Notes on music

Things went well this past weekend with my daughter Angel’s singing competition. She made it to the semi-finals. Although she didn’t make it to the final round, she was satisfied with her performance. Being satisfied with her performance was big. She is like her mother and tends to cut herself down if she makes mistakes. Plus earlier in the week she told me that she wasn’t doing it. She had tonsillitis and was not able to practice much.

We didn’t run into any of her previous stalkers on campus which was a plus. The biggest problem she encountered was on her way there. Her map wasn’t working on her phone and she got lost. I had to find her on my phone’s map and give her directions from where I thought she was which was no easy task in the dark in a strange town.

I checked into the hotel a long time before she arrived. I checked in at the same time as her singing professor whom I greeted in a very friendly manner. He didn’t recognize me and I was hoping that he didn’t think I was a lady of the night.

 

We ended up eating supper after 9 PM. It was great watching Angel perform. I think the visit will tide her over until she comes home at Thanksgiving. This is the longest she has been away from home and she was starting to feel homesick.

Then Paul and I returned back to the same college yesterday with Alex for a campus tour. His girlfriend also attended the tour. Alex and Baylee have been dating for almost a year and a half. They have been talking about going to the same college. We think that if they go to the same school they might get married someday.. Time will tell. I thought that Angel and Mitch would marry, but they broke up this year.

Alex wants to go to school for saxophone performance or possibly jazz studies. My oldest two children want to or are going to school for music performance and don’t want to be educators.. There will always be a spot open for them in my basement.. Although very talented, the likelihood of them both having a successful career as performers is slim. I always like it when people ask me what their backup plan is…My basement, that is their backup plan.

I remember when I bought Alex his saxophone. I bought the instrument used for half the price of a new one. New saxophones are pricey and I didn’t want it to end up collecting dust on the shelf after high school ended.

I went to a stranger’s house to purchase the instrument. She kept all of the receipts. She told me that her son lost interest in band. A few months after I purchased the instrument for my son, her son committed suicide. It was a strange feeling. Was the selling of his instrument a warning sign that he was losing interest in his hobbies? It was very sad. My son asked me afterwards if I bought the instrument from the boy that died. I did not lie.

I was afraid that my son would find playing the instrument distasteful after that, but he brought the instrument to life. Many years later, my son wants to take this instrument with him far into his future. I want the previous owners to know that this instrument that once belonged to their only son did not end up on a shelf somewhere. But maybe through it a small piece of his life is carrying on…

 

Unbalanced

This morning I went dumpster diving and it was the most joy I found in weeks.

Am I unbalanced?

I was thinking lately about joy, about balance. The main sectors of my life for the last several years has been family, work, and training for marathons, etc.. I like things clean. I am happy when these sectors don’t collide….when they don’t interrupt other sectors..

Now my sectors are colliding and I feel unbalanced.

Yesterday I took time off of work to train..I didn’t get all of my work done at the end of the day.

Work is so busy I feel guilty for doing anything besides work…I don’t worry about money because of my hard work, but I don’t have time. I drive my car fast because I would rather pay a ticket then lose a few moments of extra time. I tell my son not to speed.

Work pulls at me when I am with family. Another email that needs responding to after hours. It will only take a few minutes.

I eat my lunch while driving to work out or while pacing around the kitchen.

Sometimes I am too busy to write. I should be working. I didn’t get caught up today.

Then the kids pull at me. There is always something going on after school that I have to take them to or be at. Then there was the last couple of weeks spending every moment with my MIL as she was in the final stages of cancer. Then I have to decide which kids to sacrifice the other kids for. Do I cancel out on my daughter’s first opera to stay home with a sick kid??

Then there was my son who was having issues with colitis and he couldn’t get treatment until he gave a sample. He couldn’t get a sample. Then this morning after another call to the doctor, I got the idea of taking a couple of specimens and making it into one sample. Great idea, but it involved me going out into the dumpster with rubber gloves and digging around. But I was successful! Now my son is on medicine and I feel so happy about it.

But I was late for work..

It is so hard to keep my life in balance.

Being very busy at work for the last 3 months, having to hire someone, having to train someone, more work, more customer service issues because we are busier..

Being busy at home running kids around, housework, laundry, dishes, sick kids, a death in the family…

Training for an 18 mile trail run, a marathon, and a Half Iron.

This morning I jokingly said to my husband that I wake up with shit on my lips. Sounds disgusting, I know. I wake up stressed. I mutter to myself oh shit off and on all day. I fall asleep at night stressed and exhausted.

Is all of this effort worth it?

Most of the time I can keep up, but I feel so unbalanced right now… I want to do everything well, but sometimes I have to leave some important things undone and that bothers me.

