Sunday, January 8, 2012

I did an amazingly smart thing, and put off my full teaching schedule until next week. Tomorrow a relatively busy day awaits me, but I will still be able to come home, clean, organize, and practice before I drive myself too insane.

I can't believe my full schedule is starting back up again. My resolution for this year (if you want to call it that) is to remain together and peaceful. Prioritize the right things in life, like my relationship, my violin, my space, my students, and my sanity. (This is in no particular order.) Making sure the house is picked up at night is a wonderful help. I wonder how long I can keep this trend going...

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Ahhhh, the anxiety dreams are FINALLY subsiding. I am now officially on vacation mode, without the worry about what I'm currently falling behind on. They've been varied - having to tell students bad news about their prospects is a theme, as well as unexpected travel at the last second. Finally last night I dreamed I was on tour with a local band. We were playing and singing and making awesome music for a super appreciative crowd. It took lots of planning and making of to-do lists, but my brain seems to think I am appropriately caught up enough to enjoy things that should ACTUALLY be my dreams.

I am currently doing a successful job of puttering. I'm making lists of things to do around the house, and I'm getting exercise and plenty of sleep. I'm slowly adjusting back to eating right, and adjusting my outlook to one day at a time, instead of fretting about things that are months in the future (my usual MO.) Today, for instance, I went for a morning run (huffed through much of it, but it counts), caught up on all my email (there are but SIX emails in my inbox right now!), and put the Christmas decorations away. I've been imagining things that by most standards could be New Year's Resolutions, but I think are just added to a list of Ways to Make Myself More Well-Rounded, which has been my goal as a human in general since I graduated from Northwestern. Craftiness is on the brain, and while I've got my knitting basket staring me in the face, and my best bud giving me crochet lessons very soon, I find myself obsessed with finding new projects. I want to know how to paint something. I want to be able to look at an area of my apartment and know how to wave a magic wand. I want to be one of those people who looks at the couch and thinks, "Hmm, needs a revamp. Better stitch up a few throw pillows." And then to make the leap and say "Ooh, how about using those jeans I was going to throw out because of the rip in the thigh?" That's some serious leveling-up crafty ability.

Then I look at a site like THIS, and I think "Well, crap. I can't sew, I have no materials to measure or properly cut my material, and I don't want to think past three steps for something." That's when I go back to videos of talking cats.

However, I do feel like I can take on the task of making my own pushpin board out of all of the bazillions of used wine corks from over the years - I'll have to let you know how that goes. It'll have to wait, because this just happened:

This also reminds me that I have that little tabletop tree to take down. Eh, I'm on vacation, right?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Thoughts on 2011

January 1st is the day of reflection for me. I think December 31st is supposed to be the official Reflection Day for most people, but scurrying around running errands and then BARELY losing an epic game of Trivial Pursuit kind of ate up the day for me. So time moves forward, and as usual, I get to stuff late.

All in all, I would rate this year in the upper good range (didn't know there was a year-rating spectrum, didja?). Thanks to iPhoto helping me organize photos by dates, and iCal retroactively saving most things, I'm able to remember a few highlights from this year:

-The whole year has a theme of me getting fed up with myself and the way I fail to maintain my own health. I felt huge, uncoordinated, sluggish, and on top of that I was still trying to figure out my fairly constant stomach issues. The revelation of eating a little less in the way of grains gave way to a happier digestive system that could suddenly handle dairy without any issue. That was a good victory.

Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and slivered almonds is a pretty amazing treat.

-In late February, we discovered a wet and unhappy kitty that appeared to be trapped on our back balcony in the freezing rain. We let it in, dried it off and gave it some food. It stayed the night with us, even snuggling up on our bed, and I'd be lying if I said we weren't the teensiest bit disappointed that we found its proper owner the next morning. It was then that we decided we needed to add to our happy little family.

Buster and Zelda have changed the entire feel of the house, and have given us wonderful creatures to bond with. Also, when Hubby and I talk to them, we sound like idiots.

-I was able to see my wonderful, beautiful friend Stacey in March, finally checking out her new digs in Salt Lake City. Also managed to surprise my amazing friend Kellen at his graduation in May - that was a good time.

She's freaking cute.

-No pictures on this one, but I danced my first live belly dancing show in April. I'm officially hooked, and must do this again.

-It was a fantastic summer, not particularly filled with money, but good music and good family trump all.

YMA is an amazing summer music camp, set at the picturesque Willammette University in Salem. We stay there for two weeks, and the kids get a wonderful musical experience while escaping the rest of the real world, who for the most part considers them geeks and outsiders. The amazing faculty at YMA lets them know that the geekiness pays off big time.

The first (hopefully annual) family reunion from my mother's side of the family took place directly after YMA, and I was able to re-meet all of my eleven cousins from that side, most of whom I hadn't seen in over ten years. Also gave me time to hang with my awesome niece, who is still as much of a joy and wonder as the day she was born.

By the time I got to the Oregon Coast Music Festival, I was spent and ready to get home, but still managed to enjoy some seriously beautiful sights. I was really, REALLY over traveling at that point.

-Now that I've finally seen some progress, I can officially announce to all that I've been on Weight Watchers since May. It's turned out quite well for me. After so much time of not understanding food or my relationship with it, a combination of WW and running has really begun to transform me. The visual result is pretty great, even though I'm only part way through my weight loss, and the physical result is astounding. For the first time in my life, I feel STRONG. I feel some physical insecurities have begun to fade away.

