Monday, May 28, 2012

SAA 2012 Conference Highs

You  know the conference was a success when you can't wait to get to the piano when it's over, and you can't wait for your students to walk in the door that week.

Congratulations to Aidan and Alec for their performances in the master classes at the conference.  I was very pleased that they got this great opportunity!  It can be tricky to take a lesson on a piece you have played for a long time, you already pretty much have your thoughts and vision of the piece.  But Fay Adams and Marina Obukovsky gave the boys some fresh ideas, and I thought both kids implemented them very well--listening carefully and being open--which I believe are the hallmarks of good Suzuki students.  I was proud of them.

My own presentation went fine.  There was a respectable amount of victims there and basically I tried to cram a 50 minute topic into 10 minutes, so there wasn't much hope for any inspirational public speaking finesse.  That's okay, I'm not trying to be something I'm not, I just had some ideas to share and I think I shared them.  If it sparks some thinking and discussion about the value of friendships and community within the studio, it will have been a success.

The value of friendship and community was manifested in my visit with Vicki, my friend from Texas.  Having someone to share the conference with and talk over the ideas from all the sessions and masterclasses was so much fun.  Vicki stayed with me, and I confess that I was a lousy hostess.  She pretty much had to fend for herself in my fridge, but I hope she survived!  You know you have a good friend when she pretends not to see the cat throw-up in the hall and gets her own hard-boiled egg and fruit from the fridge while you freak-out reprinting your session handout because you put "SSA" in the title instead of "SAA."  Speaking of friendship and community, Doris Harrel, we missed you. Very much.  I hope everyone will share their own highlights with you on the phone soon.  It wasn't the same without you!

There were two favorite things for me--the first was watching Ann Schein perform, teach and lecture.  I could have sat there and listened to her the whole weekend.  What a beautiful musician.  How much do we need this kind of inspiration?  A hero.  It's priceless.  Just being in the room with her raised us all to another level.  She was a student of Rubinstein.  I'll always remember the tone of her voice and her smile and of course her impromptu lecture performances that had us all in tears.

My second favorite thing was the Kaleidoscope Concert at Orchestra Hall friday night.  William McGlaughlin hosted this recital featuring the cream of the crop of our Suzuki students from around the country.  Every child that played was amazing, but I had the most fun watching Gavin George, the student of Mary Craig Powell.  This nine year old angel couldn't keep the smile off his face the whole weekend.  I loved just looking at him.  Of course this is a rare moment when a child can rattle off concert piano concertos at a professional level, but what got to me was his pure little heart.  When he grows up and does something amazing, I'm just gonna remember that little face in that very small tuxedo.

Thank you to Malgosia and Gail for organizing the piano sessions.  It was a very special weekend.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Wild Turkeys

Casey's dad passed away this morning.  As one of her friends texted--Casey you have been faithful, brave and kind through every trial.  We are all proud to be your friend.

As I drove the kids to school I saw three wild turkeys in the ditch.  I haven't seen any for a long time and I just think of it as a message from my dad to Casey, or as he called her Racy Casey, that everything is okay.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Life Would Be So Much Easier If. . .

. . . I wasn't trying to do so much.  If I didn't practice with the kids everyday.  If they weren't playing out in Colorado in June.  If Calvin wasn't trying to learn this seven mile long concerto.  If I wasn't giving this ten minute presentation, which I have spent 20 hours on. . . at the conference this weekend.

I sat at the piano at church at 7:30 Sunday morning, with my heart racing and palms sweating, for the rehearsal with choir and chamber orchestra and all I could think of was how much easier it would be to be at home in bed.

Then the music started.  I couldn't imagine having missed out on being a part of it.

At the moment, it's true, there is too much going on.  The plant sale delivery last week couldn't have been timed any worse.  Having the studio recital on the same day as the choral service did not help.

I had my meltdown.  Friday afternoon.  It had something to do with Bill wanting to get the oil changed in the Challenger.  It's just that I had twenty errands to run and a checklist a million miles long and performing service on a car with 37 miles on the odometer didn't seem like a priority to me.  He was an angel and stayed home and folded the laundry from ten days ago instead.

