Monday, September 29, 2014

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Palliative. When my dad was fighting pancreatic cancer it took me a little while to figure out why we got the big cosy room at the end of the hall with the lovely sofa at the University of Iowa Hospitals. The nurses gently educated us about a new word. Palliative. Dim lights, music. Family. Peace. Angels in the corners.

During that time, I listened to this hymn over and over. Chris Rice's "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" Click it to hear the Youtube music. It's so simple and beautiful. Kris gave me that recording.

So, now, my friend is hearing this word about her Mother, Karen, in the pink and black suit. In the photo she's watching her grandchildren release butterflies as a symbol of resurrection on Easter Sunday, 2011.

Kris loves butterflies--so this is about the best I can offer today.

We remember every spoken word. Every laugh. Every hug and kiss. Every I love you. And somehow in that way that passes our understanding--these times are blessed and etched into eternity.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

This is My Father's World

This is my Father's world, and to my listening ears
all nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father's world; I rest me in the thought of rocks and trees, 

of skies and seas; his hand the wonders wrought. 

This is my Father's world; the birds their carols raise;
the morning light, the lily white, declare their maker's praise.
This is my Father's world; he shines in all that's fair.
In the rustling grass I hear him pass; he speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father's world; oh, let me not forget that,
though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father's world; why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King, let heaven ring; God reigns, let earth be glad.

Yes, this hymn is about our heavenly father, but I don't think God minds too much if it reminds me of my earthly father too.

Daddy, a lot has happened in five years. Calvin is so tall. His hands are bigger than mine. Mary is doing her Mary things. You would be so proud of Susan--she's been so brave and strong. She's just like you--she does the right thing. Savannah is gonna be 16 and she's singing and marching to her own beat. Mommy is always busy--can't say she's making much progress on learning Czech. You would probably laugh. Bill, as always, is a rock. Me? I started writing five years ago with Caring Bridge and for better or worse I'm still writing. And doing the other Sara things. 

It's still my father's world. I hear his voice singing the bass line every Sunday. He winks at me every time I see a wild turkey. Every time I say "I love you, kid" to Calvin it's his tone of voice. Even though he's gone, he's always with me.

So, this one goes out to all the grown-up little girls who still miss their daddies. When you love someone, you never stop missing them. And I think that's okay.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Mama Loves a Routine

This is the cat who is in the doghouse. This is the fierce warrior who brings me headless victims from the wild back yard several times a week. This is the anger management failure who pees on things when he doesn't get his way. Staying out all night and sleeping all day on the sofa and making messes everywhere are really characteristics of a rebellious teen, not a sweet pet. Monday we started the dialog about finding Garfield a new home. He responded by being super cute and loving and pet-like all week. Why does he have to be so dang soft and fuzzy?

I started teaching this week and we should be into a routine but of course there are always exceptions. Meetings. Traffic jams. Girls who think they are ill but then turn out to be okay when informed that there will be no videos or computer while they recover on the couch. There are always exceptions to the routine. . .

But, Mama still loves a routine and let's face it. . . the saying goes if Mama ain't happy ain't nobody happy. It's the structure of the routine that helps us grow. We can't grow in chaos. What I lack for in musical genius and virtuousity I make up for in the gift of organization. Schedules. Practice charts. Post-it notes. Calendars. Remember the well known Dolly Parton quote "it's takes an awful lot of money to make me look this cheap?" It's like that with organization. It's takes a heck of a lot of planning to make things this simple.

Let's start with a post-it note at the top of the piece. It could be Cuckoo, it could be a Beethoven sonata. It has today's date, and it has one to three practice points. There it is staring at us. Next week I see exactly what I said last week. Did it get done? Slap another post-it on top.

It's really just that simple. Give a suggestion. Check and see if it got done. Grow. Have a a purpose to the practice.

What about the listening? When are you going to put on the listening? If I'm a veteran teacher and can't remember to hit play on the iTunes sitting on my kitchen desk, how are the these families supposed to get it done? The routine. Before anyone sits down at the meal table. . . put it on.

It doesn't matter what system we use--but you have to have a system. I've yet to see much growth in the winging it school. Mark your calendars, check off the practice chart, put on the sticker. Humor me here, people.

Teaching kids how to organize their time and set small goals might be the most important thing we ever do. What a blessing that we get to use music to do it.

It sure was good to see everyone this week! I have the best job. Loving kids. Loving music. In that order.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Collaborative Thoughts

It's Mary's first formal ballet class. I had to learn to get a yard of hair into a solid bun. I hope she loves it. The dancing not the hair. I'm pointing my toes vicariously through her. I accompanied ballet classes in college and even traded out some piano playing for a few lessons. It didn't really work--I needed Suzuki Ballet.

I have had three weeks off--planning next year and puttering in the garden. Next week the real deal starts. The routine. Calvin got his lower braces on last night and his eyes dilated at the eye exam afterwards--I might have overdone the whole efficient Mama thing but the offices are on the same side of town. . .

