Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Please, Don't Shoot the Piano Player. . .

An antique sign from the old west reads, "Please Don't Shoot the Piano Player, He's Doing the Best He Can."

That is how I am feeling right now, about Mary's upcoming Book 2A graduation recital on Saturday.  She will play the first seven songs from Suzuki Piano Book 2, plus a Kabalevsky Scherzo.

It is not going so great.  Like the rebellious child of a preacher, or the shaggy haired son of the barber, the piano teacher's kid is not gonna nail this recital.

Confessions.  I'm doing everything wrong.  I would never let my students do this.  We scheduled the recital three weeks into first grade, her first all day school experience.  She is wiped out.  We did this so that she could play for everyone that would be in town for her birthday.  We rushed.  She will have a birthday party Friday night and a recital on Saturday.  Incidentally, lucky for me, all 12 girls have responded yes to the party.  Who wouldn't want to party with Mary.  So she will have sugar hangover with a generous amount of over stimulation. . . tra la la.  

I'm yelling at her.  Yesterday I made the happiest girl in the world cry.  But, Mary, come on--WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?  We have been playing these songs for 15 months.  She has played each of them at a recital, with perfect repetitions out the wazoo.  She knows them backwards and forwards.  Still, we can't get through it.  We are soooo far from adding any nuance to the pieces.  I just don't get it.  SHE doesn't get it.  I'm slipping into sarcasm with her as well.  Bad mama.  Deep breath.

After the bad practice I came downstairs (with tears in my eyes) and our baby sitter Mary Lynn said some things to me like: she's only six. . . it is gonna be just fine. . . everybody will love it. .. she wants to play. . . it doesn't have to be perfect.   Yes, yes, yes.

I know all the problems.  It isn't easy for her.  It should be easy by now.  Every day feels like we are starting over, these are the black keys and these are the white keys. . . .

If I didn't have Mary, I would probably wonder why people struggle.  I would wonder how a child could practice everyday and listen, have wonderful caring parents and still struggle.

I decided to steal some practice time from Calvin and break up her practice into two sessions these last three days.  So this morning, I got out the puppy puppet and sat in the back with my coffee and let her do a run through with puppy saying ooh and ahhhhh.   Puppy loves it even when she totally screws it up.

I love her even when she totally screws up.  I really do.  Obviously.  To me.  Is it obvious to her?

I used to have to tell one highly committed studio mom to lower her expectations.  I told her this many times over the years, when she was frustrated with her high achieving child.  Be happy when things go well, but don't expect it all the time.

Physician heal thyself.   I'm lowering my expectations.  The new goal is--to have a good time.  Cuddle with puppy puppet a little more. Maybe, just maybe let the melody sing out a little more beautifully. . . . but remember, she's is doing the best she can.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fall and the Cello CD

Here in Minnesota it is fifty degrees and raining.  The leaves are starting to turn.  This photo is of the Fall Fiesta Maples my studio bought as a memorial for my dad.  Thanks again, they are beautiful and a perfect yearly celebration of his life, for me, Bill and the kids.  They are growing strong, just like the kids.

I got out the Rostropovich CD of Bach's unaccompanied cello suites.  There are six suites on two disks.  Each suite has seven dances. I don't know all the famous cellists, but he is my favorite.  I don't have a big library of cello music, but this album is top on my list.  I get it out at the end of September every year.  The rich cello sounds remind me of the rich colors of Fall.  It is beautiful and cosy.  It is like crusty French bread.

I heard one of these dance movements on our classical radio station this week--but arranged for saxophone quartet.  The radio announcer was obviously a classical music purist--the sax quartet must have been a listener request.  When it was done she said--isn't it interesting that it takes four saxophones to play one cello line?  Since Bill has played in saxophone quartets, I thought that was pretty funny.  Insert your own off-color joke: how many saxophone does it take to. . .  (Sorry Bill, it is an early birthday jab.)

Anyway, the disk I like is on the EMI classics label.

Mary said, "when I listen to music I clean my room better."  She discovered at a young age that music can enhance our mood and motivate us.  She is gonna need a lot of CDs. . . to clean up that mess.  She is listening to the GO FISH GUYS.  I'm baking birthday cupcakes for her and birthday pie for Bill--to Rostropovich and Bach.  

