Prove them wrong

Never let someone’s opinion of you define who you are. Sometimes they make mistakes too.

Although I may be in over my head this time.

Last week my daughter Arabella and I tried out for the local community theater musical. I got cast in a very challenging vocal part. The director said she was happy that I tried out because she didn’t think that many people could handle the part. How horrifying!

Yesterday, I talked about how I wasn’t very athletic in school and now I am a marathon runner. When I was a child, I really wanted to be a singer. But I allowed a teacher to crush that dream.

The choir teacher was the same person that axed me as a cheerleader in middle school. In my defense, when I auditioned to be a cheerleader I had the flu. I stayed home from school the day of auditions with a high fever. The choir teacher said that if I wanted to try out I had to audition on that day, no exceptions. That evening I went to school with the flu and auditioned.

Now in her defense, I couldn’t do splits or flips like some of the other girls and was probably clinically depressed since grade school. Having the flu didn’t help with my audition either as you can imagine.

I wasn’t a good athlete and don’t blame her for not selecting me to be a cheerleader. But I always thought I was a good singer.

More than anything, I wanted to be in the high school jazz choir. But I didn’t bother trying out. The choir teacher didn’t like me. I’m not even sure why, I never did anything to her. There were certain teachers though that did not like me based on my autistic brother’s behaviors. Perhaps you have been judged for a sibling’s misdeeds? It sucks! There were certain old school teachers that blamed my mother for my brother’s autism back in the day and I think she was one.

The choir teacher picked a song for solo and ensemble for me. On the first practice, she told me I was a horrible singer and there was no way I was ever going to compete. I was so humiliated. Maybe I really did suck?

Remembering her words and cheerleading tryouts, I didn’t bother auditioning for jazz choir.

I gave up my dream. In college I wanted to audition for choir, but didn’t think I was good enough. It wasn’t until many years later that I started to sing in front of people again. Wow, you are very good at singing. You must have been a star singer in high school. What?

Now my daughter Angel is going to college for vocal performance. She has a very similar voice to mine. She has been to many competitions around the country and has done very well.

The choir teacher could have made a positive impact on my life. She could have encouraged me and worked with me to make me a better singer. She could have given me something to take me away from my troubles at home. But instead, she squelched a dream.

The choir teacher, whether she knew it or not, changed the path that I chose to take. She was a horrible teacher. I wish I didn’t give so much credit to her opinion.

Challenge accepted, I’m going to do the best I can at this role. Maybe I will dedicate this show to proving my choir teacher wrong.

When the music is over..

My son dropped out of band the week after we toured a college for music.

It reminded me of the time my son dropped out of wrestling. It wasn’t just because he was being bullied. The year before he quit, he got third place at regionals in a large bracket. There was an opening to go to state and they called my son to fill that position. All the way up to state, Alex practiced as hard as he could. He practiced so hard that after falling asleep on the long car ride to state, he woke up with a pinched nerve. He couldn’t hold his head upright. He was in a lot of pain and couldn’t wrestle.

Some people gave him crap saying that he was too afraid and that he was faking an injury so he wouldn’t have to wrestle the best in the state. He forfeited his matches while we sat there watching everyone else wrestle. That night at the hotel, his team and their coaches and parents celebrated while we sat in the hotel room devastated. He worked so hard. It wasn’t fair.

We talked with Alex and we decided that we would do everything to help him get to state the next year if he wanted to. We took him to summer camps and intensive preseason wrestling twice a week an hour away. He got to be really good. Who would’ve thought that this could shake up the middle school pecking order and snowball into bullying? But he pushed on. Then at the end of the season, he got the flu. He got weak. But he kept trying. Then right before regionals, he got hurt again. He decided he had enough. It was hard to let go of the 8 years we put into this sport. I felt sorrow. My husband asked if I was expecting him to make a career of it. What if he got hurt again, but worse??

But this is different. This is more personal. I thought that maybe he would pursue a career in music. I thought he would pursue his passion. He got awards at state. He has the talent. He said he wanted that.