Here is some cool stuff--I'm all about collaboration right now. Our Suzuki Piano Teachers' Guild has at least three awesome clinicians coming to work with us and our kids--Irina Elkina, Paul Wirth and Kathryn Ananda-Owens. Thanks Suzanne for linking us with these inspirational pianists! It's going to be a great year.

The next thing--I am starting a blind four year old this Fall and I am super excited--as I am for all the adorable little ones. But, I do want help. I had a lovely phone conference with Debra Hernstrom from Iowa City at the Pruecil School. She is an expert in Braille music and resources. Thanks also J.B. for your insight earlier this summer! The child is planning to go to Deerwood Elementary--so that is another cool possible collaboration--as I'm in love with Mrs. Schoen and all the music and teachers there. Admittedly biased toward the wonderful Deerwood Elementary.

Another new student--equally as adorable at three--has string player parents. Suzuki strings. We are all excited about studio collaborations and chamber music. Our next concerto/chamber music event is May 30, 2015 at Easter Church. Admittedly biased toward Easter Church. And three year olds.

Finally--I had a great text chat today with my friend Chris Liccardo from New York. He's a sought after Suzuki clinician and both his children have taken the musical road. His son is a concert pianist and his daughter a concert violinist. Surprise, surprise, they love chamber music and have done some workshops. As president elect of the Suzuki Association of Minnesota, I would love to plan a chamber music focussed tenure--I really hope the group will be open to bringing in some folks like this and bringing the pianists and strings and guitars, harps and recorders for that matter--together. Piano is a lonely business.

We have a great Suzuki community. Everyone we meet has something to share. Having never picked up a violin, I'm super unqualified to take the helm of the S.A.M. come Fall 2015. But--I know a lot of people and I'm getting to know more S.A.M. members everyday. My goal is simply to be a conduit between these teachers and students and the folks here in the Twin Cities as well as from around the country, who have already achieved inspirational excellence.

So--if you have ideas about chamber music and collaboration, please let me know. My friend Vickie has a high end chamber music series in little Blanco, TX--there are so many good ideas out there.  We will start planning now for the next two years.

Mary's taking dance with two of her best friends--she will be in good company. Everything, including playing music, is more fun with friends. Here's to the upcoming collaborations.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Author of Our Days

It's a rainy morning here, the kids are FINALLY at school and I'm practicing choir music. Well, taking a break from that. . .to write.

We had such a great summer but I was ready for a recharge of solitude. Me, coffee, a piano and my computer. Recharge.

Labor Day weekend didn't go exactly how we planned. Our friends Kris, Dan, Annika and Amelia were supposed to come visit us at the new cabin. Instead we got the news that Kris's mom has pancreatic cancer.

Of all the things I have in common with my friend, this cancer was not welcome.

Through tears, their lights are already shining--Karen has a Caring Bridge site and I encourage you to read Kris's writing--a pastor's perspective on this journey. There is nothing to do but put one foot in front of the other with as much faith, hope, and love as humanly possible. They are already doing that.

I also got word Sunday that my cousin Stacey has a tumor around her pancreas. She's waiting for more tests this week. Stacey is a couple years older than me and lives in Arizona with my Aunt Kathy, my dad's sister. She has a son Mike. Prayers while you wait, Stacey.

Everyone has to make their own journey and for obvious reasons no one wants to be compared to someone else who had/has this disease.

Still, here's what I know for sure these dear ones and our families will have in common. . . with each other and with my Dad's journey. . .

God will send exactly the right people at the right time. It's already happening. 
Miracles will happen. They might not be healing of the body but miracles will happen. I saw wild turkeys in the clouds--people. . .okay that was the least of it.  
If you believe in God, you will be angry with him/her. Any God who is capable of healing and doesn't is worthy of just a little anger now and then. Let's see. . . who told me that? It might take five years, but you will forgive Him. And like me, you may have a moment, a God moment, where you catch a glimpse of all eternity and you realize that all the pain and suffering on this earth is but a speck against the canvas of God's time. And you will know that it is okay.  
There will be good days. And good memories and time to make connections and share love so deep that its impact crater blesses the whole world. The veil of time in times like these is so sacred--tiny moments will last for years--years that you might not be given.  
You will find a paradox between fighting hard against that fricken mass, nuking it the best you can and also being at peace with God's eternal plan. I believe you can hold both views at the same time. And profanity is accepted. Like Kris said, all the four letter words are appropriate. 
You will need the doctors and nurses and the medicine and comfort and procedures they provide. Thank God for them and bless them--they are angels. But they are not the author of our stories. I don't care what they tell you, only God knows the number of our days, the myriad moments they hold and what miracles are possible. 

I pray that time will be elastic and filled so full with the love of family and friends and nature and music that you will always know you are held in the palm of God's hand--like you were before--like you will always be. God is the author of our days, and our stories are not over.