Posted in about me, meandering, socializing

Names are elusive

As a kid, I was introverted and completely content to be either alone or with one or two good friends. I had no interest in meeting other people. 

Also, I rarely looked for more than what was already in my orbit. I’d choose a book to read from the classroom library, skipping the school or municipal libraries. I often listened to music my friends liked or none at all. I didn’t have celebrity crushes.

Whether a cause or an effect, I’m terrible at names.

Not just the names of people I just met or the 17 people I was introduced to at the holiday party or the eight new people on campus who each said a sheepish hello at the faculty meeting and I’m supposed to remember them all from that?

There was a book I read. Who wrote it? I don’t know. It was decades before I thought to look for another book by the same author if I liked the one I just read.

Why? I don’t know. It’s a completely logical sequence of events, and I am often rational to a fault. In this realm of life skills, logic and reason didn’t factor in.

It’s embarrassing in conversations about classic literature. Who wrote that? Or the same question the opposite way: what books did that author write?

(And there’s no hope for me if a novel has too many characters in it.)

I remember the words to songs from 30 years ago that I know I never owned … and I have no idea who sang them.

Even worse when a song was covered and the performer is multiple choice.

Not limited to people, though. I don’t remember the names of songs, either. Doesn’t matter which genre.

“Hey, do you know [this song]?”


“It’s by [band].”


“It goes like [sings a bit].” 


Music history classes were treacherous. Songs, composers, performers, to be identified both on paper and by listening.

This wouldn’t have been a problem if I knew the names of any classical music before going to college, or if I could identify any of it by composer ahead of time, or if I listened to anything beyond what we were required to listen to.

What’s already in my orbit?

Actors? I know a few, but I don’t watch a lot of movies or any TV, so there’s not a lot of context. As I get older and the people I knew are no longer hot (or, in some cases, alive), I know even less.

When I started teaching, I had about a hundred students in fifth grade who I saw once a week for 40 minutes, and between 40 and 60 students in sixth grade who I saw three times a week for 40 minutes.

Learning their names was rough.

With the fifth graders, I asked them to quiz me on their name if they saw me anywhere outside of class (and not to take it personally if I didn’t know yet—they delighted in this game). Their winter concert was straightforward: each lesson group (four or five kids) went up on stage and played one song. They were terrified, so I made an agreement with them. They would practice their instruments and be ready to play their song, I would practice their names and be ready to announce them all. To level the playing field for nerves, I would announce them all without a list in front of me.

I got most of them.

Chemo brain made this task infinitely more difficult, and up to and including my last days in a school, there were times when writing a pass or something equally innocuous, I would see the blank for their name and have no idea what their name was. Sometimes I could steal it from their instrument’s name tag or their music folder. Sometimes I could scan down the roster and pick them out. And sometimes I would have to ask.

I hate asking. Not because of anything to do with me—I ask adults all the time and have no issue with it—but because a lot of kids are sad when their teacher doesn’t know their name, especially when we’ve been in class together for a year and a half. I explained to them the issue, but that only helps brains understand, not hearts.

As a traveling teacher, the issue was further compounded. More than once, I’ve worked at four schools simultaneously. That’s four principals, four sets of people in the office, four sets of coworkers, four sets of custodians, four sets of procedures. (I had no trouble remembering four codes for the copy machines.) And in my most recent job, my assignment changed every year for my first four years. Not every school was changed out, but at least one school was new every year.

I had a running joke (with myself?) on the only campus I was on for all seven years that no one whose name I knew was allowed to leave.

As the teacher presiding over concerts, parents know me and I don’t know them. As the clinician at conferences or honor bands, there are a lot of people who know who I am who I have never met. I’m pretty good with faces, if I’m paying attention, so I usually can just say, “I’m sorry, I’ve forgotten your name” if I’m interacting with someone I recognize.

That said, I’ve more than once said, “It’s nice to meet you” to someone I had—apparently—met before.

No shame in that any more. I know it’s a weakness, and I do my best, so I apologize and move on.

Having a noteworthy name—both first and last names are unusual—people more often remember my name. Alas, it is rarely reciprocated in one try.

I’ve taken to asking a person once or twice over the course of a conversation to please remind me their name. “I’ll ask seven more times and then I’ll be embarrassed into remembering it.” Hahaha not really a joke but humor always helps anyway.

I’m better about remembering authors and performers than I used to be. Since chemo I’ve made an effort to remember everything, since so much was lost. 

I have always been impressed by people who remember people well—whether people they’ve met or people who create—and continue to do my best.

Posted in ebb & flow, meandering

I did myself in with background noise

A funny thing happened.

Weird funny, not you’re-going-to-be-laughing funny.

I went in to school to do some end-of-the-year stuff. Mostly light manual labor.

A limited number of people can be on campus at once and we’re all in our own rooms most of the time, so except for a few minutes on one of my campuses, I didn’t see or interact with anyone.

Headphones in, I listened to podcasts. When I got into a task that required just enough brain focus that I couldn’t listen and do the task at the same time, I switched over to music. Listened to music for the rest of the day.

Seven hours later, I was done my tasks for the day and ready to head home.

In normal times, driving is the primary time I listen to podcasts. That day, though? I just wanted quiet.

