Monday, May 26, 2014

Yes, You Can.

Here in Minnesota folks go to the cabin for Memorial Day weekend. It's unbelievable that after the long winter, the first 70 degrees days would be spent. . . going farther north. I can't even really believe this. My dream cabin is actually in Hawaii.

Suzuki teachers don't take this luxury. We hunker down in Minneapolis and settle ourselves to eat at restaurants where at least we can sit outside for lunch. We are at the five day Suzuki Association of the Americas Conference. I spent 45 hours there between Thursday and Sunday. I'm not going back today. You can't make me. I'm going to the green house. If it rains toady I'm going to garden in the rain.

My friend Vickie came from Texas and stayed with me for the conference. You never know that moment when the real bond was formed. Was it the 2010 conference? Was it 2003 at Snowmass? Was it in Houston or at a meal at Doris Harrel's home? Somewhere along the line it just happened and now you have a lifelong friend. A friend who will sit and watch your teaching videos without yawning or criticizing. A friend who says, that one--is not quite good enough, but I know you can do better, and you believe her. And you watch her videos and you don't yawn either.

Character first, skill second. This is a Suzuki core principle. All the people we celebrated this weekend are folks of such character, generosity, and musicianship that you really can't even believe it. It's over the top daunting to think that somehow your generation is going to have to step up to the plate as these folks, the Starrs and the Preucils, the Doris Harrels, the Doris Koppelmans this whole generation of leadership, these people who brought the Suzuki method to the United States and fostered it like a child, approach retirement. Sadly we have already lost a few. We are not worthy.

So we do teacher training applications. For hours and hours and hours. Not because we are worthy. Because somebody has to do it and it must go forward.

One of the gals who spoke about the Preucils fought back her emotion as she just kept saying over and over and over what they had said to her over and over and over. Yes, you can. Yes, you can.

Yes, you can get up at 6:00 a.m. every morning and practice with your son. Yes, you can take that extra student. Yes, you can be organized enough to be a teacher mother. Yes, you can teach your daughter with patience after a long day. Yes you can plan that Chamber Music event.

In the case of folks like Caroline Fraser, yes you can take the Suzuki method to Latin America. Was there a dry eye in the house when those kids, from countries who did not have music education, at all, performed at the concert Saturday night, with amazing love and skill. Oh. My. God.

I'll never leave that kind of legacy. And who from the next tier will? Perhaps it will have to be like a tree, where these folks, these Dorises, these trunks of the tree grow their branches through us and even though we may never carry that weight, the leaves will still multiply and grow toward the sun. Even if my branch is smaller, it's still a branch and it's still fed from that trunk and shares those roots.

I watched a ton of super inspirational masterclasses with amazing kids and super amazing teachers. I listened to translators take Japanese to English so we could hear from the first Suzuki violinist who came to the United States to tour in 1964. I learned about the history of Suzuki. More about the history that is. And I reconfirmed my belief that every child can, but added to that that it's better when they start at birth and ideally we should be following around pregnant women with our business cards. (I'm only half kidding. . . )

Congrats to all the teachers who gave sessions and masterclasses. Congrats to Jeremy who brought a major Dalcroze focus to the weekend. Without his rhythmic movement classes I might have slunk into a powerpoint induced coma. Congrats to all the teachers who brought students--what amazing pianists! To Gail who chaired the piano portion. Safe travels home for everyone.

I saw so many friends. I met a new friend named Susan. I'm so warm and fuzzy. Suzuki teachers are just really really good people. Character first.

I also saw world class music making. There aren't any other kids who play like this. Skill may come second after character, but . . . don't sell it short. Dr. Suzuki wasn't messing around and neither was the next generation and I'm here to say, yes I can, on behalf of those of us who never saw Suzuki face to face.

I wish I had.
Can I be good enough to be a branch of this tree?
Yes, I can.
Yes, you can.
Yes, we can.

Monday, May 19, 2014

You Love Who You Love

The studio recital was yesterday. I have a lot to say about that but it's going to require more time than I have right now. 

I'm thinking about all the random people in life whom we love. For me, it turns out that a great handful of the people I love are outside of any circle I came to on my own. They are the people who love my kids. 

Maggie. Chevy. Mary Lynn. All people I would never have known but for my kids. And my kids' school teachers.  

And Rosie. Who works at Byerlys. I don't even know her last name but since July 18, 2001, the day Calvin was born she loves my kids. Back then I would go into Byerlys' almost every week to get photos of the baby-bug printed out for the grandparents and the heavy scrapbook I kept. Rosie was always there. When Calvin got old enough she started giving him lollypops and letting him hold the plastic number for the drive through pick-up. She probably coodles everyones kids, but I didn't care. Then I was pregnant with Mary and she and my mom would chit chat. And Mary was born and she cooed over Mary. Mary had a dramatic birthmark and Rosie would always say it didn't look that bad. Grocery shopping with kids was less awful with Rosie. 

I don't go into Byerlys as much anymore. When I do it isn't always Rosie's shift and really she should be retired by now. I've seen her picking up her grandkids at Calvin's school and I know she was taking care of her elderly mom all these years.

Today I needed frozen soup. Emergency dinner for a boy who is getting braces. You can't pay much more for a frozen soup than at Byerlys but there I was getting eight of them. It's a busy week. . . 

I waited a little longer to stand in Rosie's line. How are the kids? How is your mom? How is your mom? 

Long pause. 

I lost my mom. 

I'm so sorry, when was that? Almost a year ago and then I lost my son. 

And I made everyone in the line and the manager and the grocery baggers wait while she told me about her 47 year old son who lost a quick battle to ALS and the children he left behind and how you can't protect your kids from crap like this and how you will never be the same.  

