Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011

Gratitude

I know, you're thinking I missed the boat and am once again playing catch up. After all, Thanksgiving was LAST month.

Yes, indeedy it was. But no, this isn't a catch up post. Rather, it's a public declaration of a private decision: to search for peace.

Thanks to the chaos of the last couple of years, I've lived with less peace in my heart than I would like. More confusion, less clarity. More doubt, less faith. More fear, less hope. I've certainly had periods of great comfort and times of crystal clear direction, but as a rule, I have had to work excessively hard for them.

As I've continued to pray for understanding, for direction, for peace, for joy, I've had lots of pushing of the Spirit to one place:

Gratitude.

I'm stubborn. I admit it. It's taken a lot of shoving and a lot of reminding, and I'm finally paying attention.  The key for me seems to be in opening up my eyes and my heart to the beauty in my life, in the good and even in the bad. And in order to train my mind and heart to be grateful, I'm starting a gratitude journal. I think I'll see God's hand more clearly as I record his tender mercies to me. I'll recognize the little things that add up to big things. I'll enjoy small moments more and help my family enjoy them, too.

And maybe in the process, I'll begin to shed this tougher skin that feels so alien to me. Being tender feels dangerous. I've armored up, trying to avoid further pain. But, as Amber so eloquently reminded me months ago: "Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something." Life is pain, but life isn't all pain. By protecting myself so carefully from it, I've hidden away some of my ability for joy.

Eric used a magnificent C.S. Lewis quote at Brent's funeral:

There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket--safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

Ingratitude is a sort of Hell, I think. It turns us to selfishness, to pessimism, to seeing other people as obstacles to our happiness.

I'm sort of done with that. It's time to take back my faith in the world, in humanity, in hope for a good outcome in a bad situation. I'm ready to be the glass-half-full girl again: maybe not as naive in my optimism as I once was, but a wiser optimist is a better optimist anyway, right?

Some of my encouragement to start being more grateful has come as I've been following Catherine on her journey of gratitude. As a result of her posts, I have also been reading Ann Voskamp's lovely lovely blog. I love the idea of working towards recording a thousand gifts (and beyond).

I could wait weeks before I crafted the right kind of post, with the right words, the right pictures, to start my recording. But I won't. I'm casting aside my desire for perfection that hobbles me day after day and just starting with these things for which I am truly, deeply grateful:

1. Women of God, of hope, whose lives demonstrate with their light what God can do with each of us if we are willing to shine, even just a little.

2. Temple worship, for seeing myself more clearly when inside, and for the ability I'm given to see others more clearly when I leave.

3. Music. Today, specifically, this song.

4. Another chance (thanks to Christ and His Atonement) to remake myself. A chance to try again, again, again, and even once more.

5. Hot chocolate.

6. Finally having the Christmas decorations up.

It's a beautiful day. I'm going to go enjoy it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Catching Up: The October Edition

Oh, what a month it was.

Powell, weddings, concerts, Halloween. Oh, and that little birthday...

Lake Powell was fantastic. Our favorite parts? Everything. We had a mouse in the boat, a tarantula bit Elle while the kids had their legs buried in the sand, the toilet was broken and the water didn't work, and it was still paradise. Cliff jumping, seeing dinosaur tracks, waterskiing, tubing, surfing, swimming, digging in sand, lizard searching, bonfires, hiking to ruins, laughing and laughing and laughing. I'm so sad David missed it.

Then our sweet niece Marissa got married. We adore Marissa. David lived with her family for a year when he was going to BYU and we have been close to all of them since even before we got married. It was the only cold Saturday in October (of course) and they decided to keep the reception outside. It was gorgeous (and cold) and we had a wonderful time.

My cousin Blake came and stayed with us for a while. We love Blake very very much.

And then do you know what I did? I turned 40. I know. It's shocking, right? I keep thinking I'll be immune from this aging business, but it turns out I'm not!

If you have to turn 40, do it with David. The guy (and my dear dear friends) made it a remarkable, amazing weekend. It started with a surprise party (amazing, fantastic, wonderful) on the Friday night before my birthday. Perfect. Then Saturday morning I ran the Bonneville Shoreline trail from North Salt Lake to City Creek. I've been dying to make that run since the move, and I convinced (pregnant) Liz and Joni to run it with me. It was gorgeous. Seriously. Perfect. I love those women. They are fantastic.

After the run, I went home to find breakfast made by my sweet children (German pancakes and smoothies), and then David told me to clean up and get ready for our outing. Ashleigh came to watch the littles, and we headed down to Utah County. But then we kept going. And David came clean...he was taking me to the Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City and we were staying until Monday. Ashleigh stayed with the kids the whole weekend. BLISS. We saw The Winter's Tale, then spent the next day hiking and seeing national parks. After going home Monday, we headed up to Heber for a birthday dinner at his mom's. A good birthday? Oh, yes. A great one. (And how David pulled it all off? I don't know. He's something else, I tell you. I love that man.)

Other events: fall walks, hanging out with neighbors, and Halloween. We were in charge of the church Halloween party (during which we ran out of all food...), Josh had his first high school orchestra concert and Kate played the first movement of the Haydn C Major concerto.

A very good month.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Catching Up: The September Edition

September was gone in a BLINK. But what a blink.

Ben started preschool at the most darling neighborhood preschool you've ever seen. Miss Debra is amazing, he has three friends who go with him, and best of all...it's a mile away!!! After spending a year in the car driving to and from the U, his preschool's close proximity is an enormous joy in my life. (Not to mention that Miss Debra is convincing Benno to read...)

We hung out with people we love. Also we ate with people we love. Breakfast at Original Pancake House (twice), GREEK FESTIVAL (yummmmm), and the Green Family Reunion (lots of visiting and laughing fit into an afternoon in Centerville. Simple.)

We also had the sadness of saying goodbye to Tally. But we've covered that on the blog. Moving on...(I saw a Viszla running with her owners by Sugarhouse Park today and it was verrrrry sad.)

Kate had her fall recital.

Sophie turned TWELVE!!!!!!!!!! Beka kidnapped her for breakfast at Kneaders, and I was a good mom (for once) and threw her a party that very day.

But remember how Kate turned eight in April? Well, I finally threw her a party, too (a cooking party. Lots of fun.) Don't judge. Oh, go ahead and judge. It's ridiculous.

Josh played lots of lacrosse and he was very cute. (Don't tell him I said that. He is, though.)

I had a spectacular angel cake fail for dinner with the Fischers.

We spent lots of time with the Youngberg cousins while Eric and Nina had a getaway in CA.

David came home from work one night and said to the girls, "Aren't you sad you're not going to Taylor Swift tonight? Well, maybe we should." He bought 7th row tickets through a friend and off they went. They had a blast.

