Friday, March 29, 2013

Easter Memories

I have had a few amazing and awful Easters in my life.  I used to think the holiday was dangerous, because it seemed a lot of strange things happened to me  on it.  But now, I wonder if my former life was just dangerous.....hmmm. 

In high school, I sat near a guy in science class who had an identical twin.  I can't tell you either of their names, but they were a little strange looking (to me) and very kind.  He talked to me with no agenda, he was funny.  He listened to me.  At Easter, he invited me to his church...and I have no idea why I went.  He was Baptist, and they were doing an "easter pageant" which seems even weirder that I went.  So here I was, 16 or 17, by myself, and I went Easter weekend to watch a pageant at his little church in Mesa, Arizona.  The music was atrocious.  I mean--they were so out of tune I couldn't believe it.  How could this many people sing this poorly together?  It was also cheezy...nothing original, low budget, strange robes and "middle eastern" looking plastic plants.  They told the story of Jesus.  And then Jesus came out, and my heart stopped.  I mean--this guy looked EXACTLY like I picture Jesus.  As if he was a professional Jesus look alike.  And when he spoke, his voice was soft, and strong and I swear, it's how I hear God's voice in my head. 

And then everything changed.  The church seemed special, the room seemed to be moving, breathing.  They beat him up, they marched him down the aisle on the way to the cross.  And his eyes were so beautiful.  He looked down at me as he walked past, and it was so surreal, I spoke out loud without realizing it.  "I'm so sorry" I said to him, and he walked to the cross, and tears were streaming down my face, and I have never in my life, felt more like I'd seen the face of God.  It was bizarre.  I went to my car, I drove home, and I'll never forget it.

Every year, I tell myself that story, to remind me of what we're talking about on this holiday.  It gets lost in all the other crap.

Gratitude Day 3

I suppose it's a good sign that I've been sitting here thinking about all the things I could choose today, and not knowing which to pick.   I've decided to go for a big one.  I am grateful that I get to do what I like doing.

I had this insane moment of fear two days ago, when hubby was talking about a few people that have contacted him about new jobs.  San Francisco (which would be awesome except we'd have to increase the money we make by at least 180 per cent just to break even), Virginia (seems so promising except the location is a little "country") Providence, RI (my husband is the most excited about this) ....among all of which, we find encouragement for him.  But I am now afraid of leaving a life of teaching students.  I miss the singing terribly, and still hold fast that if I keep practicing my voice will be back to some state and I can sing again....but when I think of the jobs I had that felt like a pain, a $12.00 an hour pain in the butt where I never did anything I loved or believed in, I just think NEVER AGAIN.

And I should be grateful that I can say anything like that.  Because for years, there was no option.  I did what I had to to stay afloat, and felt like the things that were specially my gifts could not be used.  Hubby once said something complaining about how depressed I was about working for Toyota.  I  still struggle forgiving him for that--didn't he realize that I felt like it would be better to live out of my car than work that type of job again?

So for now, let me offer up my crazy gratitude that I can teach students, one on one.  This job makes me remember how much I love vocal literature, how much I appreciate these beautiful teens and young adults who are discovering their voices, and how much I've learned over the years.  It makes me proud of the piano I can play!  Sometimes, when I'm at work at the college and I hear the hallway full of practicing trumpet players and students listening to recordings of Marriage of Figaro, my heart swells to its regular size.  I was born to be surrounded by music and performance.  It doesn't have to be a specific music, but it has to be part of that world.

I have written before that singing a role makes me more myself than anything else I've ever done.  I feel like, "oh yes, this is the person I sometimes forget." And I am so lucky to know that about myself. 

I will complain today that I have to clean the house and do taxes and WHY did I schedule 3 students, because that will totally mess up my schedule!??!!  I will complain next week that I have to teach SO many of them to survive right now, because of the unreliability of home students.  But I will also feel utterly and completely grateful that it's an option.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Gratitude: Day 1

I am wondering when facebook will make me angry enough to leave forever.  It's like a bad one minute you feel both loved and crappy about the world and yourself. 

Now for something better.  I have decided (committed) after a bit of crying with hubby last night, that in the end of my pregnancy I want to talk about one thing a day that I feel grateful for.  I am going to pick this in a totally random order....and I'm not sure I'll blog daily, but I'll pick up where I can.

Day 1:  Parents who believe in me

I know, this seems like a no-brainer.  My childhood was far from perfect and everyone says "oh, but everyone's parents love them and believe in them."  It isn't true. So many people I've known have lived under the weight of either parents who expected little from them or seemed to be eternally disappointed in them.  Parents can be awful--they can abandon you completely, be wrapped up in their own issues all the time, or never expressing anything to you--leaving you to always wonder, "is my dad ever proud of me?" Until eventually you are forced not to care.

