Posted in about me, ebb & flow, mindset, motivation, storytelling

My 20-year anniversary of…

…my senior recital.

For those who didn’t go through this, a senior recital is a big deal (for most of us). As an education major, I was required to perform a 30-minute solo recital as one of my graduation requirements. (I could have instead performed a 30-minute jury, which means just for a panel of professors who would grade it. Either way, it’s a 30-minute performance.) Many of us included some sort of duet or small ensemble as our final piece, and the ed majors usually shared recitals, taking turns, making an hour-long performance between the two.

Anyway, for anyone, it’s a lot of work. And it’s a little intimidating for those of us who were more accustomed to performing in an ensemble.

But my sophomore year of college, I developed some random pain issue in my right pinky finger. I was able to play my flute for 10-15 minutes each day before the pain caused me to stop. It would linger for hours. I also couldn’t write and ended up buying a laptop to be able to take notes.

It was written off by doctors as tendonitis.

I stopped taking lessons and participating in ensembles so it could rest. Six months later, with no improvement, I was given warning that I couldn’t continue in the music department without lessons or ensembles, since they were required for graduation.

And so I stopped playing flute and started playing trombone. Trombone doesn’t use any fingers.

Being a beginner in college was terrible. I took lessons with someone in the trombone studio, and at the end of my junior year, I successfully re-auditioned into the department on trombone.

Needing to be good enough to give a recital before I could graduate, I was immediately off the four-year plan. I practiced as much as I could, but like any other physical skill, the muscles need to build strength and endurance.

By my second senior year, I was practicing two to three hours every day, in addition to time in ensembles. I was getting … less bad.

Now, I hadn’t been a great flute player at all, and I suspect expectations of me all around weren’t that high. I don’t really know, and it’s probably just as well.

But something happened in these years. I learned grit. I had a giant mindset change. I had been very fixed mindset. When I started college, it was “The people around me have been taking lessons for years and I’ve only been for one year. I’ll never catch up or be as good.”

At the time, I had no idea what else I would do with my life, so switching to another instrument and continuing on the same path was the only viable option. I had to catch up and be as good.

By my third (and final) senior year, my private teacher suggested I was playing well enough to pass a jury. There was no way I was giving a jury! I’ve done massive amounts of work to get here—I’m giving a recital!

And so I did. On April 18, 1999, a Sunday evening. In a satiny blue shirt and black pants. Sharing a recital with a sax player. I played well. I was excited and proud.

It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done (with regards to things that require preparation and skill).

By the time I graduated, I had shifted to, “If I can get this good in this amount of time, what happens if I keep going?”

I found a teacher in NYC. I practiced three or four hours most days. In the financial desert of a teacher’s summer, I paid my bills playing gigs and teaching lessons.

All of that, 20 years later, is represented in this anniversary. A date I remember and at least give a head nod to every year.

At this point, I haven’t played a trombone in quite some time. Moving to Arizona wasn’t good for my playing, and when time became scarce, trombone was one of the things to go.

But the lessons I learned, the mindset shift—to say nothing of all the extra things I got to learn and do in two extra years of school and all of the amazing people I met on my musical journey—those have stayed with me. And maybe one of these days, I’ll pick the old horn back up and start over again.

Posted in ebb & flow, mindset, motivation

Let’s not make average harder than it is

A week or so ago, I wrote about being a runner. But a runner who is not very fast, doesn’t run far (relative to Runners), and likes but doesn’t love running.

It got me to thinking … the mindset applies to just about anything.

You can do stuff just because you like to do it without either loving it or being particularly good at it. Just enjoy the process.

You can do stuff that you don’t love (but don’t hate) and don’t want to do in greater quantity simply  because it’s good for you.

I feel like there’s a lot of pressure from Out There to love everything! and find your passion! and really … that doesn’t apply to all people or all activities.

You can eat food that is not amazing. You can do activities that you’re just somewhat interested in. Your job can be good enough.

If we all try to excel (or give the appearance thereof), we don’t all become above average—we just make “average” harder to attain. (Math, people! We can’t all be above average!)

Do stuff just because you want to try it out for a while. Let your kid be interested in an activity without it being Olympic prep.

Of course, some people some of the time need to be above average, or will have a drive for a particular thing that will push them farther. But for most people most of the time? Average is OK.

