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 awkward…like 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. 

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 – 2019For 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…my 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 HERE.

Deeper Trust

The Spring Concert Series that never took place due to COVID-19.

Journal entry: March 14, 2020 – Saturday

“Postponed video shoot for my Spring Concert Series…

Email from Senator Bob Casey made me decide to wait. Why risk?

Did my usual housecleaning and my 1 1/2 hour bike ride along the spring. Worked in the yard after lunch—head start on the spring weeds.

Church cancelled tomorrow…virus.

Listened to an interview with Rick Bright on research for a vaccine. Fascinating. A Kansas farm kid, government chickens, eggs…the process for making a vaccine and the market needed to produce it, buy it.

For now schools are cancelled…more gigs lost. 

Oh well. 

Deeper trust.”

I was reading The Broken Road, by Richard Paul Evans at the time. (I highly recommend it.) When I’m reading a book, I often copy phrases into my journal that stir me or help me express what I’m feeling. It takes me longer to finish a book when I do this, but I find that the impact of the book lingers long past the reading of it. 

The phrase I wrote in my journal on March 14 was a perfect way to describe how this unwanted virus was making me feel at the time…and I still feel this way today.

“It was a game of emotional chess.”  

A Mixture of Joy and Depletion.

I feel a strong mixture of joy and depletion. It’s a familiar feeling that I’ve grown accustomed to when it comes to sharing my music with the world. 

I have just completed the first phase of the Portraits of White 2020 At Home DVD/USB project.  It was a last-minute idea that took me by storm the day it popped into my brain the last weekend in September.

This project is a collection of all the things people have loved about the winter concert over the years, all in one package! It’s really a Portraits of White musical scrapbook containing video footage from the past six years, a few new surprises and some bonus features all woven together into one delightful experience.

My hope is that you’ll feel as if you are attending this year’s Portraits of White, in person, while staying at home.

The video masters and project artwork are now in the hands of the manufacturer and we are planning on it being ready in time for Christmas. Once again, people have rallied around my idea and are placing their orders!

I started out in January with lots of creative ideas for Portraits of White 2020, but they were slowly swallowed up by the pandemic. I soon lost my creative spark for the beloved winter show and poured myself into my daily Hit Pause sessions on Facebook LIVE. 

The fact that I have anything to offer related to Portraits of White this year is a miracle. It has not come without a struggle, but nothing of value rarely comes struggle-free.

I have found that when we share our struggles, others often find encouragement. So for the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing excerpts from my journal with you and it seems appropriate to start with that frightful day in March…

March 13, 2020 – Friday

Corona Virus has caused a lot of shutdown. 

Church, government. Encouraged to stay home and only go out as necessary. 

Concerts cancelled. Baseball. Boston Marathon. Maryland schools closed for two weeks. 

I was supposed to shoot a video for my Spring Concert Series tomorrow, but I’m not sure we should do that. I’m waiting to hear from the venue.

I’m trying to find my way through so much muck. I usually have a scripture I hold on to through seasons like this, but I feel like I’m grabbing at straws. So I go to the last time I felt the whisper of the Spirit…Song of Songs…”let Him kiss you.” 

A few phrases from Song of Songs that jump out at me:

“I am at rest in this love.” I want to know what that feels like. Lord, please skip over the hills that separate you and me and come to me. Gaze into my soul, peering through the portal, blossom within my heart! Draw me to your heart and lead me out. Father, help me identify the little sly foxes in my heart that hinder our relationship, for they raid our budding vineyard of love to ruin what you’ve planted within me. Help me catch them and remove them. Please, can we do it together? I give you permission.

I know for sure that this book (Song of Solomon) is calling me closer to Him as I read. I can tell He must want to love me and tell me of His love through it, but my heart has so much resistance (or maybe my soul/brain) that I can tell it will take lots of soaking time to penetrate my terrorized soul. 

To learn more about Portraits of White or to order your DVD/USB, click here

Thanks Mother!

