Thursday, March 28, 2013

Gator Girl

Congratulations, Cassy, upon your acceptance into the University of Florida.  I'm so proud of you.
For fifteen years, I've seen you every week, and a little part of me will be going with you. . . in spirit at least.

I'm not sure exactly how we are going to make it through this Spring set of recitals. I can barely type the blog. I'm a wreck. Watching seniors go is always a big deal.  But, I'd be lying if I didn't confess that this group is special. That's because they started together with me when they were three-years-old.   Yesterday I got a call from the mom of a boy who will be three this May. She wants to start in the Fall. It seemed kinda circle of life-ish and I took the time to spend a while with her on the phone.  Co-incidence?

Back to Cassy. She was accepted as a piano major and she is also hoping to take some accounting courses.  I'd also be lying if I didn't confess that it is a major feather in the cap of Suzuki Piano to send a few of these kids off to study music.

However, that is never our goal.  Our primary goal is always to develop the hearts of these kids and secondarily to foster their love of music along the way. To raise good kids who love music.

I'd say we succeeded on all fronts. With all four of these kids, these seniors, and all the ones who have gone before as well. They all tell me they still play. They compose music. They sing in choirs. They pull out the Chopin when they have a bad day.

What about their parents?  Well, I've learned so much along the way.  Cassy's mom? (I'll focus on her today since this is her entry. . . ) Linda only ever wanted to make it fun.  Bruegger's Bagels after every lesson. The best cookies in the world after every recital. About 1999 she started inviting the studio over for an afternoon of lake activities. She served more junk food than I can stomach.  The kids loved it. In all these years I've never once heard Linda say anything negative about Cassy's actual piano playing. She made scrap books (how many volumes now?) with every recital program. She served shrimp at every graduation recital. An occasional glass of champagne for the grown-ups as well. . . She made it a big deal, somehow without ever pushing the performance aspect.  Linda is not a musician, I believe she barely followed Cassy through Book One. She was always over the top generous with me, as a teacher. Flowers on our anniversary, and cookies, popcorn and caramel apples with every season. She sent Cassy the message that our teachers are important. This experience is important.

Cassy's dad? Well among countless other things, he trusted me when I suggested that they buy the best piano they could afford and fix it up as they could.

Are they perfect? Of course not. Cassy has had her practicing ups and downs like EVERYONE else.
I'm sure there are more ups and downs yet to come on the journey. Being a music major is not an easy road. You have to be grounded and know who you are.  I know who she is, and I think she knows who she is, but I'm gonna keep reminding her for a while just in case.

There is a phrase I love, to whom much is given, much will be expected. That applies to all of us, but it reminds me of Cassy too.

I'm also thinking that means it means a little more practicing the next two months. . . .

Congratulations, Cassy!  Go show those Gators you know how to play the piano!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Spring Cleaning

It's the first day of our Spring Break week.  Mary threw up at 7:51 a.m., exactly five minutes after Bill left for work. Oh well.  Some mystery bug I guess.  It did give me an excuse not to drive downtown for the guitar lesson this afternoon.

This summer we are going to finish the basement.  We already met with Kathy Trimble, who built our house twelve years ago.  There are all kinds of relationships in the world, but the relationship you have with your custom builder is unique. The bonds are strong. For six months she was our best friend.  I talked to her more times a day than my mother.  She's seen me in my jammies on multiple occasions.  Without a shower was the norm.  "I'll be right there" was the goodbye line of many a call. We are both twelve years older but when she walked in the door with her long fur coat not a day had passed.  The energy level is extremely high and you better hang on for the ride. Only a female builder would have closed on the house exactly 14 days before Calvin was born.  Women get it done. This time--it's only the basement.  Drywall and carpet will not be such an adventure, but still. . . .there are sure to be a couple fabricated urgencies.  Faucets to pick TODAY. . . . I recall spray-painting the line for the driveway on the way out the door  to my final prenatal appointment. . . no wonder they kept me in the office for high blood pressure.