And last, but DEFINITELY not least, the kids and I went to Lake Powell with three other neighbor families at the end of the month. Gorgeous. Perfect. Fantastic. I will make you suffer through more Powell pictures later.

I am not sure how to wrap up September...it was a fantastic month, but losing Tally was very very sad. So, I guess I'll just leave it at that.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Catching Up: The August Edition

Once August rolled around, I felt the pressure. The decree had been passed: Summer 2011 MUST BE FUN! And with only three weeks before the return of school, I had to fit in as much memory-making as possible.

Success?

Maybe!

We swam and swam and swam. Swimming lessons for the littles, swim team for Soph. She wasn't sure how she felt about it, but I talked her into going and she ended up loving it.

Mom and Dad came up to visit. We hiked to Cecret Lake with them and Eric and Christina. Gorgeous night. Many mosquitos.

Neighbor time was fantastic. The kids were with their friends all the time: Late nights, Orange Leaf, swimming, running from one house to another. Super fun.

David bought his dream garden tractor. He revisited his childhood by giving the neighbor kids rides in the tractor.

We had to fit in lots of time with the Chos before they left Utah for their new life in Texas. Gloria is one of those people that I loved the minute I met...these kinds of friendships are so remarkable. And so fun!

Bri and Mike came to visit. Celia was darling. Bri announced they're expecting again! So exciting! We wish they lived in Utah...(hint, hint.)

And then school started...Sad. I wasn't ready. I finally had one of those summers that didn't leave me dying to send the kids back to school. I missed them terribly when they left. It didn't help that it was HOT. HOT!!!! The kids complained about the heat (NO AIR CONDITIONING) and I ignored them until I went to Back to School Night and it was over NINETY DEGREES IN THE SCHOOL. Come on, people. Either install air conditioning or let the kids start school after Labor Day. Honestly...stick the school board in one of those schools for a week and see how fast the schools get air conditioning.

Rant over.

My darling cousin Chapin married beautiful Whitney, so we got to see Nana and Boppa again, along with almost all of my extended Paullin family. They make me happy.

And finally, we ended the month by painting Kate's room. We bought the pink and white paint when we moved in. Two years ago. It's been slate blue for two years, and every once in a while, she asked, "When do you think we could paint my room?" And we'd say, "Hmmm...maybe soon." And she'd say, "OK." No fits, no grumpiness...and how is she rewarded? She got to wait two years for her room to be painted. Poor thing. But it's pink and white now and makes us all very happy.

August? Other than school starting (boo!), it was a very good month.

(I kind of like doing these updates a couple of months late. I've forgotten all the bad! The pictures make life look really rosy! I think this is how I should remember all of life!)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Catching Up: The July Edition

July was busy.

We went to David's brother Paul's cabin on the St. Joe River by Coeur d'Alene for the Fourth of July. It is one of my favorite places on earth. That it remains one of my favorite places, even though the stomach flu went through most of the 12 of us with a vengeance (in a one bathroom cabin) speaks to its remarkable qualities. We spent most of every day playing on the water in kayaks, on the longboard, on the boat, or on the dock.

We swam at the tennis club up the street from our house.

We spent time hiking and in the canyons with friends.

David spent a lot of time at work (the Deer Valley Music Festival begins in July and runs usually until right before school starts.) Sometimes we even got to join him.

We had our 20th anniversary. Yes, indeed, we did, and it was wonderful.

Josh spent a week at the Lyceum Music Festival, held in Midway. He had a wonderful time. David's mom was his host, cook, and chauffeur. We joined him for his 15th birthday, sneaking along his favorite cousin, Ally, who came down from Idaho to surprise him.

Our fantastic friends, the Sharps, came to visit from Florida the same week. We hiked, played, talked, and went to Josh's final concert together. Our friend, David Cho, was the guest conductor, so we had fun with him and his wonderful wife, Gloria.

So pretty much what I'm saying is that July was a good month.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Piano Lessons


I'm back at the piano again, (maybe) in earnest this time, and having an enormously good time reading and reading and reading. I think I'll have an enormously good time once I settle down on repertoire, too, but it's kind of the difference between dating and getting engaged...when you're dating a piece, you can be all superficial, love the big picture and ignore the problem spots. Once you're engaged/married, you see every little quirky detail and recognize that it's now your responsibility to overcome every challenge. It's great, that kind of hard work, totally great, but sometimes it's nice to go back to the crush stage.


So I'm crushing on some Prokofiev (I'd like to commit to the 7th Sonata, but my goal right now is to stay with smaller pieces, so I'm sticking with The Montagues and the Capulets), the Haydn Fantasie, and I can't decide which of the 20 Scarlatti sonatas I've gone through is really going to hold my fancy. I think I will revisit the 4th Ballade because it deserves to get to the next level.


I'm also planning some fun collaborative work for the near future, and am so excited to play gorgeous music with some wonderful musicians.


Spending so many hours a day working with students or at the piano itself is a little exhilarating. I'm so lucky that this is my life.


I love this Billy Collins poem. So much of his poetry wraps the mundane in the cloth of art. It makes me look more carefully at the details of my life.


It's so much fun to admit that (once again) "even when I am not playing, I think about the piano."


Piano Lessons
By Billy Collins
1.
My teacher lies on the floor with a bad back
off to the side of the piano.
I sit up straight on the stool.
He begins by telling me that every key
is like a different room
and I am a blind man who must learn
to walk through all twelve of them
without hitting the furniture.
I feel myself reach for the first doorknob.
2.
He tells me that every scale has a shape
and I have to learn how to hold
each one in my hands.
At home I practice with my eyes closed.
C is an open book.
D is a vase with two handles.
G flat is a black boot.
E has the legs of a bird.
3.
He says the scale is the mother of the chords.
I can see her pacing the bedroom floor
waiting for her children to come home.
They are out at nightclubs shading and lighting
all the songs while couples dance slowly
or stare at one another across tables.
This is the way it must be. After all,
just the right chord can bring you to tears
but no one listens to the scales,
no one listens to their mother.
4.
I am doing my scales,
the familiar anthems of childhood.
My fingers climb the ladder of notes
and come back down without turning around.
Anyone walking under this open window
would picture a girl of about ten
sitting at the keyboard with perfect posture,
not me slumped over in my bathrobe, disheveled,
like a white Horace Silver.
5.
I am learning to play
“It Might As Well Be Spring”
but my left hand would rather be jingling
the change in the darkness of my pocket
or taking a nap on an armrest.
I have to drag him in to the music
like a difficult and neglected child.
This is the revenge of the one who never gets
to hold the pen or wave good-bye,
and now, who never gets to play the melody.
6.
Even when I am not playing, I think about the piano.
It is the largest, heaviest,
and most beautiful object in this house.
I pause in the doorway just to take it all in.
And late at night I picture it downstairs,
this hallucination standing on three legs,
this curious beast with its enormous moonlit smile.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

All About Me...

