Chartreuse

It was great to have my sister Carrie visit last week. It seems that everybody only wants to visit for 15-20 hours lately, but I will take what I can get! Besides, I suppose it’s better when people leave before you are sick of them, right? Carrie was here to visit but mostly to play a concert with her modern music trio, Chartreuse.

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The concert was great! They played with great passion and energy, and it was a really enjoyable performance (at the Tavern of Fine Arts). I ate dinner there, and though the food is always tasty, I really miss their old menu with the sandwiches. I DO appreciate that their wine list has some very affordable options. They stayed overnight and then had to rush off to some other important thing, as one does when one is young (early 20’s!)

I was thinking about that just a bit ago—my friend April is currently in Colorado on vacation and is in Breckenridge. I spent two summers playing with the National Repertory Orchestra in Breckenridge, and while I did love it at the time, I don’t think I truly appreciated it. Youth, and the youth travel opportunities, especially music festivals, are wasted on the young. Here I am, simply salivating for my upcoming vacation, and when I was younger this was mostly old hat for my summers. I went to all manner of summer festivals (Breckenridge, Interlochen, Sewanee), had various trips to Europe, family road trips to various National Parks, family trips to the beach and the closer-by mountains, to see relatives, and all kinds of great stuff. I think it’s obviously important for young people to do great things, but when you read an old trip journal about how your parents were really lame for wanting to go see the sunset over the Grand Canyon while you and your siblings were playing a serious game in the tent instead…well…you know how kids are!

All that to say I am positively chomping at the bit to go on our road trip. Louie and I are going for over two weeks—our itinerary includes Boulder, Rocky Mountain National Park, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, the Black Hills, and the Badlands. We are mostly camping other than in Boulder where we’ve gotten an AirBNB (my first time!), and plan to do lots of hiking and scenic driving, campsite cooking, see tons of buffalo(my favorite, at least when I was a kid, and I still get excited thinking about them!), take pictures, maybe even keep a journal, write a million blog posts, and have a generally wonderful time. We will also be visiting my sister Leslie and seeing my niece Athena for a few days (in Boulder where they play in a summer festival) to kick off the trip. I really can’t wait to get away and relax and sightsee. It might not actually be a terribly relaxing vacation, but it will be very scenic and should be pretty epic! (Are people still saying that?) I’ve got lists galore going on—packing list, itinerary list (the most fun to make!), what to do before we leave list, list of good meals for camping so that we don’t panic in the grocery store on the way, all that kind of stuff.

All this is happening simultaneously with finishing up my last week of summer teaching (it’ll be fall schedule when I’m back!) and practicing for my recital on Friday. I’ve embraced where I am for my preparation and have decided that it is good enough and I don’t need to stress out so much. And we closed the show “The Runaway Cupcake” with some lovely reviews and though I’m glad to be slightly less busy, I really loved playing in it, and was so glad to meet some wonderful actors and actresses. Maybe something I’ll do again someday!

So I’m glad I stopped by to write. I reread my last two blog posts and I sounded so stressed out and overwhelmed. I’m in a much better place right now! Just ready to be on vacation, I guess :)

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Popping In

I feel like this summer has been one big race to the end of July. That’s not to say that I haven’t been trying to live in the moment (whatever that means, since all we DO is live in the moment we are in…) but that there are so many things happening at the end of July and then in August that constant preparation and practice has been required, which makes the end of July the goal, which makes the summer a big race. And today is one of the big goals along the way, for my little sister Carrie is visiting and staying overnight with me and playing a concert with her trio at the Tavern of Fine Arts. I’m finishing my house cleaning and preparation (okay, so house cleaning isn’t exactly a forte of mine, but I do my best, or at least kind of my best) and hoping to get a good amount of practice in before their arrival.

Sometimes I feel that I am torn into many different pieces and directions, often failing to do any one thing good enough, much less all of them. And then other times I feel that indeed I can do all of these things, and more, and that I have spent my whole life building the skills required and working towards it. Right now I feel like my efforts toward the play have been really working out and that I am doing far better than I hoped. I feel underprepared for the upcoming recital, for a variety of reasons, but I know it’ll be a fun performance anyway, and that sometimes it’s good just to get up there and play for people. Let me remember that summer is not the best time to schedule a solo recital! I feel like I’m finally getting on top of my teaching scheduling for the fall, and I’m ready for our trip in August, for the most part. All the planning and lists are there, and after Carrie leaves it will be time to start actually pulling items off shelves and putting them together in piles or boxes. So perhaps, when I list it out like this, most of what I’m doing is happening well enough, some will work out in the end (another week is key to recital preparation, I think!) and other things aren’t entirely up to me, for instance, I can only hope that my students don’t suddenly come up with activities that conflict with their violin lesson time and expect me to fix it. (Lesson scheduling is always a very elaborate house of cards.)