Since my Mother was the one who made sure I had time and resources to nurture my love for the piano, it seems appropriate to start this special week of ticket sales off (honoring National Piano Month) with a tribute to her life and to all mothers who take time to invest in their children.
September 24, 2014, my Mother, Bertha Mae Sollenberger Crider Heisey went home to heaven. It was the first year of the Portraits of White concert and she never got to see it.
My sister posted this on FaceBook the day she died.
Wednesday morning, 7:48 September 24, 2014
Bertha is gone. It is done.
Just a gradual fade at the end,
less and less breath….
And then the last.
I was with her all night and at the end.
No struggle.
Peaceful departing.
This part of the journey is over, and a new one begins.
September 24, 2014 6:55 am
Sunrise officially is 6:59 …. Good choice, Mother.
Bon voyage!

“Go Figure!”

I spend anywhere from four to seven hours a day practicing the piano for the annual Portraits of White music extravaganza. The first year I decided to do the show, I prayed that God would confirm that His hand was in this adventure by leading me to a grand piano of my own.

If you’re going to spend that many hours practicing, it’s important to have a good piano to practice on. Every piano has a unique touch and feel. I wanted a piano that would make my muscles work hard and be ready for the grand piano we would rent for the show. Just like you don’t want to run a marathon without having spent a lot of time getting your muscles in shape, so you want your fingers to be ready for the show!

As we celebrate National Piano Month, it seems appropriate to tell the amazing story behind the piano that I now have in my studio. It all came about thanks to Portraits of White.

Ever since I was a young piano student and my piano teacher purchased a new baby grand piano, I could tell a big difference in the way the new grand played compared to her old spinet. From that moment, I began to dream of, wish for and beg God for one of my own.

I spent all of my life practicing on my Mother’s old Wurlitzer and was grateful to have it when my husband and I bought our first home.

In January of 2014, I asked my husband if this could be the year I could get a grand piano. Most of my music income has been invested back into my CD projects and building a career in music. Since I decided to move ahead with the first Portraits of White concert, I felt it was time to look for a baby grand. I knew I’d be spending lots of time at the piano preparing for this concert.

We agreed that this would be the year, determined a budgeted amount we could afford for a used grand and I prayed that God would lead me to the right one for me. Tom was going to talk to our man at the bank and see if we could get a loan.

I had been in counseling working through some issues and my counselor advised me to take up skating—knowing it was something I loved to do as a young girl. I took her advice and loved it so much, I hired a coach to work with every week. I skated a few hours a day, five days a week, I loved it so much!

The week after Tom and I decided to commit to finding a piano for me, I walked into the rink (around 6:00 a.m.) and my coach greeted me in his cheery British accent. (He had been Great Britain’s men’s figuring skating champion in 1989). He said, “You’re a musician, do you happen to know anyone looking for a grand piano?” I think my jaw must have dropped to the ground. But not for long! I eagerly said, “Yes, I AM!”

They were moving to London, England and their newly purchased grand (barely used) couldn’t go along. I went to their house and played it. We made an offer and they accepted. It was less than we budgeted and we didn’t need a loan!

On February 6, 2014—my Mother’s birthday, it arrived. Dare I mention that we were in the midst of a heavy snow when it came! Perfect for Portraits of White.

There are many times I sit down at this piano and thank God for the privilege to have one of my own (after 40 years!!) and with such a special back-story. Who would have ever thought taking up figure skating could lead to an answered prayer for a grand piano! Go figure.

If you want to come to the 2018 show, click HERE for more information.

We are offering 20% off all tickets September 24 – September 28, 2018 to celebrate National Piano Month.

Highlights from Portraits of White 2017

Here’s what people have said about the 2017 show:

“I was in awe of the army of volunteers that helped make it all happen.”

“It’s unlike any other show I have gone to see. Combines that hometown feel with a professional show.”

Portraits of White 2017.

“Portraits of White is the highlight of my Christmas season and I have traveled from Houston, TX the last 3 years for this spectacular performance. I would love for my entire family to be able to attend.”

