Monday, March 7, 2011

Tap, Tap, Tap... anybody home?

I am so envious of people with consistency in their lives.  The only thing consistent about my own personal blogging, journaling, scrapbooking, or record-keeping is my inconsistency.  So here's a post... because even my long lapses between blogs must be subject to my inconsistency.

I am sitting in my family room on a couch that I've had for a long time.  I've lived in this house for almost 9 years, and as I look at my surroundings I realize that my days in familiar surroundings are numbered.  Even the things that have always been my own will change to a mixture of the familiar and the unfamiliar.  In just a few months, I'll be moving to Arkansas, where I'll be living with my children and my new husband, Craig, and his children.  We are blending families, combining homes, and intertwining lives that have already experienced so many things.  We are attempting with our greatest effort and commitment to bring two very separate and unique individuals into a singular relationship as husband and wife.  Every day that reality gets closer... and I couldn't be happier.

I wrote about Craig a couple of years ago in this very blog, when we had only been dating a few months.  Of course at the time I had no true sense that we would end up making a commitment like this to each other, but I realize that back then, all the signs were there.  His honesty and integrity, his devotion and loyalty to family, his ability to know my feelings and gain my trust.  And now, a little over 2 years later, and we are both ready to be single no more, but together.

So that's my biggest update for my blog.  Maybe my inconsistency can turn into more consistency as my life takes this new path.  I know there will be one thing that is consistent... love.

Friday, April 17, 2009

I'll just jump back in... next week.

After taking a week to rest (ha) and rejuvenate (sleep whenever possible), I'll jump back in to my regularly scheduled life next week. This week has actually been as full as any other with lessons, church activities, rehearsals, birthday parties, etc., but I've mentally just needed the feeling of taking a break. So I've been telling myself all week that I'll get back to business next week... early morning workouts, practicing for upcoming concerts, cleaning house (yeah, taking the week off from that will really bite me next week), along with all the stuff I didn't really take a break from this week.

Matthew turned 14 yesterday. And somehow I don't feel old... just amazed.

I'm trying out Twitter. If anyone can help me understand how and why this has become such a phenomenon, I'd be thrilled. To this point, I feel completely unconnected to this form of social networking.

That's all the random thinking I can handle today. I have a headache, I want this weekend to last forever, but life marches on. I'll write more when I feel better.

Monday, March 9, 2009

A Bird in the Chimney

I just heard a bird twittering away inside my chimney. That means several things to me... one is that either some poor bird has fallen to his eventual death inside my chimney, because there's no way out, OR it's just a chimney swallow that knows how to get in and out of vertical spaces like that. And if it's the latter, that means... It's SPRING!

I know by the calendar we haven't yet reached the Vernal Equinox or whatever signals the official start of this beautiful and much-awaited season, but since we were able to enjoy an early ushering-in of Daylight Savings time, it feels very Spring-like. The weather is warmer, and we're expecting a great big storm this evening, the kind that will likely spawn a few tornadoes, lots of wind and rain, and will make me happy to sit inside listening to the glorious sound of it all. I just love storms in the spring. Unlike storms in the fall, they usually bring a damp warmth to the earth that just beckons new growth. I can't wait to see the green, to feel myself coming alive along with the trees and grass and flowers. I think I was made for Spring. It's a time of year that awakens and inspires me to stretch and grow and become better than I was before. I feel motivated to WORK rather than to REST.

I hope this spring-inspired attitude is rubbing off on my children and my students. Perhaps their attitude is rubbing off on me. They've been pretty productive lately. Matthew has been relentless in his pursuit of MORE things to do. In addition to many music-related activities, he made a very compelling case for trying out for track at school. Sadly for him, it was just impossible to add daily practice and weekly track meets to our already full schedule of activities. He was devastated. He loves to take on things, and he also wants to spend more time with his friends than he usually does. He reminds me of me at his age. He'll be 14 next month, old enough for church dances, and is approaching his freshman year of high school next year, which means early morning Seminary. Yikes.

Lydia completed her Science Fair project last week comparing reactions of various acidic liquids with baking soda and baking powder. She had fun doing the experiments both at home and at the Science Fair. What amazes me the most about that girl is her ability to plan and be so organized in her work. She finished every step of the science fair process well in advance of deadlines, and with minimal input from me. As she put it, she doesn't like putting things off to cause her stress when they have to be done, so she gets them done early. Where did this child come from? She's certainly not following my procrastinating example. She's diligent in everything she does, from practicing her violin (without being asked) to cleaning her room (every day, and the pillows are arranged neatly on her made bed) to reading her scriptures (she wouldn't dare miss a day). On top of that, she's loving and cheerful and nearly perfectly obedient. If only she would stay just like she is now, age 10, and never approach teenagerhood.

