Monday, November 24, 2014

Blessed Are the Flexible

. . . for they shall not be bent out of shape. Even when someone adds "bi" to metallics and takes way too many points and robs the joy of the moment from his little sister.

This weekend was our annual Suzuki Association of Minnesota workshop, complete with annual meeting. I am president elect of this organization of strings, harps, guitars, flutes, and pianos.

Our piano teacher's organization is a sub-group of S.A.M. We are a separate non-profit but we do a lot of projects together. We are a well-oiled machine. When one of us sneezes the other reaches for the tissue. When one is stressed, the other finishes the job. We know who to call to get the job done.

I'm not used to the S.A.M. way yet. I'm truly worried that they just won't like having a pianist (the first non-string) president next year. Maybe they just don't like me. Maybe I'm a broken cog in their well-oiled machine. But, I noticed there wasn't a contender for the position and they did vote me in.

Ah, the workshop. Our clinician was wonderful. But. . . the organization of the piano portion of this weekend's workshop was a little dicey to say the least. We were in danger of not having rooms with pianos for awhile (I offered my home, but the MacPhail gang figured it out). The payment info was inconsistent and there was the little issue of paying our clinician. I don't know the avenues of communication yet, and I don't know their system or in some cases, lack thereof. (Forgive the tone. . . ) Too many cooks in the kitchen and no-one has the whole recipe.

Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape.

I was a little bent out of shape. And I'm guessing even though I have been a member of S.A.M. for 17 years, they are highly skeptical of me as well. So I lost a little sleep. And I wondered if I made a mistake taking this on.

And I woke up and went to yoga. Sometimes the Holy Spirit speaks to me through the yoga teacher. I'm only half joking. She, the yoga teacher that is, opened the class with the quote, "Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape."

And then she played this song. "One Voice."
Link to "One Voice."

And I realized that maybe I was not being flexible. And I knew suddenly that the next two years of S.A.M. leadership would be okay. Our one voice is to support teachers, and parents, and students. Maybe I can be a little less of a rusty cog and just add a little oil to their machine. Our machine. Blessed are the flexible for they will not be bent out of shape.

This is the sound of all of us
Singing with love and the will to trust
leave the rest behind it will turn to dust
this is the sound of all of us

Friday, November 21, 2014

Let Them Eat Cake

For the record, Bill was not pleased with his photos. I rushed him. No time for the right kind of flash or whatever and it was a snowstorm and the driveway needed sand and salt before the guests arrived. I just wanted to preserve the moment before the cake and punch left their mark.

Last Saturday we had a full house. Thanks to all who braved the snow and ice. Studio kids came and friends and of course the grandparents and Bill's sister and her mother-in-law. Calvin had three school friends come. Yes, middle school boys. They RSVP'ed to me and brought little gifts of European chocolate. Wow. Equally amazing, little three-year-old Úna sat completely still for the whole hour and a half program, setting a new bar for "being a good audience" and five-year-old Ford made it quite a while before his long winter's nap, which is actually being a good audience too in my book. . .

Mary played beautifully. She picked all good tempi and was there in the music as opposed to elsewhere in her mind. A fancy dress helps with that. . . I'm not joking. She really pulled it together. It was a big program for her--and we were a little rushed--in order to let the kids play on the same recital. Bad teacher. Bad mom. But--sometimes if you don't have a deadline you never cross the finish line. She used her music for Spiritoso, which didn't bother me at all because I'm pleased that she is reading so well. She's had poise a mile long and many beautiful moments. Before getting cake all over the dress.

Calvin was rock solid. I'm not saying that every piece was the best he ever played it--that's asking too much--especially coming off a week with the flu. But I trust him. He's not going to train wreck. Once he puts on the shoes and suit he's there. What we missed the last week, with him being ill was a couple full run-throughs. He just didn't have the energy. So--he and I both underestimated the physical oomph to get through the program. We will have to start carb loading him next time, but he stuck the Prelude ending and we got a good graduation recording of the Bartok. The Beethoven will be there waiting for him his whole life. Note to self. . . suit pants only last four months before they are too short. . . buy multiple sizes next time or duct tape the hem so you can let it out. 

