Race 4 Domestic Violence Prevention

I wanted to put up a quick post to let you know about a 5K race that April and I are running in June for a good cause! It’s the Race 4 Domestic Violence Prevention on June 4th at Carondelet Park.  The race benefits Safe Connections, one of the St. Louis region’s oldest and largest organizations working to prevent and end domestic and sexual violence while helping survivors reclaim their lives. Their services in prevention education, crisis intervention and counseling make a big difference in the health of the community. So even though we had already decided to do a mud run the day after, when we saw this race we couldn’t resist! In fact, we first tried to volunteer to help and were told there are too many volunteers, so run it is. I hope you will consider it too and maybe I’ll see you there! It’s “only” a 5k so you don’t have to make that much of a time or distance commitment, and kids and dogs are welcome too. (Not cats, though, I guess? Hmmm…)

If you are a runner, watch this space: I’m going to have one or two giveaways for race entrees coming up in the next week or so. Crazy, right? People seem to think my blog has a readership of people who run…(but the giveaway isn’t for the Race 4 Domestic Violence Prevention, so please go ahead and sign up if  you are interested—you can get a T-shirt OR a hat!)

I did go for a short run today. I live near the top of a large hill (some might call it “the Hill” so whenever I run anywhere, it means the first part of my run is mostly downhill and the second part is mostly uphill. I find that my comfortable pace right now is still REALLY slow, so I’ll start running and then think, I need to push off more and move more, and then I do that for a bit, and then I forget and I just end up being all slow again. Would it be appropriate to blame this on my age? In any case, the weather lately has been FANTASTIC for running, so I’ve been trying to do three runs a week. This week I was successful! And that’s not to say that I’m sedentary the rest of the time, because there is dog walking and hiking too. I haven’t been lifting weights or anything, and have been debating if I want to get back into that (I should, but I just haven’t wanted to hit the gym at all and prefer to work out in the fresh air) or quit the gym and learn to do pushups or something.

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Kitty pushups?!

This weekend: Volunteering for the Girls on the Run 5K, some makeup lessons, and (weather permitting) a long hike on Sunday—Buford Mountain is the plan. What about you?

Mixed Nuts with Cashews

Am I a bad person if I prefer the cashews? I like to pick out the other nuts first so that all that is left is the cashews. I’m a firm believer in saving the best for last.

I feel like I’ve spent hours trying to organize my teaching schedule for this month. It’s probably only been around an hour (which is actually still a lot, in my opinion). I’m missing some lessons and other people are missing and I’m trying to fit in as many lessons as possible on those days I can teach. I’m starting to get ridiculously excited about our upcoming trip to the Grand Canyon, but before that I have a lot to do…as always!

I am a planner, as I’ve said. And I have students that already know exactly which days this summer they want lessons and they are on the calendar. I have other students who don’t even know what they are doing yet, and think I’m crazy (this is me extrapolating) for trying to get them to pin something down that is over a month away. This is one of the challenges of being an independent music teacher: you spend a lot of time scheduling and collecting money and herding cats. (Not literally). I couldn’t do this job as well as I do if I weren’t a planner, but I also have to be able to work well with people who don’t or aren’t able to plan as far ahead. It’s a challenge!

Sometimes I blog while doing other things—I almost forgot I was blogging right now because I got distracted by my email. I tried the whole “check email less often” for about three hours one day and realized it just didn’t work for me. I like people knowing I am quickly reachable by email because it’s a better record of conversations than texting (longer, more searchable, can archive but find again later) and I definitely don’t want people feeling like they have to call in order to do something that can be done via email. Texting is fine too, for last minute things and for quick questions, but for longer conversations and for groups, I think email is easier and clearer. Plus I can type (on the computer) far faster than I can type on my phone. Call me old-fashioned.

Anyway, I’m just rambling. Random thoughts. Does this still count as creating content? (Inside blogger joke). I went for a run this morning. The weather is amazing this week—60’s and low 70’s with sun. May is shaping up to be all right!

Nearly Summer

Can you believe it’s May already? What does May mean to you? For me May is the last month of school (this matters when you teach school children, even though I’m self employed and aren’t tied to a school schedule exactly) so that means recitals, missed lessons, lots of rescheduling…and USUALLY hot weather.

Not today though. I went for a run this morning wearing shorts and a long sleeve shirt! It was around 60 degrees, which is honestly beautiful weather for running—but strange for May. At least in my recollection. Then again, maybe it’s perfectly normal. In any case, it was a nice day for a run, and I’m glad I got it in before any rain.

