Thursday, February 28, 2013

All My Exes Live in Texas

Heading down to Houston tomorrow for their workshop.  I'm excited to teach and talk with parents and play on the recital.

I'm a little tired. Teaching is energizing. Writing is energizing. Practicing is energizing. Reading police reports, going over insurance information, and deciphering letters from attorney--these things are all draining.

Protecting my thoughts from what might have been is draining. I've never been in an accident before. I'm not well rehearsed on this.

So each time those thoughts pop up, I'm attempting to replace them with thoughts of gratitude. Here is my litany of thanks. . .

. . . thanks for my husband who will hold down the fort this weekend after working 60 hours--please, not too many pop tarts.  And. . don't forget both kids sing in church on Sunday. . . their clothes are laid out.
. . . thanks for the great gals in Suzuki Piano Teachers Guild who are all working together to put on some great graduation recitals in a couple weeks.
. . . thanks for an awesome chamber music festival last weekend.  Everyone did a wonderful job and some very good music was made.  I'm thankful for Christina and the continuation of our relationship!
. . . thanks for the group in Houston for inviting me to teach.  For trusting me to work with their little ones.
. . . for the sweet chiropractor who helped put me back together yesterday.
. . . for my mother and the joy she will have picking out a new puppy!
. . . for my own piano studio and the families I have the privilege of seeing every week.
. . . for my in laws--their love and stability.
. . . my sister--especially that she drives a safe vehicle up and down I80 to work everyday.
. . . my own kidos--for being themselves--for obsessing on vacuum cleaners and bunnies and the ups and downs of a normal week of family life.

It's true that all my ex-boy-friends live in Texas. . . but mostly I was trying to get your attention.  I am going to wear my boots--as a small homage to the dance hall days. . .

Have a great weekend.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Cloud of Witnesses

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge cloud of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.  And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. . .  Hebrews 12. . . 

This was a verse posted on Easter's Facebook page. I printed it out Saturday around noon. I was thinking about how I am susceptible to competitive thoughts and when exposed to excellence occasionally my defenses kick in and I start wondering if I'm pushing my kids hard enough. Are they practicing enough? Are they getting a good education? Are they strong enough in their faith? I don't want to look back and wonder if I should have been stricter or pushed a little harder or put more thought into the plan for my kids, or. . . worked less.

But when I read that verse, it struck me that maybe God wants us to surround ourselves with people of excellence and people who challenge us and challenge our thinking. Maybe we are all here to push each other just a little bit. To inspire each other. Not to be better than anyone else. To be our very best selves.

Every time I share stories with parents, I remember how we are all on the same journey. We are in a sense, a cloud of witnesses to support each other.

Then we were stopped at a stop light Saturday night and a car rear ended us going very fast and the driver was drunk and his car was completely smashed up to his windshild--totaled. Smoking and leaking fluids. Drivers education video material. We were knocked into the stopped truck in front of us. Calvin, Bill and I were fine. Shook up. The jeep barely scathed. Within ten minutes, there was a different cloud of witnesses. State Patrol. Eagan Police. Eagan Fire. My phone was ringing with 911 dispatchers. But, first, before all that, there were these two first responder type guys. Bill had run off after the driver--who fled the scene. I was pointing where they went, telling the first responder and I expected that he would run after Bill and the drunk driver.  But he didn't. He stayed there with me.  He had a yellow vest on and some random facial hair, but he just kept asking if I was okay, if Calvin was okay.  If the pick-up car driver was okay.  He made me get back in the jeep and stood there directing traffic, checking back with me every minute or so. Then the fire department was there and the state patrol came back with Bill, they had apprehended the driver, and the Eagan Police were everywhere. And the angel with the vest and the facial hair was gone. I had the fleeting thought that I wished he would have hugged me and said goodbye. I guess that would have been above the call of duty.

Mary Lynn came and picked up Calvin and met little Mary at home. She had been at a friend's.  Bill and I stayed for the paper work and Bill had to I.D. the driver. The jeep limped home and we all sat on the couch. The drunk driver's car was put on a flat bed and impounded. He went to lock-up.

We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. Some of them are parents supporting and encouraging their kids the best they can, some are public servants in vehicles flashing very bright lights, some write little supportive notes on Facebook and some are looking down on us and protecting us. Some show up and take our kids home. Some have yellow vests and facial hair.

