Sunday, July 20, 2014

Perfection

As I alluded to in my last blog post, a common "curse" of being a musician is the expectation that everything you play must be perfect, and anything less is a failing - and failings are many.  Fingers that don't land on the right keys - that's a big deal for a pianist.  Singers who hit wrong notes and sing wrong words - again, a failing.  When we go to an event or tune in to the Super Bowl though, don't we expect the singer to perform The Star Spangled Banner perfectly?  When they don't - our instant videos and communication with millions of people are quick to point out errors.  Just as likely, when it is well done - these performances remain YouTube classics (I am reminded of Whitney Houston's version of The Star Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl in 1991.  I just went back and listened to it again, and I will not fail to be moved by that soaring beautiful voice.)

The respect afforded a conductor such as Leonard Bernstein, or composers such as Aaron Copland is great - and to deliver a classically perfect performance is always the goal - and it is delivered most of the time to audiences who enthusiastically applaud.  At last year's performance of Handel's Messiah by the Wichita Chorale Society, one particular part of that great work was attempted by the choir, and miserably performed.  Those tenors just took off like a team of wild horses and you should have seen our maestro's face - he went from concern, to greatly concerned, to alarmed, to terrified, to resignation, then, as he delivered the final cutoff, a hint of a smile and a shake of the head as if to say, "Well, there ya go.  It is what it is."  But we survived, and I venture to say not many in the audience caught on.  However, we all knew.  That's the catch.

When I am thanked for an offertory, I now am able to graciously accept those thanks and move on.  Not so much in the past.  I would often reiterate missed notes or comment how I didn't play my best (which was often true).  But really - it dawned on me that thanks were given for a musical expression which allowed for worship, not for a perfect performance.

I'm not saying to not try your best, and to not practice, and to not prepare.  But I am saying, a missed note is a missed note is a missed note.  I had several today in playing the hymns for church and in playing the offertory.  And I always will.  But a part of me as a musician will always want to offer up the best I have for the Author and Creator of all things musical.

Psalm 103, which we studied in Sunday School is a wonderful psalm- read it if you haven't recently. My favorite verses from that psalm are 13 and 14 - "As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust."   He knows how we are formed.  Think about that.  God understands that we can only offer the best we have, as imperfect as it is.

And so I go to a family reunion, and reunite with brothers and a sister who are gifted musicians.  And I offer my little gift of two Chopin pieces - as imperfect as I will play them, but I hope that they will bring something to the listeners.  Maybe an appreciation for Chopin?  In the 3 minutes I will play, I hope among the missed notes that a love for my family will flow and they will know how valuable they are to me.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Musical Notes

So today at breakfast, the spouse was discussing my somewhat unique family history in regard to music. All of us siblings played a musical instrument and we all took piano lessons, a true financial feat for our parents to accomplish considering that we were not a well-off farm family.  We didn't go hungry but we didn't have money for extras - however, in my parents' viewpoint, a musical education wasn't an "extra".  It was required, thus, my siblings and I are all musicians with varying degrees of skill and talent.

I am so thankful for this musical heritage.  It instilled in me a love of all kinds of music, from classical to jazz to rock, and, we attempted to pass this love and appreciation of all things musical to our children.

For myself, I enjoy playing the piano at church, but also, at home, I practice on my full-sized keyboard. One of the most favorite things I do for relaxation is play through a book of moderately skilled arrangements of Chopin's short works - preludes, mazurkas, and waltzes.  I'm also working on a piece called "Solace" by Scott Joplin - a slow-time rag featured in many movies - if you heard it, you'd know it.  I hope to play a couple of the short one page Chopin compositions for the talent night at the upcoming family reunion.  To play for my accomplished musical siblings is a big deal for me - they will know every misplaced note and every flub.  BUT, it's not about the mistakes for me.  It's about sharing something I think is beautiful with people I love, whether I play it perfectly or not.  More about that in the next blog post.

I told my spouse today that even at 61, I would almost give my left foot (because I pedal with my right) to be able to transpose as quickly and easily as musicians do.  It's a math skill - and I definitely am not math brained - whereas people like my youngest son can almost visualize the transposed notes before him on a staff and know instinctively what chord structures are needed.  If I transpose even the simplest of melodies at church, I write down chords because I cannot do it successfully without written text.  You know, my better half always has a way of bringing me to reality.  He said, at least you can HEAR the music you are creating.  Beethoven did not have that luxury, yet his genius allowed him to compose masterpieces which we appreciate today.