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So, the weekend was a busy one—I actually had some rehearsals and a performance, plus a cocktail hour. It was a lot of driving to Illinois and around, but I suppose there’ s a good sense of accomplishment Winking smile Honestly, it’s nice to play with people rather than simply being at home practicing and teaching, so I’m always really glad to have work!

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The storms on Saturday were pretty amazing—there was a complete double rainbow. My view from the car wasn’t as nice…but it was still pretty gorgeous. Unfortunately this view meant we were driving directly into the storm!

Let’s see: just a bunch of random stuff. Saturday night Louie and I ate dinner at Sapporo 2  and then went to the second show at Jazz at the Bistro to see a saxophone player named Melissa Aldana. Dinner was really good—we split a few things including Bibimbap with Sashimi, which was unique and delicious. The show was good—the crowd was pretty chill and quiet (I was exhausted so maybe everybody else was too) but Melissa played well. She looked a bit like April from Parks and Rec and had a unique weirdness about her, but it only added to the charm and the fun of the show. I’d definitely see her play again!

Other happenings mostly include hanging out with and taking care of these ridiculous pets.

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The next two weeks are pretty busy, and then it’s a week of family and hiking in Phoenix, Sedona, and the Grand Canyon. I can’t believe I’m really looking forward to camping, but I am. We are staying with my sister for a few days, camping for a few days (reread this blog post to see what I daydream about some days), another few days with Leslie (and my NIECE) and then home. This coming weekend Louie and I are planning a big hike in order to “train”.

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I’m one of those people who loves planning. I love grand, elaborate plans, excitement, and breaks from routine. It’s part of why the freelance life appeals to me—every day can be different! But teaching can be much the same: every Monday might be the same. So it can get me down a little bit, and I think the past few months have been a bit of slog for me. Nothing against ANY of my students, but it’s more when you put it all together. I think I’ve been doing a bit more complaining here than I should, and I need to embrace things as they are, and I do indeed realize how lucky I am Smile

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(Lucky that is, if you like the smell of cat urine and enjoy giving twice-daily insulin shots to a cat Winking smile)

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And with that, I’m off. Things to do before I start teaching, as always! Looking forward to a good week.

My Violin Practice

Before I start, in case you were worried, Mackenzie (my dog) is doing much better! She came home Monday evening and was still a bit swollen in the face, but by last night most of that swelling was down.

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Onto the topic of this post, which occurred to me AS I was practicing.

There are always articles being written on practicing. How to practice, how best to practice, practice mistakes to avoid, how not to practice, and more. We are told to practice with a purpose, to have a plan, to have accomplishments and objectives. I posted an article on facebook just yesterday about how to “optimize your practicing.”

Lately, however, I’ve just been making violin practice a thing that I do during the day before I teach. I pull out music I’m trying to learn, music I’d like to learn, etudes to sight-read, music I’m teaching, and I just start practicing.  Sometimes I’ll play a piece I hear on the radio, sometimes I’ll spend a hour on scales. I just do what I feel like and make sure that if there’s a piece I definitely need to work on, that I get to that one enough.

I have made decisions over the past few years to include practice time into my daily schedule. I don’t practice every day, and I take weeks off over vacations, but I no longer overschedule myself with work to the point where weeks go by without proper practice. Once you know how it feels to be playing well, you don’t want to lose it, and in fact, you want to continue to improve.

I’ve been thinking practicing quite a bit. Many of my students don’t practice often enough. And the fact of it is this: it’s generally not that they practice inefficiently, or wrong, or badly. It’s that they simply do not practice regularly. A student who practices regularly will be better than one that does not.

And that’s the attitude I started taking to my own practice in the last year or two. Oh, and did you see what I called it? My own practice. I read a friend’s Facebook status once referring to “his violin practice” and I thought of it just like people refer to their yoga practice. It’s not about goals or accomplishments. It’s about the process. The process of getting out the violin, tuning, and then beginning to play. And doing so regularly.

Here’s my general advice: if you are struggling to get into a practice routine, don’t worry about doing it right or wrong. Simply do it. Start. There is no wrong way to practice, except NOT to practice at all.