I decided to socialize last night rather than get a good night’s sleep, which was needed (all work and no play makes hannah a dull girl?) but is definitely making the morning more challenging. Probably the cause of my rambling introspection as well, and will also accompany me as the excuse as to why I don’t have any photos here—I just haven’t uploaded anything recently! Trust me, once I get to traveling soon I’ll have so many pictures. And I have still been posting on instagram, so check me out there :) Time to work now!

No creative juice left for blogging!

I always think summer is going to be more relaxing and less busy…so I end up taking on too many projects! And by too many, I mean, just enough that I am insanely busy at times and just busy enough at other times. I have been firing on all cylinders for weeks now, with play rehearsals, practicing for my upcoming concert with my friend Jen, preparing for and entertaining overnight guests, and having a 4th of July party…on the 11th because that’s the when the fireworks in the neighborhood were.

Sometimes I have a million blog posts I want to write. Not lately. Which is crazy because I’ve been doing a lot of stuff and having loads of fun, but also I’ve been stressed out and overwhelmed, and wonder why other people seem to have time to have lives and see friends and clean their houses when I can barely stay on top of all my projects and students, practicing and bills, and phone calls and so many people impatiently wondering if I can fit their child into my fall schedule!

I sound a little overwhelmed*, but I’m also just REALLY looking forward to vacation. And it’s not been all work. *arguably I could spend my time much more wisely than I do, so perhaps I’m overusing the word overwhelmed.

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Fun times at the zoo with my parents. We enjoyed the polar bear the most!

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From our preview performance of The Runaway Cupcake. Two performances down, four to go! It’s been a great experience putting music to the show and working with a wonderful cast of hard-working actors and actresses.

It’s been a lot of work though, between rehearsals, practicing, and working on memorizing all my cues and figuring out what to play when! I’ve been having a lot of fun playing a real role in a play (Basically I play various themes that we came up with that either are in the background, as transitions, or to introduce or re-introduce characters. My role is “The Fiddler” and I keep the action going!)

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This morning Louie and I were able to get out into the woods for a hike. We went to Greensfelder County Park and hiked a trail that we think was the DeClue trail (based on my book, 60 Hikes within 60 Miles of St Louis.) It was great to get our hiking boots a little more broken in…and muddy. The hike wasn’t super scenic, but there were lots of bugs and mud. Wait, the good thing…hmmm…it was lovely and green and we got to practice going up and down hills. Also, the park is located right next to Six Flags so as you are hiking you can hear the screams of people on the roller coasters, and the machinery! If I didn’t know better I’d be concerned it was the Smoke Monster from Lost.

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I feel more confident in my hiking boots, which was important to me, so that in two weeks when we are on vacation and doing hiking in REALLY scenic places (Boulder, Rocky Mountain National Park, Yellowstone, and Grand Tetons) I will be ready! And I’m ready to hopefully leave some of the humidity and bugs behind…

On tap this week and next:

Chartreuse is performing and visiting! My youngest sister Carrie is coming to town to visit and play a concert with her modern music trio. I’m very excited to host them, to see her play, and to get to hang out for about 20 hours (the approximate time that my family members like to visit, evidently! :) )

And then the last event before I hit the road—playing Messiaen, Ravel, and Franck with my friend Jen on piano. In the future I need to remember that summer should be more relaxing!

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More of THIS and less work!

But then again, if I weren’t busy working, I’d be pretty bored, I think. Balance is overrated—who needs work AND life when you have great colleagues and an awesome understanding boyfriend, even when it means he has to go to social events alone sometimes…

July is going by really fast but I’m having a great time (did I say that too many times? I do mean it, I swear!). Even if the next 13 days are a ton of work, it’ll be all worth it when we head out on our road trip and don’t look back for over two weeks. Keeping my eyes on the prize while trying to live in the moment IS a challenge though 😉 (Did I use enough clichés? I also said today that life is in the journey, not the destination, so there’s another one.)

And I get to see my niece Athena soon, so be prepared for some cute baby pictures then! Until then, here is Chloe about to drink a can of sparkling water.

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The Older I get

Time just flies, doesn’t it? My last blog post was June 22, and here it is July 3. I’ve been busy as usual, though not particularly MORE busy than usual. I often think of things I’d like or want to blog about, but then I just don’t sit down to do so. Right now I have a couple of hours to fill until it’s time to go to dinner, so I thought I’d make an attempt to talk about myself.

Not that talking about myself is hard! Simply that I’m a bit sleepy, and thinking about how I should be practicing or doing something more productive than blogging. Which is ridiculous, as blogging IS important to me, and is productive enough as it stands.

