Thanksgiving Travels

How was your Thanksgiving? Did you have a wonderful meal with friends and family?

Louie and I headed to visit my grandmother, my parents, and other various and sundry relatives in NW Ohio. It was about a 7 hour drive each way, and we stayed for two nights. We had Thanksgiving dinner and a birthday party in honor of my grandmother’s 90th birthday.


I often forget how beautiful it is where my family lives. My dad grew up there also…it’s farm land, small town, but very beautiful, especially on the land where my grandparents lived for years, because they worked hard to make it so.

Anyway, dinner was delicious. Salad and rolls to start, turkey, mashed potatoes/gravy, stuffing, corn, sweet potatoes, and baked apples. For dessert we had pumpkin, mincemeat, or pecan pie. I had mincemeat which is my favorite, and also some of Louie’s pumpkin, and a bite of pecan too. My relatives are great hosts!


The nice weather only lasted one day—the second day we were there it rained the entire time. Boo.

We took pictures of the cousins who were there, plus a picture with significant others.

I should have taken more pictures, but the rest that I had turned out pretty horrible! Lots of pictures with eyes shut or blurry. Maybe my mom got some better ones Smile


This was at breakfast in the hotel. We stayed at the Heritage Inn in Archbold, Ohio and one of the defining features is a giant fake tree in the breakfast area.

Anyway, today I’ve been puttering around the house, catching up on email and calendar scheduling (constant!), running various errands, and generally getting ready for the next few weeks. It’s been nice to have a day to get ready—I hate traveling and getting back at the last minute. I think that’s one of the things that made November hard was having a trip and not being able to have a day to recover. Or maybe I’m just a bit lame?

All my relatives seem to think I work too hard. I think people imagine violin teachers as people who teach a few hours a day, handing out candy while covered in cat hair. The reality is that if you want to make a decent income you have to really hustle and cram those students in! There is only so much time each day that people can come for lessons (unless they are home schooled, retired, or have flexible work schedules) so it means eating dinner late and working into the evenings. And I don’t think I work too hard…or if I do, at least Louie works hard too. We aren’t the sort of people to sit around, and I want to be making a difference in the world..and be making a decent living teaching violin!

I’m trying something new this week and scheduling some tasks that I normally do unscheduled. I’ve been reading Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before (I finished Happier at Home recently too) and got some ideas about how to improve my life. Sometimes I will sit down at the computer to send some emails and before I know it several hours have passed. I’m going to try to have specific wake up and get to work times, and really make sure I’m using my time wisely. The goal is to have free time where I am truly free rather than constantly working or feeling like I should. Self-employment is not for the faint of heart.

The other thing people always suggest is to check email less often. I did set my phone so that it only pulls email every hour. I wonder if looking at email less often truly does save time? Will people just call instead (this is absolutely what I don’t want, nothing takes more time than phone calls, or causes me more stress) if I don’t respond to emails quickly? I would probably prefer texts in some cases, but emails are often easier to keep track of. Anybody have thoughts?

I’m off to practice for a bit before dinner now. I read a friend’s facebook status recently that referred to his violin practice, and I’ve been thinking about that lately…practice as a constant, something you do, rather than practice as something result-oriented. I should go more into depth with that thought in a future blog post!

An Evening Off

It’s amazing to have an evening off. I got home from my fall student recital, put some laundry in, practiced scales for approximately 1 hour and now I’m relaxing. I figured I’d better write a blog post before I fall asleep…even though it’s only 5:20 it’s pitch black outside (well, except for street lights) so I feel like it must be nearly bedtime.

This fall has been out of control. I can’t believe I’m looking forward to the holiday season because things will be less busy. It’s also possible I’m totally wrong on that prediction.

Let’s work backwards. This afternoon 14 students played on my student recital. Today was the first time I’d organized a fall recital for my private students and I’m so glad I was able to get it together. I know the kids learn so much preparing for and performing on recitals. I was particularly proud of a few of my students, one with cochlear implants playing his first recital, another who surprised me by playing from memory when she’d planned to use the music, and two adults who had the nerve to play on a recital with a bunch of kids! But I’m proud of ALL of them, and was so happy with everybody’s performances. I was proud of the students who made mistakes, the ones that stood tall and focused better than they do in the lessons, the one who lost his nerve and had to sit down (especially him, and I hope he doesn’t give up on recitals!)…everybody learned something, and accomplished something that few people in the world are able to. How many of you have played violin on a recital?

