Thursday, March 27, 2014

Too Blessed to Be Stressed

From a boat ride to look for dolphins we got lucky and saw mama and baby whale.

A hike on the west shore.

Bill informs me that this is the beach where much of Lost was filmed. 

Mama and papa monk seal. Two of 1000 that are left. She just thwopped him on the head. I'm already pregnant . . . 

Back at the Marriott. 

Sunset beach. 
That is not my phrase. It comes from a list of 25 things to make your life beautiful, which is floating around Facebook, from Dr. Oz. (Link to Dr. Oz's list and some potentially unwanted ads. . . )

I might shorten it: blessed to be stressed.

It's the penultimate day on the beach. Reality starts to kick in. You kick yourself for not staying for two weeks. Or moving here. Could I be happier waking up every single day to 80 degrees and sunshine? Jury is out.

Though I didn't bring it along, I've read Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift From the Sea so many times I almost have it memorized. She calls women the hub of the wheel of marriage, children, community, and church.

The Elle article about women balancing career and family comes back to me too. The crux of it is, the author chose her life and chose family and career and marriage. We are not victims, lets face our choices with some gratitude.

I am a perfect child of God 
Given every gift I need 
Blessed to be a blessing 
Seeking wisdom 
Seeking peace

That is my poem. Written years ago. It just came back to me here.

Perhaps we are given everything we need. We take for granted that our basic needs are met, but maybe beyond that we are given enough time, talent and energy to accomplish everything we are supposed to do.

My sister is going through a particularly rough stretch right now, and it's not my story to tell, but something is going on behind the scenes that it noteworthy. Her little church choir, that is, my dad's little church choir, is on fire. She who's training consists of a couple summers of drum major camp is leading a group who's sum is oh so much greater than the parts. God churns up an accompanist with a music degree and every gift is given. What Susan really didn't have time for but did anyway is blessing the whole community. Blessed to be stressed?

What is my gift from the sea this year? How does God speak to us? My friend Julie post spiritual direction ideals and icons on Facebook. This week was a paragraph she wrote on sleep being a spiritual act that takes discipline. It takes discipline to rest. I never really thought of it that way.

Too blessed to be stressed. I am overwhelmingly blessed with the opportunity to be a parent, a wife, a daughter, a teacher, an accompanist, a friend, a homeowner, a gardener. How many spokes we all have?

It's relatively easy to count the blessings, day to day it takes discipline to manage the stress part. Maybe that discipline means taking two weeks in Hawaii next year? Smile. Not sure if that's in the realm of the possible for many reasons. But I can recommit to the spiritual act of rest from day to day. The discipline. It means going to bed instead of practicing, reading or chatting with my husband. The payoff? With eight hours sleep the other sixteen hours can be more productive and let's face it, more cheerful.

I have to go now. We are driving up the shore of O'ahu to see the giant waves on the north side. Those are the waves they don't let people from Minnesota jump in. Cue the lifeguard with the megaphone, "Would the very pale and under inked family from Minnesota please step back from the surf unless you have experience with shore breaking waves."

We don't. We are content to watch. We'll have to sit here on the beach. That's a high-class sacrifice.

Too blessed to be stressed.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Vacation Mindset

Reporting in. Day two of six. Marriott Ko'Olina Beach Club. O'hau, Hawaii. Incidence of vomit, zero. Bleeding boo-boos, zero. Sunburn report, mild on Mary's face. Let's face it the worst thing that has happened so far is that they took my favorite spring rolls off the lunch menu at the beachside restaurant. This is my seventh trip here. I realize that puts me into the officially spoiled rotten category. It started with just Bill and me. It was free. Bill worked for nwa and we had 1,375,233 Marriott points accrued. Then we brought the kids, then my mom, then my sister and her family twice, then just my niece and now we are back to the Kotrbas and Janel, my mom. After this year our Marriott account is tanked, flight benefits are long gone and I guess if we come back we will be saving and sacrificing like the rest of the shiny white Minnesota beach-goers.

