Archive for the 'Blatant Self Promotion' Category

16
Jun
14

busybusybusybusybusybusybusybusy. . .

As I start this I remember recently reading an article about whether we are actually as busy as we think we are.* Whether maybe we know we’re not actually that busy but it seems important to society that we be busy, so we’re also not actually as busy as we say we are.

I googled “Are we really that busy?” and got article after article after article about how we’re NOT actually as busy, etc. etc. so it must be true.

But anyway. I’ve been really really busy lately. Usually this time of year I have lots of time to sit in the adirondack chair on my deck with a gin+lemoncino+tonic (a “lemony snicket” apparently) and a good book. Not so much this year.

We were very busy in April and May turning this:

Our backyard in early April.

Our backyard in early April.

into this:

Our backyard now. (The perspective is the opposite, but they're the best panoramic I have of each)

Our backyard now. (The perspective is the opposite, but they’re the best panoramic I have of each)

Of course it helps that the world also turned green during that time span, but there it is.

We leveled 500 square feet of dirt, and then spread and leveled (with a carefully calculated 1/2″ per 8′ slope) 500 square feet 4″ deep in gravel, and then laid 5 tons of flagstone one piece at a time; and Husband built the pizza oven.

Lots of work. My back is still pretty pissed off at me, but there it is.

We also had to deal with the fact that Second Son’s car (my old Honda Odyssey) finally gave up the ghost after 13 years of service and 240,000 miles. We drove it, gently (the transmission was going, so there were to be no sudden moves), to the Honda dealer and basically gave it to them in trade for a 2004 Corolla with 96,000 miles on it (a significant improvement, nonetheless). After cleaning out bags of papers and food wrappers and water bottles, and, mysteriously, the steak knife that has been missing from our set for ~ 3 years (our driveway is “dark and creepy” at night, apparently the steak knife was to offer protection; thinking if someone were on the attack it would have been either useless or turned on him, but I guess it made him feel better, so whatchagonna do, especially since I didn’t know about it at the time?), Second Son stood in the parking lot and said his good-byes. I found myself “harkening” back as well — it was purchased in the week or two before Only Daughter (now 13+) came to us from her birth home (South Korea), and has seen us through a lot of life’s changes. More of my life looks different now than the same — divorced, bought a house and moved, remarried, children grown and graduated, different jobs, opportunities, friends. That van was a pretty significant material connector really to what I would call my “former” life. Maybe I should have stood next to Secondo and said a more formal goodbye as well.

He rescued his lego Ninja from the dashboard, we drove away.

Dante? Is that you?

Dante? Is that you?

 

This past week I completed my apprenticeship (hopefully) to become a member of the Royal Conservatory (of Toronto) Board of Examiners. This Wednesday I leave for a 12-day trip to the British Isles to perform with a choir for whom I play. Husband’s unable to come, so I’m traveling with the group and he’s holding down the fort, such as it is.

I find myself with new chamber groups to work with, new performance opportunities, job openings that I may or may not apply for, so the transitions continue.

Have you heard the expression:  “You throw your anchor into the future you want for yourself and then pull yourself along by the chain”? The thing is, (or shall I say the things are):

  • Do you really know what you want from the future? So often it doesn’t turn out the way we had expected.
  • Have you ever found yourself dutifully pulling yourself along by the chain, and The Whole Entire Time nothing in your surroundings seems to indicate that you’re pulling on the right one? Like, “Now just wait one cotton-pickin’ minute. Whose chain is this? Am I pulling on the right one? Is that yours? Where was it this was going again? Who moved my cheese?“)

marine anchor chain

 

It seems that we can spend months and years if not longer chasing things, trying to form our futures into that Future; you know? The Future We Want? And then all of a sudden all of this stuff happens, seemingly out of the blue.

Now I realize that it’s not “all of a sudden,” that all of the things I’ve done and connections I’ve made and hours I’ve spent practicing and trying to be a good teacher and good collaborator have paid into these opportunities.  But it still seems kind of random, and quite unexpected. Good, but unexpected.

Anyway, I’ve been really really busy moving rocks and practicing and pulling on those damn chains. I have a zillion ideas of things I want to write about, but it seems that my hands have been pretty full.

Thanks for sticking around.

I’ll  post some pictures of really old castles and Stonehenge and this drink I’m supposed to try in Scotland (a crabby green something?) as soon as I can.

ttfn!

 

*Being me, I have absolutely no recollection of the source of this article; hence I am unable to link to it. My apologies.

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30
May
13

blisters and dirt

Where I’ve been.