We also had the Pinewood Derby the week before last for Michael. He did very well, but didn't place. He had made (with much help from Papa) his car to be shiny and silver, so he took home the award for "Shiniest Car". He was a great sport when taking his few losses, as well as his several wins. He's just a shiny, happy boy... when he's not whining. He loves Cub Scouts and received his Wolf badge at the Pinewood Derby. As his mother, I got pinned with the traditional mother's pin for scout advancements, but I have to admit that I did very little to help him. He was so motivated to complete all of his requirements, and simply didn't stop until he had finished. It makes a mom pretty proud to see her kids being driven by their own goals and desires.

Last week we also celebrated David's 6th birthday. Although his birthday was actually on Wednesday, we celebrated it on Friday with a party at home with our family and Craig and his kids. My parents were also supposed to come, but my mom ended up being sick. Fortunately, my schedule opened up on Friday so that I could stay home and make a cake from scratch. David had requested a chocolate cake, so I pulled out a pretty basic recipe for Devil's Food Cake. Not so tough... right? I used to bake often enough that it was, for lack of a better phrase, a piece of cake. But as I tried to put this cake together, nothing seemed to go right. I think I was more clumsy than anything else. I ended up spewing cocoa and flour all over as I started the mixer, breaking an egg on the edge of the counter and dropping it all over myself and the floor, and nearly (but not quite) overturning the whole bowl of ingredients before I mixed it up. Despite all of that, the cake turned out fine, but after what felt like a fiasco of making a cake, I went to the store for icing-in-a-can rather than try to mix up more ingredients for the frosting. It's funny how things that once seemed easy become very difficult if you don't practice them for... years. It's been a very long time since my kitchen and I have felt we really know each other. One of the casualties of single parenthood, I'm afraid.

So as I stood in the cake and frosting aisle at Wal-Mart, I reached for a "number" candle in the shape of the number 6 for David's cake and I was overcome with the realization that I would only get to use that candle one time. In the past, candles have been handed down from child to child as each approached a certain birthday. But not this one. This is our last 6-year-old birthday to celebrate in our family. I didn't cry, but felt a little sense of loss inside me as I realized I have no more babies, not even toddlers or "little" kids. They're all people now with identities, opinions, and needs that are far more complex than feeding and changing.

The seasons cycle and change, as do my children and I. But even with all the growth and change, there are familiar things that make us feel safe and secure. Familiar rhythms of the earth warming and greening, familiar traditions of birthdays and school projects and spending time together. And the familiar chirping of the chimney swallows, returning to my world because once again, it's SPRING.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Monday, Monday

I love Mondays. I figured out this year that students who came for lessons on Monday mornings are generally less prepared and focused than those who come at other times of the week. Most kids struggle to practice over the weekend, and coming for a lesson after two days of non-practice yields a mediocre lesson. So I don't schedule students on Monday mornings, which gives me a great morning for a killer workout, time to shower and dress and clean house (which isn't usually that much after the weekend) and run any other errands I need to do. It also frees me up to enjoy lunch, and today I get to have lunch with two of my favorite friends from high school... Karen and Travis. One thing I know for sure today... I'm going to be laughing a lot.

I will have a few lessons this afternoon -- just enough to ease into the week. And then tonight I have youth orchestra rehearsal. Most Monday evenings I love doing this. It's a great group of kids, generally willing to work hard, and generally having a good attitude about it. We have six rehearsals left before our concerts, and I feel good about the progress they have made. I still have moments, though, when I wonder what on earth is so inherently difficult about counting while playing.... This picture was taken at one of our very first rehearsals held in the living room of my parents' guest house, before we found a permanent rehearsal place and home at the Joplin Performing Arts Center.

I also found out this morning that I have been invited to teach at a summer music festival down in Arkansas. That's so exciting for me. For all the routine, weekly teaching I do week-in-week-out, this will be really fun to see some new students and find out what I can do inside of one week to really impact their playing. I think my goal with each student I teach will be to give them one new idea, and to give them a great time. My summer music experiences as a kid were the things that gave me that shot in the arm to not only keep me going, but give me a fresh vision for myself. I don't think kids can get too much of that kind of thing. Kids need challenge, variety, someone who says, "Here, try this really hard, really cool thing that you might think you can't do... but you can." I'm hoping to be able to afford to take Lydia to the Suzuki Institute in Ottawa this summer. She's studying Suzuki violin with a former/current student of mine (who is really wonderful), and works so diligently that I know Institute would completely inspire her. Who knows, maybe I'll even try to take Michael with me.

Ok, I'm off to start/continue my day. Mondays are great. Now Tuesdays... ugh. ;)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Rocking Mozart... or the Attempt Thereof

On Sunday, Feb. 15th I accomplished one of my life goals... one of my "bucket list" items, if you will. I played a full concerto with an orchestra as the featured soloist in a concert with the Ozark Festival Orchestra, in Monett, MO. The concerto was one I've known for years, since I was a kid, really, but desired to bring it to a new level. I anticipated this concert for about a year and a half, planning at first for a different concerto, but ultimately deciding on the Mozart Concerto No. 5 in A Major. I love Mozart, and I love this concerto, so it was a joy to prepare. It's a brilliant, elegant, joyful, dramatic work. I had so much fun. Here's a picture of little Genevieve, my young student who came to the concert and brought me this pretty rose.

