Category: Music

What matters

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:: Practicing matters. And you can practice anywhere. (She’s practicing, on her lap, the song she’s memorized and is about to perform.)

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:: Being willing to try matters. Signing up for an extra recital, in preparation for a more intense competition next week. Wearing a new dress (and running shoes; just in case). Brushing your hair.

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:: Being supportive matters. Even when the recital is long. Even when there are no snacks. Even when you have to do everything imaginable to keep quiet. (Toward the end, CJ was making silent faces to entertain himself; by the last performance he was literally whacking himself on the head repeatedly, but kind of quietly. So he made it through.)

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:: Performing matters. Getting up in front of an audience. Doing your best. Sharing what you’ve learned. (At this point in any recital in which any of my children have ever played, I start to cry. It’s involuntary, and happy, but I do try to rein myself in, lest I embarrass the performer.)

:::

On this third day of writing week, I am reminded of a few more things that matter, a great deal, to me.

:: Exercise matters. Note to self: no matter how you may want to, do not sit for two days straight without taking time to go outside and move. And breathe.

:: Perspective matters. It’s hard to get perspective inside a room with a closed door. See above, plus add in kids and friends and husband.

:: Kindness and gratitude matter. I can’t write what I want to write by force.

:: Preparation matters. I am at the beginning of a project, not the middle, not the end. Here are some metaphors. You can’t go into labour if you’re not even pregnant. And, the work I need to do now is like composting. Layering information, layering ideas. It looks like waste at this stage. It won’t look so good, either, when it starts to rot. But given time, and turning, it will become rich soil. And then I can plant a new garden.

:::

Read between the lines, and you’ll guess. This is/will be a tough week. But I’d like to note two lovely and unexpected things that have happened so far.

:: On this third day of my writing week, I wrote a new song.

:: Yesterday, the power went out, and I wrote for several hours with pen and paper. I liked it a lot. No distractions.

From dancing to dentistry, just like that

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my 4:45am companion, with sound effects

I did not take photos at last night’s show. It was late for mamas at mid-week, a decade and a half older than the kids who came out to dance. But we mamas came out to dance too. And we still know how, despite our complaints about the lateness (so late!) and the loudness (first band, so loud!), and the “Oh God, I hope my hip holds out” (so lame!).

The dancing. It was really fun. We danced for the second band, but the really inspired getting down didn’t happen until Kidstreet arrived on stage. I love my siblings! Their sound is infectious, their performance is joyful and welcoming, and my sister is just the most gorgeous and composed creature on stage that you can possibly imagine (whether or not she can see it herself). As the set progressed, my dance moves got more adventurous, less fearful of will-this-hurt-my-hip? By the last song of the night, I’d shed that decade and a half, at least inside my own head. Walking home through the quiet of freshly fallen snow, I had to admit that I was limping ever so slightly. But when I woke up this morning, my hip actually felt years better.

Seriously. I could jog across the living-room without pain. How bizarre is that?

Let me tell you about the few hours between dancing and morning. I was gloriously asleep when the pitter-patter of feet woke me. CJ had gone to the bathroom by himself (yay!), returned to his bed and decided he didn’t like the looks of it (uh oh!), and come into our room lugging his water bottle and a giant sheep stuffie (noooooooo!). “I had a bad dream!” he announced, which is his new code for “I don’t want to go to sleep.” He attempted to climb into bed beside me. The sheep didn’t fit. Seriously, it’s enormous. We could all see this wasn’t working. I dragged myself upright, walked him back to his own room, explained about it being the middle of the night, sleeptime, etc., tucked him in.

Pitter-patter, pitter-patter. No sheep this time. “Is anyone downstairs?” he asks from the side of the bed. It’s pitch black. 4:45am. “Nope. We’re all sleeping. Because it’s the middle of the night!” He climbs in beside me, snuggles up. I’m too tired to object. We “sleep” like this for an hour until I just can’t stand the wriggling anymore. (I know lots of parents share beds with their children, and I just want to know: do those children hold still in their sleep? Because mine are like squirrels, if squirrels were much larger and not furry and had sharp elbows and hot breath and digging heels).