I was super proud. And nobody threw up. And we ate a lot of cake.

The ballet teacher came. Mary's only been taking ballet once a week for a couple months, so I was pleasantly surprised. The teacher stayed--and enjoyed the reception. I believe she appreciated a family engaging in classical music and a lovely party. She's from Germany and doesn't have family here and she told us how she doesn't see that much appreciation for the arts in young people here. I liked her before--she's beautiful and lanky in the ballet way and so calm in the class--gently adjusting the girls' feet--but now I love her. All I ever wanted from a gymnastics coach or a dance teacher was one single ounce of appreciation for my child as a whole person. Now I'm tender.

Thank you to my mother--who never sat down the whole time she was here--and who baked and baked and cleaned the kitchen one thousand times. Thank you Bill, for putting up with sleep-deprived me. I know you probably don't believe this--but I get pretty darn grouchy. . . little old me. . . a little off kilter.

Now we are done. And on the downhill to Christmas. I thought I would cry. I thought I would be relieved. But I didn't feel too much of anything except love. These recitals are pauses on the journey--and the road keeps going and going and going. On to masterclasses this weekend for S.A.M. and then the studio recital. More practice. More dresses and shoes. Another chance to learn and grow. To meet new people and get new ideas.

To celebrate the kids and share the music.

Another chance to eat cake, and not worry where it goes. . .

Congratulations, Calvin and Mary!

Friday, November 14, 2014

God Gave the Growth

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 1 Corinthians 3:6.

I realize I'm taking that scripture completely out of the context of Biblical history, but nonetheless it's been going through my mind all week.

It's so boring to read about. . . but suffice it to say that life snowballed on me this week. Calvin was sick all week, there was an SAA deadline for my video presentation for Parents as Partners, a SAM board meeting which I ran on Emily's behalf, choir, the regular piano kids and extra practice everyday with Calvin and Mary in preparation for the their graduation recitals this weekend. Thirty pieces we have been working on between the two of them. And yesterday apparently we had a heavy exposure to yet another stomach flu. Send us prayers for health in the next 48 hours. . .

I took Calvin back to the doctor Wednesday morn.  On top of the crazy virus he had with the normal cough/cold/stomach hoopla, he had a double ear infection and pink eye. He told me the pitch was off in his ears, and one ear was hearing a half step higher than the other. The doctor was a pianist and told him that he would have to be like Beethoven and play with his heart at the recital and not his ears. That's funny. But not exactly what I had in mind pedagogically. My husband's mantra is you don't play with your fingers, you play with your ears.

Speaking of my husband--I feel such a need to give thanks this week. To him, to Delores, to Mary Lynn and my mom--all the people who helped me get through this week.

And also--my heart is so full of thanks to all the teachers who have helped Calvin and Mary particularly the last 18 months getting ready for this recital. So here it goes. . .

Thank you Fay Adams and Karen Bartman. Thank you Gail Gebhart and Linda Gutterman. Thank you Annette Lee and Suzanne Greer. Thank you Beatriz Aguerrrevere for being Mary's "piano grandma." Thank you all, for all the patience working with my kids. It's not easy to teach a teacher's kid. Thank you Jill Thomas and Maria Grant for being on the teach your own kids support line--those little thoughts you send go a long way. Who am I forgetting? I'll think of it later. . .

Thank you Vickie Pautz and Doris Harrel and the whole gang in Austin and Houston--for everything you continue to teach me.

This community is amazing to me. I can't imagine teaching without it.

We had help outside the community too--thanks to Tadeusz Majewsky and Kathie Faricy and Katheran Ananda Owens. What a wealth of good people we have in life.