At art fairs, getting blisters on my feet; walking the dog, re-opening old blisters; planting flowers and moving flowers and spraying stinky stuff all over my yard to keep the rats-on-long-legs out of my yard.

deer

Grrrr.

Had a good “rant” going a couple of days ago when I read a “financial advice” column that started with the author advising a young new mother who was considering going back to work to pray about her decision.

Really?

That’s financial advice now? To pray?

Got distracted by dinner preparations or Dexter the Dumb Dog or my gin and tonic, though, so it never got written.

Noticed in the NYTimes that Michele Bachman missed three, count them, three, opportunities to change the world. Or maybe it was just politics. But she didn’t. Alas.

And that Angeline Jolie’s aunt died of breast cancer; further vindication of her (Angelina’s) decision to have a double mastectomy as a preventive measure.

And apparently the newest styles for the summer involve completely see-through white tops for women. Any color bra seems to be fine.

Read a little Rilke (Diaries) and paid more than expected for my “oil change” (the new loss-leader for car dealerships to draw you in so they can lube things and replace things and rotate things. What do I know?).

Since eliminating the ONE photo of the couple playing nude Scrabble on what one can only hope was a nude beach (You won’t find it, so don’t bother looking. Sicko.), I have seen my stats go through a subtle transformation.

Looks like this now:

newestsearchterms

Better, I guess, but I’ve lost 3 “followers,” although I can’t help but wonder why they were hanging around if that was all they were looking for. I do still really like the Versace post. I think it was some of my best work. . .

Maybe I’m just not writing enough. Or timely enough. Or funny enough.

If only I had bought a big metal chicken at Bed Bath and Beyond today. . .

 

12
Mar
13

The Why’s and Wherefore’s

Husband often asks me, when I’m about to initiate a difficult conversation, say, (or maybe even an argument,) with someone, if I have first figured out what I hope to accomplish. I guess that understanding this is perhaps a worthy goal for just about everything we do in a day.

Have been trying to figure this out myself, since three days ago when I decided that I really wanted to start a second blog. Why not just post these thoughts in the blog I already have?

I do actually hope that some of my current blog followers will follow this one as well. (Hint-hint-nudge-nudge-wink-wink)

But I want this one to be different.

So back to the question, worded in a slightly different way: Why bother?

What, exactly, does this thing I’m about to do (fill in the blank) accomplish . . . and I would complete that sentence . . .  that will help fulfill my personal/emotional/spiritual goals as a person with a short time on this planet and a whole lot of life I’d like to live?

And here’s what, why, how, at least, as best I can explain it:

I (like to) believe we’re all searching for what I, for lack of a better term, will call Enlightenment. To live, laugh, love, better and more fully; to find Happiness, by which I mean the inner state that has nothing to do with the outer circumstances, but which resides deep within, burning like an ember; maybe to do one thing every day that feels like we Made a Difference.

(It’s funny, but it reminds me of the conversation I had with Husband the other day about that tattoo I’m trying to talk myself into/out of getting: Chinese characters that say “Live the moment.” But then I thought, and said, “But what if the moment sucks?”)

Anyway.

I want to try to post one thing each day for a year that helps toward this goal: to live, laugh, love, better and more fully; to find Happiness, that inner state that has nothing to do with outer circumstances; to do one thing every day that Made a Difference. It might be something I read, something I observed, something I did or said or that someone did or said to me. Every single one of them could probably fit under the category I call “Grace.” Some of it might be obvious (Duh!), some hopefully insightful, some somewhere in between. Maybe you’ll have heard it before, maybe it will remind you of something that you would like to share. There won’t be the same type of political commentary, or feminist “propaganda,” or making fun of advertising. Well, unless they contribute toward my quest for enlightenment. Who knows, maybe I’ll find that it’s not necessary, or not getting read, and abandon it entirely. I suppose I could start a separate category, but for some inexplicable reason, I want it to be separate.

Maybe it’s silly to think we can find Enlightenment at all — it is the ongoing quest of some of whom I already consider to be the most enlightened people I know — but maybe we’ll all feel better knowing that we’re looking together.

The new blog can be found at: notaguruatall.wordpress.com. I’m going to post this same post as my “introduction,” well, except for this paragraph — that would be weird — so please read on. After this, I will not duplicate.

Hope to see you there.

27
Feb
13

Hit me! a.k.a. I apparently can’t do simple math

I’m 4,996 “hits” from 100,000.

I don’t suppose I could entice any of you just to click on random posts from the archives so I could celebrate 100,000 hits before the 3-year anniversary of this blog (February 28)?

I didn’t think so.

I’d offer a prize, but I wouldn’t know where to begin.

