Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Quick Thought

College Mail Day One

College Mail Day Two
Some moments my faith is stronger than others. Today for example, on the way to school with Mary, we were about three blocks from home when I swear a little angel's voice whispered ever so gently into my ear, softly and tenderly, that prophetic word. . . clarinet. Proof that there is a God and He does care about us. I turned the car around and Mary ran back inside to get the instrument. Having the clarinet along is an important musical element of having a good concert day. It doesn't really matter if your parents are musicians and you've been playing piano for nine years and you have all the right answers in band. . . if you don't have the horn for your gig.

And for the second year in a row, I sent my children down to Arizona to visit their aunt, with clothes that are not even close to fitting.

Why? Why are the clothes too small? Why am I getting this mail? How can this 6'1" little kid be capable of actually driving a car in the snow.

I'm in denial. That's all there is to it. I'm actually quite happy here today, so I'm just gonna stay in denial at least through the middle school band concert tonight.

Maybe tomorrow we will practice driving again. Today, I'm gonna cut up little apple and cheese slices for an after school snack.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Heading Out to DC. . . but it's not what you might think

My good friend Annette and I are heading out to DC. No, we are not marching on Washington. We not staying for the inauguration ball. We are teaching at the Levine Workshop tomorrow. Suzuki piano. It's actually about the opposite of politics and I'm sure we can all use a little of that right now. Whatever your opposite is. . .

While I'm out there I'll try to investigate if it was the Russians that hacked our Suzuki Association of Minnesota website back in December. Just kidding, and not making light of serious stuff--you have to laugh a little or you will cry all day. I actually think the Russians might be tampering with my google calendar as well. It's probably for the best.

Two thoughts here: I love teaching these workshops. It's my absolute favorite thing to do. You get 15-20 minutes with little kids. Just a few moments to try to make a difference. Some little ideas to play more expressively or physically easier. Richer tone. Some little idea to make practice effective and fun. We need them to leave loving music more than when they walked in the door. I've got my flashcards and trinkets. I'm so excited. I also get to talk with parents about practice. This is my life folks. Practicing with kids. I'm chuck full of insecurity about a million things in life, but this is not one of them. This is something I can shout from the mountain tops with full authority. I know how to practice with kids over the long haul. Thank you Karen Bartman for the invitation. Karen worked with Calvin out in Colorado for several years and I still remember everything thing she said about Beethoven Op. 79. Aside from that, there was the cutest girl in their masterclass playing Clair de Lune and she was all kinda flirty with Calvin but he wasn't there yet and it was pretty funny. He was all about the metronomes. . . all the different metronomes. Institute memories.

Second thought: Mary's New Year's Resolutions. I'll let you process that a little. It's hard to treat all the stuffed bunnies with equal love when you are packing for a trip. That's the first conflict of interest I note. She only took ten to Arizona this weekend. Also, bins of stuffed bunnies are tricky to "process" as well. Baby steps, but I'm proud of her intentions--really proud--and I'll try for a few myself.

Here's to the best 2017 we can have.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Go and Love Someone

Stephens Women

The Tradition Continues. . . now that I have the tree. . . 

I Love Giving the 18 year old presents in doll clothes boxes. . . ha ha ha. 

Someone is a Senior

Yeah for Non-Screen Endeavors

Cousins Forever

The Flannel Shirt Was Too Small for Calvin. . Looks Good on Janel

All Gone
This weekend we had three recitals across town on three days, two church services, a trip to the Minneapolis Institute of Art for the Luther exhibit, a church small group dinner and we took the tree down and made soup.

Yesterday there was weather and I spent five hours in the car getting the kid where he needed to be. Including a piano lesson way up north and a band concert way down south. In the snow.

I'm cooked. Grouchy. Seasonal Affective Disorder. Sleepy. And a glance at the dark window this morning tells me that it's sleeting. Not bad enough to cancel school here in the land of brave drivers. . . just bad enough to screw up everyone's day.

As we tuck Mary in, we talk about waking up cheerful and ready to face the day. I'm working on the log in my own eye. It's a great question. Just how much of our mood can we control and how much do we just succumb to?

To that I would shout a resounding BOTH AND.  Our moods and mental health are real. AND we can do the best we can. Sleep. Eat right. Exercise. Pray/meditate. Drink more water. My five star program. Also vitamin D and fish oil. Six sided star.