So, for the sake of comparison, here's my proverbial "before" picture, taken right before I started the Weight Watchers program:

And a few months later, after completing my first 5k race (with the support of my wonderful friend Marya):

It's not a side-by-side just yet, but I'm the most shocked by the difference you can see in the face. I truly feel as though I am doing something good for my body. I took the holidays off of exercise and diet (not enough to gain anything back, mind you), and I felt my muscles crave a good kick in the butt. I started my running regimen again recently, and feel the relief running through my body. The quest to become healthier, as it turns out, is a noble one.
As I look ahead to 2012, I'm quite optimistic for the year. I've got great musical plans lined up, another crazy and wonderful summer, and plenty of surprises to come my way. I try real hard to be a better human being every day, and I'm convinced more and more that this is the main reason of being.

A Happy New Year to everyone. Here's to the best year we can work for.

Friday, December 10, 2010

My heart is warmed. We are starting rehearsals (make that *rehearsal*) for the Nutcracker. This may not mean new music to sink my teeth into, but it definitely means that this holiday season is WAY better than the last one. I'm making money, the Nutcracker puts me in the holiday spirit, and to put a cherry on top, I remembered how to knit even though I haven't touched my needles in MONTHS!

It's a great time of year. Thanks, Nutcracker.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Tonight is my first Christmas concert where I am teaching a fully fledged string ensemble.

Of course, the ensemble has three people in it, and no violas, which leaves me to fill in with my awesome uneducated skill set - shut uuuuuup...

STILL, it is the first night of what has been promised to be an epic event. My university apparently holds three services over the course of a weekend, with a total of 1200 people passing through the doors over said weekend. The tickets sold out weeks ago.

On the string ensemble slice of the program: A mild-mannered version of Corelli's Christmas concerto that lasts all of three minutes, a quartet reduction of the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, and an arrangement of What Child is This by yours truly. I have been informed by my supervisor that normally the attendees DO NOT CLAP, as it is a CHURCH SERVICE.

This, however, brings up an interesting point. I attended many, many church services as a child, and now performed in several as an adult. Clapping to show appreciation after a performance has seemed fairly random. Here are some observations I have made so far on the subject:

*If the piece ends quietly, applause is much less likely. The reverse is true for a piece that ends loudly.
*The quality is important. Applause happens for the very very good performances, as well as the very not so good ones. Average, middle-of-the-road performances are not usually applauded after.
*The Lutheran congregation seemed hesitant to start their applause. The Baptist congregation dove right in. This is unexpected somehow.
*Prelude and offertory music are much more quietly received, supposedly in anticipation of either the start of the service or a benediciton.
*You could miss about twenty notes in your piece and no matter what applause you get, you will get an appreciative member of the congregation who will make it a point to tell you how much they enjoyed it. They are a nice bunch.

It will be interesting to watch the collective mindset of the audience tonight. Immediately following our performance are three verses of Silent Night, during which we will be moving stuff on the stage. That in itself should be applause worthy, but usually isn't. And then follows a couple more hours where I will have to sit in the back with the students since this place is completely sold out.

On a related note, I am so proud of my kiddos. They have come a long way. And they sound pretty darn good.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I have reached this point every year since high school and am surprised by it every time. It's December, people. The academic world starts snowballing.

Actually, that's not quite accurate. It would be a snowball if one spends Thanksgiving break building up events and homework and business. But that never happens. Thanksgiving is a welcome break from the chaos that begins building from about the middle of October. Then the chaos slams again. So you're not so much experiencing a snowball effect so much as the feeling one would get after the eye of a hurricane has passed,

Eyes become bleary, and an amazing feat happens every year. Students and faculty alike realize they are dangerously close to the end of the term, and a haze sets over campus. Everyone develops what is understood to be a countdown meter above their heads, letting everyone know that their exhaustion is justified. They will make it, they will do everything that is required of them to the best of their ability, and then they will collapse and firmly not think about education for about two weeks.

I, in my infinite wisdom, scheduled a final for the participants in my string ensemble. I figured it was a way to raise the bar - make sure that my group is dutifully studying scales and etudes along with learning their ensemble repertoire. It would let people know that the new faculty member in town expected some serious work and individual practice! And something worked - my group sounds far betterr than it did at the beginning of the semester, that's for sure.

However, I now realize why my ensemble directors in the past never scheduled finals: they would have to show up for them!

The worst part is that now I have set a precedent. It will just look silly of me to stop the running of these tests unless my group grows to a size where it doesn't make sense to run 1-on-1 finals anymore. I have committed myself to finals week indefinitely.

One learns a lot their first term as the new kid in town. It's all worth it, though- my kids rock. And more importantly, they're excited to play.

This is really all I require.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Dear Republican Party:

I knew you would have some significant victories tonight, and I know some people think we need a change. However, I have already felt that change. Obama has passed legislation on student loans and credit cards that have saved me a LOT of money. Money I have - you guessed it - put back in the economy. Please talk to each other these next two years. Focusing on reversing the progress that has already happened won't be good for anyone. And please don't take away these wonderful changes he's made for people in debt like me. I really enjoy being able to eat and pay rent.



PS - a shout out to the Pres. Thank you for saving me hundreds of dollars a year. Thank you for keeping this country safe without a fear-based agenda. Thank you for giving children healthcare and protecting the future of this country. I know there are people who are afraid of what you stand for, and are latching on to the abstract notion that you may do something they disapprove of. I prefer to focus on the concrete things that have already happened.