He's right.  I thought about Beethoven today - about the extraordinary genius which allowed him to hear full orchestral scores in his head and write those notes for instruments and chorus.  Imagine the 9th Symphony - perhaps the greatest piece ever composed, and the soaring melody of Ode to Joy, sung by choir and accompanied by orchestra - imagine that he never heard one note of this masterpiece.  Here on earth.  But I like to think that when he walked through heaven's gates, this music played by the heavenly orchestra and sung by the choir swirled around him and greeted him - in its most pure and perfect form, and for the first time, he heard it through perfect ears!  For him, it was truly an Ode to Joy!

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Gardening

Hi all.  What a lovely day for an infrequent blog post!

Since school's been out, my days are spent outside in the yard.  Almost every morning I'm out there raking, pruning, weeding, and the hundred other things that one does when one enjoys this type of thing. Despite my efforts, however, the vegetable garden is not doing the best.  Early on, I battled (and this is no exaggeration) thousands of elm tree seedlings which sprang up overnight in almost every square inch of my flower and vegetable gardens.  I have pulled out them out by hand and still do not have them all.

Asparagus was a bust this year.  What little grew, I ate, and most of it right out there in the garden.  The green beans came up, but some sort of insect devoured the leaves and left stems.  I pulled them out.  The beets didn't come up very well, I have 5 beet plants.  The garden table my brother made for me which was supposed to support early veggies like lettuce and spinach - hardly anything came up and what did was stunted and shriveled.  I'm treating the tomatoes for fungus and the cucumbers for an insect infestation which has damaged lots of leaves.

My zucchini plant has all male flowers, so no zucchinis from it.  From the internet which is *never* confusing, I learned that:  It's because the soil is too dry.  It's because the soil is too wet.   It's because there's not enough sun.  It's because the plant always produces males first, then females.  Who knows.

On the upside - I have tiny yellow summer squash.  Strawberries continue to produce, enough for me to eat some every day.  The watermelon plants are doing ok, and I found a tiny tiny watermelon on one vine.  I have enjoyed several grape tomatoes, and the pepper plants have produced.  Early in the spring, the peas did pretty well.  Potato plants did well and I'm getting ready to dig the rest of them up.  The container corn is getting ready to stalk.  One set of cucumber plants are flowering mightily.

The flower bed is looking pretty good.  A volunteer mammoth sunflower came up and it is as tall as me now.  My Peace Rose is steadily blooming.  The shasta daisies are looking well, as are the other perennial daisies I planted.

I told someone the other day that I don't garden because it saves money.  On the contrary, it costs me lots of time, energy, some cash, and frustration.  But on the other hand, if I want to grow tomatoes and stand out in the yard and eat them right off the stalk, or sit in the yard swing and eat the strawberries I've just picked, or shell a pea pod and consume those 5 peas raw right out of the shell - I'd almost rather do that than anything in the world.

And here's how I know it's something I don't want to live without:  I'm planning for next year.  I'm going to plant a blackberry bramble along the fence and I'm going to try two rows of regular sized corn and see what happens.  Also, I'm going to keep the second bale of straw that Jay brings over for me!

My puny little garden is not a showstopper, but it's mine and I derive great joy from the work and sweat it takes.  My working gardening clothes are a white t shirt and a pair of shorts and I've got my hair pulled up in a ponytail - but who cares?  A little dirt under the fingernails never hurt anyone.

The big joy was having my grandson discover a ripe strawberry growing there just for him!  As he looked at me with one strawberry in each hand and juice running down his chin, this grandma was filled with a deep sense of peace and gratitude.  The garden makes the world right, one fruit at a time.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sunday Evening II

It turned cold!  The front came through with wind and rain and dropped the temperature about 25 degrees.  It's supposed to freeze tonight and tomorrow night - how are gardens supposed to grow?  Brought the hollyhock in that I bought, as well as some strawberry plants my daughter gave me.

Looking so forward to this week being over.  I have several meetings and lots of testing to get done.  Lots of kids to see, lots of reports to write.  Many educators are looking forward to the end of the school year, but I'm not there yet.  I can only do one day at a time.

