Category Archives: Growth

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

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

Mea Culpa


Today would have been my mother’s ninety-first birthday.  You would think I would be reminiscing about old times, remembering how well she took care of me whenever I was sick, calling the doctor for a house call and hovering over his shoulder in my fevered memory.  The food she spent all day making for us, or how she was a do-er; how she could get “drunk” and giddy on just a Coca-Cola, or how she lost her first husband at the very end of World War II yet was strong enough to build a different life with my father and us.

Instead, I am spending the day wishing I could apologize.  As my daughter approaches her last day of high school this week, I find myself understanding more and more about my relationship with my mom during our contentious years, discovering what she was trying to do.  Time and experience wipe the bull-headedness of youth out of the picture, and I can see her more clearly.

I used to get so frustrated, so irritated that last year before I went away to college.  She seemed to be holding even tighter to me, and I only wanted to take flight.  As my girl does the same thing, I struggle to not want to hold her to my chest for as long as I possibly can.  My mother would tell me things I already knew, give me advice I thought I didn’t need, and treat me like a child.  I fought like a toddler wanting to be put down, trying to get away, only looking forward.

Mama, I understand.  And thank you.

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Filed under empty nest, Family Relationships, Gratitude, Growth, Looking Back, Parenting, Self-realization

The Art Of Compromise


They had installed the litter of kittens in a large ferret cage, with shelves and ramps and hammocks swung between.  When the lady swung her garage door open, my daughters cautiously approached the shoulder tall crate and peered quietly in.  Apparently it was nap time at Feline Preschool.

“Here, they’re tired.  Let me stir them up a little,” she said, brushing past my girls and clanging the gate open.  A little head peered out of the upside down cardboard box on the bottom and just as quickly pulled back in.  With the cage open, we could see a couple of furry bodies nestled together in one of the slings, and a cocky kitty came sauntering out of the back corner to see what all the fuss was about.

Our hostess scooped kittens up and distributed them out, smooching each one loudly as she did, and soon my girls stood holding wriggling balls of fur, looking a little shell-shocked.  The kittens just wanted to find a warm place to snuggle and scrabbled up on shoulders as we tried to look at them, so they peered at each other’s kittens and tried to be judicious in their praise.  Eventually my youngest gravitated to the spotted little runt of the litter, the one who had swaggered out earlier.  My middle daughter decided she liked the one with the dramatic markings and unusual look, and my oldest was in love with the sweet, fluffy black one.  This was going to be their kitten, if we adopted one, so I hung back and tried to stay out of the way, assisting where I could, untangling tiny claws from shirts and making mild suggestions about what to look for and how to choose.  Each began to try to sway the others to her choice, because they all knew that they would be very lucky kids to leave there with even one of the kittens and asking for two was asking too much.  As the argument went on and became a little more heated, each compromised a little by saying “Well, if we can’t get mine, then I like this one…”, but they couldn’t agree on a compromise that worked for all of them.  It seemed as though each kitty was beginning to be thought of as so-and-so’s kitty, and if they chose that one, that person would have an advantage.  After the poor owners of the house had been kept on hold from their yard work for about half an hour, I urged the girls to either choose a kitten or go home and think about it, returning the next day.

At this point one of them noticed a sleepy little kitten who had climbed to the top shelf and was trying valiantly to sit upright and not let its eyes close, but kept nodding off. This was the fourth and last kit, not chosen as a favorite by any of the girls, and I listened quietly as, one by one, they decided that it would do very well, thank you.  It was hard to leave their favorites, but as we walked to the car with their choice held reverently, all eyes were on the new member of the family.

When we got home and got it settled, we found that it was sweet and curious, frenetic and sleepy, playful and cuddly – the best of all its brothers and sisters combined.  It turns out that the one that was no one’s favorite was the best choice of all.

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Filed under Family Relationships, Growth, Parenting

No Leg To Stand On


Words parents are loath to hear: “Mom! The neighbors found a litter of kittens under their back porch… Can we have one?”

For years I have had to be the bad guy.  When we pass cute puppies and kittens at the pet store, I don’t have the luxury of oohing and ahhing over the little rascals.  Any softening of my demeanor would indicate weakness and the entreaties would start.  I appreciate baby animals as much, if not more,  than the next guy, but my role is that of The Denyer.

“We already have three cats.  There isn’t room for any more pets at our house,” has been my standard reply.  It was an easy one.  The reasoning couldn’t be disputed, and they came to expect it.  That argument was lost in January when our sweet cat died and three quietly became two.  His loss took more out of me than I really wanted to admit, and I was hoping they wouldn’t notice the hole in my logic for a while longer.  It’s a parent’s job to take the long view, to see past tiny paws and adorable whiskers.  When the little kitten that they want reaches the other end of its life my three chicks will be long out of the nest and it will be me left sitting beside the cat as it purrs its last.

When the litter was discovered I knew, deep down, that I was sunk.  All of the other cats we have rescued since my daughters were born have been ‘teenagers’; lanky and small, but not a ball of fluff with ears.  We have never had a tiny kitten to raise, and the girls began to remind me of that.  They chipped away at the chink in my defense and widened it, reminding me that it was now or never for my eldest daughter.  Soon she would be heading to college and getting a kitten in the Fall wouldn’t really be fair to her, in spite of the fact that we had joked that we would get one after she moved out and give it her name and room to live in.  They wheedled for days and I shut down the topic for as long as possible, but my hold on my objections began to loosen.  The girls knew I had relented even before I did and were at the car by the time I said “let’s just go and take a look”.

The inevitable stared me in the eye, and it purred.

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Filed under Changes, Day to Day, Family Relationships, Growth, 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

Kid In A Candy Store


I walked into the music store for an eight dollar item and walked out with a bill that was twenty times that.  How does that happen?

I can rationalize everything that I got.  Books to use for my lessons.  Equipment I have been looking at and thinking about for quite a while.  Stuff that I hope will improve my playing.  It wasn’t exactly budgeted for today, yet that didn’t stop me.  My “why wait?” attitude may have saved me further research and the time it would take for the items to be shipped to me, but I always feel a little shell-shocked after similar forays.

This phenomenon happens all too often, and not always at music stores (though lately that’s a good bet).  Manufacturers are pros at getting your attention for things you didn’t intend to buy.  The same thing happens at the grocery store, the department stores, the book store.  I browse and find all number of things that interest me and attract me.  Sometimes I do that when I shop online, clicking through all the products available, but it’s easy to be sensible and take things off the final order if it’s more than I wanted to spend that day.  I end up with register shock far more often when I can see and touch the actual items.  It always seems that since it is in my hand, it should stay there.

If we ever move completely away from brick-and-mortar shopping, I may just spend less.  In the meantime, I have a few new toys to play with.

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Filed under Day to Day, Growth, Self-realization