Even if he didn’t succeed, I think he would regret not going for it.

We had a long talk with the music professor at the college. He spoke of auditions for scholarships. My son even talked to us about the song he might want to audition with. We decided to contact his piano teacher to continue lessons and contacted the local university for private lessons on his instrument. We have given him all of the tools for success, but he just doesn’t seem to want to pick them up.

This year a majority of the upperclassmen and all of Alex’s friends quit band before the school year started. Alex said he wanted to quit band too. He told me this as he was making beats on his computer and strumming a guitar. Hate music now, huh? I didn’t take it seriously.

He just quit band, a month into the school year. He said he is never playing his instrument again. He was also going to be a part of the pit band for the high school musical, but dropped everything. No music lessons. He said he doesn’t even want to go to college. He burned all of his bridges with a blaze so intense it makes my eyes water.

I felt so angry at first. Now I feel an unrelenting sorrow. My hopes and dreams for him have been totally crushed. He is so smart and talented. To see him have the ability and throw it all away is killing me. Maybe there is still tech school. Who knows? Maybe he won’t even graduate from high school. I could see him getting his PhD in music, but I can also see him living on the streets. The windows of opportunity are closing and it is very painful.

What if he takes the wrong fork in the road?

I think the hardest thing about having adult children is the utter lack of control. I fear that someone will hurt my children. But even more terrifying is watching your child destroy himself and not being able to do anything about it.

Vegas, part 4

 

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The day we visited Red Rocks Canyon was my favorite day in Nevada. It was strange going from the big city to out in the middle of nowhere within 20 minutes.

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It wasn’t the easiest vacation since receiving the news that the daughter of a best friend passed away in a car accident while we were there. But here I was with my daughter in a beautiful place and I refused to worry the whole time about something I had no control over. I wanted to have some great memories of our mother-daughter trip. If anything, I learned that life is too precious to take any moment for granted.

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I tried my hardest to convince my daughter and her friends to go hiking with me. With temps over 100 degrees and full sun, I couldn’t convince anyone to walk far anywhere. They thought I was crazy! Not being used to the heat, we didn’t even think about packing drinks. We must have looked pathetic because a guide from a tour bus offered us drinks, which we gladly accepted. We chugged our drinks quickly, because after about 10 minutes our drinks would be too hot. I drank hot water, hot beer, and a hot bloody Mary on this trip and it was pretty gross.

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It was fun hanging out with music majors. Every conversation turned into a song…we would say something that reminds us of song lyrics and next thing you know everyone is singing. I have to say that I was really impressed with Angel and her friends. They were all very supportive and encouraging towards their competitors in the singing competition. It was refreshing and unexpected.

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The trip to Red Rocks Canyon was very peaceful and calming. I would recommend it to anyone that wants to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Fortune cookie wisdom #10

Be prepared for a sudden, needed, and happy change in plans.

Wow, this one is nice!

I’m not sure when I received this fortune cookie, but I can tell you that this year has definitely been a year full of surprises and change…

In January, we sold our business but stayed on as employees. In February, we checked our first continent (outside of our own) off the bucket list. In two weeks, we will be moving into a new house.

A year ago today I would’ve never guessed that any of these things would be happening.

Last night I booked a trip to Las Vegas. This was unexpected a week ago. I’m very excited because I’ve never been to Nevada before. Plus my daughter Angel was selected as one of the best college singers in the US to compete there on a national level. This is a very big step forward in her future music career. We will have the opportunity to listen to the best singers in the United States compete and famous singers perform.

Pity the poor middle school choir students that I hear perform for solo and ensemble. I will never be the same.

Hopefully we will have time to check out some shows and spend some time poolside. I really don’t care about going to the casinos. I doubt my daughter could get in anyway. She is still a teenager.

I’ll be sure to share my best pictures and adventures in Sin City. But don’t expect it to be like The Hangover.

ACT 1

Last week my son got his ACT score in the mail. He got an average score. Although my husband and son were satisfied, I was disappointed. I know he has the capability to do so much better.