Still I'm trying to fix everything and everyone arround me. I'm a contrarian. Is it me? I think it might be me. For my meditation, I went seeking inspiration. I found a printed out Facebook quote on my desk.

Go and love someone
exactly as they are.
And then watch how
quickly they transform
into the greatest, truest
version of themselves.
When one feels seen and
appreciated in their own
essence, one is instantly
--Wes Angelozzi

I also found a great devotion about contrariness. When we are in a state of contrariness, we can't be love or see love in other people. Our negative thoughts are happy to find someone or something to oppose. We stock up on comparison and competition, judging and critiquing.

One of my favorite authors, Richard Rohr, writes: The True Self needs none of these games to know who it is. It is a child of God, sharing in God's own Spirit, and its energy is foundationally positive and generative.

I'm reflecting on my favorite airport gift shop t-shirt "the beatings will continue until moral improves." Also--the best way to ensure a happy workplace is to fire all the unhappy people. I guess those sayings don't work for family life. Yeah, no good.

Go and love someone exactly as they are. That's where we start. I guess you can't discipline someone into joy. You have to love them into joy.

But. . . getting to bed on time might help you do this and it might help the other grouchy person you are forcing into cheerfulness improve as well. Hugs and shoulder rubs are also helpful. Chocolate? All of the above.

If you're gonna send really cold weather and then freezing rain and then two to three nuisance inches of snow, could you get it together so we really get a snow day when everyone stays home? 
Help us be cheerful anyway. Help us love the grouchy in ourselves and others. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Learning to Love a Little Better

We have Christmased and Christmased and Christmased. These are just the Minnesota photos. The Iowa photos are still to come.

Happy New Year! A fresh start. Clean slate.

Today we resume our regularly scheduled caffeine, alcohol and food intake. In other words less.

Resolutions? Not sure if I can make cohesive resolutions on five hours sleep.

What if that number on the scale this morning is only evidence of a lovely twelve days with family and friends--beautifully and lovingly prepared food. Home-made ice-cream like Daddy made? Hot fudge made by a friend on my stove? Rosettes and spritz and specialty honey from the studio folks? Ham balls, quiche and lasagna around the table at my mom's in Iowa--instead of her being in the hospital with pneumonia? Spaghetti sauce cooked with sacrifice and love? A new year's toast with friends?

What if it's all okay?

Yes, to a return to self discipline, yes to being our very best self in 2017. But. . .

No, to thinking we've got to be a certain way. Things have to be a certain way.
I've spent the better part of my life in a growth mindset. Practice more. Read more. Exercise more. Organize your drawers. Polish and shine everything.

What if all we really need to do is love each other better?
To keep learning what it means to love each person just a little better?

I don't always know how to do that. And often I fail. But I'm gonna keep showing up with love. Life is a laboratory of love. We get to keep working it out.

Gratitude. Forgiveness. Patience. Ears to listen. Hearts to sort the grain from the chaff. These are the tools we get.

I'm listening to Oleta Adams, because I still start with the A's on New Year's Day, and I may cut out some sugar today. . . but my only true resolution this year is to love a little better.

Help me to love each and every person in my life just a little better this year. 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Santa Says Congratulations

What a lovely recital!
Congratuations to all the performers and parents. I'm so proud and full of love for all of you! All the solo perforances and the duets and trios with students, parents and me were so fun and expressive.
I'll be posting videos on youtube--mostly private links so shoot me an email and I'll give you some links with parent permissions!

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all of you!

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Storm is Coming

Caramel Corn is a great gluten free vehicle for butter, sugar and vanilla

This little one is already an appreciative audience

Hold your horses, girls!

Yes, that would be a lit steering wheel heat icon

Each loop is a perfect repetition! 

A sample of duets and trios

The reality. 
The storm is coming! That would be literally and figuratively. It's our big weekend. The children have been working so hard. This year, along with our classical repertoire we are featuring holiday duets and trios. I love Catherine McMichael's arrangements because they are intended for different levels so you can pair elementary and intermediate students. We are also doing a few of Jennifer Eklund's duets and the standard Alfred and Faber.  Each pianist will play one classical piece and one holiday selection. I've been lifting weights so that I can handle the stage managing--I'm borrowing extra adjustable chairs!