“Attending Portraits of White is like opening your Christmas present early! Once you’ve gone once you’ll anticipate it all year and you’ll never guess what surprises are in store!”

Frances Drost sings “I Love Snow” while the snow falls. : )

“Portraits of White is an evening that allows me to push pause on the chaos that typically accompanies Christmas. I get to relax and relish the joyful wonder of the holiday season. Aside from our Christmas Eve candlelight services, Portraits of White is where Christmas happens in my heart.”


“Commercialization of Christmas has worn me down over the years to the point
of numbness, but Portraits of White has rejuvenated my heart again!”

Photos by STEPH ALEX Photography.

West Shore Drum Line plays “Pat-A-Pan”.

Award-winning guitarist, Tom Hemby with Frances Drost.

Nashville conductor – Ed Kee.

Dr. Mark Hartman – Principal Violinist.

Nashville conductor – Ed Kee with Wayne Fox on piano.





The Story behind “The Little Drummer Boy” (Portraits of White Version)

From the very first time I heard the arrangement, I was hooked. So was Ed, the conductor. We knew we wanted it to be part of the Portraits of White concert experience and Ed was sure it would be the showstopper of the night, if we could find a local high school drum line to perform it.

It took us all summer to find the right one, but it really paid off when we found George Clements and the West Shore Drum Line – a combination of two schools put together: Cedar Cliff and Red Land. We didn’t know they’d end up placing 3rd in 2015 and 4th in 2016 at the US Bands National Championships @ MetLife Stadium in NJ.

DSC_0216 (2)
West Shore Drum Line performs “Little Drummer Boy” in Portraits of White 2015.

But this post isn’t really about finding the drum line or my concert. It’s my reflections after watching them perform the song at their own high school this week – Tuesday, December 20, 2016 – for their holiday program.

I don’t know what goes on in other performer’s minds when they are on stage. I can only write from my own experience.  Perhaps it would be different if we performed the same concert over and over, night after night all across the U.S. Maybe I could stand on stage and become totally wrapped up in the moment and just enjoy all the surroundings. But for the most part, I do that when I’m practicing at home. That’s when I enjoy the music; every note, every lyric, every little nuance that many people might miss the night of the show.

When I step out on stage I go into a very different mode. I challenge every brain cell in my head with the ultimate multi-tasking job. The pitch, the dynamics, the lyrics, the sound surrounding me, the lights, the little girl smiling up at me from the first row and noticing others seated in the audience so I can smile at them and acknowledge their presence.

When you amplify all of that by adding in a drum line marching up to you on the stage and feel the power of their presence and tight rhythms and couple that with a year’s worth of rehearsing, soaking in the song and listening for every little cue in the music to keep you on track AND try to deliver with poise and power, you have one incredible task on your hands.  To say that I can sit back and “enjoy” that performance is a stretch, not because I don’t love it, but because I MUST stay focused. As soon as I start “sitting back in my musical easy-chair” to recline, my brain can go into sleep mode and then I’m in trouble.

But last night, I got to sit in the audience and not think about the loops, the pitch, the timing, the mic, the monitor, the lights or anything else. I just sat in anticipation knowing what was coming and I was still blown away and totally mesmerized by the West Shore Drum Line. I got to sit beside a few of the moms and they too knew what was coming and one of them even squealed when the auditorium doors flew open and in walked her son at the head of the line.

West Shore Drum Line performs "Little Drummer Boy" (Portraits of White version) at Red Land High School, December 20, 2016.
West Shore Drum Line performs “Little Drummer Boy” (Portraits of White version) at Red Land High School, December 20, 2016.

My eyes filled with tears and my heart pounded. I knew I was reacting to months of rehearsals and hearing that first piano riff that starts it off. I was squirming over the memory of the big glitch from the concert of 2015 that forever sealed that song in the audience’s memory (in a good way) and then I was momentarily carried away by the overall power of the song. Now, I didn’t have to think about anything but watching them and they were truly amazing.

