Our Engagement Story

On September 30, 2014, the love of my life asked me to marry him. Here’s the story!

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A bit of backstory: Bobby and I met in 2011 through church and became acquaintances and Facebook friends. After a series of events, each of them followed by me moving far away it seemed, Bobby decided to start pursuing me. After a few months of texting and a few visits to see each other, we decided it wasn’t going to work. But it didn’t take more than 24 hours to realize that, while long distance would be really hard, we couldn’t be satisfied with just staying friends. We became an official couple on January 27, 2014. I had recently moved to Iowa for a new job and he was (is) still in Maryland. We have visited each other twice since becoming a couple. He flew here once and I flew there once. After a lot of discussion (and nagging on my part), Bobby planned a trip to drive out here for a few days in late September.

Okay, now for the engagement story. Bobby arrived at my apartment on a Monday night. He had driven all day that day and most of the day before. His pit stop on the way to see me was at my brother’s house. What I didn’t know was he also made a pit stop to my father’s house to ask permission to marry me.

The first night of a reunited long distance couple is always wonderful. We just hung out, talked, cuddled, all the normal couple stuff we don’t ever get to do. Bobby was exhausted so we weren’t up late. The next morning I reluctantly got ready for work and kissed him good-bye.

When I came home for lunch, Bobby was stressing out about his drive home. He said that’s why he wasn’t hungry. This stood out to me because Bobby will always eat. He also mentioned that he was going to Wal-Mart that afternoon to get his snacks for the drive home. I remember thinking how odd it was that he was so focused on this, especially considering he had just gotten here and wasn’t leaving until Friday.

I went back to work thinking about all these things and started wondering if he was going to propose. I even thought of texting him at the end of the day just to let him know I was coming home so I could give him a warning in case he was planning something. About an hour later I got a text from Bobby saying, “Hey can you do me a favor and let me know when you’re on your way home?”

That’s when the butterflies started.

I nervously finished my work and texted Bobby as promised. I pulled into my apartment complex and looked up at my apartment but didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. I got my mail and walked up the steps, lugging my purse, work bag, and a grocery bag with dirty dishes from work. I put my key in the knob and opened the door.

The first thing I saw was a row of candles lit on my dining room table. The lights were off and there was soft music playing. Oh my gosh I was right! As I was processing what was happening, I gingerly and quietly unloaded all my bags and mail, took off my work badge, took off my shoes, and started walking towards the living room. I immediately saw my coffee table had candles on it that spelled “WILL YOU” and I think it was at that moment I put my hands up to my face (it’s so cliche but it was totally involuntary!) I peaked around the corner…

IMG_2265And there was Bobby, on his knee, holding out the ring. There was no speech, he simply asked, “Will you marry me?” I think my eyes were as big as saucers. I just looked at him and the ring for a few seconds and then said, “Yes!” in a tone as if saying, “of course!” He stood up and put the ring on my finger (we were both shaking) and then we hugged so tight! And kissed. A few times… And then we prayed.

We had already had the marriage discussion, so the mood was more giddy and exciting than take-your-breath-away shock and awe. The moment had finally come. And Bobby did it his own way, which I loved. It was so him.

The ring is a sapphire set in white gold. It’s exactly what I wanted!

Ever since then it’s been a whirlwind of talking to family, keeping up with social media, planning the wedding, and continuing to grow in our relationship together. Bobby had to leave that Friday to go back to the real world Maryland, but we did get to spend some really great quality time together while he was here.

Just goes to show – long distance is really hard, but it’s doable. If we can do it, anybody can do it!

I love you so much Bobby! You are my moon and my love forever!

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Anecdotes

A few of the many amazing stories I have found myself in these past 6 weeks of my internship:

Dang my Rowdy Soul

My second week we visited a newly admitted patient in her home. Her quality of life was very low and she was unresponsive to us and our music therapy, but we knew the husband would benefit, which is perfectly appropriate in hospice. After we explained what music therapy was, the husband told us what his wife likes, and also mentioned a song that he was interested in hearing, called “Dang my Rowdy Soul”. He explained how he used to listen to this song on his grandparents’ Victrola but hadn’t heard it after they died. I took it upon myself to find the song, which I did thanks to Youtube, and I wrote it down and learned it.