Sitting on the sofa with one kid in each arm Saturday night, suddenly it no longer mattered if we have the right guitar teacher or the right gymnastics program or how many hours a day we are practicing. We were just all there together. I guess that's why we are here. For each other. To share. To push each other when we need it. To listen to our stories. And listen again. To keep on showing up. To love each other.  So--thanks for being in my cloud.

Friday, February 22, 2013


I didn't forget my dad's birthday yesterday.

It hasn't been that long.  He would have been 73.  The sharp knife of a short life.

I wrote the date with a steady hand all day.  I was going to listen to Shenandoah, the Chanticleer version, but I didn't have time to go there.

So, it's Friday night, groups are done.  Bill and the kids are at the school carnival, and I'm gonna listen to it now.

My dad would have loved it.  The barbershop harmonies.  The terribly sad theme.

It seems like I haven't seen any wild turkeys or bald eagles lately.
No big bucks staring at me from the backyard.

Maybe he knows we are doing okay down here.
Or maybe it's just wintertime.

I miss his smile. His wink. His hug. His big hands. His cowboy boots. The sound of him clearing his voice to sing. And his presence.

So, here's to you Daddy, we are doing okay.  But we still miss you.

Shenandoah. . . Chanticleer

The Problem with Hugging Bunnies

We have groups tonight and there are graduation recitals in the morning and our chamber music festival is all weekend at my house.  I'm swamped.

But, I had to smile at this paper from the blue take home folder.  Mary had to come up with a word problem for math:

I had 93 baby bunnies
I hugged 48
How many more baby bunnies do I have left to hug?

It's a high class problem, having so many baby bunnies left to hug.
All I have to say is, if she gets 93 baby bunnies someone else is going to have to scoop the poop.
Hopefully she's referring to the 93 stuffed bunnies already in the closest.  They breed you know.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Bringing the Gift Home

We are home again.  I finally earned my traveling with children badge.  I had already gotten the stickers  (four of them) for parenting a child who throws up on an airplane, and I already got the award for the kid who dramatically throws up in the security line (the Cheetos vomit incident in the Denver airport--you know--the CVI).  At last I got the final qualification--having a child throw up on the jet-way leaving the airplane. Yes, there were about 375 people behind us.  Mary--you're going to have to move to the side and let some folks by while you do this. . .

In some cosmic moment of grace and maturity my niece Savannah had grabbed an airsick bag from a seat pocket on the way down the aisle to leave the plane. She has always been my favorite niece. . .

It all started when I volunteered to watch the luggage while Bill and my mom got breakfast food for everyone on the layover in Seattle after an all night flight over the ocean. If I had been the one to stand in line for breakfast at the coffee shop two things wouldn't have happened. Number one, I would have had a caffeinated latte with 2% instead of decaf with skim milk. . . thanks mother for helping me watch my caffeine and fat intake. . . and secondly. . . the littlest traveler would not have had a chocolate covered cream filled donut the size of Texas. . . a grandmother's rookie mistake. You just don't fly over the ocean with that combination.

I love you mother. I'm only teasing. . . all's well that ends well.  I'm still waiting for my parenting badge.

One of my favorite books is Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift From the Sea.  Her theme is that she collects shells on her beach vacation and compares each shell to a stage in her life--being single, being married, having children and having the children grown.  Each shell is unique and I was thinking about this while we took a hike along the rocky shoreline to a hole-in-the-wall beach without a name. Bill, Calvin and my mom forged ahead carefully navigating the slippery rocks. Mary and Savannah had their heads buried in the sand, literally, eyes down looking for the perfect shell.  Moving very slowly. Every shell they picked up made their load heavier and slowed them down even more. Hurry up girls, we'll never get there. I pushed them from behind. Then, I saw a smooth stone, like a treasure poking out from the sand. Why? Why are we in a hurry? To get to the beach so we can be at the beach and sit and be at the beach. Why not look for shells along the way?  

We stayed there on the beach for a long time. There was a wild monk seal and a sea turtle. The tide pools were teaming with life, little crabs and fishies and mysterious things and the children played for a long time.

I found a great little piece of coral and rinsed it off and put it in my pocket. I'm no Anne Morrow Lindbergh but maybe the one little piece of coral can help remind me that it's not always about the destination. Mostly it's about the journey.

