Category Archives: Accomplishments

Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho


With soon-to-be two daughters in college I should have seen this coming, shouldn’t I?  All of my angst as a stay-at-home mom facing the future of an empty nest has come down to this one little truth: it costs money to send kids to college.

It’s not as if we haven’t been saving for this for years or that I had not known somewhere in the back of my mind that it would be a good idea to have two incomes for two tuitions; it’s just that I seemed to move from “someday” to already five weeks into a job in a quick hurry.  I went from “I should start checking into what it would take to get on the substitute teaching call list so I can start subbing next fall” to starting to work in the local city clerk’s office two days after I casually mentioned to the Clerk that if they ever needed part-time help, they should call me.

I’m on both sides of the fence, really.  I feel both lucky that I could find something so close and congenial to my schedule and gobsmacked that I now have a time card and a boss, without having a chance to mourn the loss of my formerly self-scheduled days.  All of a sudden I had to scramble to find pants that weren’t jeans and fill out a W-4 form and there has been no chance to look back.  Now I find my days melting one into the other and my appreciation of those that have been working all this time growing exponentially.

With so many out of work in this economy, I can’t complain about any of the small annoyances associated with having to wear less comfortable clothes or be in to work by a certain time.  Instead, every time I feel myself starting to grouse about having to go to work,  I remember how very, very lucky I was to be able to stay home with my kids for so long.

I left work for my children, and now I’ve gone back for the same reason.  *whistles*

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Filed under Accomplishments, Changes, empty nest, Gratitude, Growth, Parenting, Self Improvement

Last Game


I was in marching band all through high school, two years of college, and worked with and directed marching bands my whole public school teaching career.  I have found it to be a great activity, even the glue that keeps some kids attending school.  The members become family, they take care of each other, and they are (usually) a part of the group for their full four years in school, making the friendships they make there very tight and close, lasting over the years long after their participation is done.  Band geeks, proud and simple.

I always wanted that opportunity and experience for my daughters, and I was quietly happy that they all chose to play instruments and even seemed cautiously enthusiastic about the rigors of marching.  They’ll tell a different story, probably, one in which we made them march for at least a year.  Maybe I did say that, but only because I knew what having a band family meant and I knew that once they saw what it was about, they would appreciate it as much as I did.  If they had never tried, they would never have known.

High school football games are not my favorite activity to attend.  They are often cold, sometimes rainy, always long evenings of a sport which is merely an addendum to why I and many other parents are really there.  I have made it to every one that I possibly could, including the band parent’s tailgates before the games to feed the kids, just to be there to watch my daughters perform.  Tonight is the last marching band show at a home game for my middle child. This will be Senior Night at the stadium, where all the Seniors in all the activities of the evening will be recognized: football, cheerleading, pom pon squad, and of course, band.  Though they have a few more marching competitions to aim for and the season is far from over, that makes this game an ending of sorts, a last.

Tonight I get to be a peripheral part of her high school band family again, and it seems like I should be sad to see the end of something that has played a big part in her life for the past four years.  Instead, I’ll get my picture taken with my tall Senior, and I’ll be the one beaming.

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Filed under Accomplishments, Friends, Looking Back, Parenting, Traditions

Stretching


Last Spring I made up my mind to take a chance on trumpet performance, a neglected part of my past.  I began practicing in earnest, not just when I had something to perform for.  I searched out opportunities, made connections, and started to play much more.  Today, I have rehearsals four times a week and teach lessons on two nights.  I had the opportunity to play with three big bands over the summer, and now concert season is beginning again.  On paper that all looks like plenty, but there was another aspect of my musical past that I was ignoring: conducting.

As a school band director, I conducted daily and almost unconsciously, like breathing.  What I conducted was paced more by the limitations of my community band or school group than my conducting skills.  Yet when an email fell into my inbox inviting me to guest conduct a piece in the next University Alumni Concert Band concert, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to put myself out there, in front of a group again.  After all, I was a member of the group in order to play more, right?  Not to conduct.  It would just be an added distraction, and it had been years and years since I last held a baton in my hand.

It would have been easy and quick to decline and let them move on to the next person on their list.  I have plenty to do, between my playing and my family and my other commitments, and this would just be one thing more to take my time.  I haven’t conducted in a long time, I’d rather keep focusing on my playing, I’m just too busy.  Then, I started to suspect that there was a deeper reason I was leaning away from the invitation: I wasn’t sure I could do it anymore.

With that realization I reached my tipping point.  Last week I stepped onto the podium for the first time in almost fourteen years, rediscovering that wall of sound to mold, my other “instrument” that I had given up on ever “playing” again.  My baton shook a little as I made my first prep beat, but I regained confidence as the music blossomed.  I found myself making mental notes on what to rehearse next week, what to try, what to change, what to bring out.  I forgot my nerves, and let myself submerge in the music, doing what I used to do so fluently.

In seven weeks I’ll be standing on a podium in a major university auditorium, guest conducting the piece we have perfected.  Then the only question will be: how do I get more baton time?

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Filed under Accomplishments, Growth, Self Improvement, Self-realization

Who Knew?


Last night I earned a few more “Mom Points”.  Did I bandage a skinned knee? Find a lost homework assignment? Help with an award-winning diorama?  No, I have done all of those things in the past, but I’m talking about one step further: I found a rendition of the Doctor Who theme for tuba.

Admittedly, I was looking online for something else at the time.  My youngest plays tuba and is always looking for “cool” stuff to play on an instrument many feel is uncool.  When I saw the site with all the TV and movie themes on it, all for tuba, I knew I had hit a goldmine, and when I discovered that it included Doctor Who I took a mental bow and pushed “print”.

