Saturday, July 26, 2014

Still Going Home

Thursday Mary and I made the five hour drive down to Tipton, Iowa, to see my mom, Susan, and Savannah, and to pick up Calvin after his stay there.

Usually Bill drives and I d.j. and peruse highly intellectual literature like the Pottery Barn catalog. Without Bill, and with Mary plugged in to a video, my thoughts wandered to all the years of making this drive.

Eagan to Rochester to Stewartville to Spring Valley to Lime Springs to New Hampton to Denver and Waverly to Waterloo then on to Cedar Rapids. . . and all my favorite farms in-between.

My grandparents farm was on highway 63 between the Lime Springs turn off and Davis Corners. I remember the first time I made the drive as a grown-up, in Bill's car all by myself, the day after our engagement, after living in Texas for 11 years and pulling up the long drive and running from the car to show my grandma my ring. Here comes the holy flood of memories of my two-week visits there each summer growing up.

Now the old white house is painted brown and someone else's name is carved very permanently into an enormous boulder at the drive. The barn still stands and the 10,000 trees are still growing. It's all good because the new family put their own love into it. And brown was an except-able color in Hope's eyes. I'm quite certain if I had pulled in the drive and wandered behind the new brown siding to the north side there would be a mass of ferns still growing, because there is no getting rid of those ferns. Which is a good thing. They grow into the foundation of the building and our lives.

As you know they are also growing all over the three-quarters of an acre that I call home. It's customary to name the farm by the acre--you know--the old 80--the new 80.  So Bill and I live on the three-quarter. With the ferns and the peonies salvaged from their rightful place lining the long sunny and wind-whipped lane, where Hope would ride her three-wheeled bicycle up to get the mail every day at 2:35 p.m. unless Gene Warnky was late.

Then on to Denver and Waverly--past the old four square where my cousins were raised. Here we played for hours in the barns, and made up a million stories all of which ended in some injury--such as Emily stepping on a nail. We ate summer peaches cut into little squares with powered sugar over homemade ice-cream-that healed all wounds. That house was something else--cold in the winter--hot in the summer--bugs here and there--woodwork that would cost a fortune in the cities. Memories you couldn't pay enough for.

Fast forward and Bill and I are parked in the dark parking lot of the People's Appliance Shop in Waterloo calming a fussy baby Calvin. This will add a half hour to the trip. . .

More recently--Mary throwing up and she often does--during the last half hour of the drive--and my dad taking the whole dang car chair out behind the shop and farm hosing it down. They get some good water pressure from these wells around here. I never would have thought of that.

These are the thoughts of road trips and coming home.

And here we are--the kids securing their own sacred moments--Calvin is off to the farmer's market with my mom--it's her birthday. And I caught a glimpse of Mary outside swinging on the baby swing. . . singing to the dogs.

I'd like to wonder what Calvin and Mary's kids will remember--will it be the three-quarter or maybe memories at Little Pines--the proposed name for the new/old cabin? God willing all the sacred places will overlap--and they too will have plenty of chances and plenty of road trips to remember.

I'm gonna go dig up some plants from Janel's garden. I've got water lilies from Eagle's Wings and Susan has seedlings from Little Pines. Today it's only lamb's ears and butterfly weed and some other plant I don't know the name. This is some crazy way I force my sacred places to co-mingle.  That way even when I going home--I'm still going home. . .

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Curriculum of People and Music

Friday is Calvin's thirteenth birthday. It will also be the ten year anniversary of me sitting with him everyday at the piano. We estimate that puts us at approximately 3100 practice hours together.

That is a lot to think about. Will I continue to practice with him until he graduates? Will he become more independent? Both? Will I continue to be the best teacher for him? One day at a time, sweet Jesus.

It's summer and the days fill up, that is for sure. I'm happy to be teaching this summer, albeit a reduced schedule. The piano kids are making good progress. Nine of them have book level graduation recitals this summer.  That is a lot of cookies and lemonade.