I worry about him being able to get into a good college. He got 3 F’s on his report card this quarter, one of them being in band. He wants to go to school for music, that should be an easy A. But he skipped out of some pep band performances which brought down his grade.

In his defense, it seems like band and choir require so much more after school participation than I ever remember. The students are required to be at school in the evenings several nights a week for several months. I think it is a big commitment for a 1 credit class. I probably could’ve sent him with a note excusing his absence, but if he could be there…why would I do that?

Anyway, my son thinks that he can get into college once they hear him play. Maybe, maybe not. He is a very talented musician, I’ll give him that. We have been preaching at him about his grades for years. I’m getting sick of nagging him.

What I really have been concerned about lately is not just being able to get into college, but staying in college. He needs to get through the awful prerequisite classes that have nothing to do with what he wants to do. Without college (and even with), it is going to be hard to get anywhere with a career in music.

My son reminds me of my brother Mark.

Mark is a mechanical/building genius. In middle school, he designed blueprints for a water bed. He built the bed out of wood with his design. He created many things, but that was the most impressive for his age.

Mark struggled with school. Every night my mother would sit down with him and try to help him with his assignments. It often ended with a fight. Mark is very smart, but wasn’t good at school. He had problems reading. Later we found out that he struggled with dyslexia.

As expected of him, Mark went off to college for mechanical engineering and failed miserably. He dropped out by the end of his first semester.

Mark is now employed as a machinist. He is a hard worker and loves his work. Right after high school, he bought a lathe machine so he could work after work out of his garage. He learned everything about machines. Not only does he know how to operate them, he knows how to program, troubleshoot, and fix machines.

Mark has an eye for detail. He painstakingly makes sure things are done right. He was the main visionary for a big remodeling project up north on the cabin that has been in the family since the 1950’s. He created a blueprint to build his own house. He is a mechanical genius, but just wasn’t cut out for college. That’s okay, it wasn’t for him.

Sometimes I wonder if we are taking a square peg and trying to make it fit into a round hole.

But how can someone be marketable as a musician without an education??

Maybe he could work in a music store selling instruments. Or he could learn how to fix instruments. Would he be happy doing that and being a small town musician in the evening?

It is really up to him now. We have given him all the tools for success. We’ll see what kind of life he can build out of it.

Tickled pink

This is the first Easter that my daughter is not coming home. She is receiving a scholarship for singing in a church choir near campus. They really need her to sing for Easter services, so she is staying.

That is all a part of your kids growing up. Sometimes they don’t come home for holidays. I am okay with it. What choice do I have?? I spent the last 3 weekends with Angel, so that was nice. She made a special trip home to see a local Pink Floyd tribute band with me last weekend.

I feel a little bad because I was really tired when she came home. Friday night, my son Alex and I went to see The Dark Side of the Moon. It was an awesome show. We even talked to the sax player afterwards about my son wanting to go to school for music. He gave my son a lot of pointers. We ended up getting home at midnight.

Then I got up early the next morning and ran 10 miles. It wasn’t a regular run. I really cranked up the incline on the treadmill. I signed up for a trail marathon on my birthday this summer. It will probably be the most challenging marathon because it is going to be very hilly. After running, I could barely walk and had pain in my left calf for the next 4 days. I wasn’t expecting hill training to be so hard.

After I went running, I went bowling for a couple hours for my brother Matt’s birthday.

By the time I went to the show with Angel, I was pretty wiped out. I never had problems staying up late, running the next morning, a birthday party in the afternoon, and feeling too tired for a concert before. Am I getting old?? It was pretty easy having a conversation with Angel though.

I had a harder time making conversation with my son Alex the night before. If I ask him how he is doing, I irritate him. Are you okay, son?? How was your day? Are you thinking more about going to school for saxophone performance or jazz studies? I told you that already, just leave me alone, I’m fine!!! So we sat in silence at the restaurant until my son was ready to talk.

Then he started talking…I recently found out that my son is vaping. He asked if I had a problem with that. I am not happy about it, especially with the family history of lung cancer..But he is going to be 18 in June, so…What can I do about it?