Lately our home has become very “Whovian”.  Any Saturday night will find my second and third daughters parked in front of BBC America, being wowed by a man in a bow tie and fez who travels through space and time in a bright blue police call box that is much bigger inside than it looks.  It’s a wildly creative series, with a history of good writers and surprising twists and turns, and makes for some lively and intelligent discussions on the relative merit of plot direction, plausibility, and possible outcomes.  I’m not quite up on all the lingo, so they find that they have to educate me.

“Daaaah-lik, Mom.  Not Day-lik! And no, that one’s not a Companion.”

I nod and try to soak it in, if only to seem a little less un-hip to my kids. I am sympathetic to their attachment to it and we have driven in record time from my mother-in-law’s house three counties away in order to catch the mid-season finale, planned a birthday party for a Friday instead of a Saturday to avoid conflicts, and the plan for Halloween this year seems to include some sort of Weeping Angel costume for the both of them.  It was a toss-up between that and having to build a plywood dalek they could somehow push around the neighborhood, so I may have dodged the bullet there.

Soon we will be going thrift store shopping for clothes we can paint gray and contemplating the best ways to make skin and hair look like granite or marble.  A chance for more “Mom Points”, perhaps?

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Filed under Accomplishments, Day to Day, Family Relationships, Parenting, Success/Failure

Alpha and Omega


This is it. My eldest daughter’s last day of public school.  How could that be? I remember so well her first day of kindergarten, and if I was organized enough I would be able to find one of the many pictures I took that morning.

I couldn’t understand the mothers who went to Tea and Tissues with the principal after teary goodbyes, reluctantly allowing their children to finally enter the classroom, some of the kids crying too.  This was a milestone!  School was what we had been preparing for and working toward for the past five years, ever since the little bundle met us.  She attended preschool for a couple of years, to gradually get her ready.  We happily helped her learn her letters and colors, so she wouldn’t go in at a disadvantage.  She was a social child, so no worries there.  The day arrived and she went to her new classroom with curiosity and a smile and I pushed her sister’s stroller home, a bounce in my step.

There have been a few rough patches between that day and this.  I have been disappointed in grades at times, but never in my child.  Teachers have been great and not so great.  Friendships have come and gone, hearts have been hurt, more lessons have been learned than were in the school curriculum.  Triumphs and tragedies; all were so important in the moment and forgotten in the blur now.

Today was a little different in tone than that day so long ago.  Instead of picking out her outfit and helping her dress, brushing her hair and assisting her as she loaded her new backpack, I stood in a quiet kitchen making the last school lunch that I ever would for her.  She breezed down the stairs and packed it up and was out the door and driving away before I could snap one picture.

Maybe my Tea and Tissues day was just delayed thirteen years.

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Filed under Accomplishments, Changes, empty nest, Looking Back, Parenting

Comfort Zone


It’s supposed to be good to stretch and attempt things that are beyond what you think you can do.  Sometimes that involves noshing a bit of humble pie.

“Come on out and read the lead book.  The regular guy will be absent that night, but we’re just going to read through some stuff.  No worries.”  I used to play lead, many moons ago.  How hard could it be? I’ve been practicing lots, in pretty good shape, regularly playing with a different swing band, though lower parts – okay, I’ll do it.  It’ll be good for me.  I need more “face on horn” time.

After being welcomed graciously by the rest of the section last night, I was pointed at three huge binders of music and clued in to which book was which.  Off we went, calling numbers and plowing through music.  The first tune was a lead trumpet solo, of course, as were the next couple.  As the night went on, the lead parts got higher and higher.  I made it through, but I could tell I was just treading water and keeping my head up.  Granted, it was all sight-reading and stuff I hadn’t seen before, but I was hoping to have it go a little smoother, maybe make a good impression as well as advance my “being bold” campaign.

That’s where the humble pie comes in, of course.  Hubris.  Thinking I could step in and lead, where it turns out I am a better utility player.  The line between stretching past my present abilities and being able to deliver the goods that are needed for a job is a balancing act.  I maintained, and with practice, could probably contribute to the group, but I went home feeling pretty off kilter.  My faith in my abilities had been tested, and left wanting.

Back to the practice studio.

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Filed under Accomplishments, Growth, Self Improvement, Success/Failure

Day Off


I took a day off from writing yesterday and I was watching the heavens and waiting for the lightning to strike all day.  For the past five or six months I have been requiring myself to write and post daily, but yesterday I didn’t make it.  I know myself.  If I break a streak, I have been known to give up on it, so I was being very careful to post.  Some days it was a stretch to find something to write about, but that was part of the effort required: to examine what was going on around me and discover something to focus on.

So now that the streak is broken, what to do?  Well, I was having a hard time coming up with a post today, too.  I had already broken my promise to myself.  What would one day more matter?  No one would care anyway – no one but me, that is.  With that realization, I stilled myself enough to notice that the thing at the heart of today was that I had not written and posted yesterday.  What better thing for me to analyze, then?

Why didn’t I post? I could have found some time and energy to do so, even though I played trumpet at three Easter services and had a long, leisurely, luxurious brunch out with family after.  I could have found something to write about from my pile of half-formulated posts in my pending file.  I thought about doing so a number of times, as I went through my day, with various degrees of concern.  Earlier in the day, I felt anxious about not having already written something to have ready.  After all, I knew last week that the day would be busy.  Later on, though, when there actually was time to sit down and think, I felt very peaceful about it.  I was happy, and content, and fulfilled.  Anything I would have written would have been forced.  I gave myself permission to skip a day, even though it meant breaking a streak.

So here I am, back on the horse again.  No less happy, but still enjoying writing, and sharing, and most of all, the act of examining my world.

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Filed under Accomplishments, Changes, Day to Day, Finding Inspiration, postaday2011, Self-realization, Success/Failure, Writing