October...where did you go? I just took a look back at my blogging history and found that since the beginning of The Greenhouse, I have never before gone an entire month without posting. And there it went. Poof. October 2011 will never be seen again.

And what a month it was...the month of my 40th birthday.

In honor of me, because I'm always all about me, I'm going to do one of those lists we used to see float around blogdom. I kind of liked the junior high-ness of the tagging. It was fun to be popular enough to be tagged! Loved it! So maybe I'll bring us all back to the good old days of blogging (2007 style, woot!), and tag some of you to do the same thing on your blog. No, you're not lucky enough to be 40 (most of you), but you do have 100 interesting things to say about yourself. You know you do, and you've just been looking for an excuse to tell us all. Now you have it! And if I don't tag you, you can pretend I did (since I would if I knew you wanted me to.) I'm tagging Sarah, Danielle, Malisa, Christina, Ash, Bri, Ananda, Sarah, Amber, Megan. And like I said, whoever else.

Which brings me to #1:

1. I have a nearly pathological fear of leaving people out of anything.
2. I'm eating cinnamon sugar pumpkin seeds right now. And they're pretty good, for pumpkin seeds. Since they're sugar coated and all that.
3. I still think my old neighborhood is close to perfection.
4. I love my new neighborhood now, too, and think it's filled with fantastic people,
5. but I wish it was more walkable (schools, shops, parks, etc.)
6. I don't read as many books as I used to.
7. Approaching 40 was worse than actually turning 40.
8. I put away my scale for a couple of months because my sister-in-law told me I was crazy to weigh myself every day. I stepped on it again yesterday and I was 3 pounds heavier than I was two months ago. Guess that didn't work.
9. I'm still amazed that my kids have grown up so quickly. It wouldn't be so shocking if I didn't remember being 15 quite so vividly.
10. I wonder sometimes if I should like music that is more appropriate for my age. Does it bother Vampire Weekend that I like to dance in the kitchen to Run while I make meatloaf? It probably should.
11. Along those lines, Sophie is pretty sure my only job in life is to embarrass her. It may not bother Vampire Weekend that I like to dance in the kitchen to Run, but it certainly mortifies my daughter. As does my kissing her father, singing, laughing loudly, or anything that isn't quiet and calm. (Love you, darling! Smmmoooooch.)
12. I love the Book of Mormon very very much. Also the New Testament. And I'm learning a lot from the Old Testament, too, but I haven't fallen in love with it as much as the other two. D&C and PofGP, I like you too.
13. I absolutely believe in personal revelation.
14. I love my church and the people (imperfect though we all are) who make up my church family. I have had times that my faith has been challenged, but I have never left my church home, and I find that my faith returns when I spend enough time communing with my Heavenly Father.
15. I'm sad that I didn't get into the DMA program, but glad I didn't get into the DMA program. I'm a wee bit conflicted and pretty sure I don't see the whole picture yet, but trying to trust the plan.
16. I've got more issues with my performance nerves now than I did a year ago. I don't wonder why.
17. I've learned that even the strongest pain scabs over eventually unless you continue to poke at the wound. Sometimes it's OK to poke at the wound, but most of the time it's OK to allow it to continue to heal.
18. I think adulterers suck.
19. I know I should hate the sin and love the sinner, but I still think adulterers suck. I'm working on that. And maybe I should qualify that to say adulterers who have no remorse suck.
20. Being married for 20 years teaches you a lot.
21. And yes, marriage is worth the risk, the pain, the vulnerability, the sacrifice. (And no, for the record, David is completely loyal. Totally and fully. I spoke of other husbands.)
22. For my 40th birthday, David threw me a surprise party. Then he stole me away the next day for a surprise weekend in Cedar City (Shakespeare Festival! Fall colors! National parks! No children!) David is pretty amazing. He really pulled out all the stops, and now I'm feeling nervous for his 50th (most of a decade away, mind you) because he set the decade birthday standard ridiculously high.
23. I am losing my motivation to run. I think I need to sign up for a race. But I'm not motivated. So I don't. So I'm less motivated.
24. I still love running trails.
25. I miss Tally sometimes. But I don't ever miss cleaning up after Tally. That sometimes makes me feel guilty. And sometimes it makes me feel relieved.
26. Sometimes I don't dream anymore because I worry that my dreams will be dashed.
27. That's not healthy, so I decided I'm going to start a bucket list, even though I think "Bucket List" is a cheesy term to use.
28. I love fall. Also spring. Also summer. Also winter. This year I think I liked summer the best. But maybe the fall has come in a super close second. In fact, maybe it won.
29. I have a hard time making decisions.
30. I spend an inordinate amount of time choosing what to order at restaurants, but I'm almost always totally happy with my decision.
31. It's hard for me when people are easily offended. I would like to think most people are doing their best most of the time and so we should give them the benefit of the doubt. That needs to apply to the way I feel about people who are easily offended, too, so I'd better work at that.
32. I'm good at some things (accompanying, being interested in people, giving church lessons.)
33. I'm bad at some things (packing, staying on task, keeping my house organized.)
34. I'm average at most things (can't list everything else, now can I?)
35. I have a temper, but I've learned to control it most of the time. When I don't, it's ugly.
36. I love to eat.
37. I love healthy food.
38. I also love unhealthy food.
39. Finding 100 things to say about myself is taking a long time.
40. That's how old I am now.
41. I know everyone says it as they get older, but I really don't feel 40. I look it, and that shocks me every time I look in the mirror. I assume I will feel this way at every age milestone. My grandma says it still surprises her, so I suppose it's just human nature.
42. I love writing, but it's not something I'm great at. I used to want to write a book, but I'm not sure I'll ever spend the time working on writing enough to be good at it. I think I'd rather practice.
43. I feel the same about photography, but not even as much as writing. I used to dream about being a really good photographer, but again, I'd rather practice.
44. I feel guilty when I practice and something else should be done.
45. Something else should always be done, so I feel guilty whenever I practice.
46. Also, I feel guilty when I don't practice.
47. Pretty much I have a problem with guilt. And time management.
48. I'm a night person.
49. I'm teaching lessons at 6:15 in the morning, so I have to pretend I'm not a night person.
50. My mom is one of my heroes.
51. I love my mother-in-law. She is amazing and she loves me.
52. The more I get to know most people, the more I love them.
53. MOST people.
54. I get all riled up about politics, but I mostly don't know why we can't all get along. I have strong feelings, but I can be mostly rational and kind. Why can't everyone? I don't think you're stupid if you disagree with me. I just think that you disagree with me because you have a different opinion than me. And I'm not stupid, just because I voted for our current president. In fact, I can show you my ACT score if you wonder.
55. I got a pretty high ACT score.
56. I love running before dawn and watching the light touch the top of the mountains, slowly illuminating the sky.
57. Running when it's pitch dark and no light ever touches the top of the mountains just makes me feel like I'm up too darned early.
58. I'm up too darned early almost every day.
59. My ideal schedule would be to go to sleep around 12 and to get up around 7:30. That sounds heavenly. I won't be doing that until after my youngest is done with high school. So 14 more years. Oh well.
60. Choosing what to make for dinner is hard for me.
61. One of my worst traits is that I have a hard time following through with things.
62. If I could be better at following through with things, I'd love to figure out how to make a big difference in the world.
63. Among the other things I feel guilty about is not doing more with my time or resources in order to make a big difference in the world.
64. I have no idea why you've made it this far reading about me.
65. I love lots of music, but I really love early 20th century piano music. I'm not a freak about 12-tone or super atonal stuff. I can tolerate it and enjoy it, but I love love love Barber, Prokofiev, Ginastera, Ravel, Mompou, de Falla and later stuff like Rzewski.
66. I also love Bach and Scarlatti.
67. I also love Chopin, but he's less of a crush and more like someone I'm married to...a beautiful, safe part of the fabric of my music world.
68. It's pretty safe to say that my very favorite piece of all time is the 2nd movement of the Ravel G Major Piano Concerto. I'd link to it, but none of the YouTube performances are phenomenal.
69. Another favorite is Bach's Goldberg Variations.
70. I haven't performed either.
71. I don't know why. Oh, except there aren't a lot of orchestras lying around waiting for me to play Ravel with them. If you find one, let me know. I'll be all over it.
72. Haven't been to Europe yet and I'm sad about it.
73. I know that quote about children being a mother's travel, her gems, her riches, etc, and that doesn't even make me feel bad. I want to go to Europe AND be a mother.
74. My kids do a pretty darned good job at being kids.
75. Sometimes I expect my kids to do a perfect job at being kids. That's about as fair as expecting myself to do a perfect job at being a mother.
76. I like vacations.
77. I don't like coming home after vacations.
78. I love long conversations.
79. I love feeling the Spirit.
80. I have some amazing, true friends.
81. That saying, "You can do anything you want; you just can't do everything you want"? It makes me mad. It's mostly true, of course, (except that I never could have been an Olympic basketball player) but I want to be able to do everything I want.
82. I think I'll make my blog private one day.
83. I think I'll go back to taking a picture a day as our family history. If I feel like it, I'll make another blog for them. I think it's a great, quick way of keeping track of what happened in our lives.
84. I've lived in Utah longer than I lived in California.
85. I have a wonderful extended family.
86. I can let things sit in a pile longer than I should. Exhibit A: laundry room.
87. David has become very patient with my weaknesses. Exhibit B: mudroom.
88. Marriage is best when we are very patient with the other's weaknesses.
89. Marriage is also best when you go on dates and weekend getaways.
90. I really really do love that Ravel. I've been listening to different versions of it ever since I wrote #68. The best one on YouTube isn't a video and you have to turn it up high, but it's Martha Argerich and I love her. Listen to it if you want to hear pure gorgeousness and feel a little melancholy all at the same time. It always makes me feel like weeping a little, in a good way. (A recording of Krystian Zimerman is on YouTube, too, and is also lovely.)
91. I love alone time. I also love people time. Sometimes I don't love children time. Children are not always rational human beings.
92. But I love my children deeply. They are fascinating people. They are so individual, so distinct, and so interesting to be around. So even though I sometimes want to send them to their rooms for an entire day, I'm still always glad they're my kids.
93. Except when they fight for two weeks straight at the beginning of summer. Then I wonder what I was thinking, having four children.
94. I wish I were like some people who always seem to enjoy parenting. I always love my children, but I don't always love parenting.
95. Being a mother, though? It's exactly what I want to be, even if it's hard hard work. There are precious, beautiful moments scattered through every day that remind me of its eternal significance. And there's not much better than watching a child recognize truth, or reach some of her potential, or touch another person's life through his kindness.
96. The hard things are why we're here. The beautiful things are why we're here. If we try to skip the hard and think we only deserve the fun and the beautiful, we miss out on what we're really supposed to be learning. Muscles grow by being broken. So do we.
97. I've been broken.
98. I've been made strong.
99. I assume this cycle will occur over and over for the rest of my life.
100. The rest of my life will be however old I am when I die minus 40. That might be 50. It might not. Whatever it is, it will be an adventure.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Natalia