Then he told me of his dreams to be a race car driver. Apparently he said his friends are building a race track. He wants to fix up cars and race them. He wants to drive as fast as he can. If I had to pick between living a long life or enjoying my life, I would choose the latter.

Why does he tell me these things?? I will be very happy if he outlives me. He is such a risk taker. Every time he comes home alive, I rejoice. I know it sounds crazy…there are some downfalls to actually talking to your kids openly. Ignorance can be bliss, but it is too late to stick my head back in the sand..

I had a great time watching The Dark Side of the Moon with Alex. Angel and I watched The Wall concert and the movie over break. She is really getting into the music which I think is great.

There are some nice things about having adult children. I finally feel like my kids are old enough to relate.

For that, I am tickled pink!

 

Out performing

Last week my daughter Angel was home from college for spring break. We watched a couple of rockumentaries. We watched the Kurt Cobain documentary “Montage of Heck’. I found the documentary to be rather disturbing. It showed raw footage of his drug addiction. What a tragic story of a brilliantly troubled mind. He was so talented, yet died so tragically young. Sadly, it really isn’t unusual anymore to hear of talented performers dying from suicide or drug overdoses. I wouldn’t wish the life of a performer on my worst enemy.

Then it occurred to me that this is the kind of life two out of three of my children want to have. They want to be performers.

My firstborn, Angel, is in her second year of college for vocal performance. Recently she competed in a very elite competition and was one of the very few students from her college that was chosen to sing in front of an opera star. She never had singing lessons before college. It might even sound stupid, but maybe I never fully realized her talent. She was the only one ever in the history of her high school to get as many perfect scores at state for her vocal performances. Now she is in college competing with students that have had singing lessons for their whole entire lives.

But don’t all parents think that their children are the brightest, most talented, most intelligent children even if they are not? I also had the opportunity to listen to performances of strangers for solo and ensemble. I sat through one of the worst vocal duets I ever heard to look around to see parents recording the blessedly miserable event on their phone beaming with pride.

Parents often wear blinders. Why would I be any different?

My son is going to state for a piece that his piano teacher couldn’t even play the accompaniment for. It has a difficulty rating of 9. She said that it was a PhD piece. The ‘second chair’, who is a senior, played his level 4 difficulty solo from last year and bombed it. It was the song that my son got a perfect score on at state as a sophomore. After my son played his solo this year, the girl’s mother introduced herself to me. She told me that my son is a genius, a savant at music. She went on and on to the point that I almost was embarrassed. What could I say back to her? Her daughter as a talented senior bombed the solo my son aced at state last year as a sophomore. It was awkward.

I have two children that are the top performing musicians from their small town school. They are joining the hordes of a million other talented young wannabe famous musicians who are just as good if not better than they are.

In all honesty, who doesn’t want to be a star?? I sure would love to have 20,000 followers on WP. How about you?? If you have that many followers, how worried are you about continuing to write brilliant posts? Point made.

But do I want the life of a performer for my children?? I am not so sure anymore.

I picture them searching from city to city for a mirage they can’t seem to grasp onto. They will deal with the fear of failure. But guess what? The fear of success is just as terrifying. Rejection. Not having a stable lifestyle. Not having a steady income. The possibility of finding permanent residence in my basement. Not being able to pay off college debt. Maybe being famous? Having to keep performing at a stellar level to keep their fame. The possibility of drug addiction. Fans worshiping them but not knowing who they really are. Haters. Critics. What do you think a beautiful girl might have to do to make it to the top? A life on the road. What about a family? Broken relationships. Constant pressure. The isolation from a lack of anonymity. Broken dreams from not succeeding. Not being able to handle fame.

Why do I worry that it might not go well for them either way?? Didn’t we teach our kids to follow their dreams when we followed ours? Performing is one of the most exciting career journeys that anyone can follow.

Who knows? Maybe it will end well. As I overthink about it, maybe I am just worried because that is what I do as a parent. Worry. Sure, my kids are talented. But are they talented enough??