The next time we visited, I played the song for the husband. He confirmed it was the right song and was a little flabbergasted that I had found it just for him. I asked him when he heard it last and he said 1951, right before he left for Korea. He was very appreciative of our visit and our music.

His wife died the next day. It may seem odd to hear, but sometimes death is a good thing, especially considering her quality of life was so poor and it was very hard on the husband. But what struck me was that we wouldn’t be going back to visit. If I hadn’t learned and sung the song for him on that second visit, he may never have heard it again.

The Old Rugged Cross

We went to do an assessment (first time visit) of a current patient with dementia. My supervisor was familiar with the patient and warned me that she may be agitated. We arrived to her room in the nursing home and looked in. The patient was small, and curled up in her bed. She was in the fetal position and laying sideways. She appeared to be sleeping. My supervisor knelt down next to her, touched her hand over the blanket, and spoke her name. Her immediate response was a jerky motion and “what do you want?” but didn’t open her eyes. When we said we were here to share music with her, she said “alright.” Knowing she was spiritual, we began singing hymns. The patient began singing along but never opened her eyes. After a period of singing, we said good-bye and that we would be back soon. The patient thanked us for coming and was very appreciative. She was pleasantly resting when we left.

Upon writing our note in the patient’s chart, we found several other notes stating that the patient was agitated, mean, and uncooperative, calling people names and telling them to leave her alone. My supervisor and I looked at each other in bewilderment. How interesting we didn’t get that response at all…

Precious and Few

On a Friday afternoon, the last patient of the week, we did an assessment of a gentleman who had been discharged from Hospice and recently re-admitted. Only in his 60s, he was rapidly declining due to Alzheimer’s disease. His wife was present and was coping well with her husband’s condition. Since my supervisor had done music therapy with this patient before he was initially discharged, she knew some of his preferred music, and also that he used to dance. Usually only able to hold attention for five seconds on one thing, the patient kept dancing with help from his wife while my supervisor played a blues progression on the guitar. When the music stopped, my supervisor talked to the wife about her husband’s care, while the husband wandered around the room, not really focusing on anything.

Knowing the song “Precious and Few” was a significant song for the couple, my supervisor pulled it up on her iPad and played the recording while the wife took her husbands hands and moved them in a circular motion while dancing. He complied and moved along with his wife.

As I was watching, I noticed the patient was moving, but not exhibiting any kind of affect (emotional response) and not acknowledging his wife. Then, for a brief moment, the husband put his left arm around his wife’s waist and pulled her in close, resting his chin on her shoulder. She laughed and “awww”ed and said, “See, you’re still in there somewhere.” But before she finished her sentence, he went back to his previous behavior. The moment brought tears to my eyes.

Going Home

I spent most of last week in orientation, so I was in the office and not out on visits. There’s a particular song I’ve introduced to my supervisor, called “Going Home.” It’s poignant and very appropriate for those last days and moments of a patient’s life. Just as my training was getting underway one morning, my supervisor texted me and asked me to call her so I could sing her the melody of the song, as she was about to visit a patient who was impending (very close to death) and she wasn’t completely comfortable with the song yet. I left her a voicemail of me singing the song and she also was aided by a Youtube clip.

She texted me later that the song was perfect for the moment and the family members were able to grieve openly with each other. My supervisor left the patient relaxed, though still showing signs of impending death, and the family, close together.

The patient died that afternoon.

Oh, how much have I seen the effects of music therapy in hospice care. It’s the soft cushion of care and support upon which our patients and families rest and breathe.

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Two weeks in, the most important thing I’ve learned is…

So I started my hospice music therapy internship two weeks ago. Hospice is the holistic care of persons who are terminally ill and their families. Services are usually covered by Medicare and include medical (nurses, aides) and social services (social worker, chaplain, music therapy). Some hospices offer other services such as massage therapy, counseling, and speech therapy.

In these two weeks I’ve seen just about everything – smiles, tears, anxiety, peace, patients in their 90’s, and great-grandchildren who are months old. I’ve sang many hymns, Roy Orbison, James Taylor, and Tom Petty. I’ve driven hundreds of miles and seen approximately 298,000 farms (and smelled their smells). I’ve been in several nursing homes, and residential homes that have been lived in for 50+ years. Houses where the dining room or living room or the room with the best view has been turned into the patient’s room, with the furniture moved out to make room for the special hospital bed, equipment, bedside table, medical supplies, IV stand, notepads full of vitals stats and numbers for medicine, air mattresses or sleeping bags for the family member in charge of being with the patient overnight, walls full of framed photos, fresh flowers, and folding chairs strewn about. I’ve heard laughter from a patient when I couldn’t play the chords right, tears from a patient at the first phrase of “In the Garden.” I’ve heard stories of couples who have been married for more than 60 years.