So, everything in the basement has to go.  To storage.  This is wonderful.  My basement is like a shadowy place in my mental health.  Twelve years of hmmmm. . . put it in the basement.  Playmobil town is in urban decay, an inner city of crime and filth has developed. The suburbs are encroaching upon the water heater.  The Christmas "area" has spilled into the would-be wood shop and Bill's office has milk crates of extra stereo wire from his first apartment.  It's past time for a clean sweep.

I know that everyone is different.  Some of my dearest friends, who shall remain nameless, accuse me under their breath of undiagnosed levels of OCD.  Well. It is what it is. I am who I am.  Like listening to Mozart or Bach, having clean spaces, with a place for everything, clears my brain waves.  The basement has been some twelve tone asymmetrical meter Schoenberg for too long.  Or maybe it's Coltrane, I don't know. Regardless, just thinking about a fresh start makes me so happy.  It makes me want to put on the unaccompanied cello suites, but alas, they are for late September.  I might have to make do with some two part inventions.

We can't do the basement all at once.  It's going to take a few weekends. We have made three trips to the storage place so far.  Today, with Mary home sick, I did the next best thing--cleaned out bathroom drawers.  That made me happy too, more like the third movement of K. 545, but still happy.

It's not that life is about stuff. It's the opposite.  Life is about people and experiences. That's why we need to get the basement under control. The stuff is taking over. Maybe that is mixed up theology but it's where I am. Maybe it's a fantasy that the stuff will ever be under control leaving us free to plan meals for the homeless.  Hope springs eternal.

I want to send my kids the message--if it's worth having it's worth taking care of.  And. . . if it's not beautiful, useful or sentimental. . . it has to go.  I promised them I would not sneak any of their toys into the good-will pile. Not that I have done this in the past. At least not very much. . . No one is immune.  Bill is still a little sore about his Walmart wine glasses disappearing shortly after our wedding.

I intend to keep my promise this time.  No stealth purging.  In this small way I'm trying to put people first, while still protecting my own mental health!  It might mean adding a little Gershwin to the mix, and I'm okay with that in moderation.  But, rest assured. .  I will get it done.  Me and Kathy will get it done.

Happy Spring cleaning. . .

Friday, March 22, 2013

Fabricated Darkness

The Defendant . . . 
This is not the DWI driver that hit us a few weeks ago. This is a client of my lawyer friend from Houston. Our offender was a white 36 year old male.  But both these citizens have shown equal amounts of class.  It's hard to believe you would show up for a hearing dressed like this.  Whatever crimes you have committed and whatever their punishment--you are also hereby sentenced to wearing a belt--indefinitely. 

We missed the hearing for our guy. On purpose. It was Wednesday. I imagine his trousers were in much the same fashion. The City of Eagan attorney called to let us know that our guy pleaded guilty to DWI, hit and run, and he didn't list the other charges, but they must have included driving without a license and driving without insurance.  Not one of our outstanding Eagan residents.  You know it's gonna be tricky when the defendant doesn't have an address.

This is what he got from the judge. . .
5 days in jail
45 days with an electronic monitor
2 years probation
a chemical dependancies rehab evaluation
visits to MADD victim impact panels
no use of alcohol (good luck with that. . . but he will be subject to random testing)
restitution to us (from an affidavit we filled out with our expenses. . . good luck with that too. . . )

Other highlights of the week included my brother-in-law's daughter getting beat up by her husband and the death of the young niece of one of my friends.  Darkness. . .

I'm thinking about all the magnificent women I know who battle darkness everyday.  While Casey walks into a courtroom on behalf of those who can't afford an attorney, and my sister teaches frustrated adolescent special needs kids to read. . . I sit one on one at the piano with suburban sweethearts all of whom's parents are deeply involved and all of whom are deeply cared for and loved.  The only darkness I have right now is that which I create for myself with sleep deprivation and the habit of overcommitment.  Fabricated darkness.  So--prayers of peace and light to all the women in particular who are battling the real thing.

I found myself wondering about my lack of anger toward the DWI guy, I know his name--but it's not on the tip of my tongue.  I hope he's thinking about things a little.  Would I be singing the same self righteous song if Calvin had been hurt?  Then I would have been subject to the real darkness.  The real test.