All there in the grocery line. 
And suddenly you have entered into someone else's pain, because that's what we do. 

She became embarrassed and changed the subject to the middle school ski team and whether Calvin would do that again. 

But I didn't buy that and I made my way that long distance around to behind the check out counter and gave her a hug. 

You love who you love. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Happy Mother

It might not come as a surprise to you that I was an avid journalizer as a child. There is a trunk of my writing in our temporary storage unit. Future generations will sorrowfully reflect on what a terrible childhood I experienced. Arguments with my sister, cats that died, friends who lied, boys that didn't like me back, piano teachers that yelled, rainy picnic days, lost pocket knives. . . so many heartbreaks.  

And we were always having pizza for school lunch. That's the worst. 

There should be a disclaimer in the front of each volume--I only wrote here when I was really sad. When I was happy--I was just happy. 

Fast forward and on the staircase bookshelf there is a printed soft cover book of my sister's and my journal entries from the Caring Bridge site while my dad was dying. Pop that one open when you want a lift.  

I write to process. Readers of this blog might come to the conclusion that I am only a stressed out winter hating working mom. 

I thought it might be good to actually sit down and write about a fabulous time. 

Last week was super busy--the school plant sale took 9.5 hours on Wednesday. Lorie and I were cold and sore and hungry--but it was good. The rain held off. We got $12,000 of plants unloaded and sorted and distributed--I think the school made almost $4000. And I met a couple new folks. 

I had to move seven hours of lessons from Wednesday to the rest of the week. But everyone was well prepared and the kids were respectful and cheerful. The teacher was focused so the students were focused. 

I mostly went to bed on time all week. Mostly. Mostly is good enough. 

There was mostly enough time to do all the important stuff. And do it mostly well. 

This weekend we went out to a fancy dinner as a family Friday night and my husband was my yard slave all weekend. This was my Mother's Day gift. Manual labor. We got the fountain up and running and again the rain held off. The chain saw started. Our karma was truly amazing. 

It was one of those weekends where you walk around and watch the plants grow. After so much chaos last year--between our construction and the hail and the roofing--I'm not taking one moment of beauty for granted in my garden. Hundreds of little ferns--I literally threw in the woods to save them from the bulldozer--are all popping their little fibonacci spiral fronds through the dead leaves.  

The kids sang in church and I played with the choir and subbed for the choristers. We had a donut with Maggie and then went home. A donut is good enough. . . 

Driving home, we saw that the city of Eagan spiked in two enormous evergreen trees in our park where we lost the 50 year old blue spruces in the hail storm. This almost made me cry. It costs a lot of money for those trees and they could have put two-footers in. It was like a moment of bureaucratic grace. 

The green mist coming over the hillside and the woods is seeping into my very soul.

So this one goes out to my mother and the rest of you. For all the times we only write or call or need you when times are tough--I wanted to leave some written proof--a joyful shout even--that contrary to the troves of laments--life is very good. I have a good mother. Good husband. Good kids. Good family. Good students. A good garden. 

I'm a happy mother. 

Happy Mother's Day.  

Friday, May 2, 2014

May Day, May Day

It's May.

The end of school train has left the station.

These photos are from the "epic" train trip Bill and Calvin took last weekend. The middle part included Calvin throwing up on the train and in a hotel room for 24 hours.  Bill gets Dad of the year award there.

Today Mary has a minor oral surgery. She gets the tissues between her front teeth cut down with a laser. I had this done. My mom had this done--ours with traditional scalpel. Apparently strong women have strong muscles between their front teeth.

Then she gets her braces off. Then she gets her teeth cleaned. Yesterday the eye doctor. Calvin gets teeth cleaned today, then braces BACK on in two weeks. Don't ask.

My new kidney doctor appt. next week.

The sheer number of appointments we have on the calendar in the next 18 days is mind boggling. The whole dang google thing is filled in.

Did I mention Gertens plant sale delivery next Wednesday?  And a 10/8 "fun" new piece the choir is doing? For the record, 10/8 time signature is not fun, for followers of Bach and Beethoven.

So I yelled at my husband last night, because obviously this is his fault. He scheduled the gymnastics showcase and the band concert at the same time, which happens to be at 5:30 so that I have to move the whole afternoon of lessons, which still won't allow me to be in two places at the same time.

It's been forty degrees and raining for six consecutive days. I presume this is also his fault.

One of my student's moms wrote the kindest thing to me, while we were swapping emails about, you guessed it, the schedule. She added at the end. . . don't forget to get enough sleep and eat right the next few weeks.

When we get stressed--the first thing that happens is we don't do all the things we need to do to help ourselves--sleep, eat, exercise. Write.

So this one goes out to all the moms with all the google calendars and all the dads getting yelled at for their obvious role in overbooking their family's life.

Peace be with you. Sleep. Eat. Exercise. Pray. Write. Garden. Whatever you need. Secure your own oxygen mask. It's May.

P.S. Calvin and Mary both got accepted into the honors recital at the Colorado Suzuki Institute. Mary gets to play Clementi with the faculty string quartet.  In spite of my frustration with a capital F, I must be doing some small things right. Congrats to Calvin and Mary!

P.S.S. My teacher training application and thesis (exaggeration, it's only an 1800 word essay) are complete. All that is left to to compile my own performance videos and my student videos. Finding 30 minutes of "perfect" teaching. This is tricky.  You can't yell at the student and they can't pick their nose for starters. . .   keep filming.  (I'm kidding about the yelling part--I only yelled at my own husband and the cat and I'm sorry on both counts.)