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Place of Leisure-revised

Today for the first time, I took my blog entry for the day off the web.  When I went back to proof read it, it didn't sound like the tone or attitude I intended.  What I meant to say in the entry was--that I am thankful that after ten years of things being a little too crazy--this Fall I have a little more margin.  I did nothing to earn this, but I am thankful for it nonetheless.  Mary is in school, I have fewer students--life is feeling more balanced.  At least a little.

I was trying to be funny and instead,  it sounded kinda pompous.  So, if you read it--forget it--and if you didn't. . . never mind.   Sort the grain from the chaff. . .

Pastor Paul had a sermon a long time ago about how heaven is not a place of leisure.  There is not some destination we seek where there is no work to be done.

For years, I have thought that heaven must be a place where there is enough time.  Enough time to do all the things you want to do.  Read to children, practice piano, garden, spend time with husband, family and friends.  Cook.  Exercise.  Learn.  Help other people.  Enough time to show up for other people.

There is a very famous reference--when we've been there 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun. . .

I think what most of us are after, is not a life of leisure, but of balance.  Like most working moms--I habitually overbook.  I'm working on that.  This Fall is a good chance for me to feel that balance.  To do less and be able to do better at what I am doing.

I also realize that a lot of people don't have a choice to do less--small children--stressed marriages--stressed mortgages. . .

And some choose to do more--my friend Michele is taking a newborn baby into temporary foster care in their home.  I could barely get up in the night for my own children.  God bless her.  I'm amazed.

So, what I meant to say was that I'm thankful for this time, this moment of grace.  To everything there is a season, this Fall is a little bit of heaven on earth, for me.

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Grateful Heart

It's hard for the seeds of depression to take root in a grateful heart. 

Today is the two year anniversary of the death of my father.  It seems like yesterday.  That sounds cliché but it is true.   He died peacefully at home after a five and a half month battle with pancreatic cancer.  He was only 69.

I heard that quote about the grateful heart on the radio on Sunday.  I'm sorry, I don't know who said it or where it came from,  but I guess is might fall under public domain. . . everyone seems to be in the business of preaching that gratitude is the best medicine.  No matter what your religious or non-religious background, being thankful is supposed to be the cure-all.

I think that is because it is supposed to be very difficult for us to feel two emotions at one time.  It's hard to simultaneously feel love and fear, hard to feel self-pity and gratitude.

Listing five things to be grateful about in a journal everyday is supposed to be life changing.

So here are five things I'm grateful about my father. . .
We got five and a half months to say goodbye.
He was not angry about dying, he had a simple faith, he was a pillar of courage.
He got to be appreciated and acknowledged by his church and community.
We got to write on Caring Bridge--that brought us all closer--family, friends, community
I have nothing but pride, admiration, and love for my father. 
Five things is the tip of the iceberg.  I could bore you with pages more--like--I'm thankful my kids are old enough to remember him and I'm thankful my mother is a strong and independent woman.

Hmm.  I listed the five things and  I'm still sad.  Not depressed.  Just sad.  Maybe there is some not so subtle difference.  Maybe there are certain emotions that you can feel two of at the same time.

When you love someone, you miss them when they are gone.  I'm thankful for my dad and his life and his love, but I'm still really sad.  I still really miss him.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Childlike Faith

Lord of All Creation
of water, earth and sky
the heavens are your tabernacle
Glory to the Lord on High

God of wonders, beyond our galaxy
You are holy, holy
The universe declares Your majesty
You are holy, holy

Lord of heaven and earth

Early in the morning
I will celebrate the light
And as I stumble through the darkness
I will call Your name by night

Hallelujah to the Lord of Heaven and Earth

As I listen to my son play and sing this Third Day pop hit on the piano, at 6:20 in the morning, as the sun is rising here in Minnesota, he starts tenderly and builds the music to the end, and I have tears in my eyes every time.  It increases my faith.  Can our children strengthen our faith?  I thought parents were supposed to teach their children faith.

I wonder if he knows how many times a day I wonder if anyone is really out there.  How could it be that someone could have created these mountains, this glacier, this rock, this galaxy?  How could it not be?  I guess that is why it is called faith.  It is just faith.  Hope.  Gut wrenching hope.

Just how much am I celebrating the light, and how much am I stumbling in the darkness?  I won't know until after I have my coffee.