Our Natalia.

There we were, a cute little married couple, living in our first house, expecting our first baby. What could be more perfect than adding a sweet puppy to the mix? 

Nothing, of course. We researched and researched and researched breeds. We wanted a dog that wouldn't bark much but would be a decent watchdog (our darling first house was in a less-than-safe area), that would be patient with children, loving with us, loyal, intelligent, not too small, but not overly big. We decided to take a look at Viszlas. The rest is history.

We found her on a spring afternoon. We had also researched (we did a lot of reading back then) how to choose the right temperament in a puppy, so we watched all the red puppies rolling around together and looked for just the right girl. And we fell in love with one: our Natalia, a Viszla puppy with a round belly, enormous ears, and a heart of gold.

We didn't know that she would be a house dog. We assumed she would live outside. But then we read books and more books and more books and trained her and trained her and trained her and by then we couldn't bear the idea of her being outside, away from us. We had Eric and Christina babysit when we had to be gone overnight. She was, I admit, quite spoiled.

Then of course you know what happened. Baby Josh arrived, and Natalia lost her privileged position. We (again) read and read and read about how to prepare her for the baby (sigh...I miss that surety that the answer to all my questions was somewhere in a book...I just had to read enough...) and she managed.


And she managed when Josh pulled her ears. And when he lay on her. And when he grabbed her face.

She managed when Sophie was born, too, and when Sophie pulled her ears, and when Sophie grabbed her face.


And, of course, she managed when Kate came along, and pulled her ears, and poked her eyes. She had learned by now that babies weren't so bad, especially when they'd feed you food from their highchairs. 


By the time Ben came along, she was 11 years old. She was patient with Mr. Ben, as she was with all the others. She loved eating off the high chair. But her face was now gray, and her hip was weak.


Little by little, she lost the constant energy that had been one of her trademarks. As I learned to love running, she had to stop running. Well, she had to stop running with me...she never stopped running away.