What is a vacation mindset?

On the plane, I had two options. Anna Karenina. Elle magazine. Anna Karenina? Elle magazine? Russian literature. Pop fashion culture.

Emma Watson is really looking good these days. And did you know she went to Oxford? And, I now have 35 options for radiant skin.

Deep into Drew Barrymore's teaming up with Coach purses for the spring collection I turned the page and there was an article about our failures launching us forward. The subtitle of the article "Too many of us suffer from recurrent crises of confidence, even when we've achieved considerable success. Louisa Kamps (the article's author) examines the latest thinking about the paradoxes of perfectionism, fear of failure, and the potentially vast benefits of learning from our mistakes."

The mere fact that we have these articles in mainstream fashion publications is deeply comforting to me.

This article was complete with the Stanford research of Carol Dweck. Newbies, Carol Dweck is the Suzuki philosophy hero, author of the book Mindsets, in which she basically shoots down the theory of inherent talent and eschews the growth mindset-that with smart work we can all do what we want to do. This article even coined the term Dweckian, which I loved. It also featured insight from Megan McArdle's The Upside of Down: Why Failing is the Key to Success. McArdle says you must first give yourself "permission to suck." Then with hard work and concentrated effort you can build your skills.

But I really just wanted to know the best place to get a blow-out in Los Angeles. Now I'm thinking again about my debacle of Brahms in Houston. And other mistakes along the way.

Bottom line? Lacking confidence? Build competence. Take in the feedback. So, I'm delighted that I already have a plan. I'm trying out a new teacher. For me. Myself. And I. Going for a lesson. First time in 17 years. Heading down to St. Olaf college. If I'm going through with this teacher trainer application, I've got to feel 100% confidence about my own performing. Or at least 80%. There has to be room for growth if I'm to be a Dweckian.

After a small bag of peanuts and some ginger cookies, the next article in Elle was about finding the elusive balance between family, career and life. Heaven help me. I'm on vacation. There is no balance. . . 

I should have chosen Anna Karenina.
Second half of the flight I did sink deeply into the second Hunger Games movie with Calvin. Did you know Jennifer Lawrence wears Chanel lipstick.

What is the vacation mindset?  I don't know. But I think if I work very hard and keep trying I can achieve it. I started yesterday with a 25 minute "Spa by the Sea" massage. And I walked six miles. I wanted to walk nine, but again, we need to leave room for growth. Sleeping eight hours a night, albeit from 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. is a treat and an integral part of being a vacation Dweckian. Though I would do even better with nine hours. Used spf 30 when I should have used 50 on Mary's face.  Make blond braids very tight to avoid dreadlocks. Embrace your failures. Keep trying. I'm doing my best.

With a little more practice I'll be very competent at this vacationing thing. Because I'm a Dweckian. I can achieve a vacation mindset.

Aloha for now.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Celebrate the Graduates!




The 4:30 Graduates

Saturday, March 8, 2014 was our Suzuki Association of Minnesota piano graduation day at Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie. The Suzuki Piano Teachers Guild hosted the seven recitals. Two hundred and five children played, 131 of them were graduates from the seven book levels.

As the piano graduation chair person I feel the need to say a few things about the day. First of all, the 23 teachers who participated are producing nurturing by love some fine pianists. Let it be known, that our students are being accepted as piano majors into conservatories and major universities around the country. The quality of musical performing is very high. This needs to be celebrated.

These kids are also becoming great engineers and business people who appreciate and depend on music for joy and beauty in their lives. And they are the nicest kids you will ever meet.

Our 23 teachers? We are all on the same team. We teachers know each other's students and support them. When I see on Facebook that a teacher's senior got into such and such college, I know what pieces she played on the audition, and I celebrate right there with her. Because we are a community. We share the gift of music.

I went home after that very long graduation day and  I felt so warm and fuzzy. We have a special group.