Sure, starting at the beginning of your piece and playing through to the end, up to speed, totally ignoring mistakes…might not be the most efficient use of your time. Unless you have the issues of making mistakes and stopping all the time. For every list I read of how not to practice, I can often think of a reason to ask a student to practice that way! (I’m a contrarian, and I detest people giving expert advice which is actually just advice from their personal experience.) So go, get your violin out, and practice.

Or whatever it is. If you want to create a habit: running, eating healthy, being kind to strangers, don’t worry about the best way. Just start doing it regularly. The rest will fall into place.

It’s a beautiful day

Mackenzie started having a severe allergic reaction to something this morning so I had to make an emergency trip to the vet. She’s there now and got a variety of shots and is on an IV for fluids (her temp was quite high). They are keeping her for observation since it was pretty bad and evidently she was starting to have trouble breathing. I’m hoping she’ll be able to come home by evening. What caused it is anybody’s guess—is it related to her normal allergy issues or did she get a bug bite or something?

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We did go into the woods over the weekend. We did a long hike at Greensfelder Park. My phone said it was 9.55 miles, Louie’s said around 7.5, the trail said less than both of those. Who knows. My phone ALWAYS shows a longer distance than Louie, though usually his says he has more steps. This is a great mystery—I often have my phone in a bag and he often has his in his pocket so we’re guessing that’s the reason for the disparity but it doesn’t make that much sense.

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The trees are pretty.

We ended up skipping the Farmer’s Market in the morning in order to go hiking instead. We want to really be in shape (well, the best you can going hiking once a week, ha) for our upcoming Grand Canyon trip.

Saturday night we went to the symphony. Karen Gomyo played the Sibelius Violin Concerto and it was breathtaking. Her sound, intensity, and clarity were amazing! It was one of my favorite performances in some time.

Sunday I got to see a student play with her orchestra at the Community Music School, which was really fun, actually!

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And then Louie and I went crazy at REI and ended up each buying a pair of hiking shoes. So we both own good hiking boots AND good hiking shoes. I think this gear thing is starting to get out of hand, but it makes sense to have both, we think.

So now it’s Monday and things are a bit thrown off due to the vet run, but I’m trying to have my normal routine: email, practice, blog. I’m listening to some of the pieces we are learning for the Perseid Quartet for fall concerts and having a lovely time. The weather is beautiful, not too hot, sunny, and I’m just hoping Mackenzie is doing okay.

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These guys keep me busy! And yeah, it’s been a hard year with the animals. Losing Oistrakh in January, dealing with all of Chloe’s issues, and Mackenzie’s allergies (which seem less serious but still undiagnosed and causing problems.) It’s been a theme for this year.

And another week bites the dust

These weeks. They fly by.

It’s so easy to get angry about things you see, and so easy to expend energy being angry. And maybe being angry is worth it, but mostly just living my life and doing my best and staying out of it makes me calmer and happier. (I’m referring to both politically and a professional situation.)

I remind myself this is why I’m happy teaching at home. I teach the way I want to, and don’t need to let anybody else tell me how or what to teach. It’s freeing, and I love that aspect of it. I also get to charge what I want (within reason, of course) and don’t have to give anybody any of my pay (except taxes, of course). It’s pretty great! And now I can also have good health insurance, and go to the doctor when I need to and get things covered by this health insurance. I’ve never been healthier or happier, or had more money in the bank.

And that’s why I have to just keep plugging away. I can’t worry about other stuff. I can’t worry about what people think. This is my life. I love playing the violin, I like teaching (I don’t love it, it’s not my favorite thing, but I like it a lot!), I love traveling and taking pictures and reading, I like getting out and hiking, I love food, I love music, I love doing races and events with friends.

Anyway. Now that I have that off my chest! I am SO glad I did the Festival for my students. I got a wonderful note from one of the moms that just made me smile, and I am looking forward to even more students playing next year! We have a recital coming up that I’m trying to get organized—it’ll be right before Louie and go to Arizona for a week—so there’s a fair amount of organization required. (And packing lists! What to bring to visit Leslie, attend a symphony concert, and hiking/camping?)

My thoughts are scattered.

On deck for this weekend: a Passover dinner (Seder?) tonight, Farmer’s Market and perhaps Yoga outside tomorrow, Symphony tomorrow night. Probably we want to get a hike in to prepare for our vacation in May. The weather is beautiful today and the weekend looks amazing. After this weekend I’ll have a few weekends with work so I want to take full advantage of this one!

thoughts about violin, teaching, running, life.