Part of the journey is at the beach, and part of it is home doing laundry. Okay, 99.9 percent of it is home doing laundry. So, I guess we better enjoy the laundry too. Maybe if I find the little piece of coral in my pocket every Monday I'll remember just a little bit. I'll remember my own little gift from the sea. Don't be in a hurry. Enjoy the journey, the whole journey.

Monday, February 11, 2013


We are here.  Minnesotans in Hawaii.  O'ahu.  We are rockin' the beach pale and under inked.  Folks here are heavily tattooed.  Bill and I decided you have to be native Hawaiian or ex-military to truly pull that off. One such example has "FREEDOM" in fancy script letters across his back. He looks like he earned it. He looks like a Hawaiian Navy Seal.

Freedom is what we are experiencing.  This morning the jet lag is subsiding and we slept through the 7:00 a.m. ocean fish feeding. Yawn. C'est dommage. That is what you call a high-class problem.

Yesterday I did work on the Deerwood Plant sale. Picking the plants and setting the prices while Bill looked over my shoulder and scoffed as I asked him to analyze the year-over-year pricing on the geraniums. This may sound like work, but I set my computer on the balcony table and had to sit so the sun was blocked by a palm tree. It will be good to have it ready to go when I get home.  Dreaming of flowers is happy work.

Last night it took me an hour to comb out Mary's hair.  Dread locks.  I had tightly braided it, but the force of the wind and ocean water and sun was too much.  I hid my panic and started at the bottom of the long wad of hair.  Scissors averted.

Yesterday I walked six miles.  Up and down the beach and up and down the beach.

Calvin has been congested.  I guess that is a given.  He's a trooper.

The four-o'clock pina colada club has had it's annual meeting. The meeting is called to order. No new business. No old business. I move we adjourn to the social program. All in favor. . .

The kids have the very difficult decision of picking their shave ice flavors each afternoon.  So many flavors and you can only pick three.  Freedom has a price. . .

I told Bill I wanted to blog but I didn't really have anything to say.  I guess that too is a form of freedom.

So, nothing here for you but a journal entry.  We are missing sister Susan and brother-in-law Paul this year.  The enduring quote of Mary's from our first trip when she was only three and she ran down the sand diving head first into the ocean, "Daddy, why don't we live here?"

We can only visit. It is only a small taste of island freedom. The only music is the soundtrack of the waves crashing again and again on the shore. Rhythm. The rhythm of the days and the waves and life and work and rest.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

In the Bleak Midwinter Part Two

In the bleak midwinter,
 frosty wind made moan, 
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone; 
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow, 
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Mary was up all night with a croupy cough. At 1:30 I finally remembered an idea from our pediatrician years ago with Calvin.  Dr. Short, who is tall, said you have to either take them outside for ten minutes (seemed out of the question at 3 degrees. . . ) or put them in the shower.  So I ran the water full hot for a few minutes and shut the door and made her a little bed on the tile floor and she drifted away in the steamy room.  She slept till eight and woke perky and I took her to school late.  

This morning more snow. More shoveling. More slushy drive to school. Mary looked outside and said "Mama it's so still.  It's so beautiful."  I confess the only thing that looked beautiful to me this morning was the snow tires on the jeep.  

Bill has had more responsibility at work since October.  He's working a lot.  Good work, but a lot. I've never been more tempted to be a stay at home mom and go to the gym everyday and clean out the junk drawers and maybe even tackle the basement.  Take my own kids to their lessons.  

Instead, I'm starting a new family. Sam and Carly. Their parents start orientation tonight. I'm so excited because I have new materials from Jeanne Luedke and Edmond Sprunger and getting to know new families is alway so pleasant. It's also a little symbolic to me of my commitment to continue teaching.  

Every mother has to find her own path. Whether you work or not, there are always sacrifices. Casey became a defender instead of a prosecutor so she could spend more time with her family. The world needs Christian women defenders too.  

And, I guess the world needs a few Suzuki piano teachers who are also mothers. Who understand how dang hard it can be day after day to hang in there and practice with your kids and do the listening and spend your weekends at recitals.  

So many of our Pastor Paul's word resonate with me long, and I mean years, after his sermons. "Heaven is not a place of leisure."  "God does not fully use us in our comfort zones."  "Self pity is an addiction."  God always calls us to do a little more than we are comfortable with. 

My cousin posts some rank things on facebook, I confess sometimes I do laugh.  But yesterday she posted a picture with the words, "One of the hardest decisions you'll ever make in life is whether to walk away or try harder."  That also resonated with me.  