For fifteen and a half years, she kept us company. She put her head on our knees when we cried. She let our toddlers play with her ears when we took road trips. She howled and howled when David played the trumpet. And even when she was nearly deaf, over this last year, when I'd practice she would come and lay under my piano to feel the vibrations.

But over the last couple of years, she lost most of her sight, most of her hearing. She made messes of many many kinds, some more horrifically disgusting than others. She started honking this terrible donkey sound (she who never barked). She fell down the stairs over and over and over again. Her hip kept giving out on her. She would stare blankly at the wall.

It's been a long, hard path. We traveled it with her as long as we could. And then we couldn't keep her here anymore.

I knew letting her go would be hard. I did. I struggled and struggled and struggled to know what to do for her.

And finally, I knew what she needed.

So we let her go.

And the world feels emptier. There is no more clinking collar or clicking of toenails. There is no honking bark or messes to clean up. There is no friend to sit with me while I practice. There is no warm head to rest on my knee while I cry about the loss of our sweet girl.




Sweet girl, I hope you are running again. I hope you can forgive us for being human and for not being as strong and loyal and loving as you always always were. Put your head on Brent's knee for me and let him know just how much we miss him, too.

Friday, August 26, 2011

What I Do When I'm Not Blogging

Teach piano lessons (and yes, thank you, I am having a lot of fun.)
Play with my kids.
Read dumb books.
Eat too many cookies (and yes, thank you, that is the story of my life.)
Decide to go off sugar because I don't want to be fatter at 40 than I've ever been in my life (unless pregnant. And yes, thank you, 40 is just around the corner. Way closer than I'm ready to accept.)
Not practice (feeling slightly guilty about this, but enjoying my time away from the piano just the same.)
Write blog posts in my head, complete with pictures, but never actually get them to the computer keyboard (I have written mind-posts about weeding/sin, unexpected blessings, kids who make me crazy, Ben and his eating habits, how I feel about teaching, why it's wrong that I have a child in high school...and many many more! Are you sad I haven't written them?)
Have my 20th wedding anniversary (and YES, thank you, I WAS a child bride.) (Also, 20 years? I'm pretty proud of us. And I love my husband.)
Have wonderful people come and stay at my house.
Feel sad about my brother.
Feel sad about another brother.
Feel happy about my wonderful family.
Feel happy about old friends and make amazing new ones.
Watch my children swim.
Celebrate my son's 15th birthday in Heber while he attended a week-long music camp.
Sit under the stars on a mountainside in Park City, listening to the Von Trapp children, and Idina Menzel, and the 1812 Overture, and a band that thought they were pretty close to Queen.
Watch my children grow up.
Hike in fields of wildflowers and up mountainsides and to lakes and with friends and with family.
Watch my dog get older.
Recognize the hard and the good and the happy and the sad and how it's all one...all of it...all necessary for this rich, rich life we lead.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Summer, Part One

I kind of miss my pictures of the day. I like that taking them made me pay attention to the good things (or not so good things) that happen every day. I like that writing about them made me take even more notice of how quickly time was passing and how valuable each moment is. I'm considering starting again, but posting them on a different blog, since it did take up a lot of real estate.

Along those lines, I decided at the beginning of summer to try to make every day fun in some way for the kids. Last summer had some redeeming moments, but overall was a bust. The summer before was also (but not equally) hard due to the selling of our house and upcoming move, so I was determined to prove that yes, indeed, summer can be fun.

So here are some of our highlights: (Warning: Lots of pictures ahead.)

 My cousin Blake took me to U2 at the last minute. Our night involved sidewalk moped riding with no lights. A very fun night.
 Josh graduated from junior high school.
 Kate got an honorable mention in the Salt Lake Piano Competition.
 Sophie got locked out while babysitting some of our favorite kids.
 We went to the old neighborhood to hang out with people we love.
 We walked up to our favorite Shave Ice place.
 Josh went to youth conference.
 We pulled lots and lots and lots and lots of weeds (oh, wait. That's not fun.)
 The kids made goo. And earned blue hands in the making.
 This is after the kids made homemade ice cream and sold it at an ice cream stand. They put the $7 they earned on the back of my car and I drove off with it. It was never seen again.
 Ananda came to visit, and I met my newest niece, baby Jane. I fell in love love love.
 Sophie made a cake with her buddy Canyon.
 We danced with Matt in the Great Salt Lake.
 The kids bought t-shirts from Matt.
 Bri, Celia and Mike came to visit for a night.
 Everyone else got to meet baby Jane. Can you see that she is very very loved?
 We blew up the alligator pool and had fun.
 We had a slip and slide night

 We played in the sprinklers.
 The kids had an outside movie night.
 I let the older kids have a sleepover on the trampoline with some buddies, but will not be making a habit of it.
 We had a 4th of July pre-celebration with Ash and her mom.
And then we headed to Spokane to spend a week with Dave's brother and his family.

So far, so good. I think we may have broken the summer curse this year. (Knock on wood...)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Slippery Hope and Roadblocks


Over the last couple of months, a familiar but long-missed feeling has started growing in my heart.

My 5:50 wake up time on running mornings doesn't feel like an impossible hurdle, making breakfast and doing the tasks of the day take up the appropriate amount of brain time and nothing more. We accomplish much and when we're done accomplishing, I try to pat us on the back collectively about our good work rather than focusing on what we missed. I notice sunrises and sunsets with an inner thrill that has been missing. My children's faces even seem sweeter.

I try to lay aside those thoughts that don't belong in my new framework. Anger...you go away. Betrayal...you go away, too. Insecurity, doubt, fear...take a hike.

I have this fluttering of hope that maybe, just maybe, we're moving out of the winter into the summer. Maybe we're arriving at the oasis that marks the end of an extended desert journey. Maybe the Lord has tried us enough that he'll finally allow us to flourish spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically and financially.

Maybe...

But hope can be such a slippery bugger. It takes so much effort to clear my mind of negativity, to remember that roadblocks are just that: blocks. Not journey stoppers, but blocks.  I can travel around them, or climb over them, or if I'm really at the end of my ability to cope, sometimes the grace of God can just lift me over them.

I think that He's trusted me enough in the last few years to lift me over my hurdles less and less often. He's allowing me to struggle and fall. He's allowing my muscles to burn with effort...to reach the breaking point and move beyond it. I still need His grace, of course, and it is often all there is giving me the ability to cope, but I know he's letting me grow, even though the growth is painful, sometimes even seemingly unendurable.

I hit another roadblock today. It nearly sent me reeling, especially since I had allowed myself the hope that something important was finally going to run smoothly. That's a dangerous hope...a hope for perfection in this life. And that's just not going to happen. The right hope is that when things don't run smoothly (and really, when DO they? I think I've decided the idea of things running smoothly is just fiction), I will be given the strength and ability to cope.