31
Oct
12

Babysitting 101

Yesterday I received an email from my department chair informing me (among others) that I had not completed the participation confirmation for my students. (Is that ironic?) These are college students, mind you, college students, and this would be not the first time, but the second time this semester I had to log in to our faculty center and click into each course number that I teach and then click on little boxes next to the student’s name confirming that they were coming to class and participating fully.

Today Only Daughter brought me her social studies test and told me I needed to sign it, even though she had a perfect score.

Any chance these two things are related?

Now I understand, first of all, that she’s in 6th grade, and secondly, that teachers want to know that parents are paying attention, and thirdly, that parents of students who might not be performing as well on tests might be needing to pay more attention to whether homework is getting done, whether the child is studying for tests, etc.

But would it be too much to ask that teachers encourage students who are doing well by showing their trust, and allowing the students the opportunity to be independent and self-disciplined without the constant checks? Last year I had to initial her planner EVERY SINGLE DAY, whether there was something written on that day or not. Is this how we teach independence and self-discipline?

As a teacher myself, with students of all ages from kindergarten to college, the biggest problem I see is that students aren’t invested enough in their own learning. Some of them do the work so as to be able to say they “did the work,” by which they mean “put in the time,” without any attention to whether anything has been learned or accomplished.

Is this really what we want to encourage?

With a couple of students this week I used an example from earlier years, when I would have First or Second Son sweep the floor. They would sweep, the floor would still be dirty, I would tell them “I thought I asked you to sweep the floor” and they would reply, “I did.” I would then have to point out that the purpose of the exercise was not the act (of waving the broom around over the floor) but the result (the floor is now clean).

Second Son is a natural musician. He played percussion in the marching band in middle school, and could ace every test. His best grade, though, was never higher than a low B, because he didn’t practice. I understand that teachers want students to practice, but presumably this is so that they can master their part. I also think that students who practice and who are less naturally skilled should get some boost to their grade if they perform less than perfectly on their playing tests. But if the student can already perform the assigned skills perfectly, why are we requiring that they practice more? Should the teacher maybe at least make the extra effort to give them something that presented a challenge so that the “practicing” wasn’t just a matter of “putting in the time”? What kind of lesson are we really teaching here?

As a piano teacher I never tell a student how long they must practice every day. I do, however, give them clear guidelines in what and how they should be practicing, and an estimate of approximately how long that should take. I then compare what they have accomplished that week with how much time they claim they practiced, and make adjustments. If they are learning everything in less time, I give them more to work on, or make things more difficult. If they are practicing a LOT and not accomplishing much, we either talk about what their practicing looks like to make sure it’s productive time, or I give them less or things that are less difficult.

The point, always, is what we want to accomplish.

I can’t help but wonder if more college-age students would be more self directed and successful if they grew up with people who cared about and were invested in their success, but only watched over their shoulders when there was a real need. I can’t think of anything that encourages independence more than telling a child that you believe they can do it, and then stepping back and letting them.

Maybe it’s just me.

 

22
Oct
12

wouldn’t it be nice if. . .

Husband and I were just talking about tonight’s upcoming debate as we made our dinner preparations (cornmeal-coated oven-fried chicken tenders; curried sweet potato pancakes with raita).

He’s been reading up on Mitt’s activities during Mitt’s tenure at Bain capital, and on hostile takeovers, buyouts, “reorganizations,” etc. in general. It’s a dirty, cynical, greedy business. Capitalism at it’s most capitalistic.

Tonight’s topic is foreign policy.

My wishes are, basically, two. (I get two wishes, right? Isn’t there a genie in this bottle of bourbon? Drat.)

1. A moderator who actually makes the candidate answer the questions he was asked, and who disallows a candidate talking beyond his allotted time.

2. Candidates who actually tell us something without resorting to campaign-speak. Many argue that the American people don’t know the issues, and respond from a more “intuitive,” reflexive place (somewhere behind their belly button, I think). I argue that if you talk to people like they are children, they think like children, and if you talk to people as if they have a reasonable ability to, well, reason, they will do so.

Call me optimistic, just don’t call me late for dinner.

I’ll be tweeting, if I’m not in the fetal position, moaning.

Didn’t their Mamas teach them it’s not polite to point?

22
Oct
12

New Year’s Resolutions, in October

Heard a little bit of discussion on the Diane Rehm show this morning by various pollsters, including how unreliable the answers to the “Do you intend to vote?” question are. One of the pollsters compared it to how committed people are on January 5 or so to carry out their New Year’s Resolution.