“Listen,” I said at last. “I can’t sleep like this. I’m going to your bed.”

“What?”

“You can stay here, and I will go sleep in your bed. Or, you can go sleep in your bed and I’ll stay here. One or the other. Because I’m not getting any rest and I have to get up in an hour for a dentist appointment.”

“My blankets are too small.”

“Not the green one. The green one is plenty big. So what you do want: should I go sleep in your bed, or will you?”

Surprisingly, he chose to return to his bed. And then he slept.

And much too soon after that I was sitting in a reclining chair staring at beige ceiling panels, listening to top-forty soft rock while a masked woman scaled tartar off my teeth.

If I were sketching a trajectory of pleasantness upon a graph, say, from midnight until nine this morning, it would look like a ski hill. High to low, baby, high to low. The nighttime bed-sharing was definitely several graph points above the hygienist prodding exposed nerve endings between my teeth. At least with the bed-sharing I got to snuggle up to a hot-breathed, wriggling, pointy-elbowed creature of intense dearness. With the dentist all I got was a return appointment a week from today to fill a cavity — my first in TWENTY YEARS.

See. Straight down. Like a ski hill.

It’s a life.

This is today’s happy post

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My brother Los in his studio

Today was a good day. I want to remember that despite the grousing contained my previous post. Sometimes I need a grumble — just get it out of my system.

But today was a good day.

Today I recorded two new songs. And for the second song, I played the French horn. My brother just happened to have a horn sitting there in his studio (you can see the case on the couch behind him). A loan from a friend’s parents. It’s a nice horn, too, a double horn in good working condition. I haven’t played horn since I was 18. That was, oh, awhile ago. Could I still make it make music? Well, yes and no. I’m no professional musician and never was. But the fingering came right back and I was playing a scale before I knew it. It didn’t sound half bad.

I was fooling around on the horn while Karl (“Los” is his nickname) was playing back my piano for the second song, and the horn was well-suited to the key I’d used, so I started playing along. Then we thought we’d record a bit and see if any could be used. So that was really fun. Really out of the ordinary. A treat. Music is sweet.

Also sweet: it looks like two or three of these songs are going to be made available on The Juliet Stories e-book, or as part of the e-book purchase. But that means we’ve got a deadline. Hence, today’s studio session, smack-dab in the middle of a whirling snowstorm.

This is today’s grumpy post

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My brother Los at his studio

It’s only been a day, but I’ve missed tapping away at my blog. Yesterday, I had a sick kid home and was operating on interrupted sleep. In the afternoon, I looked after an extra child. There were piano lessons. Supper was prepped and eaten somewhere in there. I can’t recall having lunch.

This week at Tuesday evening gym-time soccer (remember that?) I only had one extra child, so I took along my notebook and desk calendar and got busy. Topic: TIME ALLOTMENT. A friend had sent me a useful article earlier in the day (skimmed on my BB during swim lessons) that made me ask: How am I choosing to spend my hours? What if this crazy squeezed schedule is not a blip, but the new norm? If that happens to be the case, I need to set some boundaries and get some organizational strategies in order. Case in point: zero time this week for The Big Fat Juicy Belly Worm. Which I happen to think is an exciting project on which I should be spending some significant proportion of my writing time.

Do I still have writing time? Or is it all getting lumped into “work,” with writing getting lost amidst the jumble.

So I sat in the noisy gym and made a list. Partly, I attempted to understand how much time I’m spending on Facebook, Twitter and email, and how much these are interrupting my work versus being useful tools. I also attempted to get a grasp on my projects currently underway, and which are one-offs versus those that are ongoing. I consider my blog ongoing. I don’t write it because I have to write it. I write it because I want to write it, and it’s now part of my writing life. Ergo, time for blogging/photos-related-to-blogging ideally happens every day.

Same with the long-term book projects, like The Big Fat Juicy Belly Worm. Every day work. If not every day, then two full days a week set aside to work on it.

