving out of my closet and my life!

I know that letting go of stuff is hard. Now I'm starting to see why. It usually goes much deeper than just a fond memory. So here's what I'd suggest if you want to get rid of things but are having a hard time.

1.) Start with easy things - like a hair pin or sock that has a hole in it.

2.) Keep a list of what you are getting rid of. (Keeping a list can make you feel accomplished!)

3.) Ask "why" is this hard to let go of when you get to more difficult things.

4.) Sit down and write out what that item means to you - the memories you have associated with it and you may begin to find it's importance is much deeper than you thought. You may associate that item with a death, a life or the day you lost your job.

5.) If there is a big electrical charge in an item and you just can't let go, it's ok. No judgement! The day will come when you can let go.

6.) Choose a number to start with: 5 things, 10 things, 50....whatever you want!!! The key is to just start.

7.) Have fun! It can be amazing to let things go.

Open your life to a new era.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

On my Way to 50 and Loving it!

Recently I posted a blog about turning 50: "50 Things to Trash Before Turning 50". I decided to start getting rid of stuff before my birthday. Just another two weeks and I'll be turning the big 50 and I just threw away item # 25 and it sure feels good. I challenged others to do the same thing and a friend told me she's getting rid of 70 things before May - when she turns 70. I love it! That's what I'm talking about.

Some things are very hard to let go of - like my yellow dress. It's more than a dress. It was a measuring stick for my self-esteem and letting go of it is very significant. I'll be blogging about that soon. But there are things that are very easy to let go of so it's fun to see the list of things grow as I let go and grow with it.

50th wedding anniversary present given to my grandparents in 1966.
Today I found this relic from days gone by and I decided to keep it (for now) to help bring in my new year. It's a candle holder that my grandparents were given on their 50th wedding anniversary in May of 1966. I would have been 1 month old at the time of their party.

I was named after my grandmother, Frances Wingert Sollenberger.

When I look at their anniversary memento, I remember them and think about how much life they had already experienced by the time I was born.

Avery and Frances Sollenberger with children Chester and Bertha (my mother).
Then I think about the life I've lived and how I want to live after I turn 50. As I take an inventory of things inside and out I open up my life for new days, new things and new experiences. I can hardly wait!

I'm making space for a new season and welcoming new possibilities!

Are you throwing things away yet?

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Oops - I Hit the Easter Bunny.

Last week I mentioned that I was going to blog about getting rid of 50 things before I turn 50. I'm still working away at my list and I will write more about that soon. It's a very interesting process! But something happened on Sunday that caused me to take a rabbit trail this week and I decided to write about my experience.

This past Easter Sunday I hit a rabbit when I was on my way to the gym for a workout before heading to the church to finalize everything for our special Easter services. Some people said I hit the Easter bunny. I don't know for sure, but if you didn't get any candy, it could be my fault. Sorry.

I love to workout on Sunday mornings for two reasons:

a) The gym is EMPTY!  I have it all to myself.
b) It energizes me for the rehearsals and services that lay ahead.

It was still dark and before I could blink, the rabbit darted toward my van. I just kept going. No swerving, no ducking and no crying. Though I did gasp.

It darted back to the side of the road and then back out again. THUMP.  No more Easter bunny.

Instantly, my mind flashed back to an episode I had many years ago where I had a different encounter with a rabbit and was in such a bad state I just wanted to die.

That day, my heart was pounding because I swerved to miss the rabbit and almost hit a semi head on. The bigger problem was that I didn't care if I died. In fact, I secretly wished that I would. I was struggling with severe depression.

I remember thinking to myself, "if I don't swerve, I will hit the rabbit. But if I do swerve, my life could be over."  In a split second I had a decision to make. My life or the rabbit.

I love animals and I go into great emotional distress if I hit one on the road so I usually swerve like crazy to miss! But when I realized that I actually didn't care if the semi hit me and ended my life, I knew that the depression had plunged to an alarming depth. I had become so hopeless that death seemed like the only relief in sight.

Then, logic kicked in and I swerved to miss the bunny AND the truck.

Though I certainly don't relish killing the rabbit this past Sunday, I want to celebrate an obvious sign of progress in my life.  I chose my safety and life over the bunny's this time. I love my life now. I feel so different on the inside, it's as if I'm a different person. It didn't happen overnight, but I appreciate all that I've learned in the process.

Are there days when I still get down? Absolutely! But it's very different than depression. Because of that alarming experience years ago, (and other similar experiences) I paid attention to the warning signs.  I began taking some serious steps to get help and I'm so glad I did.

Here are some tips I learned along the way:

1) Listen to your family.

If they keep telling you that you need help, they are probably right. They know you and love you. Don't write them off.

2) Go get help. Professional help.

Call a friend (if you have to) and ask them to go with you to see a counselor.

3) Pay attention to the advice of the counselor.