I'm not blundering through my life.  I put a lot of thought into the decisions I make.  I'm holding fast to the philosophy that in order to make any difference in the world, in order to grow and help my kids grow. . . there's gonna be some tough moments.  There's gonna be some weeks where we have to dig clean socks out from under a mountain of unfolded laundry.  Where the cats have to deal with a stinky litter box.  Where a few houseplants bite the dust.

Will I look back and say it was all too much?

I don't know.  But I hope it will be better than looking back and saying I always had my socks folded.  It would be a lot easier--just to fold the socks--that it.  It is a little tempting.  And it might suit my personality better.

I hope I will look back and say I couldn't imagine having missed out on being a part of it all. . . next time just not all in the same week.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Glimpses of Grace

My heart goes out to Casey, down in Houston.  She flew her dad there from Tucson and now he is in a hospice house.  Like a good daughter, she is driving back and forth to see him and stay every day and night, in between taking care of her own two boys.

God bless those hospice doctors and nurses.  God bless them.  They see it everyday but we only see it with the person we love.  They make it natural and sacred and dignified and peaceful.  They educate us about that which we never wanted to know.  That which we can't even speak.

You can see that her experience is hitting way too close to home.  I too, read the crappy little brochure. The last weeks of my Dad's life are etched into the very fabric of my being.  Every word.  Every gesture.  Every wink.  Every glimpse of grace.  Every tear and every tender moment.

I can't be there for her.  But I pray that all the right angels show up at just the right times, just like they did for my family. Angels to drive you home and angels to bring a sandwich and angels to just be there.   I pray that they have many glimpses of grace.

My mom and sister will hate me for it, but sometimes you have to go there.  Here is a link to my favorite hymn:  An angel once gave it to me and I'm passing it on.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Spring Recital 2012

Congratulations to everyone upon our studio recital yesterday.  It is truly a privilege for me to work with you all .  I simply love to hear you all play.  You worked so hard and played with such love.

I'm presenting at the conference this weekend and I'm tweaking my presentation this week.  The title is "Creating Community in the Suzuki Studio."  Community within the studio isn't just a warm fuzzy idea.  We need each other.

What I really want to say it that it takes all of us working together to bring out our best.  Working with such a fine group of musicians and parents has helped me grow as a teacher and as a parent and a musician.

This journey of music study is a long and winding road that requires much patience and love and a little bit of humor on some days.  We can't do it alone.   A few cookies after the recital doesn't hurt either. . .

True, it isn't all about warm fuzzies, but I'm sure feeling them today, and I think that's okay.  I hope the students are enjoying a moment of pride in their accomplishments and the friends they are sharing them with.

I'm thankful for each and every family in my studio.  Congratulations to everyone!

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Dress

Got Mary the dress.  It came in the mail today.  It is for the honors recital in Colorado.

The bad news is it cost as much as my wedding dress.  The good news is I bought my dress off the rack on clearance at Dillards. . .so that's not saying too much. With any luck she'll be able to wear it for a few years.

It's important that she know that there is more than one special piano player living in this house.

Even if I have to pay her a buck for every perfect Melody for the next month.

P.S. in case you were wondering about the Butterfly dress--she loved it--but I thought it was too old on her.  (Read: 16 years old. . . )  So--we're keeping it but not for the recital.  These are the games we play.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wishing You Were Here

Checking things off the list.  Choir practice.  Check. Black sharpie signs for all the plants at the sale tomorrow.  Check. In the heat of the moment it can sometimes be difficult to tell the fuchsia hanging basket from the mixed petunias.  I understand.  That's why I made signs.  Messy signs but signs nonetheless. $7,033.60 wholesale's worth of plants and dirt arrive at Deerwood tomorrow morning.  I'm not admitting what percentage of that number is my order.  

Mostly, I'm missing Bill this week.  We all have tricky weeks.  This is mine for the year.  I'm facing it with a happy heart, but I miss my partner.  We are a good team, but the weekly travel is wearing me down.  