My parents were in town yesterday and today Louie has a guest of the family visiting us, so we’ve been doing some touristy things. I’ll work backwards.

Today we went to the Cahokia Mounds. I’d been a few years ago, directly after my separation, but this was a much more pleasant day. Time is a funny thing, isn’t it? You think you’ll always feel how you do, and you don’t.

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I wouldn’t have guessed that I’d be back to Cahokia Mounds a few years later with these folks, because I didn’t know them. But I’m definitely for the better!

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There are nearly 80 mounds in the area, but the biggest is called Monk’s Mound. We climbed up it, and there was a lovely view of the skyline! I presume that’s why the Cahokians built the mounds 😉

The city of Cahokia, a Native American city, was inhabited from 700 to 1400 AD with the peak between 1050 and 1200 AD. There were up to 20,000 people living there, which meant that it was not surpassed in population by any city in the United States until the late 18th century.

In contrast, Orvieto (where we went on our trip in May) had a population of about 30,000 by the end of the 13th century. It’s just really interesting to think of how different people lived in different parts of the world at the same time!

Working backwards. Yesterday my parents and I went to the zoo. I’d only been to the zoo for one other visit with them last summer, so it was great. I sometimes forget how much I actually do like animals, especially when the zoo isn’t terribly hot and crowded.

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Giraffes really are the weirdest looking animals, aren’t they?

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The orangutan was really strange. He or she was wearing a blanket of sorts like a shawl.

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We spent a long time watching this polar bear splashing around in the water playing with a large ball. He was having the best time!

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And the penguins. Love them. It was really cold in the penguin display house though, which makes sense but still! I am allowed to wish I’d brought a jacket.

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My mother brought along my old trip journals from when I was a kid. We took two big “west” trips with my family, one in 1989 and one in 1991, and she encouraged us to keep journals. They are hilarious and wonderful to read! I’d thought it would help with my planning for our August adventure, but it didn’t really. It did make me nostalgic and laugh at how my criteria for a nice campground meant it must have a pool and how I documented every food item I ate. I was blogging but on paper. It makes me want to keep a trip journal on the upcoming trip, but more likely I will just take notes along the way and then blog later.

So what else have I been up to other than doing sightseeing around town? Practicing for my July 31st concert at the Tavern of Fine Arts…Rehearsing for the play I’m in—I am playing the part of “The Fiddler” in a play this month. It’s not a speaking role—it’s a “playing the violin” role, but it IS a role and rehearsals so far have been both fun and really interesting. The acting world is very different but we have similar goals (to say yes to so many things that cut into our actual income sources in order to keep ourselves too busy, I think?) and I’m learning so much…teaching students, RESCHEDULING students due to play practice…doing all kinds of stuff around the house…planning vacations…and feeling like as usual I don’t devote enough time outside of the house to doing things with friends and as a result I have no friends left (I don’t actually think that’s true, but I feel bad not seeing people in forever!).

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There was a ton of housework involved in order to prepare for the guests! But I’m more pleased with how my home looks right now than since I moved in, so that’s real progress. I’m starting to feel like I’m getting ahold of everything I’m trying to do, even as I continually consider that I am trying to do too much! At least I’ve had a few days to relax and regroup, and having an hour here to blog before I want to get a bit of practice in is nice too. We have dinner plans, and tomorrow is a holiday, and I’m trying to remind myself that I’m basically on top of things and I don’t need to be so stressed, but it’s hard sometimes! Maybe it’s a sign that I am taking on too much, or that I need to work on some better relaxation or coping mechanisms, or who knows. I do sometimes think I worry too much and don’t do enough…which is probably a little crazy sounding.

So now, I can choose. Nap, practice, read…what should I do for an hour? How has your July been going so far?

No case of the Mondays here

My last blog post was a little whiny and down so I wanted to write something more upbeat.

I had a pretty good weekend. The only downside was due to all the rain we’ve been getting here…the basement was leaking a bit, the upstairs bathroom a bit too, and then we were going to go for a hike and saw that the park we wanted to go to was closed due to flooding, and decided that any hike would likely be really muddy and unpleasant. I recently bought new hiking boots for our trip in August and I haven’t had a chance to break them in yet, but I guess worse case I’ll start wearing them on walks with the dog or something.

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So instead of going for a hike Louie and I went to the Missouri History Museum. There were two exhibits that we wanted to see and thought it would be a nice day for it. Everybody else thought so too, evidently, because the one exhibit had a line out the door and the other one was very crowded. Now, I’m not talking Vatican Museum crowded, but still more people than are comfortable at an exhibition. We went through the exhibit called State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda, but then decided to visit A Walk in 1875 St Louis another time. We also looked at the World’s Fair exhibit, which I believe is a permanent exhibit as I saw it last summer. It was a nice way to spend a few hours, and FREE so the cost can’t be beat.

