Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Mrs. Hanks

On the second day

On the second day
Four men plus one disconnect
Our important lifelines
Most painful was the internet
Which drives me into my
One size fits all office and
Temporary bedroom
Hoping for a quiet moment
In which to write a line or two

Already marked off my list
For the day – one lovely walk
In this end of summer weather
Accompanied by incessant
Mowing and sawing and pounding
Plus the nearly total absence
Of children now gathered
Inside school rooms bursting with
Joy and unexpressed sadness

Agony seeps beneath closed doors
Daily flooding the earth in
Sorrow and tears of pain
Drenching carefully chosen outfits
And routines that proclaim
All is well especially when it
Isn’t and we’ve forgotten how
To accompany one another
Through these trying seasons

I walked by the grade school this morning, thinking about burdens children carry to school. Not huge book-bags, but things like hunger for food, for peace at home, a best friend or an adult willing to listen and cheer them on. The kind I had when I was 9 years old. Her name was Mrs. Hanks. She taught me much more than how to play the piano with grace and joy.

As you can see, our internet connection is back. I’m relieved, though the electrical work is taking longer than anticipated. It’s an old house, designed by a carpenter in the mid-1900s for his wife and family of many children. It’s full of wonderful bits, and some not so wonderful realities such as strange wiring patterns and lack of attention to squaring things off.

The contractors just left. Time to release Smudge from his laundry room penthouse, and get on with what’s left of today.


© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 September 2019
Photo of Mrs. Hanks and me, taken by JERenich in Spring 1960

Making music from my heart

Last November I gave myself a 75th birthday gift – a piano coach! So here’s an update on my progress so far.

  1. I’m totally motivated to play the piano, though not the way I used to play it.
  2. Though I haven’t yet met with my new piano coach, I’ll soon begin working with him once a month.
  3. I’ve gone through most of my piano collections, have chosen five for starters, and am already practicing regularly from them.
  4. I’ve also been reading The Art of Practicing: A Guide to Making Music from the Heart, by Madeline Bruser. It’s phenomenal. Just what I need right now.
  5. Not surprisingly, my attitude toward life in general is changing, too. More from the heart, less from my to-do lists.
  6. My happiness/contentment quotient is on the rise.

Below are the five collections I chose for starters. I first worked with them in the 1950s when Mrs. Hanks was my piano teacher.

  • J.S. Bach: Two-Part Inventions, and The Well-Tempered Clavichord (Book 1)
  • Frederic Chopin: Preludes for the Piano (Book IX)
  • Felix Mendelssohn: Songs Without Words
  • Pianorama of the World’s Favorite Dances, compiled & arranged by Denes Agay for Piano

Here are three things I’m working on from The Art of Practicing.

  1. Mistakes (when playing the piano) are part of life. They aren’t the end of the world. Get used to them, and get comfortable with other people hearing you make them. I don’t like this, but I’m learning to live with it.
  2. Speed and agility will (or will not) come in time as my fingers are (or are not) ready. Forcing things, or assuming I can do now what I did 60 years ago) only makes things worse. As I already know. Sigh.
  3. Don’t get in a tizzy about speed and dynamics. Slow down. Ignore dynamics for now. Do what you can from your heart. Love the sound of each note and listen for the music within, not for what seems to be on the page in front of you. Trust your fingers to let you know when they’re ready. Magical!

Finally, I’m learning to accept the hands and flexibility I have now. This means some music I used to play is beyond me. No amount of forcing my fingers will guarantee the return of my youthful fingers. On the other hand, I just might be surprised down the road if I’m willing to take it slowly, without super-expectations.

Thanks for visiting, and Happy Wednesday to each of you!

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 January 2019
Image found at

A Birthday Gift to Myself

Dear Friends,

Yesterday I turned 75. No fanfare. Just a quiet day at home enjoying my retirement family: D, Smudge and Marie. Plus telephone conversations with our two children. And a walk outside with D in cold, windy weather.

At this age there aren’t many things I want for myself. Nonetheless, during a conversation with a friend earlier this week I identified something I’ve wanted all my life.

When I was 15 years old Mrs. Hanks, my piano teacher from when I was 9, asked about my plans after high school graduation.

‘I’m thinking about going to Bible college.’

‘Have you ever thought about going to a music conservatory and majoring in piano?’

Fear gripped my heart. I would love to do this! Yet I had no confidence in myself beyond what I’d already done, and no vision for what this might mean for me.