I signed up to have kids.  I signed up to teach piano, I signed up for choir accompanist, I signed up for the Deerwood Plant Sale. . . but I don't remember signing up to have my husband gone every week.  Sometimes it's the wildcard you have to look out for.  I know Bill doesn't like it either.  

As Maggie would say, that's corporate America.  But I'm not accepting that.  I think there is a job out there that is creative and challenging and worthwhile, and here in Minnesota.  I'm just sending it out there.  

Hurry home Bill, we are fine, but we love you and when you love someone you miss them when they are gone.  

Plus, the kids need you to take them to the Deerwood Social and Basket Raffle Friday night.  Hot dogs and noise and little made in China trinkets.  I know I didn't sign up for that. . . 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Ten Thousand Hits

If the weather were not so completely gorgeous I might be losing my mind this week.  The planets have aligned to put the plant sale delivery, studio concerto fundraising hoopla, my SPTG presentation and meeting, the big choir choral service and my spring studio recital in the same week.  It's all good--just a little too squished together.  Still contemplating the wrist tattoo that says "this too shall pass."  Except that I don't really want to rush through it--I want to do a good job.  Plus I don't have time to sit there in the tattoo shop.

Several of the piano kids played for Reiko Imrie on Saturday.  What a lovely day we had.  I really enjoy watching her teach.  She reminds me of Doris Harrel, she seems to have the ability to get to the bottom of the music.  As Doris would say, the skeleton.  What is really going on here?  What is the message?  The melody and the harmony and the rhythm and the texture all work together to send out the message, most of the time all we have to do to not screw it up is get out of the way.  So, thank you Reiko, the piano kids loved their time with you.

Mother's Day.  I thought about a blog entry on Mother's Day, and what I would say.  I looked back to my entry titled Happy Mother's Day (click to link) from May 2011 and decided I would still say the exact same thing, so go back and read that one again.

Congratulations to my few but faithful blog followers, including my mother, my sister, and my in-laws!  We hit 10,000 blog hits.  I was going to send a prize out to the 10,000th person, but I really have no way of figuring that out.  You may be asking, what entry has had the most visits in 16 months?  Death, Taxes and Laundry. (Click to link)  This entry has far and away the most visits.  It has no mention of music, faith, teaching or parenting, which the blog is supposed to be about.  I'm not taking it personally.  I'm not going to quit and take up professional laundry, though I might be better at it than what I'm doing.  I think the popularity of that essay speaks to the fact that the mundane portions of our lives take up the most energy.  It is the day to day stuff that we must face with creativity and joy if we are to survive as happy people.

Bill leaves for Denver tomorrow.  I'm not sure how I'm gonna pull it all together this week. Calvin has a sign on his bedroom door that he made that says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Yes, this is true, but the sunny whether helps too.

Tonight was the Blackhawk Middle School parent orientation.  I somehow missed the "parent" part and Calvin came along. There were a few other parents with kids there and we bonded with our eyes, knowing that we were among the small quadrant that somehow missed the "parent" part.

Bill asked me on the way home, "What was it about the social studies room that caused you to break down?" Something Lincoln said?  The historical timeline on the smartboard?

It wasn't the stupid social studies room. . . it was the lockers and the gym uniforms and the home economics room and the cafeteria where Calvin will eat at a table looking out to the elementary playground where Mary will be having recess.  I finished the tour choking back sobs.

When we got home Calvin said, "How is the band teacher gonna know I play piano?  Are they gonna know that I don't need to take typing?  (He types some ungodly amount of WPM-with the right fingers) How will they know how much I love computers? How can I be one of the best percussionists if there are so many?"  He's right, it is like starting over.

He will be fine.  I will be fine.  This too shall pass.  I'm not so good with change, but like death, taxes and laundry, it is inevitable.  I must face it with creativity and joy.  And, there is that all things through Christ who strengthens me thing too.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Microsoft OnTask

Microsoft OffTheRails

Beauty Rest
I got my hair cut and the pianos are tuned and voiced.  Life is good.

Certain times of the year I feel like I could really use an administrative assistant.  Bill and I sometimes call our combined imaginary secretary "Sally."  Let's have Sally do it.  Sally, type up the masterclass programs.  Sally, stop by SAMs club for napkins and cups for the recital.