Calvin asks me again, "why did God have to kill all the children of Pharaoh?"  We are reading the Bible stories.  Isn't that tit-for-tat?  Is God tit-for-tat? No. No. I don't know, Calvin.  Ask Pastor Paul.

I have my own list of questions to present to God as well.  One of which is: why wouldn't Calvin just take a nap when he was a baby?  The other is, why is there cancer?

Sister Susan asks (happy birthday Susan) why can't God just make some announcements every so often, like he did in the old testament?  Textbook answer: because we have Jesus now.  But. . Jesus isn't exactly appearing in the clouds and performing miracles to increase our faith right now either.

What do we have?

Mary asks what color are God's eyes.  I don't know.  That might be another question for Pastor Paul. . . I only see God's face in people. Children. Nature. Music. I look into her eyes and tell her that today God's eyes must be blue, because I see God's face in her face, and her eyes are blue.

The only God worth believing in did orchestrate the universe, and sent Jesus, and gave my children my husband's eyes and put little faces on pansies.  I guess if I understood it all then God wouldn't be God and I wouldn't be me.  I don't want a God small enough to understand, but, I'm gonna keep trying anyway--there is a long way between here and there.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

Who Argues with a Doberman eating his sausage?
A t-shirt at the airport gift shop has this phrase printed on it: the beatings will continue until morale improves.  I love this. . . but not enough to buy the t-shirt.  Here is another good one: the best way to improve morale is to fire all the unhappy people.  (

The thing is, recently my children have accused me of nagging.  It doesn't help that Bill has been gone so many weeks in a row.  Instead of the zone defense you get with two parents at home, I am man to man against two intense little players.  One of them is bound to get by me and score.

So, I am nagging.  Nagging about the basic business of household life--brush your teeth, unload the dishwasher, practice your snare drum (ouch) and that doesn't even include table manners and NOT INTERRUPTING.

"I was gonna do it. . . "
"You don't trust me. . . "
"I was about to do it. . . "
"You don't understand. . . "
"I was trying. . . "

To borrow the athletic mantra JUST DO IT.

The thing these young whippersnappers need to understand is: love is given, trust is earned.
(That is not my phrase. . . that is Pastor Jim's sermon)

Love is given, trust is earned.  So I'm turning the tables around here.  I will stop nagging when you earn my trust. Prove that you are gonna DO THE TASK.  The nagging will continue until behavior improves.  You want to be treated like an independent kid?  Be an independent kid.  It's not from "How to Talk So Kid's Will Listen" and it is not out of "Kids, Parents and Power Struggles."  It's survival of the parents.

Tra la la.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Day at Easter Church

So, if you saw the papers in the Twin Cities this morning, you would know that Pastor Kris was installed as our new lead pastor of Easter Lutheran Church today.

Wow.  What a day we had.  Two regular services with a big anthem this morning, then getting all the food ready for the reception after the installation service at 2:00.

I wouldn't have volunteered to coordinate the reception food for just anyone.  It's not like I'm out there looking for volunteer opportunities at this point. . .

Kris is my friend.  So, between our church small group and the Chick Talk ladies, we pulled off pouring about 9 batches of punch, serving twelve pounds of strawberries and about 1,000,000 beautifully decorated home made cupcakes--which was about 996,600 too many.  That's Lutherans for you.  Ask a group of Lutheran women to bring cupcakes and THEY BRING CUPCAKES.

Kris's daughter Annika sang a song with the band, very lovely--the highlight for me!  Calvin read one of the scripture lessons.  The joy of being ten years old is that you don't even think to get nervous to read in front of the Bishop.  I thought he read very thoughtfully, and spoke very clearly.  Of course, I attribute both of these successes to these kids' work at the piano.  I'm only just kidding a little.  They were poised.

The choir performed.  Can I just say that all of our life experiences are valuable.  Had I not had 10 years of playing gigs in bands with all nature of screwed up circumstances, I think I might have thrown-up with nerves or thrown a gasket.  Since the pop band was also playing at the service, the piano was pushed over by the band, away from the choir and the director.  The sound of the piano was distorted with a different EQ coming out of a monitor speaker and I didn't have enough light to see my hands or the music very well.  I couldn't hear the choir much. The piano bench had been replaced by a chair, that was about six inches too low.  All in all, a very uncomfortable performance, for which I was already quite nervous for.  

