Observations from a Piano Bench

My daughter, Josephine, age 9, sat at her piano, practicing. She called to me from her seat, “Hey Mom! Did you know that a flat is sharp and a sharp is a flat?”

“Say what?”

“The black keys are both sharps AND flats! It just depends on what note you’re playing!”

“That’s neat. So, based on your perspective, the same key can have two totally different names.”

“That’s right! To A, the black note, or the sharp, is a big brother. But to B, the SAME black key is a flat. It’s a little sister.”

Two things: 1. Having your kids learn a musical instrument is an education all by itself. 2. Kids are naturally brilliant and I highly recommend hanging out with some on a regular basis.

The Kind Gentleman


My husband’s father, Lauren Oliver Buckland, Sr., passed away on July 28th, 2014. There was a memorial service held yesterday in Atlanta at Church of the Apostles, a church they attended for many years. It was a beautiful service and a wonderful tribute to a man we loved dearly and who will be greatly missed. I had the great honor and privilege of speaking during the time of reflections from friends and family. It is a great honor that I could call myself both. This is what I wrote for him.

It is difficult for me to wrap my mind around the fact that Lauren is gone. There is a part of me that keeps waiting for and expecting him to walk through the door, any minute, with a kindly “Hello!” A smile. Some sage advice for Ren and I. A hearty laugh. A bear hug or a “Papa lockdown” for his grandchildren. I can’t help but imagine how his absence will be felt at every family gathering henceforth. Every birthday. Every holiday. He was always there. A vital, faithful, and dependable presence in the life of our family.

Compared to many of you here, I didn’t know Lauren for very long. I first met Lauren 16 years ago. But in that brief time, I came to know him and love him as a dad. He treated me like a daughter. He loved me, accepted me, and encouraged me. Chided me when I needed it. And he taught me so much. I have heard each one of my kids echo that same sentiment this past week, saying “Papa taught us so much.” He had a mantra that he taught his own children, that he passed on to ours. He taught them that “Bucklands never say ‘can’t.'” He would clarify and tell them, in typical Lauren speak, “You may say ‘This presents a challenge to me.'” In doing so, he taught them that no problem was too big. That every problem was a potential opportunity and a chance to learn something new.

I was honored when Ren introduced me to his parents in 1998. Fran was warm, friendly, and inviting, and I loved her instantly. Who doesn’t? But I have to admit that Lauren was a little intimidating to me at first. He was, and still is, one of the most intriguing people I had ever met. He was fiercely intelligent, and it wasn’t long before I discovered that he was a libertarian, the first one I had ever met. Lauren was a libertarian back before libertarianism was cool. As you can imagine, I immediately started praying for his salvation, because at the time I couldn’t wrap my small mind around the fact that he called himself a Christian and was anything but a card carrying Republican! How ironic that I am now known around our small town as the radical libertarian soccer mom with the Ron Paul bumper sticker on her Suburban!

I absolutely loved talking to Lauren. He wasn’t afraid to talk about things you weren’t “supposed” to, whether it was religion or politics. He could talk about anything. And talk about it well. He had an unlimited scope of interests and hobbies. And he was prodigious at them all. He was an artist. A writer. A poet. A skilled orator. Attorney. Veteran. An officer. Army Ranger. Accountant. Christian. Father. Brother. Husband of 49 years this Friday. Grandfather.

He was a modern day Renaissance man. In his 75 years, he accomplished so much. Yet he was humble and very modest about all of his accomplishments. He believed that everyone was just as capable of all that he did and more. That we were all just as smart as he was. Just as talented. Lauren didn’t like to boast about himself, but he loved to brag about the people he loved. Whether it was his wife, Fran, or Ren and Lori, or his brother, Stan, or his grandkids. He would often wait until Ren was out of the room, and whisper to me, “I am so proud of him!” Knowing I would later tell my husband what he had said. Whenever I gave him a compliment on one of his paintings, he would say, “Oh no. I am just a technician. Now Stan [his brother], HE is an artist. BRIAN [his son-in-law] is an artist!” He was so hesitant to call himself an ‘artist.’ I think it’s safe to say, by looking around at all of his paintings here today that he was indeed worthy of that title.

But even more than his accomplishments, he touched the lives and the hearts of so many around him. Maya Angelou famously said “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I have so enjoyed hearing this past week how people remember him. How he made us all feel. My favorite phrase that I’ve heard used to describe him was that he was a “kind gentleman.” So many of have used words to describe Lauren that echo the famous words from 1 Corinthians 13 about Love:

“Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not want what belongs to others. It does not brag. It is not proud. It is not rude. It does not look out for its own interests. It does not easily become angry. It does not keep track of other people’s wrongs. Love is not happy with evil. But it is full of joy when the truth is spoken. It always protects. It always trusts. It always hopes. It never gives up. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIRV)

Many of these words can also be used to describe Lauren…He was patient. He was kind. He didn’t brag about himself. He was never rude. He didn’t look out for his own interests. He was not easily angered, even when his grandkids made a mess or spilled paint on his papers. He didn’t keep a track record of other people’s wrongs. He was not happy with evil, but always rejoiced whenever truth and justice prevailed. He always protected those he loved. Always trusted. Always had hope. And he never gave up.