Maybe not pursuing a dream gives a life of more regrets.

And maybe I shouldn’t have watched that documentary.

A brilliant mind, a truant heart

The other day I got a call from the school, during an office lunch, telling me that my son didn’t show up for school. WHAT???

I was almost done eating when I got the call. Good thing because I lost my appetite after I saw that the school was calling. To think, we were actually having a nice conversation about our children. I smiled and waved at another high school mom sitting with a stranger at the next table. Things were going well. I had a lot of stories to tell.

We were listening to our sales guy tell the story of how recently he made evening plans with his adult son. His son called him multiple times but he did not answer. He was at a sales networking event and forgot his phone in the car. His son thinking his dad may have had a heart attack, tried to enter his dad’s house from the unlocked back sliding door on the deck. His son in a rush slipped on the ice, ended up falling through the deck, and broke his leg.

Then the call came from the school. What? My son is not at school? He left early for school today. Why would he get up really early to not attend? Did he run away? Did he get in a car accident and die? He has to be there. Please check again.

I called my son. He said that the school marked him as absent, so he left. I might as well not be there if they say I am not there. That mentality almost makes sense.

Let’s back up a little more.

My son was working on his solo and ensemble pieces before school. Sometimes his practice would spill into first hour. Music means everything to him. Timeliness, not so much. He was working on some very challenging pieces. Last year he was the only sophomore in the history of the school to ever get a perfect score at state in band for his solo. This year the second chair, a senior, played his solo from last year and totally bombed it. It was too hard. This year he picked a graduate level solo. We were really worried that he took on too much. He was feeling the pressure.

My son has a great passion for music and puts everything into it. Although I admire his dedication, I wish he would save some for math and science.. He barely passes although he has the capability of being a straight A student. It is sooooo frustrating.

That morning while his practice moved into his first hour class, he was marked as having an unexcused absence. This could have been easily resolved at the office with the vouching of his band teacher. But instead, my son walked out.

I remained cool, calm, and collected through the whole incident. Although my son admitted that he made a mistake, he still needed to have a consequence for his behavior. This is where things get tricky. In a few months he will be 18. If we punished him too harshly then he would rebel. If we were too lenient, we would be unhappy. Truancy cannot become acceptable.

We ended up finding the fine line through a lot of thought on our part. He did admit to his mistake and said it wouldn’t happen again. If he didn’t admit to the error of his ways, we would’ve had a big battle on our hands. That would’ve changed things.

That evening we had a very long discussion with Alex about his future. What will colleges think when they look at his transcripts and see bad grades in the core subjects plus truancy? We talked to him about our concerns. Surprisingly, we had a very mutually respectful conversation. It was the best heart to heart conversation in a long time. I’m glad I kept my cool. I think if I didn’t handle it right, we would have had completely different results. It was not easy.

Maybe, just maybe, everything will be okay??

Someday I will look back and laugh at this. Yes, probably when he has teenagers of his own.

 

Dark doors

The other day my son asked me why he is so dark.

Immediately I said that it was a part of his personality. Maybe it is something that you could work on. Oh my, did he get that from me??

Then he said, “Not my personality mom, my skin.”

That was a few days after he took the Ancestry DNA test. I told him that we would find out soon. I also heard that the test could match you up with long lost relatives or maybe famous people.

Famous people? Then I got to thinking some more.

Why are my oldest two kids freakishly talented at music? This past weekend my son made it to state as a junior for his graduate level solo and ensemble piece along with 2 other pieces. My daughter was involved in a big singing competition, made it to a difficult level, and earned the opportunity to sing for a big opera star. She was invited to compete at an event in Boston. So far they are the only sibling duo to receive perfect scores at state for music in their high school.

There aren’t any professional musicians in the family. No one had a garage band. Not even one music teacher. Just a haphazard bunch that played an instrument for awhile or sang in the church choir.

Was it because of the early childhood piano lessons? The family involvement in community theater?