All's well that ends well.  At least I think it ended okay.  Sometimes you have to just keep putting your fingers on the keys and pushing them down.  You know, the black and white ones. . . and keep looking at all those pesky squiggly black dots on that page. .. and try to listen to the music as it goes by. Try to enjoy the moment.  There were some pretty moments.

The day wasn't about me or the choir or the band or the readers though, it was about Easter Church and the blessing of Pastor Kris to lead it.

God Bless you Kris, and Pastor Jim, and Pastor Paul, and Kevin and Sarah, and Kris Henry with the organ and the choir and Kent and Jason with the band.  God Bless you all as we go forth!  God Bless Easter.

Cupcake anyone?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Life So Short, the Craft So Long to Learn. . .

This is where I am at: choir practice is over for the night.  A glass of wine, Columbia Crest-Two Vines Shiraz pairs well with a bowl of popcorn--and I am heading up to practice.  Need to practice.

Bill has been in Atlanta since Sunday afternoon.  I am a single parent, until tomorrow night at midnight.  I have written checks for school photos, practiced piano with two of my children, driven to gymnastics, taught 21 kids piano, planned food for church this weekend, bought groceries, dropped Bill's shirts off at the cleaners and triple booked October 8.  That is the date we scheduled masterclasses for Suzuki Piano Teacher's Guild at my house.  I thought Pastor Jim's retirement service was on the 9th.  It is on the 8th.  Choir is playing an epic piece.  Oops.  Also, as the first faux pas of my SPTG presidency, I scheduled these masterclasses on Yom Kippur, that same October 8, ensuring that our Jewish students would not be able to participate.

Heavy sigh.  Some live and learn.  Some just live.

Actually, I am inspired tonight to be a lifetime learner.  I am inspired by Kris Henry, our choir director, who hammered out this epic piece in eight part counterpoint while listening to the choir to actually hear who was "getting" their part.  My brain just doesn't quite function that way.

My husband Bill, who is an amazing tenor sax player adds--that he plays one line--really well. Good for him.

But I'm gonna keep on working.  My goal this year: to master reading the transposed tenor part.  In an open score.  This has GOT to be the equivalent brain power to learning a foreign language.

Lest I sound dissatisfied, I'm not.
I'm not a virtuoso pianist.  I can't read eight parts at once.  But I can play the accompaniment with beauty and meaning, and that is what I am going to do.  No matter how many hours it takes me to learn it. I am what God made me, but I'm gonna keep working--my whole life--to make the best of it.  To be my very best self.
"The life so brief, the art so long in the learning, the attempt so hard, the conquest so sharp, the fearful joy that ever slips away so quickly--by all this I mean love, which so sorely astounds my feeling with its wondrous operation that  when I think upon it I scarce know whether I wake or sleep."  Geoffrey Chaucer

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Practice Path. . . part two

I had an email from the mom of a high school student of mine.  Much to my chagrin, the girl had made the JV soccer team.  No offense soccer moms. . . She was going to have a hard time getting practice in. After her lesson, the student decided to wake up early and practice before school, to meet her practice goal.  This was nothing short of a miracle considering the early hour high school kids have to wake up in the first place.  

You see, instead of giving her a big lecture about practicing, we added up the minutes that were my expectation, and divided it into times she could manage, which meant, an hour on Saturday and Sunday, and only 30 minutes on 4 out of 5 week nights.  She wouldn't be able to practice on her game night. This was still only 240 minutes out of the 300 I had requested per week.  I acquiesced.  Now we have a young lady who is going to practice 240 minutes a week instead of quitting or not practicing at all.  She went home and did it. 

Last time I checked--no one practiced more by getting yelled at.  At least not for very long.  The only thing that will truly get kids to practice in the long run, is loving the music.  

Here's another thought: what if we didn't just do the minimum? 

Rick Stanton is a Suzuki teacher at MacPhail who has been lobbying for Suzuki kids to practice two hours a day.  To step it up a notch.  To make our programs more exclusive.  Other pre-college programs around the city have this expectation.  Why shouldn't Suzuki students?  