(Again, my caveat...I'd really REALLY love for things to run smoothly. I'm no masochist.)

I'm going to pull myself up by my bootstraps, apologize to my children for getting snappy, and move on. I can't fix this block myself, so I'll work on the next one instead.  Maybe the one where I have a $122 library fine?  (Shhh...don't tell David. It will be much lower when I find all the missing books...  Sigh.)

Oh, and it's easier to hope on more than five hours of sleep.  Curse you, Veronica Mars and Netflix.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Bitter Blessings: Drawing Winner

I'm excited to announce that the drawing winner for a copy of Christine Mehring's book is...

Drum roll, please...

#2...LIZ!!!!!

Christine and I will make sure a copy makes it into your hands very soon!  Love you!

(I used random.org to generate the winning number. If you didn't win, but are dying to read it, I hear they're already shipping from amazon.)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bitter Blessings: A Book Review

I love to read.

I love to read almost anything: magazines, newspapers, cereal boxes, and books of all kinds, of course. Poor David. It made him crazy when we were packing dishes with newspaper and he'd look over to see me distracted over yet another article in the months-old newspaper.

It's a bit of a problem.

I have a special place in my heart for Young Adult literature. I loved YA literature before I was a YA, while I was a YA, and now that my children are YAs. (I haven't resolved the dilemma of parenting children who are at the age I was when I was pretty sure I knew more than the adults around me...let's just say that I am almost ready to claim adulthood at nearly 40, but it's taken me 20 years to accept this "new" stage in my life.)

I also have a special place in my heart for Christine Mehring. Christine and I have been friends for almost 15 years. She is a brave, wise, funny, loyal, thoughtful, and cool woman with a fascinating life story. And she's always been one of my favorite writers, even if only in emails. I'm not going to share any of these emails with you. This is your loss, because she's kept me afloat many a day, made me laugh, and described the world in ways I think but can never write.

I was thrilled to get an advance copy of Christine's new book, Bitter Blessings. It combines two things I love: YA fiction and Christine. Bitter Blessings is due for release near the beginning of July, but one of you lucky readers can get an advance copy.

Despite my early affinity for LDS YA writing (Jack Weyland, how I loved you...) I will admit that my later return to writing with a Mormon background has left me a little jaded. I began the book not knowing that Christine's subject matter would involve LDS characters and situations. And while some of these situations are typical for LDS teen fiction, Bitter Blessings read much truer to me than I would expect from the genre.

The book blurb is: "Megan has the perfect life, but when her mother dies in an accident, everything spins out of control. With the rest of her family falling apart, Megan must confront her past to uncover the truths that will keep everyone together. Thought-provoking and heartfelt, this book shows that even in times of trial, you can often find blessings."

The characters in Bitter Blessings are well-fleshed out. Megan is a multi-faceted teen girl with a big heart and some misconceptions. After the death of her mother, her sister's life spins out of control. While trying to help save her sister from her foolish choices, Megan finds herself with her own difficult choices to make. While she discovers truths about her sister, she also finds unexpected truths about herself, the rest of her family and her best friend, Adam.

The plot has a little romance, a little intrigue, and a lot of life lessons. One of the beautiful things about the book is that the troubles are not easily resolved, and some are not resolved at all. I'm finding more and more that real life doesn't often hand us our problems fixed, tied up in neat little packages, with happy resolutions. Sometimes we face really really sucky decisions. Sometimes we can't make everyone happy. Megan finds this to be the unfortunate case, as well. Happy endings don't mean that everything ends perfectly. Happy endings come when we make the best out of a hard situation and choose to live happily. I loved this quote from the book:
I’ve come to realize that our Father in Heaven wants to bless us—He wants to bless us beyond what we can imagine. Sometimes we’re too comfortable where we are, and we dig in our heels, and He has to pull us kicking and screaming to the blessing He wants us to have, and it’s only after we’re there that we can look back and see His hand, see that He was there all along helping and guiding even when it felt like the world was falling down around us.
I'm thrilled to have been able to review Bitter Blessings. I am glad to recommend it to you as a well-written YA book with enough suspense to keep the plot moving, relatable characters, and real life messiness. If you want a copy, comment! We'll choose one of you at random and announce the winner in a couple of days.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Summer Fun

Today I got to run with a chukar.  It was hysterical.  It would run past me on the street, then pause while I caught up, then run some more.  I love chukars.  And dang, they're fast.

My cute friend Tracy has some brilliant chore ideas.  We tried this one on Saturday and my kids asked (yes, ASKED) to do it again today.  Woo-hoo!

I had my neighbor and her kids to breakfast this morning.  I just texted her on the spur of the moment.  They ran down and we all had Swedish pancakes.

Since I've been told by my children oh so many times that last summer was terrible (and it kinda was), I told my kids that we're going to keep track of everything fun we do on a calendar so I can PROVE that it was a good summer.  I've already needed to pull it out and say, "No, it hasn't been a boring summer...SEE?  Here's PROOF."  And every day has had something fun.  Here's hoping it stays that way!

(Anyone else think having fun is hard work?)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Tightrope

I lost a preschooler today.

I was the co-op mommy helper at the U preschool.  Kate joined me.  She's been anxious to revel in all the preschool fun and has asked all year if she could help.  Today was the day.

During outside time I felt a sense of well-being.  The air was perfect June air: soft, warm enough to seek for shade but cool enough to enjoy, a gentle breeze blowing.  The preschoolers were humming around, painting with water, chasing each other in a game of Spiderman.  Ben "cleaned cars for customers" and "worked hard all day."

During line-up time before returning to the classroom, a little boy tripped and fell and burst into tears.  This little boy is The One.  You know The One.  There's One of them in every class.  One time I helped, he grabbed toilet paper from the in-room bathroom and ran screaming around and around, making a trail of paper behind him.  When I checked, I saw he'd already unwound two rolls in the bathroom itself.  He always has one teacher assigned to him because he runs away any chance he gets, or colors on a wall, or uses inappropriate language (which I find kind of funny, but shouldn't.  Like "Let go of my freakin' hand!")

So this little man tripped and fell and got hurt and broke into tears.  I happened to grab him first and he snuggled right into me.  His heavy, warm body and little boy smell triggered the mommy impulse and I went to work comforting him and loving him back to wellness.  He stopped being The One and became a boy to love in that minute, and I loved him.  (Isn't the mommy impulse a wonderful thing?  If only I could harness it and use it better as an actual mommy.)

