Tuesday, May 25, 2010

On Killing Spiders and Giving Recitals

In other words, what I have learned from children this past week about being brave.

I never pictured that I would be in "Jedi Knight Training," but over the past few months my son has insisted that I become qualified to effectively battle as (fill in the blank), the Jedi Knight, with him. He's taught me some pretty amazing moves, just don't ask me to replicate them...

Last week he drew upon his own training to kill a spider in the basement with his plastic light sabre, only calling on me to be the clean up crew. He used to flip out whenever he saw a bug inside, but now he's taking care of it himself, as a Jedi. Right on!

I remember my first violin teacher encouraging me to "practice performing" when I had an upcoming performance. "Get your mom or dad or little brothers or your neighbor or a friend to be your audience, and play for them without stopping, even if you make a mistake. If you can't find anyone, set up your Barbies or GI Joes to be your audience!" And while they applaud wildly, take a bow.

I've passed this instruction on to my own students over the years, and of course they always laugh when I tell them if no one else is available, put your stuffed animals to work. Well last week is the first time I've actually defaulted to a stuffed animal audience, and it was awesome! We held a trio practice just before my students' violin recital; a really cool traditional Jewish song in 3-part round, stomping and all. The stomps are another story. Anyway, at the moment, no one was available for us to "practice performing" for, so we set up an audience on each side of the room and played (and stomped) our hearts out for them.

The night of the recital, another student came down the hallway showing obvious signs of performance anxiety. I pulled her aside and told her to pretend that the entire audience was stuffed animals. She laughed and agreed to it, and went on to perform beautifully. It worked!

I'm proud of these kids and their courage to step up to the plate and do it. We all have our own "spiders" and "recitals" to face. Thank goodness for life's plastic light sabres and stuffed animals. If it gets the job done, I'll take it!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

...on Tears and Treadmills...

So I'm at the gym this morning, and have a newly uploaded CD on my iPod. (Thank you Mom for sending Eric birthday gifts that you know I'll love, too!) "That Easter Morn," a recently released CD from the Orange County Mormon Choral Organization (OCMCO) is on my new favorites list. Here's why.

Exercise is not my thing. But music is, so I'm trying to get through one by enjoying the other. Have you ever run on a treadmill and not been able to keep yourself from crying?! That was me this morning, listening to this CD for the first time, and on shuffle mode at that. Incredible arrangements and performances of "I Know That My Redeemer Lives" followed by "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?" They went straight to my heart - and spilled out my eyes.

Now it's one thing to get teary in church, or in a movie theater, but at the Rec Center? Really! I couldn't stop running, but I just couldn't stop listening either, so I decided to let it happen and be grateful for such an unexpected, powerful 22 minutes this morning. (Of course the CD is longer than that, but that's as long as I run, at least for now.) It made my day!

This CD is not just for Easter time. Check it out!


Sunday, May 9, 2010

It's Good to be a Woman

Happy Mother's Day! Today I am especially mindful of my own amazing mother and grandmothers, special women who've had a great influence on me at important times in my life, and the many dear friends who've been a great example to me of what womanhood is all about. I am thankful to be a woman and a mother!

Last week I got to attend a "Mother's Day Tea" with my preschooler, and he proudly presented me with marigolds he'd planted. Here's hoping I can keep them alive long enough to see them in bloom...

Yesterday I attended a Mother/Daughter event where they gave each of the women a red rose. I was grateful to be included, especially since I don't have any daughters. (But there were several young women there I would gladly claim!)

My husband and boys surprised me with a bouquet of beautiful tulips. Feeling so lucky!

My cousin brought me these beautiful yellow lilies this afternoon! Family, dinner, laughs, and Skip-bo - the perfect way to end today.

In a house where I'm the only female I often feel outnumbered, especially when it comes to sweaty sports socks, impromptu wrestling matches on the living room floor, and unbearably loud teasing. I'm really enjoying being surrounded by such beautiful flowers, hugs and kisses today. Yes, it's good to be a woman!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Saying Yes

A few days ago I taught a class to young women on conducting hymns, specifically in congregational settings. Because there is so much material to cover, and because some of the girls have less experience with music than others, I called it “Survival Conducting” and pared it back to the basics as much as I could. We had a group of about 25, a lot of enthusiasm, and a lot of fun! I think the biggest hiccup of the night was having a “lefty” and a “righty” practicing their beat patterns without quite enough space between the two. Wish I’d gotten video of that!

Before we got into the meat of the instruction, I gave the girls two tips that are even more important than any of the beat patterns or skills we were about to cover:

1. Look at the people you are leading
2. Act confident even if you don’t feel that way

Hmm. Saying it out loud, it sounded like pretty good advice for getting through a lot of things in life, not just leading a song! Both of them seem to be about connecting with others without saying a word; getting over your own insecurities to play the role of leader, allowing the power of a unifying activity to unfold. Letting your confidence (even if it’s pretended) help others feel comfortable in opening up and sharing the best that’s in them, as well.

In the meanwhile that night, I shared a few stories off the cuff to illustrate various points, most of which I had not thought about for years. Like when I was 12 and was asked to conduct a song for the first time at church, and said “no” because I didn’t know how to do it correctly…years later when it was my responsibility to lead the hymns and felt like I was doing aerobics in front of everyone at 8 months pregnant…because basically I was...how I learned the root word of “fermata” and just what it meant to an elderly Italian woman who’d been knocked off her bike by a guy on a moped right in front of me and my 7-day old baby in a front pack. I guess I’ve been conducting for so much of my life now that I have more stories to catalogue than I’d thought! If Grandad were still here I would love to swap stories with him, since conducting was his passion and his profession.

My payback for the night came from two 12-year old girls who thanked me for the class and said, “I’ve always said ‘no’ when I was asked to lead the hymn, because I didn’t know how. But now I’m going to say yes.”