A couple weeks ago I started paying Mary a buck a day to be sitting in the chair with her hands on the piano at 6:45 a.m. Calvin says if I'm gonna go there I owe him $4272 in back pay. Note to parents and children everywhere, fair does not always mean equal. Some of us are not morning people. There go I but for the grace of an auto start coffee maker.

A glance at the weather is a little off putting. In light of Saturday's recital and Sunday's open house, I made Bill call the plow guy 13 times. Tell him I'm not psycho but we really need plowed out by 10:00 a.m. or I'm gonna blow a gasket. Tell him again.  Leave him another message. Tell him again--the part about how I'm not crazy but it's really important. DID YOU TELL HIM?!?!?!?!?

I'm guessing if it's really a high of eight below sledding will not be very much fun at the open house on Sunday. Except maybe Solomon and Nehemiah. They will probably ice fish. Minnesota boys.

Joyful haste is in the air. There are glass plates to bring up from the basement and chairs and drum sets and marimbas to move. Candles to light and programs to print. I have an extra printer in the trunk of the car sshhhh, not really. It's a good idea this time of year--it lets the printer under the desk know just where he stands.

Sand and salt.  DID YOU GET SAND AND SALT?  Honey, when are you gonna get the sand and salt?

Kris and I made all manner of fussy little Christmas cookies last weekend--chocolate thumbprints and wafer sandwiches--you know the kind--that take ten minutes each?  I whisked them away to the freezer. They are so special that no one can eat them. Ever. OK, maybe one on Christmas Eve.

To counter that I made three batches of caramel corn that we can stuff ourselves with.
I'm off the sugar free thing. In case you didn't notice.

God bless us everyone. Keep us safe on the roads and warm and toasty in our homes and hopefully at recitals and parties!

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Light Shines. . . well. . sometimes it's actually just a little too dark to see

True Love

He Doesn't Do Anything Half Way

Cousin Robin's Photo of the last of my Grandma's dated muffin cups and  her other grandma's pan

Christmas Tea Girls

The Entertainer

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. Except occasionally, like when you are playing a simple accompaniment for the guest speaker at the Christmas Tea and there's a background slide show and as soon as the slide show starts and she takes her first breath you realize that it's completely dark behind the piano and you can't read a single note of the seven page "Breath of Heaven" music.  You could stop and holler--hey--somebody turn on the lights back here, but since that might ruin what little ambiance you had going, instead you limp through, channeling your five years as country music starlet and thanking God that you are a Christmas music junkie and have actually heard said carol 1, 347,239 times, relying on your very own out of shape ears.

Every year I say it's the last year. This year, is really the last year.

Read my lips. . . no more tea. Instead I'm having an open house party. Yep. That will be much simpler. (Sunday 12/18 from 3:00-6:00 if you are in town--please stop by. . . no tea will be served.)

Calvin was a hit as usual and gently entertained us with his own internal library of Christmas music. He sold out of CD's, I haven't counted the cash--but it's gonna feed a lot of children for a year.

I don't want to ruin the tea for anyone else--the room is beautiful, the tables are beautiful, it's a moment of grace and fellowship. It's just time for me personally to move on.

Speaking of Christmas music junkies and playing by ear--we run across old random videos a lot--from the kids' cameras or old phones--we found one of Mary at Grandma and Grandpas on Christmas Day, she was four and Calvin was seven and she's singing Santa Claus is coming to town and Calvin is on the piano way in the background. She's cute as a bug of course, putting it on for the camera. I'm listening to Calvin's seven year old accompaniment and I hear the exact licks from Fred Waring's Christmas Magic CD, which I've been known to overplay, just once in a while for the past 40 years.

I don't say this to brag. . . though just like your kids, my kids are awesome. I'm just telling you this so that you can be very careful about what you let your children listen to. For example if Wee Sing Christmas is in the rotation--I highly recommend just passing that one on. Well. . . come to think of it, all kids deserve in tune Christmas carols. Never mind. Throw it away. Just be careful what you listen to.

And. . . carry an itty bitty book light in your briefcase. There's enough darkness in the world without trying to read those increasingly small black dots without light.

Merry Christmas.