Seizing the Moment: A Special Thanks to Jillian

Off to the airport to send Jillian back home to CO. Auba is protesting.

Through circumstances I could not – and would not – have scripted myself, Nathan and I have learned some pretty valuable lessons over the past couple weeks.After our Christmas concerts and prior to last week’s performances, we had decided that a really good idea for future busy performance times would be to line up way more babysitting help then we anticipated needing. We even entertained the luxurious thought of having a live-in nanny.  A few weeks ago I made the call to one of our friends in Colorado.

“Hey Jillian, want to take a trip to Minnesota?  We’ll cover your ticket and give you room and board and pay you…an excuse to visit our beautiful state.”

God bless Jillian.

She had done some regular babysitting for our older girl when we were living in Denver, and her wonderful family helped watch our younger girl when we were doing one of our Colorado Christmas concerts last year.  Perhaps I will share more of that episode some time.  For now, suffice it to say that finding an unfamiliar home in the mountains after a snowstorm made for quite an adventure.  I choose to mostly remember the warm kitchen, hot tea, and delicious goat milk yogurt parfaits that greeted us.God bless Jillian’s family.

On any occasion that I have conversed with a member of that family I walk away refreshed, loved, inspired, and educated.  After last week we can add to that list saved!

Believe it or not, we had not planned on all four of our family being dreadfully sick for the ten days leading up to the concerts. We do love challenges, true.  And I’ve always admitted that I find a certain amount of pleasure in declaring it a ‘sick day.’ But not under these circumstances.  Tickle turned to cough turned to sore throught turned to coughing fits….you get the picture.

Jillian arrived on a Monday. She had told me before her arrival that she loves to cook and would be glad to help us out in the kitchen as well as with the kids.  “That’s nice,”  I thought, fulling expecting to keep the reigns on my sacred space.  I like cooking too. I have our menu all planned out.  You watch the girls, but I’m sure I’ll be able to manage all the food tasks. After all, I do lot’s of weird home cooking things that would probably take more time to explain than it would be worth for the help.

God bless Jillian’s mom.

By Wednesday, I believe it was, or possibly even Tuesday, I relinquished my kitchen to the very capable hands of our nanny-turned-personal-chef.  Jillian’s mom has brought up her family to value and create fabulous homemade healthy meals.  I had nothing to fear.  Actually, I knew this before, even when I was resistent to giving up my kitchen, but I think I needed a kick in the pants to let it go.  I guess that being horribly sick and under a lot of pressure served as that very kick. Ours came more as a kick in the throat though. By Thursday both Nathan and I were on vocal rest – me because of the dreadful coughing fits and him because he needed his tired voice to sing well.  We HAD to get better.

Jillian was basically in the kitchen all day every day sharing with us some dishes that we will definitely be very soon recreating:

  • Garlic soup
  • Egg drop soup
  • Caramelized onions with chicken on toast
  • Sauteed Asian cabbage
  • Cabbage roles
  • Millet porridge
  • Buckwheat tortillas
  • Broccoli and onion salad
  • Mint tea with honey and lemon
  • Cornbread
  • Lemon and honey slushies

She also complied with my request for a huge batch of chicken stock made in our roaster.

Yes indeed, God bless Jillian.

Here’s the thing.  I said she was basically in the kitchen all the time, but that wasn’t entirely true.  At any given time of the day, especially when the girls were napping or just playing contentedly, our Miss Jillian Poppins could be found practicing flute, playing piano, crocheting a doile, or reading a book of George MacDonald quotes compiled by C. S. Lewis.

And the best part – the dishes weren’t all done.  The food wasn’t always even put away at these times when our visiting angel had step away to pursue a period of intellectual and artistic enrichment.  As a recovering all-or-nothing task oriented perfectionist, I was so impressed and, in yet another unexpected way, so blessed by this example.  Each day of her visit, in some way and another, Jillian showed us something so beautiful about seizing the moment.  She never laid aside her commitmet to help us, but she also didn’t put her mind and artistic pursuits on hold until evething was just right.  She didn’t bend over backwards to meet some artificial expectation of impecable cleanliness before allowing herself to indulge in some personal time.

Jillian didn’t just inspire us in the sense that we think, “oh, that’s nice.  I wish I could be like that.”  She somehow empowered me to actually DO IT.  Sunday evening, after our first concert, I did it.  I took out my flute for the first time in I-have-no-idea-how-long.  Years. Probably three or four.  On and off for a good part of the evening we played duets until my atrophied flute-holding muscles nearly when numb. Oh, Khulau, how I have missed thee.

It was splendid!  I thought that AubreyElla would dislike this choice of activity, especially since she had a serious meltdown when she was unable to produce a sound on my flute.  On the contrary, at the dinner table she requested that we go play more because she liked it.  Even Patience indicated a very pleasant response – lying on the floor behind me, on her tummy, head down, tapping the carpet with her toes. Granted, it was just about bedtime, but I’ll take a compliment any way I can get it.

Well, Jillian, I will have you know that on Wednesday I took my flute out again and practiced. And it was wonderful.  I’m not talking about all of the notes, or the tone quality – my fingers and lips hardly remembered what to do in some passages.  Rather than thinking, I decided not to major in flute, so I guess I’ll put it in a back corner for forever, I am going to think, Do I have a few minutes for practicing?  Yes I do. Dishes can wait, and I’ll be the better for it.

Here is another thing we love about Jillian – conversation! Everyone in her family is an avid reader and beautiful conversationalist, as I mentioned above. For this reason, my voiceless condition throughout most of her visit was torture! At lunch time one day we had a decent discussion about church and family of origin – hot topics for me and insanely difficult to discuss via marker board.  Fortunately, by Sunday night I was finally able to talk with our generous friend. And talk we did!  Food, health, homeschooling, church, college, dating…and George MacDonald.  Had Patience not needed my attention we probably would have continued to talk long into the wee hours of the morning.   Nathan entered the conversation about the time I had to leave, but as I understand it he and Jillian have confirmed the plan that she head to Scotland for college where she will early on meet a pilot who can easily fly her back stateside on a regular basis.  Hehe.

In all honesty, she only has four days left to decide between schools in California and Scotland that have each accepted her into their linguistics program. See? – She’s amazing, and it’s not just me the over-committed-super-sick desperate mama that thought so.  I have a feeling that someone is going to need to find a new nanny/chef next time around :(.

The story doesn’t end with the flute duets, or my impromptu practice session.  Nathan has initiated our reading of a novel. During bathtime, while one is washing dishes, or just as a way to pass a few minutes last night after supper, we are finally reading a book that we have wanted to read for a very long time. And, perhaps in honor of Jillian, it’s all about Scotland. 🙂

Jillian left us on Monday, and we miss her dearly. Her practical help was invaluable.  We honestly would not have survived last week without her. In addition to the dishes, the cooking, and the walks to the park with the girls, she has by her example impressed upon both of us the timeless and immeasurable quality of choosing to seize each moment.   Sure, some moldy dishes periodically are a bit annoying, but they will get done eventually. And then there will be more.  Why wait for ‘eventually’? Consider the choice to stop and do something beautiful, even for a few minutes at a time – is that something that really can ever be regretted?  I think not.

Jillian, you were an amazing blessing for us while you were here. We continue to be inspired by you. Thank you so much for giving so graciously of your time just to help some crazy Birds.

God blessed us through you.

By Naomi Bird

Wife of tenor Nathan Bird, pianist, organist, former music therapist, writer, tea-drinker, mom of two mini-sopranos and two mini-tenors, and learner of loving the arts.

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