Saturday, May 29, 2021

Missing You...on Memorial Day

“Now this is what we call a happy sad song,” the music professional [Jonathan] said in an affirmative tone as we sat in the prestigious Dark Horse Recording Studio in Nashville, Tennessee. My song, Missin’ You, had just received a thumbs up, so it seemed. I was watching his body language as studiously as he was listening to my songs. Not only was I studying the craft of songwriting…I was learning to “read” my audience. I liked what I saw.
Jonathan making notes.

Jonathan had been called in by my new producer [Eric] to listen to all of the songs I had been writing — looking for gems. They were listening to my babies and I felt vulnerable. The songs that made the cut would go on my upcoming recording project.

As a newcomer to the Nashville culture, I was both eager and nervous. I gazed out the wall-length window above the ominous soundboard. The outside lush spring-green landscape was strikingly similar to that of my home state of Pennsylvania and it comforted me. 
I had a fair number of sad songs (without the happy) in my notebook. I hadn’t realized just how many until after Jonathan’s final wrap-up sentence of the day: “you seem to write a lot of songs about death.” I had heard that same assessment from Eric the day before. Two different individuals, independent of each other, had made the same observation. It was unsettling news to me. 
I had a feeling that this pattern wasn’t necessarily a good thing. We laughed when Eric said, “We can call you The Grateful Dead.” I didn’t know who that group was. I laughed as if I did.
I squirmed in my chair, silently wondering: how on earth could it be? I made a mental note. Someday I must figure out why I write so many songs about death… But in the present moment, I needed to focus. Therapy would have to wait. They were giving me a songwriting lesson about happy sad songs.

While their explanation was supposed to be educational, I simultaneously felt like I was receiving a verbal award of accomplishment for writing this particular song. After all, it was different than my other sad songs. It was “happy.” I had managed to write sad feelings in a happy way, though I had done it unknowingly. The professionals seemed to approve. 

My mind drifted back to the day I wrote the song…

I am 36 years old, sitting in my backyard on a metal folding chair, guitar in hand, experiencing my first birthday without my father. I am missing him. 

I look at the lovely purple lilacs in front of me. I breathe in their sweet fragrance. It’s the first year the blooms have made it past a hard freeze since we planted the bush over a decade ago. It was a birthday gift from my parents. My very own perennial bouquet of lilacs for annual birthdays. 

Mysteriously, the bush is choosing to bloom the first year after my father’s death. I receive it as a gift from him. Yet, there is a surge of grief accompanying the pleasantness of the moment. I strum my guitar as a lyric comes to mind. 

“Well we’ve seen another winter come and go…” 

I look at the lilacs again. 

“All the lilacs are blooming there’s no more snow…” 

I think back through the events leading up to his death. 

Less than two years earlier I released my very first recording project, Under The Big Blue Sky. Daddy was there for the release concert, supporting me. But not too long after that celebration, he began feeling ill. Months later, we found out why. He had cancer. 

I remember standing outside his hospital room trying to gain my composure. He too had just been given the news. I didn’t want him to see me cry.

Back in front of the lilac bush, I know what I want to say next. Lyrics flow effortlessly…

”But I miss you more than ever 
and the sayin’s not true
that time will heal 
‘cause I’ve been missin’ you.”

He was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma that summer and less than a year later, he was gone. In one short year, I witnessed the birth of my professional music career and the death of my father. Summer, fall, winter…

“Springtime reminds me of you
in the winter season
I’m thinking of you”

May 2021 marks the twentieth anniversary of Daddy’s death. Our last holiday together was Memorial Day. I should have known something was wrong when he could barely lift a piece of wood from the trunk of the car and carry it over to the BBQ pit. 

The morning after our family picnic, he started coughing up blood and died three days later on May 31, 2001. We were all there beside his bed, surrounding him, serenading him with hymns, including one of his favorites…Under His Wings.

This past week, knowing the 20th anniversary of his death approaches, I’ve been digging out my old photo albums — faded pictures of his youth, pets, his violin, weddings, births, reunions — snapshots of our family. Organizing them into a visual soundtrack to go with the song…

“and if time is a healer
then it’s moving pretty slow
‘cause I’ve seen another season
and I’m missin’ you.”