But, life is good, even without Sally.  Eventually it all gets done.

I stopped and got a navy blue sports coat for Calvin for the honors recital.  It is his first jacket ever. And I got Mary a fancy dress for hers.  I finally had the good sense to just bring one home.  Shopping for dresses with a seven-year-old wasn't going so smoothly.  Any hope of finding the right fabric in the right color in the right level of formality was mind boggling.  The one I picked is soft and has butterflies on it.  Wish me luck in selling it to her.

We were out the door this morning at 8:01.  Thank you very much.  Grouchy Mama came up with a new plan and it worked.  No one even had to call child protective services.

If you know Calvin, you know that he is obsessed with computer operating systems and software.  He is writing his own manuals for every conceivable Microsoft product.  Yesterday at breakfast Bill got him good. As Calvin motor-mouthed on and on about some PowerPoint thing, Bill interrupted and said, "I just got this great new software for work, it's called Microsoft OnTask." Really, Daddy!  Wow! I've never heard of that! It took about four more sentences for Calvin to get the joke.  There is no Microsoft OnTask.  If there was, I would certainly have it installed in both my children as well as my husband.  Can you get a family discount on ADD screening?

We all have our moments.  But the kids were on time to school today.

Big things are coming up--masterclasses here with Reiko Imrie all day tomorrow, next Sunday the studio recital and the Easter Choral service, the next weekend the National Suzuki Conference.  Aidan and Alec are playing and I'm giving a presentation. It will be awesome to see all my teaching friends from around the country.  I will miss Doris Harrel, who can't come because of her back.  In June school ends and we leave for the Colorado Suzuki Institute.

Sally has the whole summer booked. . . I'm going to have to have a talk with her.  But it is all good.  I might even have to give her a raise.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Congratulations Peter---Book One Graduation

Congratulations Peter!  You had a lovely Suzuki Piano Book One Recital on Saturday!

I enjoyed seeing your piano and your home and meeting your grandmother and friends.

All your hard work paid off--you had so many lovely gentle endings and such a nice sound.  My favorite was Musette!

Book recitals are some of my favorite events.  Each students performs a Book One, all 18 songs with both hands.  Setting goals and working hard helps students grow.  After Book One, students can choose whether or not they want to perform the graduation recitals.  But, when they do, they grow.

I'm so glad I got to hear your recital and share the time with you!

Grouchy Mama

There is one month of school left.  We are getting to that time of year when getting the kids to bed and getting them out the door to school in the morning is getting old.  I am grouchy.  I am the task master.  I want some order and routine to the schedule so that I don't have to be the bad guy.

We have two very verbal children and left to their own accord they would spend the entire morning in the bathroom brushing their teeth over a hardy discourse on recent iphone operating systems.  Enter the evil Mama who repeatedly blurts out the time of day.  It's 7:59.  It's 8:01.  It's now 8:04!

I didn't budget 7 minutes to tie shoes.

Ditto for bedtime.  You are using up your reading time.  The dentist says to brush your teeth for two minutes, it has been 17 and you are still in the bathroom.  What are you doing?  There are only two pieces to the jammies.  GET THEM ON!

Grouchy Mama.

Then they are gone to school and twenty minutes later I miss them.  I'm ready for them to get off the bus so I can start the next round.  Sit down to eat.  Sit DOWN to eat your snack.  Sit.  Down.

It's time for pi-an-o. . .


How many times can one girl go to the bathroom.

What is it that I really want?  What is the root of my discontent?

I really want time to be elastic.  I want to not be in a hurry.  I want the kids to stay on a task without me having a cow.

Surely I can't be the only mother to ever have these feelings.  And they are good kids and I'm a well organized mom.

I may have to lower my expectations.  At least about the elasticity of time.

I don't want to look back and have been too much of a Grouchy Mama.  I'll try to turn it around.

I'm not giving up on bedtime.