He left us with a legacy. His can-do spirit, his work ethic, his integrity, his ability to see potential and possibility, and every problem as an opportunity, have left an indelible mark on all of our hearts. If he were here with us today, he would remind us how quickly our lives go by. And that today is the day to do something significant with our lives. Today is the day to start a new business. Or dream a new dream. To take up a new hobby. To learn how to paint. To become a lawyer. To write your own autobiography. You are never too old to begin again, or reinvent yourself. You still have time…make the most of it. He certainly did.

And Lauren made whoever he was with feel that there was nothing you couldn’t do. That the only person holding you back, was YOU. That the only limits we had were the ones we placed on ourselves. We could do anything. Be anything. He always lovingly encouraged those closest to him to strive and do and achieve, not because what we were currently doing wasn’t enough, but because he knew we had it in us to do. He encouraged me in my writing and speaking, and made me feel like the best writer in the world, even when he was only one of five people that faithfully read my blog.

He truly was a remarkable human being. And he would never give the credit to himself. He would always point back to God. He believed in the power of human potential, especially when that human potential was dedicated in service to The Lord, giving glory and honor to our maker. In Lauren’s eyes, anyone could be anything they wanted to be, if they set their mind to it. Great things were possible if we believed and worked hard, and gave it all to God.

I have been blessed beyond what I deserve to have not just one wonderful earthly, father, but two. He was one of my favorite people on earth. And my family and I will miss him terribly.

But as sad as I am that he has left this earth, I know his story isn’t over. I know that because of his faith in Christ, that he is still painting, that he is still writing, and probably having healthy, heavenly debates with some of the greatest thinkers in history! And I look forward to the day that we will see him again and join in on all the fun. So until then, so long, Kind Gentleman. You are loved. You are missed. And you will never be forgotten.

Let’s Ban #BanBossy


Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of Lean In, and a bunch of other important people, are on a mission to ban the word “bossy.” They argue that the word is too often used as a negative label describing girls with natural leadership qualities.

Really? I thought I was using it to describe someone, male or female, who is kind of a rude jerk.

Before I rant about all that is wrong with this campaign, let me just state for the record that the campaign makes many points with which I actually agree. I am all for children, boys and girls, using their words to speak up and be heard. I am in favor of kids learning how to lead and assert themselves in positive ways. In a world where the voices of many of these young ones are ignored, even stifled, we need to empower kids to speak up. We need more leaders and fewer followers. So those are the positive elements I see in this campaign.

And now for the negative… Continue reading

For the Level of Humanity!

George Clooney Level of HumanityUnless you have no internet connection, no television, never go to the grocery store, or aren’t on speaking terms with your mother, you have probably already heard the news:  George Clooney is getting married!  The internet is abuzz with THE woman who finally captured George’s heart.  Her name is Amal Alamuddin, and her resume is dizzying.  She’s an Oxford-educated human rights lawyer who, coincidentally enough, also looks like a supermodel.  She speaks three languages and her list of accomplishments range from representing Julian Assange to acting as advisor to Kofi Annan.  In other words, she isn’t mortal. Continue reading


Unschooled by Stuart Little

“Everyone will now take his or her seat!” commanded Stuart. The pupils filed obediently down the aisles and dropped into their seats and in a moment there was silence in the classroom. Stuart cleared his throat. Seizing a coat lapel in either hand, to make himself look like a professor, Stuart began:
“Anybody absent?”

Continue reading

Disappointing Your Kids

Parents today have too many pressures heaped upon them.  We are bombarded with “expert” opinions and unrealistic expectations on how to raise perfect, well-adjusted, brilliant, beautiful, talented, morally immaculate children.  It’s more than even our Bible heroes could achieve!  Formulas abound.  Plug in these variables and presto!  Get perfect kids!  As if raising children was as simple as following a recipe; baking the perfect kidcake with all the best organic ingredients.

On top of all that, I see parents who will go to great lengths, moving heaven and earth in order not to disappoint their kids.  They somehow, along with caring for their kids, feel responsible for their total and complete happiness.  As if parents don’t already have enough heaped onto their plates managing homes, families, schedules, work, school, bills, etc., since when did it become our responsibility to placate each and every whim and desire our kids have? Continue reading

One Thing

I have a question for you:  What’s the one thing you know you should be doing but aren’t?  I’m not talking about everyday things, things that may be important but on a much smaller scale, such as doing the dishes, taking out the trash, or paying the cable bill.  I’m talking about the ideas that you have.  The big ones.  The ones that won’t leave.  The ones that have been with you for months, maybe even years.  Maybe ever since you were a kid.  They linger like strays on a doorstep.  You want to write a novel.  Or travel the world someday.  Or start your own business.  Or run a half marathon.  You get the idea.  We all have at least one thing.  Maybe it’s two or three things. Continue reading