On my third day, I saw a patient die. It was beautiful and peaceful. I felt humbled to be there with the family, that they would share this intimate moment with someone they had never met.

I’ve learned a lot already. I’ve learned how important it is not to judge anything you see or hear. Grief is unpredictable and there are many ways of coping with it. There is no right or wrong, there just is. There’s definitely a lot less social tension when judgment is not present. You meet the patient or caregiver where they are, and you simply sit next to them, literally and figuratively. Any change that occurs is brought on by the music. It does the work. Whether it’s to increase the energy (if there is depression) or diminish it (if there is anxiety).

But. The most important thing I have learned from my first two weeks observing hospice music therapy is this:

Family.

Family. Family. Family. Family. Family. Family.

Dying is hard. Loss is hard. But the common denominator I’ve seen with every single patient is family. I’ve seen families consisting of one spouse. I’ve seen families consisting of 9 children and 20+ grandchildren. Great-grandchildren. Aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, cousins, in-laws. Actually – especially in-laws. The in-laws I’ve observed provide an immense amount of strength and support to the immediate family.

I know families are diverse. My family alone practically takes a diagram to explain. Families are broken, numb, estranged, non-communicative, etc. But I would wager your family will stop LIFE to ensure your safety and well-being.

I don’t know how appreciative you are of your family (or how much you can be, depending on your circumstances). What I do know is there is amazing strength and fortitude when families come together to support a dying loved one. I see grace, patience, and empathy. I see beauty and heartache. I see pain and joy.

Let’s see what the next two weeks brings…

New Normal

***for some reason this didn’t post on its own, so I’m posting it on my lunch break.

Since my last post I drove to Ohio, visited my brother and family, flew to California, played for my step-sister’s wedding, flew home, recovered from jet lag, attended my great aunt’s memorial service, visited another brother and family, and then drove to Winchester and back in 29 hours with my dad, where we loaded up the rest of my boxes and furniture to bring it all to Ohio.

at the Pacific Ocean. Smirk yeah.

at the Pacific Ocean. Smirk yeah.

So now I’m permanently in Ohio temporarily for 6 months. The first thing I did was put my bed together. Yay for IKEA keeping all of their instructions online.

For some reason my bed is “home” to me. I wouldn’t consider myself terribly materialistic, but there are certain things I am very possessive of, and my bed is at the top of the list. Maybe it’s because, being the youngest in the family, I always got hand-me-downs. But this bed (and my dresser, and my dining room table) is mine that I bought with my own money and I’m the only one who’s slept in it. So there.

So I’ve set up my bedroom in my mom’s study similarly to my room in Winchester…dresser just inside the door, night stand to the left of my bed, blue chair in the corner. Because, although I’m surrounded by loving family, I need to feel that part of me is still here in my space in this house. And right now, I feel like me surrounded by my things, for better or worse.

Anywho- my internship started today! In fact, I will have had to set this blog to post on its own because my commute starts at 7 am and I try to post my blog around 9 (when all you real world people get to work and check all your online social media stuff for an hour before you actually start work. I know you all – I did it too.) So as you are reading this, I’ve been up since 5:30 am (wha??) and hopefully I will be able to stay awake through the not-used-to-an-8-and-a-half-hour-day-with-a-30-minute-lunch-break. However:

I am SO ready for routine. Just like a 3 year old, I do my best when I am in a routine. And I think I might start feeling a little less freaked out about the fact that I am back in Ohio after 7 1/2 years and away from my friends in Virginia. Whatevs. I’ve done the crazy life change stuff before, I’ve survived. And this time I’m living with family, so that helps. And it’s only 6 months.

Oh, and also God is totally in control and has my best interest in mind and heart.

Next week, I’ll have the obligatory I FINISHED MY FIRST WEEK post, telling you how I had to use all my “tricks” for staying awake during orientation at 2 pm watching videos about elder abuse. Meanwhile, happy June! (BTW – where did June come from? Wasn’t it, like, April 3 days ago?)