This got me thinking some more…

Maybe Paul’s real father is Jim Morrison from The Doors. It makes sense. It was the 60’s and Morrison was alive back then. So it has some face validity. Talking about his face, my son does resemble him a little. They have the exact same scowl.

But, if Paul’s dad is a rock star…why did his mother fail to mention that? This is where my theory gets a little tricky.

I guess we’ll have to wait for the Ancestry DNA results to come back.

What if we find out who Paul’s father is? What do we do with that information? Maybe Paul has siblings? Or a hefty inheritance that no one has claimed?

Or maybe we are cracking open the door to Pandora’s box.

 

Thailand, Day 6

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We started off day 6 by hiking through Hellfire Pass.

This was the actual location that the POW’s from WWII and general laborers from Burma worked day and night to build a railroad through rocks and jungle. They were forced to work very long hours with very little sleep or supplies. If the men were too sick to work, they did not get fed at all in the attempt to get them back to work. Many men got sick with various serious ailments due to the harsh conditions. Many died of starvation.

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The workers were treated poorly and punished severely if they didn’t work fast enough. One hundred thousand people lost their lives building the railroad. The fires lit at night made the workers think of hell, hence the name Hellfire Pass.

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We took a train ride on a part of the Death Railroad that was still in use. We left the train and explored a cave that was set up as a medical aid station during the war. A shrine is set up there now. If you explore the cave past the shrine, there are a lot of bats in it.

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We stopped at a waterfall. It was a slippery climb, but I didn’t see anyone fall.

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In the afternoon, we visited the elephants. This was not included in the trip. It used to be included as an option, but the tour company got flooded with complaints saying that it wasn’t humane to ride an elephant. Unfortunately, the elephants survival depends on tourists dollars.

Many years ago the elephants were not treated humanely. They were given amphetamines to work long hours clearing brush and doing heavy lifting. After this was outlawed, the elephants could not be released into the wild. They would die. They created a sanctuary for these elephants and their families. Tourists can go to the sanctuary and pay to feed the elephants. Or they can ride the elephants, go on a river cruise, and swim with the elephants.

I was very nervous about riding an elephant at first. Look at them! They are huge. I was worried about falling off. The little seat on top of the elephant was held up by a couple of ropes that I was concerned wouldn’t hold our combined weight. Going up and down hills, I felt like I was falling. It was big time out of my comfort zone, but I decided to do it anyway.

After riding the elephant, we took a ride on a bamboo raft up the River Kwai. On the way back down, we jumped in the water and floated down the river. I couldn’t see or feel the bottom with my feet. When we got back, the elephants were waiting for us in the river. I had a hard time standing up as the current was fairly strong and the rocks under our feet were sharp. The elephants themselves are very gentle but whiskery with rough skin. They were only soft on the tip of their trunk.

I was a little nervous in the water too just from the sheer size of the elephants. Paul had an elephant fall in love with him. The elephant kept touching his bald head with her trunk. They gazed into each other’s eyes. Animals love him. The elephant seemed to sense my nervousness.

It certainly was a remarkable experience. I’m really happy I decided to go there.

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There are a few elephants that live in the wild. Some people on our tour bus saw one as we were driving through the jungle.

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We stopped on the way back to see some wild monkeys that were fed leftover food from the market.

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We were not allowed to touch the monkeys. The tour guide had to close the doors on the bus so they wouldn’t get inside and raid our food. It was unbelievable seeing hundreds of monkeys out in the open so close that I could touch them.

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We arrived back at the hotel in the evening and decided to eat outdoors at the romantic table. It was gorgeous outside. The average high temps were in the 90’s and it didn’t rain once the whole time we were in Thailand.

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Nearby was a table with a large extended family. Two little girls from their table danced to American music that played through the speakers. Either we didn’t hear any music at all or it was remade American hits from a few years back made into elevator music sung by a mediocre female singer. She even sang a song by Nine Inch Nails elevator style. I wonder if they even understood the words. I don’t specifically recall hearing any Thai music on our whole trip. I thought that was rather odd.

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Today was our favorite day of the trip.