Click here to see the song. Or click the image below.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Mother's Day Musings from a Childless Musician

It's September 7, 2018 and I am on my way to Ontario, Canada, to participate in a "Mother's Blessing." My niece, Paige, is expecting her first baby and my sister, Aspen, has planned something unique. This isn't going to be a normal baby shower, if I know my sister.

Aspen will do all she can to make sure the women gathered will connect with each other on a "below-the-surface" level, even though some of us will be meeting each other for the first time. Our common bond is womanhood and Paige. We are there to celebrate and to offer emotional support in Paige's final stages of pregnancy.

At this gathering, we most likely won't be playing games (which is fine with me.) It will be filled with ceremonial-type experiences; singing, candles, sharing, laughter and tears. That's just the way my family is. 

My siblings and I were raised to contemplate. We went deep. Our conversations were usually centered around spirituality—serious matters. Our words and activities were chosen carefully. We continue that tradition, even today. So I know this upcoming occasion will be meaningful.

We've all been asked to come prepared to share nuggets of wisdom. (See what I mean?!) Not words written in a card or in the front of a baby book, but spoken out loud, in front of the group. Just the thought of this makes me nervous. I tend to be very quiet when I'm at a baby shower. I feel a single woman at a friend's wedding. 

I'm puzzled by this rush of feelings. As a musician who performs in front of people, I love sharing songs, stories and life-experiences (wisdom) with audiences. But for some reason, I feel very inadequate and unworthy to give advice in this scenario. 

As I drive through the mountains near Williamsport, PA, I realize I probably feel inadequate because I'm not a mother. I've never conceived or given birth to a human. I'm a daughter, sister, aunt (even a great, great one) and wife. But I'm not a mother and I'll never be a grandmother (a reality that I didn't fully grasp until my friends started having grandchildren.)

So as I'm making the eight hour trip, I ponder how to handle the upcoming gathering. I have plenty of time to think. 

A voice in my head says, "Who are you to share any wisdom with Paige? What could you possibly tell her? You don't know anything about being a mother. People will think you're stupid for even thinking you have anything to contribute. Your words will seem useless."

The childless part of me wants to turn around and go home. The aunt part of me keeps driving.

Another voice, more soft and barely discernible, seems to say, "Talk to her as a woman, not as a mother. Tell her what you wish you could tell every woman—mother or not. You've heard the lament of enough "empty-nesters" who say that once their babies grow up and leave, they [the mothers] wonder who they are and what their life will consist of beyond their family." 

The creative musician part of me thinks about writing a song. 

I pull into a McDonald's in Bath, New York, order a sausage, egg and cheese McMuffin (a treat usually reserved for road trips) and start writing. 

What is the one thing I want to tell Paige? It will take me the rest of the weekend in Canada to finish the song just in time for the celebration. 

As Mother's Day 2021 approaches, I still feel the complicated feelings many women feel at this time of year, on this weekend. But as I've had time to reflect and think about what I'd say to women in general, not just mothers, I'd still say what I said in this song to Paige...

And oh, by the way...Paige gave birth to a beautiful little girl named Nova Rose, on October 6, 2018. 

The song has not yet been professionally produced, so I feel like I'm showing you a newborn baby. 

Click HERE to listen. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Look at the Birds

I am standing in my kitchen, looking out the glass sliding door staring at the foot of snow that fell yesterday. The snow-covered woodpile next to our house (and under the bird feeder) makes a perfect ski slope for the birds. I'm smiling as I watch a few of them make their way up and down the slope. Do they know they are skiing?

The older we get, the more my husband and I enjoy these creatures...talking to them, caring for them and studying their habits. We've observed that birds seem to eat more when it snows. I feel like I can relate.

The last of the storm is spitting out a few more flakes, but I can't seem to enjoy the snow like I normally do. I feel anxious and worried. Again. 

I just received an email letting me know that a concert event I had scheduled for February has been cancelled. It's an unwanted reminder that things still aren't normal in our world and it's been almost a year. It's unusual to have anything scheduled these days so I shouldn't have been surprised, but I was disappointed. Is this what 2021 is going to be like?