 

Handing over the Christmas baton

After decades of Christmas perfection, little tremors needled away at our  family tree structure creating (gulp) change. The Thanksgiving after Paul and I got married, Uncle Harold passed away. A few years after that my grandpa passed away. My brothers grew up and moved away, with the exception of my autistic brother Matt. I started to have children of my own. Grandma struggled more and more as she aged with doing all of the cooking, cleaning, and decorating involved in having a family Christmas party. We tried to help her as much as we could. Then one year it all ended. My grandma had open heart surgery the summer that I had my third child. It was at this time that my grandma handed the Thanksgiving and Christmas baton to me.

At the time, we were having my in-laws over every Christmas Eve. Year after year it was pretty much the same. My in-laws would show up 2 to 3 hours late. The table would be set. The food would be cold. The kids would eat supper at bedtime. The kids were tired and hungry which made them very crabby. They would cry and have meltdowns. This upset my mother-in-law which resulted in an argument between her and my husband over her being late. At this point, Paul’s stepdad and I would look at each other across the table with a knowing look that said “here we go again”. One of two things either happened. Paul’s mother would disown him and take off for awhile. Or Paul’s mom would scream at my husband and he would kick her out of the house. Eventually she would come back in both scenarios, the gifts were opened, and the kids would go to bed.

After receiving the Christmas baton, Paul and I did what most reasonable people do. We combined our families to make one big happy family Christmas. Insert thoughts of the National Lampoon’s Christmas here. It did go pretty good for quite awhile. Whoever showed up, showed up. We ate at 1:00 PM. If you were late, there were leftovers. Things went pretty well, although after awhile it seemed that my mom and mother-in-law started an unspoken “best grandma” competition. My mom won that one hands down because she could afford nicer gifts and spent more time with the kids. Then my in-laws started to find excuses not to come for Christmas. Either someone was sick, or my personal favorite was that Paul’s stepdad scheduled a colonoscopy the day after Christmas. Priceless.

Oh family, you bring laughter and tears but we love you anyway.

Then a couple of years ago, Luke and his family bought a house that was bigger than mine. I handed him the Christmas baton. All problems solved.

Tomorrow I’ll get this write

Do you ever have one of those days when you have a lot to say but your words look like indecipherable hieroglyphs? The words clash. I sound like the one person playing a different tune in the orchestra. 

This is crap, I say. I’ll just delete this blog and walk away. I’m going to bed. Maybe tomorrow I’ll get this write. 

Childhood Christmases in a (chest)nut shell

Childhood Christmases in my mind were perfect. Except for that one Christmas that we aren’t going to talk about today. It was as if everyone knew how difficult the rest of the year was so they did everything possible to make two days of the year perfect for my brothers and I, our birthdays and Christmas.

My grandparents had a small Thomas Kincade like house. It was warm and cozy on the inside while cold winter storms raged outside. Icicles hung from the porch and garage roofs dripping droplets of shattered ice onto the walkways, one last obstacle against the warmth that beckoned from within. Upon entrance, steam whisked away into the frigid air from the kettle of boiling potatoes next to the open door. The aroma from the ham cooling on the stove top next to the potatoes was intoxicating. Grandma had a counter full of food, homemade pies and cookies too. Every year grandma had a chest cold. She coughed and coughed though she didn’t seem to mind. Soon Aunt Grace showed up with her brother Harold. Aunt Grace always brought cranberry sauce and the fruitcake that my brothers and I didn’t like to eat.

I was always first to ask if we could open our presents right away. Grandma always said “no”, but we could look inside our stockings that were hung over the fireplace. My brothers and I each had a stocking that contained our favorite candy. There was a tiny stocking for grandpa hanging in the corner that held one peanut. What drew our attention the most though were the boxes of wrapped gifts under the tree. We were always peeking in hopes of finding a big box with our name on it. My grandparents cut their own Christmas tree from their tree farm. It stood on top of a large round end table in front of a big picture window. The tree was always lopsided in some way or another, but we never noticed. Grandma always covered the trees with tinsel and old fashioned ornaments.

After lunch, we all sat in our places that we sat in every year to open gifts. Uncle Harold sat in the rocking chair near the fireplace. He always laughed a lot on Christmas day. We didn’t see him a lot the rest of the year because he was always working. I sat on the love seat near the tree. In my memory, there was always 3 feet of snow on the ground with an inch of playful snow that swirled around in the wind. After we were done opening gifts, we would have a fire in the fireplace. Christmas day was the only day of the year that my grandparents used the fireplace.

We always stayed at my grandparents until it got dark. We played with our new toys. The men slept in their chairs. Aunt Grace always made sure that the dishes were done. Grandma put away the extra food and took down the fancy table with the red tablecloth. It was Christmas perfection in a nutshell. Even if Matt had a meltdown on Christmas day, I never remembered that. I couldn’t remember that. To me it was always perfect and magical.

A few bulbs short…

I am a few bulbs short of a fully lit Christmas tree. I know that you were probably thinking the same thing.