Soon all was well.  We were heading back to class.  I put him on his two feet and made sure Ben and Kate were near and we returned for snack.  I felt all was right in the world.

Remember that part about him running away any chance he gets?  Well, I didn't remember.  I'd forgotten that he needed to be watched every single minute.  And I didn't remember until a few minutes later when his mom showed up with him and said, "He was outside on the front steps."

Totally my fault.  This little boy made his way OUTSIDE of the preschool building onto the front steps of a university campus and was just hanging out all by his lonesome.  My fault.  And suddenly all was not right in the world.  Every terrible scenario that might have played out ran through my head, and I felt the guilt pile on.  I hadn't watched closely enough.  I hadn't taken my responsibility seriously, and I didn't even have a glimmer of remembering to see if he had made it into the class with me.

On a normal day, I might have been able to shrug it off, make my apologies to the teacher and the mother (which I did anyway) and whisper a prayer of gratitude that everything hadn't gone horribly wrong.

Instead, I remembered that I KNOW things sometimes do go horribly wrong, that sometimes the stars align and tragedy results.  Just the wrong step, just the wrong choice, just turning the wrong way at an intersection, just diving under a waterfall at just the wrong moment.  I wish I didn't know this down in my bones.  I wish I hadn't learned this particular lesson.

Sometimes we're walking the tightrope and there's a lovely net underneath and when a mistake happens and we fall, we're caught in its happy threads.  And sometimes a mistake happens and there is no net.  None.  And the ground (or the water) is hard and unforgiving.  We never know when we fall off that tightrope whether or not the net will be there.  Today it was there, and I am so grateful.  But last year, on June 9th, it was achingly missing, and none of us have really been the same since.

Faith is getting back on that tightrope again and again and again.  Faith is believing that the net will be there when we need it to be, and when it's not there, that we will be given the strength to manage the fall and its consequences.  Most days I renew my faith, choose to get up on that rope again and keep moving.  But some days the fall seems too overwhelming, the chance for pain too great.  Today and for the next two days, I'm feeling the shifting of the rope under me, sensing my feet grip the cord and wanting to fall to my knees and hang on for dear life.

But instead, I'll go plan the barbecue we're having tonight.  I'll pray for my dear dear friend whose wonderful father died unexpectedly last week.  I'll clean the piano studio and put together the binders for my first piano students who arrive tomorrow morning.  And maybe in the living of life I'll be able to fall back into believing the fable that the ground under me is solid.  Because it's not.  It never is.  And it just takes losing a preschooler to remind me.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Things I've Learned

1.  There IS such a thing as too much rain.

2.  Parenting gets less exhausting but not easier.

3.  Throwing some vinegar in the bottom of my dishwasher with every load gets rid of that white yucky film that was all over my dishes.

4.  Eating a lot of cake doesn't make me skinnier.

5.  Dogs are hard to take care of when they are 15.

6.  I can do hard things.

7.  It's more fun to play the piano when I'm not worried about being perfect.

8.  Running is hard every time I go out.  Easy run, shmeasy run.  No such thing.  There's really just a hard run, a really hard run, and an I want to puke run.  (But it's still worth it.  See #6.)

9.  I feel almost the same at almost 40 as I did at almost 30, except I'm more wrinkled, more flabby, and just a teensy bit more wise.

10. That boy-short haircut I thought was so cute and hip at almost 30?  Looking at a picture of it, I'm thinking maybe not so much.  (Yes, my brothers, you were right.  Is it my fault it took me a decade to believe you?  And admit it?)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Remembering

Last night, I had a little time to waste.  (OK, I DIDN'T have a little time to waste, but I took it anyway.)  I was working on some piano studio stuff on the computer, and I clicked over to my blog, wondering if the weather was as yucky last year as it has been this year.  (The answer to that is yes, it was terrible.)  I got caught up in looking at my spring pictures-of-the-day, and felt very nostalgic.  It seemed like a long long time ago that Ben turned three, Kate turned seven, we had snow in April, then in May (oh wait, that was this year, too), that I began to find the beauty in my new life and stop trying to live in the past.  My words sounded sweet to me, hopeful, peaceful.

I sat for a while, thinking that the spring of 2010 seemed honey-colored in retrospect, and I yearned for that sweetness, wondering why it felt so far away.

And then I remembered.  I REMEMBERED.  How could I have forgotten???  How could I have forgotten for even those few minutes?  That spring WAS sweet, despite its chill.  It was blessed and holy and sacred.  Only a week into June, our world would shatter into a million pieces, and looking back, I think the Lord was giving all of us a gift of peace before the tragedy.

It's been quite a year, hasn't it?  I have a tendency to try to gather my life into neat little categories, to create stories with beginnings, middle & endings out of the ins and outs of daily happenings.  I'd like to say I understand what God's been doing with us, that I see the end from the beginning, but I don't.  I know less than I did a year ago, but I also know more.  I trust more, but expect things to work out as I expect less.  I feel more fragile, but also stronger.  I have felt immense pain and immense peace.  I have been carefully held in the palm of His hand, and also cast out into the deep water alone.

But mostly, I feel grateful.  We are surrounded by beauty and love and goodness.  We are all capable of doing hard things.  We can hang on through the darkness and wait for the light to shine.  It does shine, eventually.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Kaput.

Goodbye, Rhino the Second, we only knew you for a few days.  So sorry you had to leave us so soon.

Kate wants me to go pick up two new frogs on Friday when the new shipment arrives at Petco.  I think that bringing more frogs into this house may constitute cruel and unusual punishment.  To whom, I'm not sure: maybe Kate AND me AND the new frogs.

(Did I use "whom" appropriately there?  If so, aren't you impressed by my usage of "whom"?  If not, Chris, you don't have to tell me, because I'm sure I'll use it inappropriately again when enough time has passed and I've forgotten the correct grammar rules for "whom".

Five interviews today for piano students.  We moved the Clavinova up to the studio to hang with the Yamaha.  The extra desk will venture up there soon (as soon as we find strong arms to help, that is.)  First lessons taught the first week of June.  Doors shutting, doors opening.  And frogs dying.  It's an adventure around here, friends.  A big adventure.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

No, SERIOUSLY.

Just pulled one of the replacement frogs (bought her Friday) out of the tank.  I did everything the pet store dude told me to do to ensure the health of Kenya II and Rhino II...and she was still floating on her back tonight.  And Rhino II doesn't look so healthy, either.

Sigh.  Pets are a lot of work, even if they don't pee all over their blankets (like I found Tally had when I checked on her while taking care of the dead frog.)

And now I will curl up on the couch under a blanket and pretend I am not in charge of any animals for a long while, or at least until Tally starts doing her old lady bark for attention.