Now that I've done it, I hope to have many more opportunities to perform, although I know that orchestral soloing doesn't often come to single-mom-of-4/violin-teachers. I may have to work at promoting myself a little better to get the chance to do it again.

However, I walked through that door to find another door open today. I got a call from a girl who is planning her senior piano recital at the local university. She was looking for a violinist to play with her on a couple of piano trios and the violin professor at the university had referred her to me. She brought the music over today, and it's Piazzolla! A little edgy, exciting, emotive... I can hardly wait! It should be fun, and is yet another performing opportunity for me. I just want to keep stretching and growing in my own playing as I work to help my kids stretch and grow.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Lyd's Glasses

Lydia got her glasses today! She was so excited. It's been so fun to listen to her see the world for the first time in who-knows-how-long. She could read every sign, noticed every detail. And she looks dang cute doing it.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Week of Music and Valentines

This is going to be an out-of-the-ordinary week for me. I'm starting it off in Fort Smith, Arkansas, where I play with the Fort Smith Symphony. Playing with the Symphony is not really unusual, it's the fact that this concert is actually a concert series that we play during the week called Earquake. Hundreds of 5th and 6th grade students are going to be bussed in to see the Symphony over the next two days, first in Fort Smith, then in Bentonville on Tuesday. There will be four concerts all together. The music is fun... exciting to listen to, as well as to play. Big blockbuster orchestra pieces are featured, such as John Williams March from Raiders of the Lost Ark, as well as the William Tell Overture (aka the Lone Ranger Theme). One unusual piece on this concert is a piece by a featured composer entitled Vox Humana. It includes out-of-the-ordinary musical and non-musical elements, and finishes with a 3-minute segment with a taped recording of cat, lion, and tiger sounds, as well as instructions to the orchestra for some people to stop playing and start talking on their cell phones while wandering around the stage. Meanwhile, the lights are dimmed, and neon light sticks are passed around the audience and onstage. The whole effect is eerie, unsettling, and completely bewildering for most of the members of the orchestra. But it is fun.

After all the Earquake excitement is over on Tuesday, I'll then travel to Monett, Missouri to rehearse the Mozart Concerto in A Major with the Ozark Festival Orchestra for a concert to be held next Sunday, February 15. I am the featured soloist on the program. This is a big deal for me. Even though the orchestra is small in size, and mostly amateur in playing ability, this is the first time I will have played a concerto accompanied by orchestra. I have wanted to do something like this for many years, but have never had the opportunity until now. It makes me very nervous, and since I have a propensity for stage fright, I am anxious about my ability to handle the effects of performance anxiety that I have struggled with when performing for as long as I can remember. I think the rehearsal Tuesday night will help me shake off the biggest bunch of the nerves (I hope), and then another dress rehearsal on Saturday should help me feel at ease. If all else fails, I have some medicine I was able to get to help with my heart palpitations and shaky hands. I have performed while using it a few times, and I feel confident it will help me handle the surge of adrenaline that always seems to come when I perform as a soloist.

I am taking the entire week off to prepare, even though I have been practicing and preparing for this for many months. I hope I will be able to focus, make good use of my time, and perform with confidence and poise. I bought a beautiful formal dress... a floor-length black skirt and a wine-colored satin-like blouse that will be elegant and appropriate for a concert held the day after Valentine's Day. I am getting my hair done on Wednesday, and hope to put my best face forward for a beautiful rendition of one of my favorite Mozart concertos.

And in the middle of all this comes Valentine's Day. I have not often looked forward to Valentine's Day. Last year was dreadful, having just gone through a painful break-up. The one before that is not even memorable. I know I was married, but I'm guessing perhaps Chad was out of town, because I have no memory at all of our only Valentine's Day together. The year before that I believe I was in Utah, or about to be in Utah. Valentine's Day three years ago came just a few days before my divorce from Danny was final. Needless to say, it was probably the worst Valentine's Day I could have imagined. I don't remember a lot of other V-Days during my first marriage. I know there were cards, because Danny always remembered cards, and there were probably chocolates most of the time. The only gift I vividly remembering receiving was my first Valentine's Day with him. He gave me a marble rolling pin. To this day it makes me laugh, as well as wonder what possessed him to give a gift like that to his wife on our first Valentine's Day together. Over the years many suggestions have been made as to what I should have done with that rolling pin when I received it. HA!

This year, I have a sweetheart. We are both looking forward to celebrating the holiday together, and to thoroughly enjoying the fact that we have each other. Craig is a very good man. I am impressed by his love for family and home, as well as his steadfastness in the gospel and his righteous desires. I'm very happy that he is sharing this time of his life with me, and look forward to more time with him. So, I know it's a bit early, but I think this year I'll enjoy a whole week of Valentine's Day feelings and fun... Happy Valentine's Day!