Last weekend when we got our Christmas tree, we had to make sure that it was straight in the stand. This involved a little bit of swearing and sawing. At first it leaned too far to the right. Then too far to the left. Last year our cheap little plastic stand couldn’t hold our big tree. We woke up multiple times to a crash along with ornaments scattered (but thankfully not shattered) and pine pitch tree water all over our carpet. It couldn’t be blamed on the cat although he loves sitting under the tree. The tree stand just didn’t stand. After awhile I got sick of redecorating. Finally my husband couldn’t stand it anymore. He got a rope to anchor the tree in an upright position. He tied the rope around the tree and threw the other end of the rope out the window and closed it. It was quite the sight.

This year I pined for the perfect tree. And it was for a few days anyway. I think it is the most symmetrical tree that we have ever had. The girls and I took a long time decorating it. Then two days later we noticed that a strand of lights was no longer working. I tried replacing bulbs, but that did not work at all. I did not want to take all of the decorations off to remove the partially unlit set of lights. Not to mention shop to try to find the same exact set of lights that I bought a couple of years ago. So I rearranged the lights over the gap. Now the tree no longer looks perfectly symmetrical as far as lights go. And I am still a few bulbs short of a fully lit tree, although I try to hide that as best as I can.

Marathon training, week 10

I’m back on the road again after taking off a week due to an ankle injury. I ran 6 miles on this very hot and humid day. I felt fine with no pain even after having to jump out of the way to avoid stepping on a huge toad. I spent a lot of time reflecting. If you haven’t noticed already, I am a person who has hard core determination, a stubborn iron will, and impressive self-control. It has been a great strength and great weakness, as most gifts are. The greatest strength that comes out of this is my ability to follow a rigorous training schedule. I have noticed over the past year that this really gives me a competive edge. This is a gift, I have found, that few people have. 

The weaknesses of this are that I can be judgmental. If I can eat only one potato chip and you eat the whole bag, then I am critical of you. It gives me an “if I can do it why can’t you” mentality. This makes me feel frustrated and resentful. It is wrong for me to expect perfection from others and perhaps myself. My husband once said that even if Jesus came back, he wouldn’t be perfect enough for me. I don’t think this was a compliment. This gift also makes me stupid. If I didn’t get injured last week, I would have ran 24 miles outside on an extremely hot and humid day. So, in essence, being injured saved me from my worst enemy, myself. 

I thought a lot today about decisions we make and predestination. I tend to believe that things happen for a reason. I have been asked if I believe this, then why do bad things happen to good people. I don’t know. But I have experienced being upset at leaving late only to find out that if I left on time I could have been involved in a fatal accident. Maybe that has happened to you too. Other things have happened this month, such as rescuing a man on the water. We weren’t even supposed to be sailing on that day at that time. Due to an unplanned string of events, we were there and may have saved that man’s life. I have to believe that happened for a reason. 

Imperfect perfection

I was raised in a house full of introverts with the exception of Luke. At one time that probably made Matt’s bizarre behavior all the more shocking. Anything could set Matt off so we had to make sure that anything didn’t happen. We had to tiptoe around the house in a whisper, no loud music and absolutely no anger was allowed. Anger was wrong. But that didn’t seem to stop my parents from arguing when they thought we were asleep at night or before we woke up in the morning. Matt was the burner on high underneath my pot of water. Just when the water was rolling and coming to a full raging boil, the lid was forced on. Sometimes a little steam would escape, as from a tea kettle, but never before a full roaring scream could be issued. The hot water stayed trapped inside making my blood boil. It was a long time before I learned that feeling angry was ok. When I finally opened that spout, I boiled over with anger for a long time. 

I also had to be perfect. Completely, inhumanly perfect. When Matt hit me I was not supposed to strike back or feel anger. I was lucky to be normal. Lucky! I got in big trouble when I struck back, but Matt was never once told that what he was doing was wrong whether he could control it or not. When my grades dropped in grade school, my dolls were taken away for a semester until I was perfect again. I couldn’t play piccolo in middle school because it was so high pitched that people could hear if I made a mistake. The same thing with singing. But this perfection was not just imposed on me. Mark had to be perfect and so did my mom herself. We all knew that my dad, Matt, and Luke were flawed. 

For example, Mark put his hand on his girlfriend’s knee and got in trouble for that. Luke stayed out all night with his girlfriend and never even bothered to call. He did not get in trouble. I asked my mom about this unfairness and she said she expected more from Mark. I became judge over Mark and Luke. Most of the time I sided with Mark which caused fighting with Luke. Luke and I got in a big fight which wasn’t allowed. My mom tried to stop us. I retorted with, “Why should I stop fighting with Luke when you and dad fight all the time?” But most of the time our house was filled with silent rage and imperfect strivings toward perfection.