Overall there was a lot of activity over the weekend. Mostly going out to eat and meeting up with friends. There was a lot of mexican food, but also Ethiopian food and a lovely family birthday celebration (for Louie’s stepdad) at Atlas, a new to me restaurant. That dinner was one of the most delicious meals I’d had in awhile! I had walleye with potatoes and carrots, and a wonderful beet salad with goat cheese, walnuts, and arugula. It was all beautifully presented and delicious.

You’d think after a nice weekend I’d be a little bummed to get back to work, but I’m not. I have a light teaching schedule this week which means I’ll have a lot of practicing time (yay, desperately needed) and time for other stuff too. Basically I’m happy it stopped raining (though it’s hot now, boo) and ready to get things done! So I’m off to do that now :)

The Days are long but the weeks are short

I grew up in South Carolina.

This latest mass shooting hit particularly close to home. I’m tired of mass shootings. I’m tired of all shootings. I’m tired of our politicians saying nothing can be done, when this really only happens in the US. And I’m tired of people acting like racism doesn’t exist, when it so obviously is alive and well. I feel terrible for the victims of this current shooting, just as I feel terrible for the victims of every shooting. This has to stop. It’s just ridiculous. We have to stop killing each other.

So how do I go from a serious topic to a frivolous one, like what’s happening in my life? How do I blog at a time like this? Then again, if I didn’t blog on the days or weeks of a mass shooting…when would I blog? And that sounds like a joke, but it’s not. How many more have to die before we start getting rid of the guns?

I guess I’ll focus on what I always do. Music and teaching music to other people. They say you can’t hold a gun in your hand if your hands are full of a musical instrument.

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So…this was a busy week. I was coaching sectionals for a local strings camp. The camp had 3 different orchestras, from beginning to more advanced, and I helped with the violin sections of each group each day. I got to practice my excellent conducting skills on many occasions, sing, play violin, and try my darnedest to keep my voice steady and remain patient in the face of adversity (such as children who refused to stop plucking their violin strings after you just asked them directly to stop). You know, a normal teaching day. After a morning of sectionals each day I had my regular teaching schedule…so the days were long! I’m also practicing for my upcoming recital and some other pieces I’ll be doing in the fall (summer is repertoire planning time, I guess) and running and trying to clean up the house.

It’s been raining basically nonstop this week due to Tropical Storm Bill (and no, we aren’t really on the coast, and sending a tropical storm our way just kind of rubs it in) but we finally saw a break in the rain last night, so I got a 3 mile run (or so, I messed up and accidentally stopped my app) in before going out for some tacos with Louie. That’s a long, poorly written sentence! I’m planning to start training for the MO Cowbell Half Marathon next week—I’m going to do a 12 week training program with a 3 week break in the middle for our Western Road Trip. We will be active on the trip but I don’t plan to stress out over running or anything, because I want to hike and sightsee and take a million pictures and relax.

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There were lovely raspberries from the garden though! The rain kind of ruined what was left, but this picture is from last weekend.

Other events of the week:

Brunch at the Botanical Gardens with April and other friends.

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Dinner later in the week at Meskerem Ethiopian Restaurant.

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Lobster ravioli from Trader Joe’s with a butter/garlic sauce with perhaps a bit too much garlic…

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This guy

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On a follow up note to my previous blog post …thank you for your comments. I’ve decided that I’m tired of being polite and nice to people who are being rude to me and won’t leave me alone about whether or not I am planning to have children or when I’m getting remarried. After writing that post, I had a very frustrating conversation with a colleague who kept badgering me about my life and whether I was going to have children, and he didn’t take the hints that I felt uncomfortable in the conversation. Reflecting on that has led me to feel like, yeah, I’m done. Unless you are my grandmother, I’m done validating my choices, I’m done answering your questions and I’m done with you all telling me that I need to have children before it’s too late, and I’m done with you all judging me for my divorce and worse, asking me what went wrong when you don’t even know how to correctly pronounce my last name or what state I grew up in. Guess what, you don’t know me well enough to ask those questions, and if you did know me well enough, you wouldn’t have to ask because I would have already told you.

Don’t worry, I’m not even that angry, I’m just getting worked up. Well, I am angry about the state of our country in many respects, but I hope that we can channel our collective anger into progress. As far as nosy and rude people, well they are everywhere. I feel more relaxed having made a decision on how to deal with them…I’m sure I’ll get to practice that soon!

thoughts about violin, teaching, running, life.