Counseling only does good if you listen and apply their recommendations. And give it time!

4) Pray a lot!

Even when you feel like no one is listening. Keep praying, seeking and asking. God is working in ways you can't even imagine and He is working for your good.  It might take a lot of hard work, but it will be worth it.

I remember wishing I could just take a pill and feel better, or better yet, have God zap me and instantly be better.  There are times when He does a miracle and I've experienced some of those times, but for the most part, it seems like we have to walk the hard road and dig deep. But we can come out of the pit with new awareness and tools that help us start walking in healing and wholeness.
It's a lot like training the physical body. You have to keep working at it. You can't expect significant changes overnight.

Yep - I hit the Easter bunny. And though I mourn his loss, I celebrate my own life and healing. On Sunday I sang a solo with the choir :

"It's still the cross
 it's still the blood of Calvary that cleanses sin 
and sets the captive free"

by Mike Harland, Luke Garrett, Buddy Mullins, and Niles Borop

....and I sang it from the bottom of my heart.

He still sets the captives free and I'm one of those that has lived to tell it.

Friday, March 25, 2016

50 Things to Trash Before I'm 50.

It's just a blue dress right?

Then why is it so hard to throw it away?

I think it's partly because it means something to me, no matter how trite it might appear to someone else. But I'm determined to clean out the clutter in my house while I continue to clean out the clutter in my soul and work on my life values.

Last week I was in Nashville for another photo shoot and for one of the sessions, the photographer put me in a completely white space.  Nothing on the walls or floors.  No windows, furniture, nothing. I felt so free and creative in that moment that it made me want to follow through with something I've wanted to do for a long time: clear out the clutter in my house.

I've been removing clutter from my soul and my schedule and now it's time to take another step. My living studio. There is something about cleaning out clutter in the natural world that helps me clean out the clutter in the spiritual world.

I also want to get more focused about creating music. I want to create in spaces that make no suggestions to me. (I'm not sure I'm explaining myself well, but perhaps you might identify.) If not, just let me ramble. It helps me figure things out.  : )

I'm still figuring all of this out as I go.

I'll soon be turning 50 and as a way to prepare, I've decided to get rid of 50 things from now until my birthday.

I have 33 days.

I'm parting with "old things" to make space for a "new me".

Every week, I'll take a picture of things I've parted with and share them here in the blog as a salute to those "things".

I'll also share why it was hard to let go. (After all, it helps me sort through my feelings.)

As I'm getting rid of stuff, I'll make note of what it meant to me and then move on.

The blues dress in this photo is now in the trash can and will be burned this afternoon.

There, I did it.

Item # 1.


In the above picture, we had attended a wedding and though I can't remember who was getting married, I remember how I felt in that dress.

I LOVE that dress because:
  • when I wear it I feel pretty
  • it makes my blue eyes pop
  • it's lined with it's own fancy lining
  • it's very slimming
But yesterday I tried it on (with Easter Sunday in mind) and the shoulder pads made me look like a football player. (I may try many new things when I turn 50, but football will not be one of them.)

No matter how much I love the dress, it's time to part with it. I'm not a fashion guru, but I'm pretty sure jumbo-size shoulder pads are not in style.

So there it is.  I took a deep breath and said goodbye to the blue dress. I celebrate the times I got to wear it and now I will enjoy one less dress in my closet.

How about you?

Want to celebrate my birthday with me and take on the "50 things to trash before I'm 50" challenge?  

Monday, February 29, 2016

Do You Love Yourself?

You shall love—
“love the Eternal One your God with everything you have: 
all your heart, 
all your soul, 
all your strength, 
and all your mind”

—and “love your neighbor as yourself.” 

I've grown up hearing this verse and trying to live it all my life. Sometimes it seemed like this was the one place where we were given permission to "love yourself". But it was usually a slight mention, so it felt a bit self-indulgent to truly think about that part of the verse. It's simply a tag line anyway isn't it? An afterthought?
Picture a lake full of liquid love; a loving yourself kind-of-love. "Please feel free to dip your little toe in it, but don't jump in with both feet because that would mean you are totally self-indulgent."

Doing the "life value" exercise I've been doing feels like going skinny dipping in a lake I've danced around all my life but was too afraid to let myself experience.

I have been given permission to swim unrestrained and let the waters engulf every part of me. What a transforming experience this has been.

Now, I ask you. Do you love yourself? 

And what does loving yourself have to do with loving your neighbor? 

What if you don't really like who you are? 

Does it have an impact on how you love God and others?

Perhaps what I didn't understand was the difference between your beautifully created soul/self and your egotistical self.  I was so afraid of having an ego that I was afraid to even think about "loving yourself". Perhaps I just perceived things through a child's mind and didn't get the whole picture.