Last night the Perseid Quartet played at the Tavern of Fine Arts with Diana Umali. We played Beethoven’s Quartet Opus 59 #1 and Dohnanyi’s Piano Quintet. This was our second performance of the program, and I was glad to have had the first one under our belt. This program was no joke and was a big challenge to have undertaken, but I think we really pulled it off. I believe we are growing as a quartet, and even though we aren’t able to rehearse or practice as much as we might if we weren’t all full time violin/viola/cello teachers as well, we really made some great music! I was pretty stressed about the performance but part way through I really started enjoying myself.


Many thanks to the Tavern for providing a fun place to perform and watch concerts. I’m sure it’s the case in many places, but Louie and I are constantly struck by how many concerts and performances one can attend practically every night, and especially on the weekends. Mostly we are sorry to miss performances, but when we do get to see them we love it!

Friday night we managed to get to Jazz at the Bistro to see the group Omaha Diner.  I taught right beforehand so we decided to make a night of it and get dinner there. The food was alright—it’s catered by Catering St Louis and I think it’s an improvement over the food they used to have but nothing to write home about. However, being able to eat while enjoying excellent music is a real plus!


We initially had seats in the balcony, but for the second set (you can stay for no charge if there is availability) we sat on the main floor really near the stage. Both sets of seats were great!


We ended up sharing our table for the second set with a nice young couple and had a great time chatting with them while waiting for the band to go on again. So, not only great music, decent food, but excellent socialization opportunities? And while I’m not a giant jazz fan (Louie is) I really enjoyed this band—I think it was my favorite concert I’ve attended at Jazz at the Bistro.

Thursday night was our usual Taco Thursday. We’ve ended up going with our friends Ben and Roz quite a few times (they are great to humor our late night dinner schedule! The main issue we have with the event is finding places that serve dinner until 10 pm on Thursday, which is more difficult than you’d think here in STL) and Thursday we did again. We tried Chava’s in Soulard, where I had been years ago but not recently. I had the fried fish tacos and they were pretty good. I’d go there again.

So that’s the highlights of the week. Otherwise it was just teaching, practicing, and rehearsing, with some running (3 times a week pretty consistently), reading (enjoying Gretchen Rubin’s Happier at Home recently) and of course, lots of pets…


Now it’s nearly dinner time—sweet potatoes and red peppers are roasting in the oven, to be added with beans to tortillas for tacos!

Laumeier Sculpture Park and ELaia

Since mostly I blog when I’m overwhelmed and tired (apparently!) right now I’m trying to blog while I’m spending about an hour purposefully relaxing. Why yes, writing my blog IS relaxing!

This weekend has been full of activity, but mostly fun activity. I’ve had a few students and a family issue (nothing to worry you about!) but otherwise Louie and I have had fun together. Friday night we went to the symphony concert…it was a little stressful coming right after what had happened in Paris, which I almost hesitate to even mention, since we ignore mass killings in non-European countries so often, but David Robertson did mention it at the concert…it seems fitting that I acknowledge it, and acknowledge how horrible things can be, and that all we can do is to continue to try to bring joy and music to the world.

So, the symphony. We are subscribers but this was a trade from next week which didn’t work for my schedule. It’s super easy to trade concerts if you buy a subscription, by the way. It took about 3 minutes on the phone. My one complaint about the symphony concert was that they had a little screen up with some words and moving animation in the back for various parts, and I found it very distracting and awful. I find supertitles to be helpful when there are singers, but other than that I don’t want quotes or pictures to “enhance” the performance. The music should speak for itself, and usually does, and definitely would have in this case. I know I can be a fuddy-duddy with classical music (using that world probably makes me one for sure!) but in this case I really think I’m right…

Saturday Louie and I walked around Forest Park enjoying the unseasonably warm weather. It was seriously around 70 degrees and sunny! And then for dinner I’d made reservations to take Louie out for a belated birthday dinner at Elaia. Wow. We had an amazing meal—it was not cheap, but I’d been planning on it for awhile, and it was a great experience. We both got a 4 course prix fixe dinner and shared each course. My favorites were a mushroom dish called “Hen of the Woods” and the Beet and Salmon Salad (totally strange combo, but it worked magnificently). It was a great evening—good food, drinks and conversation. I would say I’ll be back, but not for a long time due to the price. Right next to Elaia is Olio, which is also great and a bit more affordable, depending on how much you eat.