Moving…

I just spent a fabulous weekend in DC, visiting friends, going to museums, and attending a perfect wedding. Here are just a couple pictures from the weekend. This trip though, my final one to DC for a very long time, kind of marked the beginning of the end for this season of my life.

MJ and I eating Potbelly for lunch

MJ and I eating Potbelly for lunch

The newlyweds!

The newlyweds!

Transitions are messy. And I am in one. Again.

I thought I’d give y’all a break from my existentialism and theology and give an update on what I’m doing nowadays!

I’m finishing up my 4th semester (technically 5th if you count last summer’s whirlwind of music theory combined with anatomy & physiology) at Shenandoah University in Winchester, VA, in which I am getting a professional studies degree in music therapy.

To be eligible to take the board exam for music therapy you have to get the proper education and complete an internship (these items being the two parts of the professional studies degree). I was fortunate to find and be accepted to an internship near my hometown. It’s with a Hospice organization and I will be there for six months.

(The reason I’m getting a professional studies degree and not another bachelor’s is because all of the music classes I took for my performance degree transfer to the prof. studies degree. So basically, the prof. studies degree is a fast track bachelor’s that fills in the gaps, but the classes are at graduate level [making it affordable {kind of}].)

I am also working on a master’s degree, which is a normal graduate degree – advanced practice, thesis, etc. So while the professional studies degree will allow me to take the exam and become an MT-BC, the graduate degree will give me an MM (Master of Music in Music Therapy).  I’ve only been a part-time student this semester, taking two classes, which are both going towards my master’s degree. I’m about halfway done with the master’s, but will take a break from it in the fall since I’ll be doing my internship. The plan/goal/hope/wish is to finish the internship around Thanksgiving, graduate with my professional studies degree, take (and pass) the board exam, get my credentials, and have a job by January. Then I’ll pick up the master’s classes again part-time.

So, I am moving back to Ohio in about 2 and a half weeks. And of course, just when the transition is starting, I’m finally feeling settled in Winchester. I’ve developed some amazing friendships that are now going to be long distance. Isn’t this always the way it works? It’s a catch-22 though, because you lament having to leave your friends but are grateful you have friends to leave!

The biggest win of course is being closer to my family. I’ll be living at home, and will be much much closer to all of my family. Which of course includes my pride and joy – my nieces and nephews. And this group will be growing soon! So I am very excited about being amidst my family instead of being afar.

If I may, I’d love some prayer. Prayer for a good end of the semester, that everything gets taken care of for my internship to start smoothly (paperwork, medical stuff, etc.), that I can transition back to my hometown after not living there (or Ohio for that matter) for about 8 years, and that I look to God as my constant through all of this.

I’d like to turn this back into a blog about music therapy again, so my plan is to focus on the internship here and give you a glimpse of what it’s like to work in Hospice.

I’ll keep you updated as I go along! I feel kinda weird posting my social media handles, but here they are in case you want to follow more closely…
Twitter: @sarahchil
Instagram: chilgirl21

Thanks for reading! Happy Monday 🙂

Like a Child

This is my nephew. He is 18 months old. I think he might be a hobbit because he eats second breakfast. Which is always someone else’s first breakfast. In this case, it was mine.

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My brother’s family prays before meals. The kids know to fold their hands and the older one (4 and a half) can pray her own prayers.

For the little one, they’re teaching him an easy prayer.

Dear Jesus,

Thank you.

We love you.

Amen.

The other night, the little hobbit and I were alone together and after I set his plate down I said, “We need to pray!” He folded his hands, looked at me, and began, “eer Jeeesuh…”

As my nephew was enjoying his pears, I contemplated on the simplicity of the prayer. It’s really all we need.

Sometimes it’s all we can muster.

I just finished Love Does by Bob Goff. I find his secret is that he keeps his faith simple. It’s just about loving Jesus, trying to live like him, and loving people. That’s it. When something is so simple, it’s easier to take action. That’s when love does.

Simplicity. Perhaps that’s what having faith ‘like a child’ means. It doesn’t mean we are naive or innocent. It means we keep it simple.

Maybe I complicate my faith because I don’t understand it all the time. Maybe I do it because it scares me. Maybe I complicate my faith because I think something so important couldn’t possibly be so simple.