My mom and dad had a lot of problems.  They were divorced, they often seemed to make choices that weren't about us, and have not always been who I "wished" they would be.  But both of my parents, for the entirety of my life, have believed in me.  I believe my parents think I'm smart, attractive, funny, dependable, and loveable.  My parents tell stories that brag about my ability to match pitches (almost from birth), my early reading, my performances and now my family.  My parents are more concerned about whether the man I love loves them back then they are about judging him or me in our relationship.

When I meet friends of my parents, they talk about their love of me.  They mention how my parents are proud of me.  And I believe that this has given me an amazing boost in my  life.  This is such a challenge to me--as I struggle not to panic that my daughter will be a compulsive overeater because she ate 5 breadsticks yesterday, or that she won't believe in herself, I know there is one key....I must love and believe in her.  I must expect the best but see her as human.  I am grateful to God that I was born to two people who saw me as a miracle.  I am also grateful that they never chose to fight over me or put me between them.

I remember during the divorce it was hard for my father not to say bad things about my mother.  I hated every moment of that.  It's something you never want a parent to do--and like many things with my dad, a bad judge of boundaries.  But both of them really respected me enough to stop when I asked.  I still long to share every success with my parents.  I want to call my dad when I hear beautiful music and I want to call my mom when I find a twenty dollar bill in my pants pocket!

My parents take my successes as their own.  And though it's far from a perfect blessing, it is nothing short of a reason to be grateful.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Music and Ears

I am not sure there are people in Cedar Rapids who are not a little depressed right now.  It snowed last night.  It has snowed (and snowed and snowed and snowed) so much this year.  It is cold again, it is white again.  Do you know that in Chinese culture white is the color of death?  Because that's how It feels now when I look outside.  Like death visits again.

I want tulips, people.  I want green grass.  My husband came in last night and said, "snowing pretty good out there again." and I said under my breath, "God hates Iowa" which I know isn't true, but feels like LOVE.  I want green.  Ok?

I was frustrated with a student this week because she asked me if I could run through a few warm ups on a quick video with her for a college audition.  I said that was fine.  Then a few days later she told me that she was coming over to warm up and do both of her pieces on video.  This is entirely different than the first proposition.  After all, I am not a pianist, and she is doing difficult pieces, and I have killer carpal tunnel syndrome while pregnant, and what?

So I told her all of this and she was immediately apologetic.  SHe'd been running around looking for a pianist, someone had cancelled, she had to get the video guy, etc....I have been THERE a million times.  Trying to put together a recording (especially in Iowa) is really tough.  Everyone flakes on you.  At the end I told her I'd trudge through it, no promises, but I understood how hard it was.  That seemed to have us both in a "we're getting along now" mood.

She brought over a guy (I feel I should confess he was a very good looking guy) with a video camera and mic--high quality equipment.  He said he could edit.  I hid the dogs.  We ran through 30 minutes of a "lesson" basically.  Her warm-ups were fine, although it was weird to have the formality of a video during warmups.  But here's the funny part.....though I got through both pieces (a Brahms song and a modern American song) I was making up a significant part of the piano.  I'm a good faker.  In fact, if you are not a trained musician, you'd swear we did that actual piece of music.  But this is for a college!  So I told her, "do not put my name on this, but you sound beautiful."  The cute cameraman laughed. 

We ran through more, we did the Brahms a few times.  He said, "that piano part is beautiful."  I shook my head with my back to him because....I know musical snobbery kids.  And you don't have to be a snob to picture three faculty members sitting around a video going,, "What on earth is that pianist doing?"    It seemed so weird to accept what I was doing.

They left.  The dogs only barked once.  She sounded good, the video was probably a decent quality, and I said to her, "as long as the faculty doesn't know these songs, you're golden".  I smiled, worried.  It shouldn't matter, right?  It's a voice recording.  But I know sometimes music faculty can care more about proving what they know than teaching a good singer.....sometimes. 

Today I sent her a nice note.  I tried to remember the impressed video guy, telling her she sounded beautiful.   She just needs a few of those ears on the recording.

And seriously, next time get a pianist.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Lonely Weekends

I am fantasizing about moving today.

This morning my husband slept until 11am.  He had a horrible night, coughing, hacking, feeling like vomiting.  I didn't know much about this.  I got up, cleaned and cleaned and cleaned, occasionally sitting down because the bottom part of my huge pregnant belly hurts intensely right now.  I probably need a belly "belt" or harness or one of those items?  I don't know, but 4 pounds of baby, excess fluid, a promise of all of this growing quickly for the next 9 weeks does NOT sound comfortable.