I'm beginning to see now that part of the journey of discovering your life values has a lot to do with embracing the beautiful soul you were created to be. As I've gone through this process and have discovered (in a deeper way) who Frances is, it's almost as if all my life I have been auditioning to be Frances Drost but never really got the job because I've never been sure who she was.

"Frances" means "free one". I've never been good at being free. But I'm turning 50 in a couple of months and I'm very excited. I finally feel qualified to be me and there's no better way to celebrate this huge milestone than to turn 50 and embrace the freedom I'm finding.

Part of me wants to throw away all my old clothes - completely rid my closet and drawers of all the old wardrobe and stock it with different (doesn't have to be brand new) just new and different for me. The sole purpose would be to start my new position as "Frances Drost". It would be a symbolic act of shedding the old me and embracing the new. No more black clothes - how about bright blues, pinks and reds??? My budget doesn't allow for that, but I can put on a new attitude.

I think I can finally fill my shoes.  

So in light of all this, I'm wrapping up this segment of life values by sharing mine here. These are certainly a work in progress so it's not like I'm "done". But I have a clearly defined vision of who I am and that is helping to steer everything about my life. I've added action statements to help me stay on track.

1.) Well-being

- a good or satisfactory condition of existence; a state characterized by health, happiness, and prosperity; welfare:

Because I value well-being:

I will take care of my body by exercising and eating well.
I will take care of my spirit by prayer and scripture meditation.
I will take care of my soul by pursuing soul development through life-long learning and creation, especially as it relates to music and songwriting.

2.) Beauty

- the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind, whether arising from sensory manifestations (as shape, color, sound, etc.), a meaningful design or pattern, or something else (as a personality in which high spiritual qualities are manifest).

Because I value beauty:

I will do what I can to make my heart beautiful. (scripture and prayer)
I will do what I can to make my body beautiful. (exercise and healthy eating)
I will do what I can to make my soul beautiful.  (learning and creating)

3.) Authenticity

- true to one's own personality, spirit, or character

Because I value authenticity:

I will do all I can to learn who Frances is.
I will do all I can to stay true to who Frances was created to be.
I will do all I can to be authentic in my writing, speaking and living.

4.)  Solitude

- a state or situation in which you are alone usually because you want to be

Because I value solitude:

I will not shy away from my preference to be alone.
I will embrace the understanding that I create best when I am alone and do all I can to make the most of aloneness.

"Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, 
and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless 
until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again." 
God will make this happen, 
for he who calls you is faithful.
I Thessalonians 5:23-24

I ask you again, do you love yourself? Your beautiful self - created in the image of God?

You can start by using the exercises I've mentioned in the previous blog post "Day of Delight". It's a good place to start to get to know who you really are, for how can you love someone you do not know? You could start by researching the meaning of your name.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Too Gray or not too Gray??

Here are a few responses I thought worth noting from last week's blog post "Should I Keep My Gray Hair?" 

Various age groups are represented here, and I appreciate each perspective.

1) "Hair and clothes are window dressing and can invite or turn away."

2) "Since you asked our opinions, ultimately whatever you decide is fine with me and it’s your decision, but I think you should cover the grey. Here’s why: Not because I don’t think you look beautiful with the grey, because when I see you, your wonderful self sparkles through all that and I don’t even notice the grey. But I agree with your producer/publicist that it may, probably will, hinder your career.

Unfortunately, people are (and we all are to some extent) affected by looks, youthfulness, the whole shh-bang. And when you have a “still” image as in a photo, what you see is what you see. Your life and inner beauty and sparkle don’t come through as much in a photo as they do in person. So the grey becomes more obvious even may stand out disproportionately, especially to someone who doesn’t know you."

3) "As far as authenticity, in this day and age I can’t imagine anyone thinking you’re in-genuine just because you cover a few grey hairs."

4) "To be fair, some performance contracts obligate coloring of hair, both for men and women if they have grey. There is a certain "look" that is better received, a certain polished makeup style, poise etc that is expected. I think your grey hair is nice grey; I don't really notice it because it blends in. Some young artists color their hair grey, Sarah Brightman a few years back did; some others as well. But I still think it is easier to promote yourself with non-grey hair."

5) "Just because you asked, I vote to keep the gray. "Gray hair is a crown of spender; obtained by living a righteous life." In my opinion, there are few people who have been so appropriately coronated. Wear your crown with honor. It is evidence of a long, blessed life."

6) "I love my gray hair. It looks like silver jewelry to me and every time I see it think about the years of life and love it took to make them gray. I'm almost 50 and have loved older, wiser women since I was in my 20's. Our culture's obsession with looking youthful instead of being healthy and wise is damaging. We've lost the love and honor that wells up in our heart when we see deep lines and white hair. We should say to ourselves..."Wow, there is a lifetime of love and perseverance in those lines." I am a fan of gray."

I've made my decision. 

My photo shoot in March will unveil the "Brand New Me."