I continue staring at the snow. My husband is standing beside me—having just finished his third cup of coffee. He's been outside plowing snow since 7:00 am this morning so that his shop can open for business by 8:00. I really appreciate his dedication to his work and offering another cup of coffee is the least I can do.

I was shoveling snow and feeding the birds while he plowed. I had hot chocolate.

Normally, I'm mesmerized by snow, but this morning my heart is distracted and I seem to be paying more attention to the birds than to the snow. The bright white snowy blanket has provided a beautiful backdrop to the various birds flocking to the feeder on this cold winter day; finches, cardinals, doves, sparrows, juncos, tufted titmouse and the Carolina wren.

"Look at the birds," I suddenly spoke out loud—which seems odd since that's exactly what we were doing. 

"They really show up against the snow," I continued. 

"Now we can see the markings more distinctly and identify them." As if my husband wouldn't know this.

As quickly as I said it, I remembered a phrase from scripture that I used to meditate on frequently: "Look at the birds. Don't worry about tomorrow. Take no thought for what you will eat or what you will wear." 

Ah yes. That's one of the reasons I've loved having birds around. They are a constant reminder that I don't need to worry about the future. Their melodies carried me through the initial challenges when COVID hit and all my events were being cancelled last spring. 

But today, I am simply drawn to their presence, not the songs. I take a breath and continue reflecting.

It took a lot of prayer and effort to keep my mind-set positive throughout 2020. I want to keep moving forward, looking for the positives—and there are's just harder to pull them up in this moment.

I suppose like everyone else, I was planning on 2021 bringing a brighter future—a return to normal. The cancellation this morning felt like Déjà vu, which these days threatens to bring a deeper sense of despair. What does this new landscape look like for a self-employed musician and others whose work has been obliterated by the pandemic? I've been innovating like crazy. Sometimes it gets tiring.

So this is one of the ways I'm currently dealing with pandemic-inflicted anxiety and fatigue. I can't change the circumstances it has created, but I CAN work at replacing the worrisome thoughts with the phrase "don't worry about tomorrow....look at the birds."

I pulled out the verse to refresh my heart and mind...

"Look at all the birds—do you think they worry about their existence? 
They don't plant or reap or store up food, 
yet your heavenly Father provides them each with food. 
Aren't you much more valuable to your Father than they? 
So, which one of you by worrying could add anything to your life?" Matt. 6:26-27 (TPT)

So here I am again. Looking at the birds and saying to myself..."Don't worry about tomorrow." 

If you're feeling a bit worried too, here's a solo piano piece I created called "Bird Song."


Thursday, January 28, 2021

'Chariots of Fire' Rekindles Hope

"When I run I feel his pleasure." That one phrase alone from the 1981 movie, Chariots of Fire, challenged the foundation of my beliefs. I wasn't used to thinking that God would take pleasure in something that we love to do. 

Though I would have never said this out loud as a child, my beliefs about God went something like this: The only time God had pleasure was when he first created man and woman. Then they "fell" in the garden. We've had to work ever since then to please him. Of course, I always felt like I came up short. 

However, during the viewing of that movie a long time ago, a seed was planted. It was a small seed of hope, but over the years it has sprouted and grown. The seedling has had to fight with all kinds of elements to keep growing and push its way to the surface, breaking through some tough thinking. But over time, I began to believe that it IS possible for us to feel God's pleasure when we do what we love. 

I had forgotten about the movie until one day when I was playing the piano in the lobby at PennState Health, someone requested the theme song from Chariots of Fire and as soon as I began to play it, I remembered the little seed and was amazed how much my thoughts have changed since I first saw the movie years ago. 

There are definitely certain songs that get an immediate reaction from the listener. I can see it clearly from my spot on the piano bench and I could see a flicker of light in their eyes as I played the simple but evocative melody. It seemed as if hearing the melody was stirring something very special in their soul. I felt it too. I wondered if they had the same reaction to the movie as I did.

Playing the piano at this venue every week allows me the luxury of paying very close attention to people and how they respond to songs. Unlike most of my concerts, where I share my story by creatively weaving stories, music, humor and media together (which I also love), this is the one time I can just sit down at the piano and play. 