So when I say I teach my own kids. Yes, I planted, but these teachers watered. And God gave the growth.

Thank you Jonelle, for ever so kindly and persistently reminding me of my own words, that it isn't about this particular performance--it's about how they play the piano. With their ears. With their hearts. The work is done. The practice is over. All that is left is the gift of music to a room full of people who love you.

And cake. A lot a cake.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Beautiful and Hard

It was a doozy of a week. Bill was down for six days with an awful virus. I had my three hour eye appointment. After careful study of very sophisticated photos of my optic nerves, I'm cleared for yearly checkups again. That's good, but those tests wiped me. Those little notes are sometimes very hard to see after those bright lights.

The kids have yesterday and today off for conferences.


I scheduled conferences with fifteen minutes between my own lessons at home and each kid's conference, with five minutes between to walk from the elementary to the middle school. My mother taught me how to bend time and space, but sometimes I forget the formula. I forget that Mary likes to peruse the book fair. I forgot that Calvin likes to have mini conferences with all his grade school teachers. . .

God, I wish I was one of those relaxed mothers who just plans the whole day for one thing.

Anyway, I didn't take into account that Mary's precious teacher, who was also Calvin's teacher lost her father unexpectedly last Saturday. That conference could have actually taken an entire evening with a bottle of wine and a box of tissues. She's asked me how long it had been since my dad died. I said five years with tears in my eyes. You can't rush grief.

You can't rush conferences. I didn't take into account that the teachers would tell me that Mary has been more scattered than usual this Fall and maybe we need to talk about this a little more seriously. I didn't take into account that Calvin is registering for fricken high school and I need to get him open enrolled yesterday with a four year outline of classes so that he can fulfill all the prerequesites blah blah blah and still take band and driver's ed so that he can get into a college that he chooses and live a decent life.

In fifteen minute intervals.

I'm crying now.

What Mary needs is time and space. Sleep. And a hug every 20 seconds.

For school. For piano. For life.

Then again it just may be that she's gonna chew her food with her mouth wide open forever and I guess I'll love her just the same.

She needs less stuff. And more time and space.

I need less stuff and more time and space. Sleep. And a hug every 20 seconds.

Last night I tried to squash these conferences down and practice my anthem for Sunday, which is very beautiful but one of those. . .

That's actually a good quadrant. "Pretty and hard" I can do. Pretty and hard is worth doing.

We can do hard things. I didn't make that up. It comes from Glennon Doyle Melton and her Momestary Blog. It's one of her mantras.

All the piano kids want to play the hard stuff. They saw the generation before and they want to do that piece. But they don't all know how to do the work. I take for granted when they beg me to play the Minute Waltz that they are actually going to put more than a minute of work into the sucker.

But, we have to teach them HOW to do the work. Beat by beat. Measure by measure. How to you learn? How to you organize your time.

Mary and Calvin have each been putting in an hour and a half of piano every day getting ready for their recitals next weekend. I have to tell you that I'm completely fried. No one is more sick of the Rondo alla turca than me. Spinning song has lost it's sparkle. But there are moments of complete beauty where tears are rolling down my eyes. And Mary has come so far in the last ten days. You think she's scattered in frisbee golf? Try getting a perfect graduation recording of the four page Clementi Spiritoso. You know not the miracle that you witness.

We can do hard things. Folding laundry and cooking dinner can get very tired out too, but I sure do love to put on clean clothes and eat a meal. So. We can do it. At this point I still believe the growth is worth the endurance factor. We only grow by doing hard things. It's just easier when they are beautiful too.

Beautiful and hard. That's a quadrant I can do.

But, I might need a little more sleep and a few more hugs along the way, and. . . in eight days this particular hurdle will be over. It will be a very long time before I assign the alla turca or the spinning song to a student. . . put them into the burnout archives with Happy Farmer and Melody. Tra la la. If you see me, give me a hug.