Mrs. Hanks said she had a friend teaching in the best music program in the state of Georgia. In fact, she’d already spoken with her, and this woman would be delighted to meet me and talk with me about scholarship possibilities.

When I told my parents about this, my father said he thought I would be better ready for life if I enrolled in a Bible college in South Carolina. Some of my friends had already studied there, and he was certain I would get a good education there.

I felt torn between fear and excitement about the unknown, and my desperate need not to fail. I also knew I would make it at the Bible college. So I chose the Bible college.

Many times I’ve looked back at that decision and wondered what might have been. Music has always been where my heart feels most at home.

Thankfully, beginning with the Bible college, music has always been part of my life. Sometimes for pay; sometimes as a volunteer. Even when I was a professor and dean at the seminary, music informed everything I did. It made its way into my thought processes, the way I said or wrote things, my imagination about this world, and about this huge universe presided over by the Greatest Musician of All.

Now I’m 75. My fingers and reflexes aren’t what they used to be. Even so, I long to recover some of the freedom I used to have at the keyboard.

Even more important, my mother wanted me to become a musician. Not a famous musician, but the musician she already heard in me at age 5 when she began teaching me to play the piano.

So a few days ago I contacted a musician friend and asked her to recommend a piano coach for me. Someone who can help me, at this age, to regain some of what the years have taken. My happy birthday gift to myself. And maybe for my mother.

Right now I’m a 75-year old kid who can’t wait to open a present I’ve wanted for too many years!

Thanks for listening,

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 21 November 2018
Photo found at

The Dean and I | Part 5


Oasis in Libya

I can’t believe how much I’m enjoying this series! I thought it would be over and done with by now. But my mind keeps remembering things I want to tell you about.

Working for Mr. Griswold was an incredibly positive experience during the early years of our marriage. For me, it was a milestone.

I wasn’t yet 25 years old. In some ways, my experience with Mr. Griswold is similar to my experience with Mrs. Hanks, my piano teacher from age 9 through 16. Both knew and accepted me just as I was, yet didn’t leave me there.

As for Mr. Griswold, here’s a man I can trust! That’s so big I could just stop right here and cry my eyes out. They’re already tearing up.

It isn’t about his age or how he looks, or even who he is and what he does. It’s that he’s the exact opposite of my First Boss. I’ve gone from the worst boss I ever had to the best boss I ever had! What are the chances of that happening?

Back then I didn’t know he was my best boss ever. But now, decades later, looking back at the mostly male bosses I’ve worked for and with, Mr. Griswold stands at the top of the list.

Mr. Griswold helped me become the person I am. He wasn’t the only boss who did that. Still, when it comes to integrity, excellence, humanity and trustworthiness, he was the Best.

I didn’t know back then that I’d end up becoming an educator—a professor, and then a dean. I would have laughed in your face if you’d suggested this possibility. Crazy! Yet I clearly absorbed something that carried over a bit from those years of working in Mr. Griswold’s office.

Being on his team wasn’t always easy. The workload was constant. I didn’t sit around twiddling my thumbs, wondering what I might do next.

At the same time, I never felt I was doing it all by myself, without adequate support, or without genuine affirmation from Mr. Griswold. He and my coworkers knew what I was doing and the value of my work. Just as I knew what they were doing and the value of their work.

This was a huge gift. It grew me up as an employee. It’s the point at which I came of age. An adult. Responsible and mature, even though I didn’t always feel I was.

This job also gave me a point of reference. I didn’t read about this in a book. I experienced it for myself! It wasn’t just pie in the sky by and by. It was evidence that a workplace could be life-giving instead of death-dealing.

I’m not saying it was heaven every day. It wasn’t. Sometimes we were stressed out by unexpected circumstances or by unexpected personality issues. Yet I never felt a co-worker was after me, or anything less than happy to have me on the team.

The last point I want to comment on is this. I wasn’t simply a new employee; I was a new wife. Just married! And also, by the way, in a brand new to me location, culture, city, academic community, church, you name it. It was NEW. Heavenly and hellish. Both at the same time.

I’ll say more about early marriage in later posts. Right now I just want to say this: Working in the dean’s office of the Harvard Law School was like finding an unexpected oasis in the middle of a sometimes vast and lonely desert.

When I arrived at work in the morning, coworkers knew my name, what I did, and how to interact with me. It didn’t happen overnight; but it happened quickly.

I needed that oasis. That safe place ‘where everybody knows my name.’ Cheers!

To be continued. . . .

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 April 2015
Photo from

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