Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Say "Yes" to the Mess

As I've said before I am determined this year to do the things I say are important--like writing music again and blogging on a regular basis--goals I haven't been faithful to in the past few years. To keep myself from getting side-tracked I have been running a sort of motto in my mind from time to time: "First things first". That seems overly obvious but it is harder than it sounds. What is a first thing and what is a second thing? It depends on the moment and the day and how well I kept on task the day before. And it means making hard choices.

Today what "first things first" means is that I did manage to write some music (yeah!) I did manage to finish a crochet project that I need to mail off. I did manage to write out a list for my daughter of who gave her what for Christmas so she can finally write those thank you notes. I did manage to make the bed and straighten the living room and bathroom before my students started to arrive and did catch up on my email. But the dishes are still soaking in the sink, I barely got my shower in and there's a stack of unopened mail and bills to pay on my desk that is threatening to careen off onto the floor at any moment. Spending time on my music meant some other very important things just didn't get done. My conscience is bugging me a bit. Doesn't my husband deserve an immaculate and well-ordered home when he arrives after a busy and daunting day? Does my wish to provide that sound archaic? He has never been the sort to complain if things aren't done, and he is absolutely an equal partner in the work inside as well as outside of our home. But I realize my choice to "do my music" means I can't keep up with all the same chores I've been so careful to stay on top of in the past. It seems that to honor my dream I will occasionally just have to "say yes to the mess" and hope my family understands!

What were your "first things" today? Were they the ones that got you closer to your dreams and goals or the ones you felt obligated to do for the good of someone or something else?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Please Steal This!

From time to time I think of great ideas (at least I think they're great) for products or services or organizations etc. which I want access to without the actual work of creating them. So here is a list of ideas I wish you would steal....

1) Breakfast Delivery--like pizzas only home-delivered breakfast food like tacos, pancakes and bacon!
2) CARR--Citizens Against Road Rage--an organization (not yet in existance) dedicated to educating the public about road rage, offering public service announcements with reminders about rules of the road (like stopping for my daughter in the school cross walk!) and to encourage courteous driver behavior (like actually signaling your intentions and not honking at me just because I won't go when YOU think I ought to.)
3) Tivo for radio. I love my tivo for television shows, but I wish there were an easy way to record my favorite radio broadcasts so I could play them back, rewind when I wanted to hear something again etc. I'm so tivo-trained that when I'm listening to the radio in the car I'm always stunned to realize I can't hit the "back" button if I miss the title of the piece.
4) A purse with a built-in foot stool. I'm a bit short and standard-sized chairs sometimes sit high enough that I'm not really comfortable. If I try to cross my legs one leg always slides off, and only my toe-tips reach the floor.
5) A custom-bumper sticker business. (One may already exist. I haven't checked.) I keep thinking up ideas for bumper stickers and wish I could somehow print one. Like, when I owned a GEO I always wished I had a bumper sticker that read "Back Off. I'm pedaling as fast as I can." That would have been useful especially in the Texas Hill Country where I could go 30 at best when I floored it. Of course I can't actually put stickers on my car bumper because my husband thinks they look trashy. He won't even agree to post stickers from my favorite public radio station, (KMFA) my alma mater, (Lawrence University) or even my Phi Beta Kappa sticker. Of course he thinks Packer Gs are just dandy.

If you have an idea you'd like someone to steal let us know via a comment on this post. In the meantime, I wish one of you would steal mine!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Old Dogs CAN Learn New Tricks

I was messaging a former college friend on Facebook last Friday afternoon when she told me our old piano professor, Ted Rehl, had taken up the piano again after completely abandoning it in 1992 when he retired. She is thinking about playing again and is a bit intimidated by how much she will have to relearn but his story inspired her to try. Mr. Rehl told her she must be prepared to play an hour and a half a day and do as many exercises as possible to retrain her fingers, regain her dexterity and technique. I scurried to read the article and play the video clip myself. In the article that accompanies the clip Rehl explains that he is enjoying being able to play for pleasure without worrying about a professional reputation. When you are a music professor, he explains, you are concerned with "getting it right", with your reputation among your students and colleagues. Now, playing concerts for pleasure in his retirement community, Rehl has fallen in love with his instrument as he did when he began playing hymns by ear as a child.

If 81-year-old Ted Rehl can relearn then so can we all! I have always  maintained that it is never too late to learn something new, try something new or regain something lost though this sometimes requires reframing. Perhaps I will never teach at a university or finish my doctorate. But I can regain enough technique to play music I love and to compose something beautiful. I've added Rehl to my list of "old dog" heroes along with Rosina Lhevinne. Ms. Lhevinne earned high honors as a young pianist before she married the famous concert pianist, Joseph Lhevinne after which she abandoned her own solo career to become his helpmate (as so many women did at the time.) After his death she took up her own career again in her sixties, performing concerts and teaching at the Julliard School, a career that lasted well into her 90s! If these octo/nongenarians can jumpstart new careers maybe it isn't such a stretch for this soon-to-be 47 year old to do the same.

If you are trying to learn something new or regain something lost or if you have examples of other "old dog heroes" post a comment! http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20111228/ARCHIVES/112281049