Some of you may have figured out, especially if you read the comments/discussions that ensue sometimes, that I broke a bone in my foot around 8 weeks ago. I would like to say it was a result of something heroic and/or exciting, like tripping over the lead runner in the Chicago Marathon, but actually I just stubbed my toe on the foot of my bed, in broad daylight. Now I’m not all that graceful, and am often doing three things at once while thinking about at least two other, completely unrelated, things, so these kinds of pratfalls are not all that unusual. I even laid on the bed, whimpering softly, for about 10 minutes before I limped out to the kitchen to tell Husband what I had done. Not that I wasn’t expecting sympathy, but these occurrences are quite frequent, and I didn’t want to push my luck. When the throbbing was getting worse rather than better, though, I thought maybe a little sympathy, and, oh, maybe an ice pack was in order.

The stupid thing was that two weeks more passed before I had it X-rayed, including a weekend when we were power washing the deck and house and I walked right off the edge of the deck while looking up at the soffit I was washing. (I don’t know how to spell soffit. I think that’s right, but wordpress is giving me grief. Anyway.)(And the deck is only ~ 3 feet off the ground, so it’s not quite as bad as it sounds.) Of course I was barefoot, because my toe hurt too badly to wear shoes, and of course I landed on the broken foot, so I’m sure that didn’t help either. So yes, I broke a bone in my foot. The tip of what I’m calling the 3rd toe bone — I’m sure there’s a more technical term, and I’m also quite sure the doctor employed the technical term at my appointment after my X-ray, but I don’t remember it.

It’s this one:

Which means that my foot hurts more than my toe hurts (although the toe looks like someone else’s, like a little sausage, and doesn’t match the other toes), and it has taken a ridiculously long time to heal. I wore an actual shoe on Saturday for the first time in 6 weeks (we won’t talk about the two weeks I was wearing shoes when I shouldn’t have been. What can I say? I’m an optimist.) I managed to walk ~ a mile with Husband each day over the weekend, and my foot is tight and sore afterwards, but at least I’m off my butt, finally. I did have a yoga Groupon which has now expired, and my plans to restart the couch-potato-to-5K thing has been a bust, but maybe I can start next week. . .

I also have started a new juicing plan. I’m hypothyroid, and, while I take Armour thyroid, it often feels like the only result of thyroid medication is that my blood tests show a normal TSH level; I still feel half asleep most of the time, and am always always cold (my temperature the other morning was 96˚). A side effect of hypothyroidism is slow metabolism (it just keeps getting better and better, doesn’t it?), and I have heard that drinking fruit and vegetable juices as meal replacements a few times a week helps give your digestive system a break and this is supposed to help fire it up, somehow.

So three days a week I’m drinking home-juiced carrot, carrot-apple, carrot-beet, carrot-cucumber-wheatgrass, apple-pineapple-ginger, cherry-pomegranate, etc. juice instead of eating breakfast and lunch. On the days I do so I still have a healthy dinner (although the temptation sometimes is to eat more for dinner than I would otherwise, because, hey, I haven’t eaten all day so I deserve it, right?). I tend to lose ~ .5 of a lb on juicing days and then gain .25-.4 of a lb on non-juicing days, so I’m not really seeing this as an effective diet strategy. Also, on the next mornings, the whites of my eyeballs seem orange. They’re probably not really orange, but they seem orange.

Oh, and I’ve stopped shampooing my hair. =:-O

I have read, on more than one occasion, how bad it is for hair to shampoo it — I mean, think about it! We wash it with this stuff full of chemicals, most of which have been demonstrated to cause cancer in rats (rats with particularly clean hair, but still) and which removes all of the healthy oils and nutrients from our scalp, and then instantly put goop called “conditioner” on it to undo the damage we just caused.

I did “wash” my hair this morning with baking soda paste and then “conditioned” it with some apple cider vinegar. Of course, I thoroughly rinsed the baking soda out first, as I was not 7 and trying to make a “volcano” in my shower. I think I might smell like a pickle, but my hair looks fantastic. (And isn’t the henna-ing still looking nice? I keep thinking maybe I should stop bothering, since I have to re-apply the green mud every month or so to cover my roots, but then I see a picture like this and think, “Fine. I’ll keep doing it.”)

If you haven’t noticed, I’m deliberately avoiding any discussion of the presidential election.

I am also trying really hard to avoid eating the cold sesame noodles in the fridge. Carrot and beet juice just doesn’t have the same zing.

Oh, and speaking of hair this is what we did over the weekend:

Despite my concerns, it seems to have turned out fine, I have earned “hundreds” (I think it should be thousands) of “Mom coolness points,” and she did not get sent home from school.

So there’s that, then.




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