That’s a lot of time. Yesterday slipped away without doing either of the above long-term projects. Instead, I played and sang in preparation for this morning’s studio session, and I ticked items off my to-do list. One-off items, you might say. Useful, but there was no time for anything else.

Today feels much the same, if for different reasons. Necessary errands. And studio time. And now school is almost out and children will be coming home, and supper needs to be made, plus several phone calls, and there’s soccer tonight, and I’ve got an event to attend this evening at which I will attempt to look professional and not in the least bit scrambled. Good luck, Mama. Or, more like it: breathe, Mama. Breathe. Breathe.

Snow falling on resolutions

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Resolutions. Do you make them? We went around the table last night and everyone had the chance to make a resolution for 2012. Not all cared to participate, but here’s what we got:

**Albus resolved to finish his Perplexus game (at least it’s not a video game), and buy two new ones and finish those too. (Inspiring … sigh).

**AppleApple resolved to train for and complete a try-a-tri. Her dad wants to, too. We’ll check age limits, but try-a-tris are short-distance triathlons with lengths I’m certain she could manage.

**In addition to the try-a-tri, Kevin resolved to dance more. He intends to practice with help from a wii game we played on New Year’s Eve called Just Dance (we had a kid-oriented New Year’s; very fun). I’m not sure whether a wii game will make him a better dancer, but it is good exercise. (Fooey said, “The best part is that you don’t even have to have a wii remote–you can just dance!”)

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“all the little grains of snow,” taken this morning, back porch

Today, I am pretending the holiday is over; Kevin is helping with that. Whenever the kids are off school or home sick, childcare coverage falls to me, and as I start both working more and wanting to take on more work the imbalance becomes more obvious. I’m thankful that Kevin came around to recognizing this himself, and offered, for this coming week, to share childcare and split the days. Today he’s off anyway, so I get the full day. Friday I’d already arranged for babysitting in the morning, so he gets the full day. We’re splitting the other days half and half. I’m already floating the idea of doing this for summer holidays too. Something’s got to change this year.

I don’t usually do resolutions because who knows what will come or how a year will change a person. But I love lists, and this is good place to start.

1. Share the childcare. Take on more work projects. Work more hours.

2. Explore work options. Take risks. Dabble. Whatever I do to fill my hours and earn money, may it be creative, and perhaps surprising.

3. Budget better. Needs no explanation. Kevin and I are already collaborating on this front.

4. Continue early mornings + exercise. On my race list this year (assuming no injuries): the 30km in Hamilton in March; another Olympic-length triathlon; another marathon; and maybe just maybe a half-Ironman triathlon. I’d also like to do another half and another 10km. But racing is expensive. See #3.

4b. (late addition) Stretch!!!! After all exercise. For at least five minutes.

5. Develop book ideas. Apply for grants. Write another book!

6. Promote THE JULIET STORIES.

7. Practice photography. Use my eyes. Use my feet. Find new locations and subjects.

8. Make music. Write songs. Record.

9. Do everything I can do to continue to be “a good model” for my children. Be forgiving. Be kind. Seek to understand. Love.

10. Go bravely forth.

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“Desert in the snow,” taken this morning, back porch.

*note: to see photos in full please click on them

A good day: holiday preparations underway

Saturday
Oh what a good day was Saturday. Ambitious cookie baking plans. One ambitious cookie baking helper.
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Rolling out the dough.
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Cutting out the cookies.
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Decorating.
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And everyone’s favourite step in the process.
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Hurray! Treats to share!
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Meanwhile, collaborators work on Christmas gifts in mama’s new office.
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And one child plays contentedly with Lego.
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Evening. Christmas carols being practiced. (Okay, confession time–this started to grate upon the nerves after an hour or so.)
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But I was still one happy woman at the end of the day. I wanted to give my kids (and myself) a weekend of holiday preparation in the lead-up to Christmas, into which we will slam at the end of this week–a week in which the kids are still slogging off to school every day. Honestly, I think we’re all a little worn out. In need of a change, a holiday from the routine. Craving downtime. And cookies.

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