Sometimes, saying the name of Jesus is all I am capable of. Then again, maybe that’s His favorite prayer. Because it’s pure. Raw. Simple and surrendered.

Dear Jesus, thank you. I love you. Amen.

Liebster Award

Last week my roommate from my Israel trip and my guardian angel, Tobi, nominated me for the Liebster Award. This is what she wrote in her blog:

The German word Liebster (pronounced LEEB-ster) means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcoming.  The Liebster Award is given to upcoming bloggers who have less than 200 followers.

Here are the rules:

1.  Each person must post 11 things about themselves.
2.  Then answer the questions the tagger sent for them, plus create 11 questions for the people they’ve tagged to answer.
3.  Choose 11 people and link them in your post.
4.  Notify the people you have tagged.
5.  No tag backs.
Thanks Tobi for nominating me! What a blessing you are! (she’s sitting next to me, second from the left)
Here are 11 random things about myself:
1. I cannot roll my Rs. This did not deter me from taking spanish for four years.
2. I can wiggle my ears, raise my right eyebrow a la villain with a scheme, and “hook” my upper right lip a la Elvis. Apparently the left side of my brain was given more “useless trick” cells than my right side.
3. These are the musical instruments I (have) play(ed): piano, organ, guitar, clarinet, handbells, xylophone, and various auxillary percussion instruments. I cannot get a sound out of a flute.
4. I almost quit piano on the day my teacher introduced me to a piece with four sharps. I just sat there and refused to play. She called my mom and I got in trouble.
5. When I was really little, I fell running in the church and “killed” one of my baby front teeth. It turned black and stayed that way until it fell out.
6. I have an uncanny ability to memorize things, specifically piano music and song lyrics. I often don’t realize I’ve memorized something until a situation presents itself where I have to perform without music. I was in a production of Joseph… in 6th grade and to this day I can sing all the colors in his coat (“it was red and yellow and blue and gold and…”)
7. I am right handed but rest the pen on my ring finger instead of my middle finger.
8. I have an unusual amount of gray hair for my age, which I attribute entirely to Washington DC traffic.
9. My favorite composer is Brahms and my favorite piece to play is his Intermezzo in A major, op. 118 no. 2.
10. I do not have perfect pitch and am thankful for that!
11. When I was in kindergarten I was a big snotty crybaby mess. My brother would get me on the bus to school and we would sing Beatles songs in between the seats and the window (he sat in front of me) with harmony. That was his way of keeping me calm on the way to school.
Questions from Tobi
1.  What is your greatest fear?
      Being forgotten.
2.  Describe yourself in three words.
      Reliable, snarky, evolving.
3.  What is your favorite passage of Scripture?
      Romans 8: 38-39 “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
4.  Name something that’s on your bucket list.
     Go to Paris.
5.  Describe what a perfect day would look like for you.
     Rainy weather, coffee, good conversation with my parents and siblings, and playing with my nieces and nephews.
6.  What is your favorite color?
     Lavender.
7.  Share a brief testimony of how God is working in your life.
     Two years ago God gave me the green light to pursue music therapy. Going back to school and all that it entails has been the hardest season of my life. The uncertainties that go along with grad school (mainly money and my future) have forced me to rely on God continually, which proves to be encouraging and terrifying at the same time.
8.  What is your favorite snack?
     Oh man. Before I cared about my nutrition: Cheezits. After I started caring about my nutrition: pita and garlic hummus.
9.  If you could live anywhere, where would that be?
     London!
10.  Name five things that make you smile.
     My five nieces and nephews.
11.  Why do you write?
     Because sometimes I feel like I’ll go crazy if I keep my thoughts in my head. And I also really really want people to get interested in music therapy.
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Here are the women I’m nominating!
Ruhiyyih MacBradaigh (no link since her blog is private)
Allie Lovette she might not count because she might have more than 200 followers!
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I know it’s only four! Girlfriends need to step up on the blogging!!
I will keep the questions the same for the people I pick-
1.  What is your greatest fear?
2.  Describe yourself in three words.
3.  What is your favorite passage of Scripture?
4.  Name something that’s on your bucket list.
5.  Describe what a perfect day would look like for you.
6.  What is your favorite color?
7.  Share a brief testimony of how God is working in your life.
8.  What is your favorite snack?
9.  If you could live anywhere, where would that be?
10.  Name five things that make you smile.
11.  Why do you write?