The cherry on top came when one of the mothers told me that the drummers were very excited that I had come to see them and wanted their picture with me afterwards. Since I don’t have children of my own, going to see others perform is such a special treat and for one short moment, I get to beam with pride just like I think a mother must do when her kids perform something so well.

There’s no deep point to this blog post, I simply indulged in expressing my thoughts so that some day I can look back and smile again at this amazing dream that is starting to connect me with other people in ways I never thought possible.

Drummers from West Shore Drum Line hang around for a picture together after their school program.

I’ll end with a quote from a book that’s carried me through this elephant-sized dream.

“By definition, a God-sized dream is beyond your ability, beyond your resources.  If a dream is from God, it will require divine intervention. But I’ve also learned that sometimes a dream feels as if it’s too big for us because it’s not just for us!” – Mark Batterson, “Chase the Lion”.

Credits to Bradley Knight who arranged this song and to George Clements (Drum Line Director) who wrote the parts that the drummers play when they line up in formation.

Reflections after Portraits of White 2016

portraits-of-white-2016The Portraits of White 2016 winter concert is over and my feelings are all mixed up this year. Last year, I felt nothing but joy and relief that the big event was over. It took more effort and time than I ever imagined and there was no “let down”, only “let up”.  I loved every minute of it but was glad to move on.

But this year felt different. I struggled with both “let down” and “let up”, something I wasn’t prepared for. 

As Ed (conductor) and I contemplate whether to do the show again next year, given the fact that it is a year-long marathon for us and for some of the team, I have to consider lots of variables – which contributes to the feeling of “let down”. Can I really pull this off year after year, I wonder to myself. But then I picked up TIME magazine at the library yesterday in preparation for what I planned to be a “do nothing” day today since they forecasted snow and ice. 

It’s the first day I’ve done “nothing” for a very long time. Even when I try to “do nothing” I can feel and see the clouds of the snow monster (my nickname for Portraits of White) billowing in my head. I can’t truly unwind until the show is completely over. I’ve learned that’s the nature of pursuing dreams and callings. Doing the show is like enjoying the snow fall for a few short moments and then realizing you have to get up and start shoveling to clear a path so life can move on.

As I turned the pages of TIME, I was so struck by one of the articles, I put down the magazine and wrote out my thoughts in an email to Ed and realized I was actually writing a blog…..

So here it is:

Good morning Ed,

My laundry is done, house is clean and Christmas decorations are up and we are getting the wintry mix they called for – though I was hoping it would be snow. It feels nice to do nothing after a year of preparing for Portraits of White….the snow monster, as I affectionately call her now.

I picked up a few books for Tom at the library yesterday and a couple of the latest TIME magazines and decided to peruse the latest issue of TIME (something I rarely do).  I was struck by an article featuring the most influential photos of all time. Page 80 has the caption: “How a picture can save 1.5 million lives” with the image of a woman who is barely skin and bones, in a wheel barrow, that is obviously dying but is being hauled to a feeding center.  It was taken during the famine in Somalia in 1992.  

As I turned the pages, they listed one image after another that illustrated how the image started a chain reaction of awareness or change, such as the photograph of the boy on the beach in Turkey in the refugee crisis. In a world of millions of selfies and social media posts, you can start to forget the powerful impact one image can have and TIME somehow reminded me of the potential of one photograph…which led to the realization that additionally, one song can have that kind of impact.

As much as I love to entertain people with the Portraits of White concert (and other concerts that I do) these pictures reminded me of what I REALLY want to accomplish with what I write and perform. 

I want to create songs that serve as an “audio snapshot in time” that could potentially change someone’s course in life from despair to hope, from ignorance to awareness of God’s love for them, from hatred of the holidays to a realization that things can be different if they simply stop and Take Another Look.

My prayer today: “God, help me capture Your heart for people and display it with such starkness and wonder, that it could potentially save 1.5 million lives or more.”

I don’t know if a song or a photo can save 1.5 million lives, but I want to spend my life giving it a shot.

TIME magazine’s article on the most influential photos of all time.