I am dreading that we will go through Easter still not having found a church.  It's been 2 years since we were in one that we felt part of.  I have never been a big fan of this holiday, but I don't like the "marker" of it.  Two years ago, I sang at an Easter service filled with a lot of people that I enjoyed and felt like I was bonding to. And now for the second year in a row, we will discuss where to go, pick a place that doesn't seem that bad, get dressed up and feel the lack of fellowship we still have here.

It's another lonely weekend.  After hubby woke up at 11, he ate, got dressed and left for work around 1pm.  I won't see him again until our brief meeting tonight (which I will most likely wake up for and just chat with him from the bed) and then tomorrow we will have another few short hours before he goes to work.

I just wish I had someone....someone who'd felt the need for companionship that I've felt here.  I just don't have that.  I wonder if I ever will, and I'm feeling pretty down about it.  Maybe I need to be somewhere more urban?  Maybe a college?  This makes me miss NYC.  We were all so needy for companionship there.

I don't want to leave the college job.  I kind of love it.  I keep dreaming, hoping that someday my voice will return and it will be better than ever.  Maybe this is possible....maybe I'll be good enough to get into a grad program.  Great friends are made in grad programs, right?  RIGHT?

I have 9 weeks left.  It's really not that bad.  Soon, I'll have something so time-occupying that I won't be able to think about where my voice is or what's coming next...or what's happening to our house currently and how much it will cost to fix it.

My 3 year old just announced to me she was not having any fun and then collapsed into sleep.  It's the wrong time for her to sleep (6:45) but it's still a welcome blessing.  It's exactly what I want to do myself.  In this time, quiet, with a blog in front of me and my own set of strange issues, I just want my sense that God's real and in control again. While I might believe or not believe, it seems like forever since I FELT security, presence, blessing, reassurance, that still small voice.  I miss those with such intensity.  I can't figure out what I've done wrong to lose those things. In NYC I was not a person I was proud of very often--I so often went against what I knew was right.  But I got that voice.  And this Easter, I submit my plea that I would literally do anything to get it back.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Annoyingly unhelpful phrases

So....I think I've mentioned so much of this before, but it's been bothering me for a few days.

I was reading facebook yesterday when I noticed a two week old post from an acquaintance of mine.  She was struggling with having two toddlers and a baby at home, trouble with "transitioning".  She was asking for prayer.  And none of this bothers me, because that sounds like something I couldn't possibly take.  It sounds like--something  you cry yourself to sleep with at night, with baby #3 hanging from your breast, dreading getting up at 6 and trying to be a parent to the other two, who are both too young to understand that you are a whole person.  Oh my goodness.

I didn't comment.  I prayed for a moment.  I wanted to judge, because I think her decision to have 3 children in 3 years is not something I "approve" of.  But mostly I felt sad for her, and then prayed that I might find a way to be helpful to her.   Though right now, I have no idea how that would be possible.

What I am complaining about in this blog is that she had 9 or 10 comments, all from other parents.  A majority of them were...well, glib.  They were writing some mindless thing about God, rather than considering that maybe there wasn't really so much an answer.  I find sometimes that Christians (me being one of them) think they need to come up with some attractive sounding statement or answer, when usually there is not a thing that comes out of our mouths and takes away the tough times.  Sometimes it is a matter of "getting through it". 

But the comment I hate the MOST is this one "treasure these times, they will be teenagers before they know it."  Here is my list of things I hate about this ridiculous sentiment.

1.  I did not choose to have children so I could cuddle soft babies.  I had children because I wanted to know the experience of loving someone who was part me, and part my husband.  I wanted to experience how they would love me back..  do people have children just to play with babies?

2.  Teenagers have all sorts of problems.  Toddlers have all sorts of problems.  It's hard to be a parent. 

3.  The teenagers that I teach, for the most part, love their parents.  They do thoughtful things for them, they talk about them kindly, they roll their eyes at their parents but they post beautiful things on facebook on mother's day.  I don't see this thing where all teenagers are monsters. 

4.  I can't wait to see my daughter have successes on her own.  I can't wait for her to find love, to conquer her own issues, to do something she is proud of, to help people, to surprise me with her character.  THESE are the things I cherish.  What the hell is so great about toddlers?  They are cute?  Sure, yes, she is SO cute and funny.  But someday she will write something I find beautiful, or figure out a math problem I don't understand, or maybe even strengthen my faith with hers.

So these stupid comments about "don't worry about the dishes, remember to treasure these times"....THESE are the times of dishes, people.  This is the time of following children around and picking up toys and feeling like it never ends.  Get through it, ASK FOR HELP, right?  Get rid of them sometimes.  Time away makes you love them more :)  I don't understand the need to have a toddler constantly underfoot.  I don't understand the feeling that you're going to lose something if you don't watch every poop or teach them everything they know.