Yes, one day at time.  Sometimes, it's one hour at a time but you just do the best you can.  Will write more this week.  Take care all.

Sunday Evening

Word for the Day:

UNGULIGRADE  a.  Walking on hoofs.  As a horse or cow.  "Great shoes darling!  Love the extra height those platforms give you!  Now you are truly unguligrade!"

From The Superior Person's Third book of Well-Bred Words, by Peter Bowler.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Windy Windy Saturday

Oh my, yes, it's warm, but the wind just feels like gale force today.  Was gonna go plant something outside but instead I think I need to water what I've already planted - however, we're getting rain tonight, so maybe not.

Facebook - I still miss you!  I am looking forward to Easter Sunday morning, where the Lord has risen and so has my Facebook page.  I'm really not being sacrilegious but I have so missed that feeling of connection with my family and friends.  The fact that I'm so tempted to resurrect it today, a week early, tells me it's been a long Lenten season.

It's been a good day but I have a busy week to come.  Lots of evaluations to complete, lots of meetings where we will sit around the table and discuss and plan and cuss and aggravate, and agree to disagree, but so goes the life of a psychologist in a school system.  I was paid what I thought was an ultimate compliment this last week.  A speech therapist, speaking to two or three other professionals discussing a case completed by another psychologist in the district said, "Really?  She did that?  My friend Terry (not my real name, ha!) would ever do that."  The other psychologist reportedly ignored ethical concerns and bowed to pressure from an administrator to place a student who was not eligible for services into the special education program. I appreciated this compliment and after hearing about the case, I probably would not have done what the other psychologist did, but really - who knows?  Few things are black and white - this is why we struggle.  I have had ethical issues every single year - a case or two always gives me pause to think, to consider, and to decide what is best for the student, but also to make sure that eligibility guidelines are met.

In a recent case, eligibility wasn't exactly met, but, the only way the student could get the services they needed was to grit my teeth and sign some papers.  Sometimes it comes down to that.  I have a friend who is so unable sometimes, to see past the rules and just look at the student, look at the gestalt, the whole constellation of what makes the student tick.  That's one of the keys to balancing rule ethic keeping with providing the best possible solutions to student issues.

Off my soapbox, on to enjoying what's left of the day.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday Word for the Day

INQUILINE  n.  Dwelling in another's place of abode.   Use in a sentence:  "My, these opossums are certainly inquiline!"

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Siblings

I heard through the Email grapevine that yesterday maybe? was "Sibling Day" - a day to honor those first friends we have in life, our brothers and sisters.  I have been blessed greatly, with 4 brothers and a sister, and my spot in this lineup is # 4 from the top, the first girl.  All of my siblings are absolutely fantastic people-I feel like I'm "waxing", but let me tell you, I have a lot to wax about.  Two brothers live close, a sister and a brother live a thousand miles away, and another brother lives south of here about 350 miles but we have maintained fairly close contact since our parents passed away many years ago.  I also have 4 more "sisters" and 1 more "brother" in the form of inlaws, who decided to marry into this family - and I count them as dear friends.

What makes sibling relationships special are the memories and the stories, and the knowledge of where and how a birth family originated, however, every person in a family brings a unique perspective of life, even when experiences are shared.  My three oldest brothers and us three younger siblings were raised by the same parents, but when my oldest brother was 20, my youngest brother was born, so there was a big span of time in there resulting in kids being raised by different, albeit the same, parents.

I know my 5 siblings well, at least I think I do.  There isn't a one of them who wouldn't do what they could to help another sibling out, which is one of the many outstanding qualities of this family.  Siblings have replaced my bathroom floor, crawled under my house, sent financial help to those in need, shared summer veggies from the gardens, rescued stranded travelers, been fun and accommodating hosts, laughed and cried together, and extended forgiveness and love when understanding is needed.  We're not perfect people, but we "do" family.

Every year we have a reunion where we catch up for a few days.  Sometimes I have great conversations with siblings I don't see often, other times, we just enjoy being together or playing games.

My kids have been watching this model of family all their lives.  I want them to understand how it works, and I want to pass these values on to them.  It's a fuzzy picture of the future to come, when we're finally all together with our brothers and sisters in God's kingdom - and we are truly "living happily ever after".  Thank you, Max, Dennis, Jay, Linda, and Kevin for what you mean to me.  I don't tell you often enough, but I love you - you're the best!