Tag Archives: challenges

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

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

Icicles


Problems grow like water dripping from the edge of a roof or eavestrough.  Just a little at a time, over many days, freezing as it goes, and soon you have a huge spear of ice threatening to either rip your gutter off the roof or break off and crash into whatever is below, causing harm and destruction.

It either hurts your house or someone else below, and all the experts agree; icicles are bad no matter how pretty they are.  So why do we let them grow?  It could be that we just don’t notice them until they are of spectacular proportions.  At that point, it could be as dangerous to break them off as to leave them and take the chance of them doing damage where they are.  We end up just leaving them, hoping the sun will come out soon and melt them, and they will drip, drip, drip away and disappear.

I tend to be a sun worshiper when it comes to problem solving, sometimes to my detriment.  I guess it goes along with my “if you don’t say it, it’s not true” upbringing about some things.  The corollary to that, I suppose, is “if you ignore it, it will go away”.  I wait, hoping the problem will solve itself, even when I know it’s better to step forward and take care of the problem in a more straightforward way. That’s non-confrontational, non-risky, occasionally non-functional.

Lately I have been trying to take a little better care of my mental “house”.  Maybe it’s time for a little perimeter check.

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Filed under Growth, postaday2011, Reflection, Self-realization