Well.  I'm looking out my big window to a sunshiny deeply snow covered hill.  It's hard to not be filled up with intense light.  My family is safe.  I'm looking at a week off.  I even got my car back in one piece.  I'm not being tested, and I'm thankful for that.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Graduations, Anniversaries and Streams of Profanity

We had a good week but a very busy week!  Saturday was the Suzuki Association of Minnesota Piano Graduations, along with the Suzuki Piano Teacher's Guild Festival.  We had nine recitals at Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie and gave out 158 trophies. There is some very high quality teaching going on and I was inspired. It made me want to go home and recommit to helping kids dig in and really polish pieces so they can play from their hearts. Our teacher's group is a well-oiled machine. Programs, trophies, recordings, certificates, name tags and registration materials, and food for the teachers--all this went off without a hitch.  Congrats to the kids who performed, the parents who support them, and the teachers who volunteer countless hours to make these events special.  We did it!  The spring flowers are from our trophy table--thanks, guild--I'm enjoying them today.

It was also Bill's and my wedding anniversary. Fifteen years! He bought me 15 red roses and the cake with the cat and piano.  That was part of the sermon at our wedding.  He would have to deal with cats and grand pianos.  My part?  Minnesota.

Which brings us to the streams of profanity. There were actually three worthy incidences. The cats knocked over the huge bouquet of anniversary roses, running water all down into the kitchen drawers and floor and almost dousing my graduation certificates and critiques. The heavy vase narrowly missed chipping the counter tile. When Bill went to cut the anniversary cake, I noticed that he started by cutting off the head of the cat. Vows dear. We took vows.

The second incidence?  Mary wandering through the house yelling "Where's my damn blueberry?"  Where's my damn blueberry?" Bill and I looked up from our work, puzzled by the potty-mouth of the pig-tailed eight-year-old-blue-eyed blond in her blue jeans. Mary? Yes? What are you looking for? Madame Blueberry. The Veggie Tales movie we checked out from church. I knew there was an explanation.

Incidence number three?  Minnesota in March. Yesterday it was eight, count them, eight degrees.  Today, a snow storm. If this wasn't a family blog. . . I would let it rip. Where's Madame Sunshine?  Where's Madame Daffodils?  Where's Madame Green Grass?

But, I too, took vows.  This was part of it.

You may have noted my humor is back. That's because I recommitted to eight, count them eight, hours of sleep. I get a little slap happy after a few nights of that. Closer to who I want to be. A better parent. A better spouse. A better teacher. As Pastor Kris said in her sermon on Sunday--closer to what we might see if we saw our reflection in God's eyes. I liked that. We all have steps to bring us back to equilibrium. Being closer to what God wants me to be starts with sleep.

Happy Anniversary, Bill.  On to the next fifteen cats, I mean years. . . .
And a sincere congratulations to all the kids and teachers for an awesome graduation celebration!  On to planning next year. . .

Link to Calvin's Chopin Prelude
Link to Mary's Moderato
Link to Isabella's Mary Had a Little Lamb

Parents, please let me know if you have more videos for me to share. . .

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

I'm thinking about group dynamics.  I'm learning about how I work in groups.

When you are in a great group you know it.  The chemistry is great and everyone brings out the best in each other.  It's really magical. I've been lucky enough to be in several of these kind of groups in my life.  My country band was like that.  The piano teachers at MacPhail were like that when I was there and the teachers from Austin too.  The Twin Cities Suzuki Piano Teachers group has a great team going--I think.

I do the best with big amounts of autonomy.  I'm doing the plant sale for Deerwood Elementary and I'm doing all the leg work myself and then bringing in great people to help as needed. I can take pride and do a really great job, knowing what's expected of me and knowing exactly what I'm responsible for.

I haven't done so great with other teams.  The whole Suzuki Association of Minnesota liaison thing has not been a slam dunk for me.  There are too many cooks in the kitchen and I never felt clear about exactly what I was supposed to be doing and therefore, I don't think I did that great of a job.  I got a check for $100 in the mail yesterday--I didn't even know it was a paid position.  I felt guilty for whining.  However nice the money is, my time is probably worth more than fifty cents an hour. . . see, I'm a little dark on it.  That's my fault.  I didn't work efficiently.