Posted in about me, ebb & flow, storytelling

I had a dream…

A week or so ago, I had a dream that I remembered when I woke up. A few details of it have stuck with me, and it’s been turning over in my head a bit…

The dream below; side comments in brackets:

I was racing my third Ironman. [I have never raced anything close to an Ironman in distance, but I have done a few sprint triathlons. An Ironman is a total of 140.6 miles; a sprint is about 16.]

The first two were successful. This one was out of order: first we swam, then we ran, then we biked. [Typically the order is swim, bike, run.]

I had completed the swim. I was near the end of the run, it was raining, and I was exhausted. The route went right past the hotel The Climbing Daddy and I were staying at, so I decided to stop in, get changed, and take a nap before continuing on to the bike. [This would definitely not be allowed in a race.]

I ended up sleeping for hours instead of minutes and woke up 15 minutes before the end of regulation. [Only times under 17 hours count.]

I was kicking myself for sleeping that long and was also annoyed that I had to finish the run to retrieve my bike.

I woke up thinking it was odd for lots of reasons, but it’s been poking at me off and on.

So what I’m taking from it for now is this:

I can do hard things. (I had completed two of these races prior.)

But when I do them out of order, they’re much harder, I tire more quickly, I make bad choices which lead to me not being able to do The Thing.

For practical application, I’m not entirely sure what The Thing is, or what I’m doing out of order, or if I even have control over the order. (I didn’t in the dream.) There are a few things in life I’m struggling with pretty hard, but I can’t (yet?) apply this to them, exactly.

So what I’m hanging onto now is: I can do hard things. Will let the rest fall as it will.



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Posted in about me, ebb & flow, gratitude, meandering, mindset

See yourself through someone else’s eyes

The other day, I wrote about contributing to my school community. Another great thing happened in that little piece of the day.

I’ve been struggling with many of my classes.

Without getting into too many details, my classes are not your typical elementary band classes, because that approach hasn’t worked with the populations I teach.

“Your classroom is like a petri dish for beginning band innovation,” The Tall Daddy summarized.

But we’ve been in a long stretch of it not working. Or sometimes just not working the way I want it to.

I’ve felt frustrated, demoralized, cranky, ineffective, drained. There have been bits and pieces that I’ve been excited about, and I’m grateful to be in a place where I am free to experiment, but mostly, work is not the highlight of my day. (There was a time when it was.)

So the other day, an outside observer came in, silently hung out for a while, and left.

But before she left, she wrote me a card. Photo of the text is above.

“I could feel a sense of love and excitement for music.”

It’s there. Someone saw it.

I have wondered more and more lately: if my teaching situation was different, would I get my mojo back? Or am I just burned out?

It’s still there.

Thank you, random outside observer, for taking the time to write that note to me before you took off. It gave me more than you know.

(That’s part of why writing cards to people is a great habit.)

On the receiving end, when someone pays you a compliment, believe them. Take a moment and see yourself the way they see you, no asterisks.

I could have read the card and said to myself, “Well, she doesn’t really know me and didn’t even see me teaching band today. If she was here more often, she would know that that’s not true.”

Instead, I accepted the compliment, took it as validation, and on I went. (But the card is still on my desk.)

Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides.

And, of course, take a moment to pay a compliment. You never know how much it might mean to someone.



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Posted in differences, ebb & flow, mindset

Actions and reactions: Newton was wrong

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Clearly Newton was not in the social sciences.

I saw a bumper sticker:

Keep talking, I’m reloading

Besides poor punctuation…

What makes one an acceptable response to the other?!

I’m completely flabbergasted by transgressions, real or perceived, that some people regard as sufficient to shoot someone.

Yes, I understand it’s a bumper sticker. (And you’re also not likely to start a conversation with the car in front of you…) But I also live in the wild west—no, Arizona has not really matured since its induction to The Union—and I see and hear this sentiment frequently. To say nothing of national news.

People. We need to make everything a little less egocentric. Adults often talk about how selfish kids are, particularly toddlers and teenagers, but we, as a group, aren’t much better.

This goes back to boundaries. Let us set them, let us maintain them, let us be peaceful.

And let us calm down with regards to other people’s quirks.

There was a lot of colorful language edited out of today’s post. Oh my goodness.




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