I've added that theme song into my repertoire when I play at the hospital. I love to watch the reaction of those who pass by. One day I was playing the song and someone came over to the piano, with watery eyes and a shaky voice, obviously struck with emotion. He couldn't thank me enough. He tried to express what this meant to him but he really didn't need to say much. I saw that same familiar flicker of hope in his eyes. 

I think we could all benefit from the reminder that we each come with a unique gift and personality. There are thousands of piano players, but only one Frances Drost and how I might play a song is very different than the next pianist and that's what makes us each unique. 

You're the only one of YOU the world will ever know. I believe God loves it when you find what it is you love to do. And when you do THAT, he smiles with pleasure and I believe he is pleased because we are doing exactly what he created us to do.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The Kiss of Heaven

 Journal Entry March 18, 2020 - Wednesday

"Today, after my delightful bike ride at 8:00 am and some writing time at 4:30 am, as I read Song of Songs again, my heart seems a little more able to believe you love me than it did yesterday. I so long for more of you, Father. To rest in your love. To be a nurturer of others. To be a protective wall for my family, friends and community. Come to me. Kiss me. Show me when it is that I kiss you back. Spirit-kiss Divine, kiss me.

The home of Hit Pause
Today I'll be doing Facebook LIVE again. It's been very special as we sing hymns together. What an incredible opportunity right now with social media that I can sit at my grand piano in my studio and touch others with music. It's very special and beautiful and I find myself getting very emotional at times. 

Meet with us again today, Lord!"

P.S. When I read the Song of Songs, I enjoy reading it from The Passion Translation. The term Spirit-kiss is an interesting term and appears early in the first chapter. 

At the beginning of 2020, I had been asking the Lord for a phrase for the new year. It wasn't until the end of January that I felt like I heard Him reply. I had the privilege of hearing Brian Simmons, the lead translator for The Passion, in person. His challenge to us was to read Song of Songs and to "Let Him kiss you." God plus nothing. 

My heart reacted to that phrase and I began to pray that I would experience Divine kisses. I'm still learning what that means in my life but there are definitely moments that I sense such closeness from heaven that I would be willing to call it a "kiss". It happens most frequently on the piano keys....and I get the feeling that people in the room (or through the phone) can feel it too. In spite of the geographical distance, we somehow all connect. It's no different with God. His kisses aren't restricted by realms. 

May you somehow feel the kiss of heaven on you today.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Nothing to Lose?

 Journal entry March 17, 2020 - Tuesday

"All non-essential business are closed in Pennsylvania and 30 other states. I offered Facebook LIVE yesterday and plan to again today. Hymn sing online today using hymns that mention birds.... His Eye Is on the Sparrow... In the Garden... This Is My Father's World... 

I think I'll conclude with my Blessing Song. 

We can't get together "socially" in person, but we can online. 

[And so the daily "Hit Pause" program began. I had no idea it would continue for six months!] 

As I read Song of Songs again, Father, your love seems a tad closer and tangible today than yesterday. Sometimes it's as if these love-words bounce off my soul and I can't soak them in. But I'll keep pressing in to You my love. I long to be free and loved completely. So I pray this prayer: 

Song of Songs 4:16

Then may your awakening breath blow upon my life until I am fully yours.
Breathe upon me with your Spirit wind. 
Stir up the sweet spice of your life within me. 
Spare nothing as you make me your fruitful garden. 
Hold nothing back until I release your fragrance. 
Come walk with me as you walked with Adam in your paradise garden. 
Come taste the fruits of your life in me."

[I finished my journal entry with a quote from The Broken Road—Richard Paul Evans.] 

"It is that to which we cling that drags us to the bottom of the abyss. 
There is real power in having nothing to lose."

P.S. I had to have the attitude of "nothing to lose" when I started Hit Pause back in March. It was (and still is) such a different experience for me as a musician.  Sitting in front of my phone and sharing myself with the world, from my piano bench is challenging. It's much easier in person. 