Communication and compromising are not my strengths. That's probably why I'm self employed. I do the best with projects I initiate and follow through.  I'm not afraid of work.  I just want the work to have a direct positive impact and serve a higher purpose.  You know. . . students. . .church. . . school.

I'm also pretty good at just being told what to do--like accompanying the choir.  I'm happy to just show up and play and practice and do my best and not make any decisions. I think I'm good at that too.  It's easy when you respect the leader.

I guess I'm not good at middle management.  Lateral thinking.  It's hard for me to get to know people enough to be myself and communicate well.  I fear I come across tired and grouchy.  Hmmm.  Maybe I am tired and grouchy.

Sometimes it only takes one person to dismantle a group.  Maybe sometimes one person can put it back together.  I'm going to work hard to rise above the personalities of the groups I'm in and focus on the job at hand. Obviously, I'm not involved in any groups that I don't have a vested interest in, so, I do want the groups to be successful.

Calvin doesn't like working in groups either.  I always tell him, if the goal is the perfection of the project you will be frustrated.  If the goal is to work well in the group then you can feel good about others peoples ideas, as well as your own.

Pot meet kettle. It's not exactly the same, but I think I'll start by recommitting to thinking less about how other people are making me feel, and more about bringing out the best in them.  Perhaps that's a little bit of what leadership is all about.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Congratulations Sami

Congratulations to Sami and Kevin, Evangeline, Kathryn, and Michaela, who played in the upper level honors soloist recital in Benson Hall at Bethel on Saturday. This is part of the Suzuki Association of Minnesota's Graduation Program for all Suzuki Instruments. Our soloists were included on a recital with harps, guitars and flutes. I was so impressed with everyone. I especially thought the harps played so expressively! Wow! They played the middle movement of Clementi Op. 36, No. 1 and I got some good reminders of how musically that piece can and should be played.

The pianists were awesome. Annette Lee's student Evangaline played all the Bartok from Book Seven, her Pe Loc dance was the most beautiful performance I have ever heard of that dance. We were in a trance! Sami played with a gorgeous sound that filled up the hall. She was so poised. These girls are beautiful inside and out, that's for sure. Nancy Daley's student Kevin played and two of Barbara Bartelson's studio gals from Rochester played, one of them running from the MYO rehearsal and back again in her long dress!

So, thanks to the S.A.M. for including us!  I have a lot of ideas and hopes about the continuing relationship between the Suzuki Piano Teacher's Guild and S.A.M., but that is another blog and a few board meeting down the road.  The most important thing is that our students are working hard and performing so beautifully!  I couldn't be more proud.

Congratulations Sami!

Here is her Liszt, Consolation No. 3 in D-flat: Link to Sami on youtube

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Weathering the Storm part two. . .

Calvin's Take Home Folder--in sharpie

Calvin and the principal this morning at Panther Pride Breakfast

Anna Karenina. . . 
This morning was the Panther Pride breakfast and award ceremony at the middle school.  A hundred or so 6th, 7th and 8th grade kids got commended for academics and leadership.  Congrats Calvin!

I'm also super proud of you for showing your faith at school, especially at an age where that might not be such a popular thing to do.

Yesterday I had to stop by the bookstore for a birthday party gift and yes, I went ahead and picked up Anna Karenina. All 803 pages of it. It will probably travel the world in my carry on bag along with the Jane Austen with the spine un-cracked.  I don't care. It's $8.00 worth of hope.

I'm also signing up for the teacher practicum this summer. I'm so excited. We bring video of our teaching and the trainer and the other participants give constructive criticism.  Caroline Frasier is one of my favorite teachers so I'm very happy for the opportunity. It's a full registered SAA class, which will take me closer fulfilling every possible educational opportunity with them.