And that moratorium?  I guess it's just not happening.  Forget I asked.  It was probably a bad idea, anyway.   I need to be ready to accept whatever the universe has ready for me next, not try to make deals to keep the bad things away.

That said, I'm still crossing my fingers for the continued health and well-being of Rhino the Second.

Friday, May 13, 2011

About That Moratorium...

Maybe it can start today?  Since yesterday Kate's OTHER frog died?

Seriously.

Oh, and on other business entirely, I got my acceptance letter for the U today.

For the masters program.

Oh well...it's better than a rejection letter, right?

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Little More Loss

Kate was super excited to turn eight in April.  Her most exciting decision was to be baptized.  Her second-most exciting decision was to buy African aquatic frogs.  She bought two with money from her Nana and Boppa and named them Rhino and Kenya.  She has talked about them nearly every day, concerned that she's feeding them too little or too much, trying to figure out how to best care for them.

Tonight, she came running out, laughing at the funny thing one of her frogs was doing and begged us all to come take a look.  When we went in, excited to see, we saw that one of the frogs was laying on its back, not moving.  At all.  Not even when we shook the tank.

It was hard to break the news to her.  She sobbed in David's arms, filled with sadness and loss.  As I took care of the little froggie body, I thought about how much I hate death and about painful it is to confront it in nearly any circumstance.  I know it's part of the human experience.  I know it's necessary.  But I still hate it.

Thoughts about death have been skittering around the edge of my mind for a few days.  I've been missing Brent even more because of recent family gatherings, and today marks the 11th-month anniversary of his loss.  I remembered him quietly today, talked to him a little, pictured his smile, but somehow the death of this little tiny frog tonight made death too close again, made remembering Brent even more poignant, more painful.

Every death, even as insignificant as this little frog's, seems to now remind me of the life-bending lessons I learned too terribly eleven months ago: that life is fragile, that we are held here on the earth by just the thinnest of threads, and that those we love can be torn from us without warning.  It's really kind of terrible.

And yet, there's that other lesson I learned,  that, like C.S. Lewis said, "The pain I feel now is the happiness I had before.  That's the deal."  It is the deal.  It's yin and yang.  And I choose to feel happiness now, even knowing that loving deeply also allows me to feel deep pain.  The risk is worth it.

I would, however, like to ask for a moratorium on loss for a while.  A long while, maybe?  Is that a fair request?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Result...

I didn't get in.

They want me to do a second masters degree.  They were still concerned about the number of slips, even though they did have some nice things to say about my playing, too.

I've got a lot to think about and decide.  Thanks, everybody, for all the love and kindness and prayers.  I've been so grateful for the peace that you helped me gain.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Waiting...

The audition is over.

Whew.  Sigh of relief.

Did I have slips?

Yes.

Did I have fun?

Yes.

Did I make music?

Yes.

Am I at peace with whatever happens?

Yes.

Surrendering is a wonderful thing.  I truly am feeling full of peace, and I KNOW I can thank many of you for that.  I felt your prayers around me, supporting me, filling me with love.  And that was a great gift.

And now for the waiting.  They said they'll let me know soon..............

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Surrender

I'm not sure I made this clear back in February, but I have the exciting opportunity of re-auditioning for the piano faculty.

That's a positive way of saying that my earlier audition was less than phenomenal, so they asked me to try again.  The good thing about this is that despite some obvious flaws, the faculty decided there was something they liked in my playing and they'd like to give me another shot.  The bad thing about this is that what they asked for was for me to get rid of my slips and hesitations.

And to this, I said, "Thank you for another opportunity."

And to myself, I said, "I'm supposed to do WHAT?"

Because here's the thing.  It's been 15 years since I was performing real repertoire for large-ish audiences.  And somehow in the time since then I've forgotten how to perform without slips or hesitations, if I ever really knew how.  Nerves have become a real problem.

I wasn't sure where to start or how to fix this rather major issue in my playing.

But this is the beautiful part.  People were sent to me with ideas to teach me, to remind me, to encourage me.  I took my first lesson in nearly 15 years and left with my head spinning with music.  I practiced and practiced and practiced.

And every single time I performed, I failed miserably.

I memorized sections.  I memorized left hand alone.  I memorized chordal structure.  I listened to recordings.  I sang the right hand part while playing the left hand part.  I practiced improvising in the style of my pieces.

And every single time I performed, my performances were majorly flawed.

So I started to doubt.  I decided to give up.  And then to start again.  And to give up again.  And to start again.

It's been a barrel of laughs around here, let me tell you.

Somehow, the joy of the process evaporated.  I felt trapped, exhausted, angry, worried, full of fear.  I started to doubt my original (and subsequent) impressions to start this journey.  Instead of thinking of my performances as an opportunity to communicate truth and beauty with an audience, I saw them as yet another chance to show my weaknesses.

And then I learned (again) about surrendering.

I finally accepted that the outcome of this process may not be what I hoped for.  I may not get into the program.  At first, it killed me to even consider this.  I had so many dreams for what I'd learn, relationships I'd form, music I'd play.

But I believe there is a bigger picture.  I believe there is a plan in place.  And when I surrendered to God's plan and expressed a willingness to accept His will for me, the fear (mostly) departed.

So I played for piano group yesterday, feeling that sense of surrender.

And I stunk.

Really.  It was bad.

So I got a little emotional.  It's hard to be bad.

And then instead of letting my disappointment send me to a dark place, I took the advice of my friends to heart and practiced hard.  I worked on making my Bach more dance-like, less heavy, and I played around with the line of the main motive.

And instead of giving up and deciding performing wasn't helping much, I asked another friend if I could play for her last night.  She and her husband are fantastic musicians, and I've avoided having them hear my program because I didn't want them to hear the flaws and think worse of me.  On the drive over, I asked that I'd be able to focus on communicating, on surrendering.

And it happened!  I did it!  It wasn't perfect at all, but it was musical, and strong, and FINALLY I had a performance that didn't humiliate me!

So today I'll work extra hard.  I'll practice the coda of the Chopin forever, and review my starting sections, and work on the fugal variation and the double trills in the Beethoven.  And tomorrow morning, I'll play the audition, and I'll surrender my will to the one who knows best.

(Do I want to get in?  Oh, yes yes yes.  But if there's a different plan, I'll be ready to accept it...AFTER some tears, of course.)

(And if I don't get in, I'm going to make it my quest to figure out how to become more consistent.  I need to know for my sake as well as for the sake of my future students.)

(Speaking of future students, I'm blown away by the doors opening for my teaching.  My plan is to start sending out studio policies next week, interview prospective students through May, and begin teaching in June.  I'm getting very excited to meet the kids I'll be teaching for the next few years.  Can't wait!)