Posted in education, meandering, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Self assessment

In my elementary band classes, I’ve spent a fair amount of energy this year on a few non-musical topics: grit (a focus of my whole team), self-awareness, and emotional safety.

Grit is a topic for another day.

Self-awareness is necessary for any of this to be useful. You can’t change a thought or behavior that you’re not able to notice. Applies to learning any skill or changing any behavior.

Emotional safety is not given as much time or emphasis as it deserves, in any realm.

We can’t learn to play instruments in an environment that is emotionally unsafe. While some of that is my responsibility, the kids have responsibility to each other to make the space safe.

(This is also true for math, reading, writing, any art, sciences, sports, families, and on and on and on….)

We don’t have to be each other’s friends. But we have to work together while we’re here in this room. Every single person here needs to be able to try to play something and mess it up without fear of ridicule.

That necessity increases by orders of magnitude when we’re composing. (Creative pursuits are scary!)

At the end of every class, my students have a short self-assessment to do. Two of the questions they need to reflect on are: “Were you kind to everyone in the room today?” and “Were you helpful to your group?” (They give themselves a simple yes or no. Kinda, maybe, sort of are all “no.”)

Don’t talk to me about how anyone else acted. How did you act? If there is a situation that needs my attention, please tell me about it, but not in the context of self-reflection.

Just like adults, some of the students are really hard on themselves, some of them are accurate, and some of them are really easy on themselves.

Where do you fall?



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Posted in differences, marriage, meandering, mindset, socializing, thoughtfulness

Why invite people to a wedding?

For my first marriage, we were married in a church by a priest—one of the most thoughtful people I’ve ever met. In our meeting with him, he asked us, “What do you want guests to get out of your wedding ceremony?”


This was a question I had never thought of, had never heard anyone else talk about explicitly or implicitly.

The wedding is all about us, right?

To be honest with you, I don’t remember what we figured out as an answer to that question, but it was fun to wrestle with. I enjoy questions like that, that force new perspectives.

Also, I have no idea if what we decided was conveyed to the people in attendance. Did the guests take from it what we had intended? I never asked. (Which strikes me as odd—asking seems like something I would have done.) I’m guessing that the answer was heady and vague and was something that either wouldn’t really convey or would convey regardless of our conversation about it.

Has this been discussed in the planning of any wedding I’ve attended? Probably not. (Like I said, I’d never heard of this notion prior.) I didn’t even remember to think about it when planning my second (though that event looked much different than the first).

Taking it one step simpler—we in general do think about who to invite, especially if there is not unlimited space.

Why do we invite those people? Often, some are “obligatory.” Do we figure out who we want to invite and plan from there? Or figure out a “how many” and then decide who to fill the seats with?

I (occasionally) like to throw big parties. Years ago, in a bigger house with a pool, we’d throw a Memorial Day thing every year (though it got thwarted once or twice). Christmas Eve Eve was big the year it fell on a Saturday.

Getting married is a solid excuse to have a big party.

I didn’t realize how much I would love this plan until reflecting afterwards, but The Climbing Daddy and I had a very small wedding and later threw a big party at home. (In other words, that’s what we decided, but I didn’t realize how great the idea was until after we had done it. The original “why” was different.)

We maintained intimacy, exchanged vows fairly privately, then celebrated later with lots of people.

One of the perks of having so few people was that everyone could hear. Especially in an outdoor space, sound is a problem. I’ve never been to an outdoor wedding where I could hear the ceremony. Which leads back to the question: why invite people?

It was relatively easy to make sure that people’s needs were met. I have been to weddings (regardless of venue) where there weren’t enough chairs, or the food didn’t accommodate diets (which is not inherently a problem, but I like to know ahead of time that there isn’t going to be anything for me to eat so I don’t show up hungry), or there wasn’t any food at all. (On our end, we did fail on securing shade and we all baked a bit when we were eating lunch after our ceremony.)

So. When you planned your wedding (or are planning it), who did/will you invite? Why? People first or numbers first or some back-and-forth combination? Did you have a thought about what you wanted them to get out of it? (Seriously—has anyone else been asked to think about this?)

(Also: I’ve been to many weddings that were perfectly lovely, any many that had issues were otherwise lovely as well.)



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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 gratitude, meandering


The sunsets in Arizona are pretty consistently amazing.

When I lived back east, there was occasionally a sunset that really made you stop and just take it in, but here, it happens regularly. Almost daily.

After living here for almost 16 years, I’ve not tired of it.

I’m sure the photo I used for this post isn’t the best sunset photo I’ve taken, but after weeks of taking one or more from the top of the bleachers at The Kid’s track practices, I liked the shot through the fence. Something a little different.

It’s also kinda fun to look at all of the pics from all of the weeks and just see how the sunset has changed. Colors, position of the sun against the horizon, state of the trees.

Besides getting a little exercise running the bleachers, my sunset photo attempts give me a little something to look forward to at track practice.

The sunrises here are also phenomenal. In the winter, the sun is just coming up over the mountains as I drive to work. (Always driving; no pics.) I’m not a big fan of being up that early, but it’s a perk of the commute to have that view for the couple of minutes that I travel east.

(By this time of year, I’m just blinded by the sun that’s up but not high.)

Grateful to have beautiful sunrises and sunsets to admire here, even if the sun is otherwise not so friendly for several months each year.


Posted in gardening, hope, meandering

New year’s should be in spring

We put in some fruit trees about a month ago. They were mostly bare at the time but are starting to flower, grow leaves, grow branches.

The growth is wonderful!

So much joy in the greens and pinks!

So much hope for fresh fruit straight from the back yard!

(So many exclamation points!)

It seems to me that spring, the season of new beginnings, should be when the new year begins, when we decide to renew ourselves.

If you skip all that BS in January, maybe consider it now. Beginning with a resolution to get outside more. (Pending weather in your area.) It’s invigorating and wonderful!