When I suggest this to students, I can truly put my money where my mouth is on this one, because all through high school I practiced three hours a day.  That was: one hour on classical piano, one hour on jazz piano, and one hour on French horn.  I still went running every day and had one heck of a social life.  

It can be done.  Without too much sacrifice.  

One summer in Austin I had a girl, Sarah, who decided to practice three hours a day, just for the summer.  She knew she couldn't sustain this during the school year, but she learned a whole Suzuki Book in that precious short three months.  

My advanced students practice more when they are preparing for a graduation recital.  A young lady was preparing for a recital this summer and stepped up her practice, upon my request, to two hours a day for the three weeks preceding the performance.  Her comfort level and fluidity blossomed.  I shudder to think of the confidence, skill, and beauty that would be gained if that could become the normal practice habit. 

Everyone has to find his own practice path.  I'm just throwing some ideas out there.   
No matter what, you have to have a plan.  What I lack in musical genius I try to make up for in high levels of organization.  My current plan?  8:30-10:30 p.m.  

Doris Koppleman and the Suzuki Community

We mourn the death of Doris Koppleman, one of the cornerstones of our Suzuki Piano Community.   Please see our national website for memorial details.  (

I didn't know Doris Koppleman very well.  Because I lived in Austin, TX, I did my long term teacher training with Doris Harrel and our local group.   But the thing is--almost every teacher I know has taken at least one training course with Doris K.  Many, many of my students have worked with her at institutes around the country. Calvin worked with her for a week out in Beaver Creek a few years ago. They all loved her.  I've been observing her for 23 years at workshops and institutes.  Everyone loved Doris Koppleman.

Her death made me reflect on the Suzuki community. Together--teacher trainers, teachers, parents and students--we knit a tight web.  The web starts with the Suzuki triangle and stretches out across the country and the world to all the teachers and teacher trainers.  We are all on the same team.  We learn with love.  Love for the child, love for the music, and love for each other.  I think that is pretty rare for music training, and I think it is pretty special.

I'm proud to be a Suzuki Piano teacher.  I hope as part of the next generation, I can continue on the path that our mentors have so beautifully paved.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Practice Path

Next week our Suzuki Piano Teacher's Guild has it's first meeting of the year.  We are going to share and discuss studio policies.  Studio policies include tuition and how it is paid, how make-up lessons are handled, and other important details of the teacher's discretion.

The most important studio policy is that of practicing.  Here are the practice requirements in my studio:

3 to 5 years old. . . 10 to 30 minutes, five to seven days a week
1st to 6th grade. . . 30 to 60 minutes, five to seven days a week
Jr. High. . . 45-60 minutes five, to seven days a week
High School. . . 60-90 minutes, five to seven days a week

Kids are too darn busy.  Where to they get that from?

The same first lesson of the Fall talk is going on in studios everywhere:  when are you going to practice? What is your schedule?  You have to have a plan.  You can do it if you have a plan.  Ideally it should be the same time every day--a time that can be consistent.  Write it on the calendar.  Don't schedule appointments during that time.  Don't answer the phone.  Don't text or email.

Let me vent for a brief moment.  Kids don't bat an eye at two to three hour nightly soccer practices, with games all weekend, but ask them to practice for an hour a day and they get tears in those same eyes.  As one high school girl choked up today during the back to school practice talk, I had to remind her:  you love music, you love to play the piano, this is not a punishment.  Enjoy your practicing.  To borrow the phrase: JUST DO IT.

My dear friend has a son who isn't crazy about practicing.  She makes him practice an hour every night.  She reminds him, you don't have to milk the cows or hoe a row.  You don't have a paper route. This is your job.   Your only job.

Time?  My experience is that once you get the kid to the piano, time isn't usually the issue.  It is just getting to the piano.  That is why commitments like practicing everyday for a year are so valuable.

The practice incentive this Fall is all or nothing.  Sixteen weeks of six days a week and meeting your goal every week.  Then the child earns a gift certificate from me.  For fun.  The gift certificate could never equal the value of 96 days of practicing.  Don't panic--there are a couple built in buffer weeks in case of emergencies.

Good luck.  I'm heading up to practice.  I'll meet you hour for hour day for day . . starting. . . now!

Friday, September 9, 2011

My Life Flows On in Endless Song

My life flows on in endless song
above earth's lamentation,
I hear the real, though far-off hymn
that hails a new creation.

Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear it's music ringing.
It sounds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?

No storm can shake my inmost calm
while to that Rock I'm clinging.
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,
how can I keep from singing?

Church choir has started.  I'm excited to be the accompanist.  It will keep me practicing and meeting new people. Our director Kris Henry picked this hymn to commemorate the ten-year anniversary of September 11 this Sunday.

Each of us remembers our own experience of 9/11.  On that morning Bill called me from his desk at nwa to share the news.  I was dozing in bed nursing our first newborn baby.  The rest of the day I sat in a rocking chair in the living room holding baby Calvin, looking out the window at the plane-less sky.  Wondering.

Our country, each of us, turns to music for comfort.  Our classical music radio station is asking for requests of music for Sunday as well.  Yes, Kris, music is powerful.

Again in September, eight years later, my precious sister conducted my Dad's choir in this same arrangement of How Can I Keep From Singing, at his own funeral.  It became our memorial mantra, partially because my Dad was a singer.  We liked the idea of his life flowing on in song.  Mostly, we liked it because of the deeper meaning.

I can still hear my Dad, in the hospital bed, singing through the LBW hymn book with me, the last morning I spent with him. He had suffered a stroke and was unable to speak clearly, but was still singing those bass parts strong and sure.  I don't say that to be dramatic--I say that because music is powerful.  Deep parts of our brain respond to music when they can't respond to anything else.

The bad news is, I can still hear his voice singing all those hymns every week.  I can even hear him clear his throat before taking a breath.

The good news is, I can still hear his voice singing those hymns every week.

The Christmas after we lost my Dad, Bill bought me a piece of art by Kristen Malcomb Berry.  It has the following scripture in Greek, with a house on a rock:

When a flood arose,
the river burst against that house
but could not shake it. 
Luke 6:48

I wasn't completely successful about the inmost calm part--but we are still here, the storm did not take our family.

September 11 did not take our country.

Art is powerful. Music is powerful. Faith is powerful.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Oh, What I Wouldn't Give For Some Intrinsic Motivation

Is it possible to pay our kids to be more intrinsically motivated?

Some kids got moved up to a very advanced math class at school.  Without my child.  Son, why do you think that happened?  I assume you are of equal intellect.  Turns out they always did the extra credit.  "Self starters." Those students earned that privilege.  Why would anyone take the time to do that when they could be doing something else, like fiddling around on the ukulele?

The smaller girls are moving up to the gymnastics team before the Schmoo.  I watch as the coach repeatedly reminds Mary to keep her tongue in her mouth.  Earth to Mary.  Are you there?

My knee jerk reaction:  what, are my kids a bunch of lazy daisies?  Do they know how to work?  Are they ever going to truly apply themselves to anything?  Why aren't they meeting their potential?

A friend was kind enough to talk me down from the psycho mama ledge.  Are you even sure you want your child in that class?  On that team? True.  Where exactly are we heading with all this striving to be the best?

My husband Bill bought me a book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel Pink.  He picked it up at a business conference.  Last night in desperation I start to flip through the book, turning to the pages on family life.  I immediately find a quote from Carol Dweck, my hero.  "Praise effort and strategy, not intelligence (talent)." So, perhaps the truth will not be so surprising to me.  I am going to read the whole book, and I will report back, but it looks like he comes to similar conclusions to Dr. Dweck:  we have to plant the seed of the spark of loving to learn the subject, and to help our kids take ownership and pride in whatever it is that they are doing.

I also got down my copy of the article by Jeanne Luedke, entitled The Self-Motivated Child, Twelve stages of development that lead to self-motivation.  Not be confused with other 12 step programs-which I may very well require by the time all this parenting stuff is done.  She also talks about the desire to learn, and the cultivation of a good work ethic.  The article is out of the American Suzuki Journal, spring 2001, but I assume it is also available from her on her website.  I like what she says, but how to get there from here?  That is the question.

I'm on this high-horse, so this morning at practice I ask Calvin, what are your goals for this hour?  He launches into a rousing rendition of Que Sera Sera calliope style on the piano.  Earth to Calvin? Are you there? Do you have a goal for today?  Turns out he really couldn't think of one.  I moved on.

Later in the practice during a passage of the Chopin Waltz in A Minor he stops and says, "I love this part, this is my favorite part. The chords are so beautiful. Can we play that part again?"