I want to apologize to Bill. I really respect how hard he is working and I really want to be on the same team and be there for him, like he is always there for me. I'm sure there are many Saturday and Sunday mornings where he is wishing I wasn't leaving the house for a day of workshops and recitals. So, Bill, I appreciate you and I'll do the best I can to pick up the slack.

Lastly, I dropped my car off at the body shop. When you drop off a 2013 vehicle for major collision repair there is a look in their eyes.  I've seen that look before--at the doctors office with my dad. They are all at once full of pity and yet they are in some meager way trying to fill you with hope. It'll be just like new. . . . but they don't really look you in the eye.

Well, I declined the rental car. I mean, why should we rent a car when there is a perfectly drivable muscle car sitting idol in the garage?  I know the Challenger doesn't cut through snow banks like the jeep but it will certainly get me across town through the mud and crud. It has the same hemi after all.   Also, I was so excited about Calvin's award this morning, I went ahead and put the "Panther Pride, Student of the Month" bumper sticker on the back chrome bumper. It's look just swell.

Smile.  I'm not mad at my husband anymore, but I still have to give him a little grief.  I'm not going to drive his Challenger.  I'll save the bumper sticker for the scrapbook.

Last night we spent an hour just going over the calendar for the next three months.  It's all good.  I'm gonna head up and dig further into the Beethoven Hallelujah for Easter right now.  One piece at a time, one section at a time.  One task at a time.  And someday. . . one page of Anna Karenina at a time.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Weathering the Storm

I skated home from Houston between storms. Yeah!  No travel problems.  I was all high from the weekend.  I walked in the door and it smelled like kitties and bunny. There is laundry stacked up.  Nothing for dinner. All done being the guest clinician and back to being the household servant.

The workshop was wonderful. I'll never stop being amazed, uplifted and inspired by the Suzuki community. Teachers, master teachers, parents and kids all working together to learn and grow.

Thank you, Yelena for the hospitality Friday night. You are a gem!
I walked into Yelena's lovely home which now is also the home of Jack and Toby, the two tabby cats she got for her birthday last year, suspiciously close to my departure and recommendation that she could use a pet. . . I won't disclose her age but her quote to me was, in her Russian accent, "X years wasted without cats." Smile. I saw that she was reading Tolstoy. In Russian. Which made me want to go get it and read it in English. But, alas, I know the time is not right for that.

What is the time right for?  Doris is asking me again, when will I work on getting my teacher trainer certificate? I said, I'm too busy. What did she say?  "You seem to find time to do a lot of things."  Rather sternly. For Doris.

The weekend world world of making plans with Vickie to do our teaching practicum class together and dreaming of compiling applications for teacher trainer stuff, it's all so wonderful.

Then there is that odor of cat litter upon arrival at home.  There is Bill leaving the house at 7:00 and getting home at 8:00.  It's easy to feel a little bit sorry for myself. When do I get to do what will further my career and personal growth?  But getting out into the world is always helpful. Cheryl's husband has been starting his own business and working round the clock for months. Casey's husband got a swat team call just as we were sitting down to a lovely dinner and glass of wine.  No body has it easy or perfect all the time.  Sometimes the timing is just not right for getting everything we think we need.  Most of the time there is something looming out there that we just can't have.  It very well could be that any kind of true balance in our lives is unattainable right now.  Not forever.

So we weather the storm.

Today, the kids are home from school.  Biggest storm of the year. Mary is still sleeping at 8:30 a.m. as I write this.  She doesn't even know that school is cancelled, a VERY rare thing in Minnesota.  Bill made a fire in the fireplace before he took my jeep across town to work.  (Even with the bumpers smashed in, it still drives through twelve inches of snow.) You can see from my pictures, the storm outside is looking pretty beautiful at the moment.  Everything comes to a halt and I think we will play some piano and make cookies.

There is a time for everything.  I can't do the teacher trainer application right now, but I can start taking video and doing the legwork. Maybe I can do the practicum this summer? Casey, you can't move right now but you can make a cool office in your house and make the back yard a retreat.  Grow where we are planted.  Pay attention to what we have right now.

Life is good. Storms are good. Sometimes they force us to sit and think and be together.
Happy snow day. . .