I'm ready to try harder. But I also know how to take care of myself. I know when to secure my own oxygen mask. We leave soon for Hawaii. Assuming no one is throwing up or running a fever that will be a good recharge.  And. . . 

I'm taking next summer off of teaching my studio. I'm telling the studio kids this week. A sabbatical. I haven't taken a break since Mary was born eight years ago. The timing is right. I will encourage the piano kids to go to an institute or camp instead of the six lessons they usually take. Some of the high school kids might coach the little ones a little. It will slow them down, but it won't be the end of the world. They will still recognize the black keys from the white keys. And I'm teaching at one institute. Then in September we will hit the ground running.  

I keep a little stash of thank you notes from parent and institutes.  Those words are also a recharge.  They remind me of the value of what we do.  There are many other little reminders along the way. . . Aidan got a great scholarship from Luther and Sami is going to play on the SAM honors upper level recital. 

I can't imagine my life without these families and kids. The piano kids. Writing is also a recharge. I'm ready to have lunch and prep for the afternoon. New parent education and repertoire lists for the Book Seven gals. The circle is coming to a close for my first full generation of seniors here in Minnesota, but the next set is ready to go.  I see their journey and my own with a little more perspective.  There is only so much time.  As my good friend says, you only get to raise these kids once.  I'm ready to try harder.  

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Ground Hog Day

'Dada" is her blanket. She plays games on my old broken iphone.
Why no blog entry? Well, it was the trifecta of hoopla this week. Suzuki Piano Teacher's Guild Advanced Students Recitals today. Suzuki Association of Minnesota festivals data entry all week. And I've got to get my studio chamber music festival organized and the music to the string players ASAP as it is only three weeks away and I still don't have a violist for my quartet. Tomorrow church--choir at 8:00, Mary's Choristers sing at 10:30 and then Calvin has a jazz concert/masterclass at 1:00.  Monday morning 9:00 a.m. SAM meeting downtown and then the post meeting meeting to listen to the DVDs to see what upper level kids play in the honors graduation recital.  Both my printers are out of ink. I spent over 25 hours at the computer this week.

How many weeks until spring?  It's snowed yesterday and today. It was 15 below earlier this week.  Did the groundhog see his shadow? I have no idea. Spring can't come fast enough.

Our family is taking Spring Break early this year because our school break is Holy Week and we can't go anywhere then. We leave soon for Hawaii. That is a good thing. Sunshine. Warmth. Er-ba-dur. I bought four spray bottles of sunscreen last week at Target. That's all we really need. I'll be packing the night before. Bill suggested loading a few videos on his ipad to watch on the plane. I thought to myself that eight hours sitting in a chair with nothing to do didn't actually sound that bad. I'm not easily bored.

The recitals today were beautiful. I was happy with Calvin's Mozart, which is saying a lot. If I can't teach my own kid how to love Mozart I will have failed at something very dear to my heart. Everyone played lovely. Not flawless. But lovely. Beatriz's student Seth stole the show with his Rachmaninoff.  Bravo!  I get the award for the studio parents who stay and chat the longest, which is also something I'm very proud of.  Relationships matter.  Maybe more than the playing. Definitely more than the playing.

SPTG Advancing Recitals. SAM Graduation Festival. Chamber music weekends.  These things take huge amounts of planning and quite a bit of printer ink as well. My printers pay their dues. Weeks like this I could use a full time administrative assistant, not to mention a housekeeper. I complained a little this week, okay maybe even a lot.  I even cried once when I thought my SAM spreadsheet was corrupted. Bill talked me down from that ledge and found the file safe and sound somewhere in the bowels of my computer.  I complain, but deep down inside I know that I love doing this for the students.  It's important and valuable. Days and recitals like today make it worth it.

I talked to a dear friend this week. But, she always makes me wonder if I'm pushing my kids hard enough at the piano. For once in my life I had the presence of mind to say the right thing at the right time. I reminded her--relationships first, love of music second, and everything else is a distant third.  If we have perfection, commitment and a conservatory scholarship, but our child resents us or is burnt out at the piano, we have still lost. That's what I believe. And that's what I'm basing my studio upon.  First love of the child, second love of the music.

Third, make sure to take a break when you need it and I do need it.  Aloha. . . shaved ice and sand.