But since that wasn't an option during this season, I kept on pressing through all the stuff that goes with using social media to connect with people. I had to set aside my own pride and fear. It turned out to be very rewarding. In fact, I think it kept many of us from the bottom of the abyss. 

As I come out of my "hibernation" (made necessary by working on Portraits of White 2020 At Home), I look forward to reconnecting with people and the week of Thanksgiving seems like a perfect time to do it. 

Friday, November 20, 2020

At Home

Are titles significant?

I believe they are!

Coming up with a subtitle for Portraits of White every year is a challenge. Even if ticket buyers never see a subtitle printed anywhere, it helps me focus and serves as a compass for the year's worth of necessary planning.

By Candlelight - 2019

For example, in 2019, once I decided on the title Portraits of White By Candlelight, I was able to imagine what the show would entail and could structure my ideas around those two words...By Candlelight. 

Ivory & Ice - 2020?

I was 95% sure that the subtitle for this year's Portraits of White would be Ivory & Ice. I was 100% determined to find a way to incorporate ice skating into the 2020 production. Since you'll see some footage of me skating in the DVD we've created, I guess you could say it sort of happened. Not quite the same but...

When I was a young girl, I had two loves...playing the piano and ice skating. The show has the potential to bring those two loves together IF I could just figure out a way to have the show at an ice rink. LOL!

You can see a mockup of our idea...a rough draft poster idea for what might have been.

When we landed on the subtitle Ivory & Ice, something else happened. All of my bells and whistles went off inside and I had the strange sensation that it could also be the title of a book perhaps?!

You see, there's a much bigger story behind the show than just the loss of my two brothers and my journey with Christmas. Something powerful happened to me when I took up figure skating the same year that I started the show in 2014. It's as if I stepped into a time machine, was transported back to my childhood to a place of freedom and joy. It had such a profound affect on me that it became the seed for my 2016 album release, Brand New Me.

I don't know if I'll actually ever really finish this book, let alone allow anyone to read it. I don't know if I'd actually end up calling it Ivory & Ice either. I DO know that I sense the need to write the story down, for my own sake. Writing organizes my emotional closet. I think you've heard me say that before. I've heard others say that too.

When COVID hit, I not only wrestled with parting with this year's subtitle idea, but it looked like the show itself wouldn't be happening. In fact, by August, I had given up on the show for 2020.

At Home - 2020!

My team had played around with various subtitle ideas appropriate for everyone's new 2020 "normal" and the moment someone suggested At Home, something inside me said, YES! Then, I got the DVD idea. I poured myself into the Portraits of White At Home idea and I am delighted to have something to offer that everyone can watch while they stay home this year. 

Now, as I start to recover from trying to cram a year's project into about four weeks, I find writing is a great way to rejuvenate the creative side of me and I've picked up my pencil again.

Now that you know all of that...this journal entry will make more sense.  ;-)

Journal entry: March 16, 2020 - Monday

"Sunday morning I got up and started writing my book "Ivory and Ice". I feel compelled to write it, now that I have a title and I've finished Robert McKee's book, Story. (Due to the Corona Virus, we didn't have church, though it was online.) 

Reading the intro of Richard Paul Evan's book, The Broken Road, has inspired/compelled me for the first time to START! I had inklings before, but it never felt quite right. When we came up with Ivory & Ice for Portraits of White, something clicked inside. 

I have pretty much been forced to put Portraits of White on hold with this virus. Trying to confirm a venue just got even more complicated. So it's on hold, which somehow frees up emotional space to write...or start writing my story. I pulled out more journals yesterday to research the one big inciting incident that began to separate mother and me. [A crucial part of my story.] It appears that it happened in 1997, but so far I can't find any writings on it. 

But one thing has become clear to me as I read back through my writings. I've sown a ton of seeds of prayer and scripture. It has certainly been my life-line. Yet, I feel as if I don't see much fruit as a result of it. In fact, in the natural, things look more bleak than ever. 

Father, do you hear me? Do you hear my cries? Am I totally missing something? If so, what? I keep calling out to you. Show me great and mighty things I haven't known or seen. Please. 

Father, I'm asking for an entire, strong, powerful encounter and outpouring of Your divine love."

Order your Portraits of White At Home DVD or USB HERE.