Monday, May 7, 2012

After the Storm

My mom came for a visit this weekend.  We spent some time in the greenhouses and out in the garden.  A lot of time.  She de-chived my perennial bed.  Those cute little chives had seeded themselves into every nook and cranny and were threatening to choke out every decent plant in the garden.  This involved digging up each plant and sorting out the roots and putting the good roots back into the soil

In the life of the garden the chives and other noxious weeds are a cancer.  I've spent many an hour out there considering the metaphor that the weeds are a cancer and I am a surgeon removing them from the healthy cells of the body. Round-up is like chemo, it gets the job done but you are bound to do some damage to the good plants to save them from the bad.

We planted 11 new shrubs and two new trees.  Everything is coming up so beautifully, all the ferns and hostas.  The evergreens are all getting their cute little new growth.  It's really the best time of year.

Saturday night the storm sirens ran.  Sirens in Eagan are a little skit-zee.  Officials have been known to sound them for a high pollen count.  But, you never know, this could be the big one.  I heard my mom get up and go down to check the weather on the TV.  Thunder and lightening shook the house and the wind and rain came and it was one of those where you feel like the house is going through a dishwasher or a car wash.  My heart sank.  All the little seedlings are just making their way out there and we give them this.  I listened for the hail which luckily did not come.  I looked out the windows and saw the trees blowing sideways.

The trees amaze me.  There is an oak tree.  You couldn't move it with all your might and if you hit it with the car the tree would win.  Yet, there he bends completely over in the wind.  I don't get it.

Sunday morning I headed out still in my jammies to access the damage.  Some sticks and leaves around and those little maple helicopters were everywhere.  But no tree uprooted and even the little ferns were mostly okay.


Amazing resiliency.

Granted, it wasn't the big one, thank goodness.  The sun shines and the rainbow comes.

In 1998 Eagan lost 10,000 established trees in one storm.  We were just married and I had just moved here.  As we drove through the wreckage I worried that maybe Minnesota wasn't such a great idea.

Everyplace has it's storms and every life has it's storms.

Every garden has it's weeds.  The weeds will always be there.  I must, must, must remember that to enjoy the garden you have to see the flowers and look past the weeds.

And little by little our roots grow deeper and we are better able to withstand life's storms.  Like the tender ferns and the giant oak trees, we too can be resilient.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


This one goes out to my dear one, Casey, who sits in a hospital room alone with her dad in Tucson, Arizona, far from her home and family in Houston.  Her dad had emergency surgery to remove a mass in his throat.  He's breathing through a tracheotomy and fighting pain.  He is sedated for the most part.  She sits there, and God knows I remember what it is like to sit there.  Hours and hours go by.

Our stories are very different.  But, a daddy is a daddy.

Her dad was a big executive at General Electric but things don't always go the way you plan and Casey ended up working her way through college and law school.  Her story is not mine to tell, but it hasn't been easy.

Sometimes it is difficult to see the original person God made.  Sometimes it takes some digging to get back to the ousia of the person.  That is the word Madeleine L'Engle always uses to describe the actual person, as they truly are created before the ravages of time and mental illness or substance abuse.

Tonight, I'm thinking of a man I grew up with in Eldridge, Iowa, Casey's dad, Chuck.  He was so cool.  They drank wine with dinner.  We drank milk with dinner.  He drove a GT.  We had a station wagon.  He was funny and kind and teased me, just like my own dad teased Casey. He listened to Willie Nelson's Stardust album with the lights down low.  They went on ski trip vacations. He and her mom were a sexy couple before I knew what a sexy couple was. He was larger than life.  His smile was a mile wide.  He would laugh. He was something else. He had a big pool table in the basement and blew up photos he had taken of Casey and her brother and framed them above the leather sofa.  He loved his family and his God.  Things don't always go the way you planned.

In my church confirmation class, I now believe that we wasted a lot of Saturday mornings debating who would and wouldn't get into Heaven.  What about babies that die before they are baptized?  What about teenagers who commit suicide?  What about people who suffer from mental illness?

Any God worth believing in has these things completely in His control.  I should have slept in.

God Promises us a right and beautiful mind. God promises us healing.

Some people just don't receive it until they meet Him face to face.