I felt humbled.  Inside I asked myself, what is your goal this hour?  Where are you really going with this?

I just want my kids to love music.  To love learning.  To work hard. To find what sparks them so deeply that they can't take their hands off it.  I want to share with them how it feels to feel good about something when you accomplish it.

Having reminded myself of that. . . being at peace with that. . . I have to add one more thing: I really don't want that special intrigue to be the ukulele.  Just being honest.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Freezer Door. . . part two

The Freezer Door. . . part two. . . or the episode in which Sara hands off the clean-up baton to Bill.
Long about Friday of last week, the stench of the garbage in the garage hit a tipping point.  Meaning. . the smell was seeping into the house and the paint was peeling off the garage walls.  The garbage truck was not coming until Tuesday.  Hitherto, Bill, having been gone during the week of the freezer debacle, had taken little heed to the situation.

Upon my return from running an errand, I casually mention that the interior of my car is smelling like rotting meat.

Just the mere thought of the black leather interior of his Challenger taking on this particular odor was enough to spur Bill into action.  He was on the phone with the CEO of Waste Management within minutes.  Just kidding.  It did take several phone calls for the garbage company to start to take him seriously.  The online chat thing with the virtual garbage girl went nowhere.  Finally, although there were no trucks in our neighborhood, they would send a truck for an emergency pickup.  The Waste Management employee paused the phone conversation with Bill, "You know. . . there is going to be. . . an extra fee. . . of $25. . . but. . . I'm guessing. . . you don't care about that."  You guessed right, baby.

Bill does revenue optimization for a living.  He reflected that they really could have charged quite a bit more and we would have forked it over.  The storm cloud of flies was gathering.

Bill went ahead and pushed the garbage can out to the curb for me, flies and all.  Thanks, dear.  The truck was at our drive before we left for his folks' cabin.

In his defense, he also bleached out the stinker upon our return.  All's well that ends well.

First Day of School Blessing

Bless the buses,
bless the mamas,

Bless the babies
in pajamas,

Bless the ones
who go to learn,

Dogs will wait
'til they return

from Bless Us All, by Cynthia Rylant

The sweet poem hearkens to the day when the mom in her calico apron waved goodbye to the children getting on the bus, with a baby on her hip.  The dad had already left for work in his Thunderbird.  A normal family.

Truth is, on this first day of school in ISD 196 I can't think of one single "normal" family.  We have moms that work, dads that travel, private school, home school, divorce, and countless other variations on the theme of a family.  So here is another version of the poem:

Bless the Schmoo
and bless her brother

Bless grandfathers 
and grandmothers

Bless their Daddy
while he's traveling

Keep their mother
from unraveling. . . 

Bless the kids 
as lessons start

Play the music
from their hearts

I'll take credit for that one. . . . God Bless all the kids and all the teachers on the first day of school, whenever you started!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Follow Me By Email

Some of you, (okay, mostly my sister Susan) have asked to have my blog updates sent to you by email.  Even thought it was very challenging for me, I have set up a "gadget" that is supposed to send you an email when I update the blog.

So, you might like to try it.  I promise I won't sell your email to anyone, because I don't know how.  I will also never try to sell you anyone else's email.  You can scroll down the the bottom and find the submit button.

Since I have been writing for eight months now, you might be interested in my statistics.  I have readers in the following ten countries:  USA, India, Germany, United Kingdom, Singapore, Malaysia, Spain, Denmark, Hungary, and the Ukraine.

I don't know who they are, and some of them probably got to the blog by mistake.  Many have come back anyway.  Some of the visitors are folks I met at camp from other countries. Maybe there are some piano playing, overly religious, talk too much about their own kids, gardening folks in Singapore as well.

I have had 3641 hits since January when I started.  That is just kinda fun.  My stats don't tell me who is checking--probably mostly my mother--but they do tell me things like what country people are from and if you use a mac or p.c. and if somebody did a search to find it--what the search keywords were.

So, thanks for reading.  I hope occasionally you are fed by the experiences of my family and studio and life.

P.S. I also changed some setting to try to make it easier to post a comment.  Now, anyone should be able to post a comment, for better or worse.  If you don't say something nice, I will remove it.  (see previous blog entry about only saying nice words. . . )