No music. No podcasts. Nice weather meant windows down which means noisy. And the freeway is in the midst of being redone. The asphalt is stripped. Ambient noise was even louder.

When I got home, I needed quiet, I got some, and it was fine.

It got me to thinking: do the people who leave TVs on all the time in the background get overstimulated by sound all the time?

It’s really rare for me to get overstimulated when I’m by myself for a long time. And I hadn’t considered that I might like just to work in quiet for some of the time.

If you are a background noise kind of person, do you get to a point where you need to turn it off? Inquiry minds want to know…

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

Do it again, a little bit better … ad infinitum

My brain likes to edit.

I’m not one to jump in to lead a project without knowing a lot about it. I like to get the lay of the land, see what I can see, try to understand how it works and how the people within it work.

Once I know stuff and have asked some questions and am comfortable, look out.

I don’t teach things the same way twice. Always minor editing. Sometimes complete overhaul. “How can I do this better?” “These two kids still don’t get it—where is their ah-ha moment hiding?”

Of course, that also means that I’m also always seeing ways that the house could be better. Or the yard. Or a blog post. Or this system. Or that procedure. And on and on.


I want procedures to be efficient. I want to maximize space (not jamming as much as possible into a space—just using it well). I want to maximize time. I want to get the most bang for the buck, which often doesn’t mean the cheapest answer short-term.

This also gets me stuck sometimes, overthinking options.

Sometimes it leads to discontent. Sometimes that discontent leads to growth.

Talking through ideas, though, it always sounds like discontent, when really, it’s just how my brain works.

“Y’know, if this wall was two feet that way…”

I don’t really want to move the wall two feet that way. It’s completely impractical. Gut the whole interior and start over? Hmmmm…

(Fortunately, I am also lazy in some ways, so if I see a re-do but it’s going to be a lot of work, I’m not always inclined to jump up and get it done.)

I do wonder occasionally … if I were to design a house from the bottom up and could do it any way I wanted—no restrictions—how long would it take before I wanted to edit it? Probably at a shift in life circumstances, when the space would obviously be used differently. But before that?

Anyway. I tried some new activities this week with my kids at school. Trying to get them to learn some things that they haven’t been clicking with. Some of it worked, some of it we’re not done yet—to early to call it.

To that end, my editing brain is all good.

I know there are households that fight this fight with regards to how the dishwasher is loaded. Or maybe how the laundry is folded. Are those arguments “correct versus incorrect” or “more versus less efficient”? (I have some opinions about how dishes get loaded in the dishwasher, but it’s because they’re easiest to get in and out that way. And I rarely mention these opinions, but I do sometimes move dishes around after they were otherwise loaded…)

P.S. I need to add here, before The Climbing Daddy chimes in, that I’m not 100% practical 100% of the time. There are certainly pockets of life where “bang for the buck” is not my highest priority. And some areas where the most efficient isn’t the least taxing, and I go with the latter. However, all of the above is true more often than it’s not.

P.P.S. On a tangent from the dishwashers … I saw one the other day that has an extra little tray at the top for serving utensils. It blew my mind and created discontent with my current dishwasher. Not that I’m going to go replace it, but when the time comes…

Are you a reviser? Or do you find “good enough” and stick with it? Or something else? I’m always curious how other people’s brains work…

Posted in education, meandering, mental health, mindset, parenting


“Every time you learn something, your brain changes.”

Whether you learn it correctly or not, whether you learn something big or small, something important or not important, something loving or hateful, it physically changes your brain.

I heard this somewhere a couple of months ago, and it stuck with me. (Happy to cite if you heard it, too, and know where it’s from!)

A solid reminder to filter, to some extent, what’s incoming.

Posted in about me, ebb & flow, meandering

The joy of music in the house

Many converging roads …

1- Most of the music I listen to is on CD. I have a free subscription to Spotify, and we do listen to music there, but as a primary means of music consumption, I hate music subscriptions. (When the subscription runs out, I don’t have music. I paid to rent it, and I’d rather own it. But I do like being able to listen to something before I buy it. And I also like not buying some of the music that The Kid wants to listen to.)

2- I haven’t owned a CD player in several years. I did have an external CD drive on the computer that could, among other things, play CDs.

3- The external drive died the last time I moved. Two years ago. Not sure if it was done working anyway or if it didn’t like moving. Haven’t played CDs in this house.

For Christmas, The Climbing Daddy and I received a CD player. It’s a simple, all-in-one piece of equipment, with bluetooth capability, an FM radio, a CD drive, and two other means of plugging in.

It’s in the living room with all of our CDs.

There’s music in the house again!

I had forgotten how much I love having music on until I had it on again. Whether as music to listen to, music in the background, music to sing along with, music to dance to, I’m delighted to have music without commercials in the living room again.

(My job — teaching beginning band — is noisy. The Kid is noisy. I hadn’t been seeking more aural input.)

We also have several CDs from Maestro Classics that The Kid has been listening to. (not affiliate — I just like their products)

Also in progress is a project to hang the ukuleles. We each have one, and any of us is more likely to play when the thing is already out. There are issues with the wall and anchors not working and that kind of nonsense or they’d be up already.

But then there will be even more music! Hooray!

I’m debating bringing over the keyboard from The Tall Daddy’s house. Is it something we’ll use, or just something that will take up space?

Regardless, I’m happy to have music in the house again.