Every year I revisit all the different opportunities for pianists. There is no shortage of extremely high quality festivals, certificates, and grading systems floating around the nation. I'm talking about the Guild, and the Federated Music Clubs and the ABRSM and the myriad other examination based programs.

I always get sucked in. My kids should be doing that! I did theory tests in Texas. We should have a curriculum. We are falling behind the traditional kids. 

Then I look at my calendar and the graduation recitals and think. . . when?  When am I supposed to do this. And the answer is I can't. The kids can't always either. We are always making choices.

The choice I have made is to have faith in my own curriculum. I choose events for my piano students that will make the best use of their time and my time and support their musicality the most efficiently.

That means planning masterclasses where they work one on one with inspiring guest teachers. This is without a doubt the most bang for the the buck. Observing great musicians teach music is the best way to learn, period.

Secondly--piano is a lonely business. We have to play with other musicians and pianists. Planning chamber music and concerto events is a very high priority to me. Next summer we are going to do another concerto event coupled with chamber music trios and quartets for those not ready for a concerto. It's expensive. It's time consuming. It's amazing. It's worth it.

Thirdly--I support the personal goals of each and every student. This means planning events to support landmarks in their progress--such as Suzuki Book Level graduations and senior recitals. Going to a student's home for her recital, helping her plan her musical preparation and teaching her how to set and achieve big goals is truly the most important thing I do. The growth that happens in the process of these recitals is so much greater than the $10 trophy I give. Most of these kids will also participate in the S.A.M. graduation program each March and S.A.M. does give a bigger trophy, (wink) but for me, seeing the child in her home environment with her own people is the bigger joy. This is when you really get to know the family. This is what makes kids stick with it for one more book and one more book and one more book.

These three foundational activities have become my curriculum. Yes, I still have to have the discipline to assign and check theory every week and I have a strong commitment to music literacy, and we still have to do scales, but these are the activities I value the most.

They all have two things in common--great people and great music.

Saturday I attended my first Suzuki Association of Minnesota board retreat. Yes, as president elect. Yikes. Big yikes. But, as I think about it--I will bring the same goals to S.A.M. as I would to my own studio. Celebrate people. Celebrate music. When you look at it that way it's not so scary. And I still have another year to get ready. . .

People and Music. A great curriculum. There are a million valuable musical things to do--but as I set my goals and the calendar for next year--after careful consideration--I'm not doing anything differently.

Monday, July 7, 2014

A Hole in the Head that Fills the Heart

Well. It's looks like we bought a cabin up north. I'm officially Minnesotan after all these years.
We don't own it yet, so we didn't stay there this 4th of July, but this weekend they let us get in and do some preliminary cleaning and planning.

Yes, it's true, I need a cabin like a hole in the head.
When we got home there were a half a dozen fires to put out regarding bunnies and cats and fountains and deer eating hydrangeas and dripping basement pipes.

Bill was under the impression that the dripping basement pipes trumped the hydrangeas. These are the issues of a healthy marriage.

Two more words: laundry and weeds.

I got my stolen from a northern lake water lily into my fountain. Don't tell the DNR. And I got my first little pine tree transplanted into the yard. It's important to share garden plants between the cabin and the house. If and when water lilies and little white pines trees take over Eagan, I guess I'll be in big trouble. Until then it's good karma--keeps either garden from getting too jealous of my time.

Sometimes a hole in the head can be good. It just might let some light in. My husband is in love with this cabin. I love it too, but seeing him love it is special too.

My sister loves it. My niece loves it. My kids love it. That's a lot of love.

To the perfectionist, it will be an exercise in letting go. There is no chance or illusion of being in control of house and garden and cabin. I will need a higher power for this. That's okay, because I have one.

It means there will be cracked sidewalks and cracked paint.
And the deer will eat some hydrangeas.

And the kids will swim in the lake and swing on the swing.
And Bill and his dad will fuss with the ancient electrical system.
And my sister will organize the storage closet.
And one by one each of us will do what we want to do. . .
or not do.

And the light will shine through the cracks and the pines and the rocks.

Sometimes a hole in the head can fill the heart.