As piano graduation chair, I actually did extremely little. That's how good we are together. Everyone has her job. Our board absolutely rocks. When one of us screws up, the other fixes it. We just get it done. I just love these women and I learn so much every year. How many times in your life do you get to work with a group with this kind of chemistry? Only a few. It's such a joy.

Thank you Calvin, for printing out the 131 graduation certificates, one by one, with my skitzy printer. You are my hero.

Last Saturday, March 15, was the graduation day for the rest of the S.A.M. students, that is, the guitars, harps, violins and flutes and other strings. Upper level pianists from books 6 and 7 can audition to play as honors students on one of these recitals. This year five students were chosen. Calvin, and Sami from my studio, along with Charlie-student of Beth Turco and Keiran and Morgan students of Suzanne Greer, played their pieces at the guitar and harp recital at Bethel College.

It was wonderful. The kids did a great job and there was a full audience and we all had programs. . . see, we get better every year. . .

By inviting these five students to play, the S.A.M. builds a bridge between the pianists and all the other instruments. Logistically, pianists need to have our own graduation day, like we do, but sharing our top graduates means a lot to us. We get to show off our kids and be a part of the greater Suzuki community. Now that I have been going to their graduation day several years in a row I'm starting to understand their process and get to know the teachers and students too. We are all on the same team.

After the recital one of the violin teachers caught me in the hall and told me a back stage story. Sami played last of the five kids. This teacher told me that after each pianist came back from performing Sami told them great job and gave them each a specific compliment. She called Sami a "good Suzuki kid." I'm almost more proud of that than I am of her beautiful playing. We are all on the same team. Sharing the gift of music.

Congrats to Nehemiah, Solomon, Calvin, Sami, Britta and Kajsa, upon your 2014 graduations from book levels, and to Sami and Calvin for your honors performances. You are part of a wonderful  community--celebrating children and music--in that order.

Link to Calvin's Dr. Gradus at Bethel
Link to Sami's Wedding Day at Troldhaugen at Bethel

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Not the Last Rodeo

Oh Houston.

What shall I write about?

About how I left my purse on the airplane and the honest John Denveresque man in seat 12B from northern Iowa with a Montana cell phone number jumped through all kinds of hoops to look me up on the internet and drive across Houston the next day to return the purse to my friend Casey? No.

About how I had an old school full scale anxiety attack during my Brahms piece in front of a couple hundred people including Doris and a dozen other teachers whom I truly love and respect? No.

How about the commitment of the Houston Suzuki community to honor our beloved teacher trainer Doris Harrel? Yes. The last Houston workshop with our Doris. Retirement. This is the topic for today.

How about Fran getting a lovely dinner arranged with a beautiful cake and all manor of decorations.

How about the Houston Area Suzuki Teachers's making a donation on Doris' behalf to the Suzuki Association of the Americas, called a Star award. They also presented Doris with a beautiful star necklace from James Avery Company, a Texas jeweler, to help remind her of her impact.

How about Ray and Carolyn Ayers making an over the top generous donation to a new fund, in honor of Doris, to promote future teacher training in Houston. This was also matched by the Shell Oil company, to ensure that even if Doris is not traveling to Houston, their group can continue to host this workshop, and bring in the top teacher trainers from around the country.

Everyone was tender. Doris is a legacy here. The groups that she has shepherded here and in Austin are a model for future teachers and students. I'm going let someone else write about that. (Pressure is on, Vicki. . . )

Was this the last rodeo? No. Doris told me she paid her yearly teacher trainer dues, just in case something came up. Like a teacher training emergency? Smile. Hopefully, so that she can take a little time, in her own home, to mentor the next generation. I hope she will enjoy the next phase and I am curious what she will tackle. I'm sure it will be done with the same zest and love for children and music as always.

And with folks like the Ayers around we know that the Suzuki Piano Method will continue to be a blessing to the teachers and students of the Houston area for years to come. It won't be the same without our founder holding the reins, but all of us together can continue, each in our own way, to foster and share what we learned, from our piano mother. . . Dr. Doris Harrel.