This morning we went to Laumeier Sculpture Park with friends. I had originally thought I’d sleep in a bit, since I’ve been complaining of being tired, but decided it was worth it to do something new with people. It was a lovely morning to walk around in the woods, the grass, and see some interesting art.

This was made by an artist using a chainsaw, if I recall. One tree trunk.


A tree covered in aluminum. It reminds me of that tree from Lord of the Rings. Gondor?


I liked this one with the lady playing the piano. It was a piece of art in memory of somebody, and I thought it was really nice. I hope somebody makes some art for me when I’m gone. Or maybe before that?!


A chair made from a tree trunk. There wasn’t a sign not to sit on it.


A cat mosaic sculpture. It was gorgeous to look at with all the different kinds of materials. Very shiny.


I’m glad I got to do some exploring this weekend and enjoy some new activities. It definitely helped my mindset. It’s easy to feel like life is just on repeat, and that each day is the same as the day before (or in my case, each Monday is the same, each Tuesday, etc…) so seeing a new park and eating a great meal at a new restaurant were great activities for me. Even if I’m still physically a bit tired, I am mentally and emotionally a bit more satisfied, which is good.

One more full week until Thanksgiving! This week will be a bit stressful too, as I’ve got another quartet concert AND a student recital, among other things but there is light at the end of the tunnel and that light is a bright one Winking smile

Friday the 13th

*dusts off blog program*

I know I say this a lot, but WOW where do the weeks go? How are we one full week away from Thanksgiving already? I guess the trick is to keep your head down and keep plugging away, eh?

Or keeping busy. Sometimes I think, WHY oh why do I keep doing things that cause a lot of stress for no good reason? For instance, last night’s quartet concert caused a lot of stress because we were performing Beethoven’s Op. 59 Quartet no. 1 for the first time, and it is really a beast of a piece. I put many hours of practice into it, and we put many hours of rehearsal into it. But the fact is, there is plenty of good reason, just not financial. So often society tells us that success is measured through paychecks and job titles, but I disagree. We succeeded last night by pushing through and doing something really difficult for no real reason other than the sheer joy, no, exhilaration of performing at our highest level, and performing one of my favorite quartets. Granted, I have quite a few favorites, but op 59 #1 is up there. One of my goals is to be able to perform the late Beethoven Quartets… op. 132 is my absolute favorite piece of music. But without performing and working through and struggling with these other Beethoven Quartets, which are so satisfying and wonderful in their own ways, I will never get to the late quartets. I may never anyway, but I’m on the path. So my whole point is, yes, this stressed me out, like all performances do, but I love performing and I love finishing a performance and feeling successful and accomplished, and feeling like my life is important and that I am doing something important.

(We perform again next Saturday at the Tavern of Fine Arts. Come out and hear us play Beethoven and the Dohnanyi Piano Quintet.)

Last weekend we traveled to Phoenix to see our friends Mark and Karen get married.


I did not realized quite how tall I was until this picture.

Louie and I stayed with my sister Leslie and her family—everybody else there plays with the Phoenix Symphony, basically.

I played with a quartet for the ceremony. It was like being at work but with a shorter yellow dress. Perhaps nearly too short for sitting on a stage.


This was my view during the ceremony. It’s one of the things that sucks about playing for a friend—you don’t really get to enjoy the ceremony, but it is always an honor to be asked to play by a fellow musician!


The reception was at a place called The Duce and was a lot of fun.


Too much fun, probably.


This picture is stolen from another wedding guest’s facebook page. Louie and I met through Mark and Karen, but failed to get a picture of the 4 of us. Actually that’s not true, as they are in the background of two pictures above, but that’s not what I mean. IMG_3755


Since it was such a short visit, and we ended up hanging around the house each day looking a bit rough until it was time to get ready for the events, I didn’t get as many Athena photos as I should have! *vain*


She wasn’t sure about this selfie.

Anyway, after a whirlwind trip over the weekend, the week felt like it had been going on and on. This weekend isn’t so bad, though I have some makeup lessons each day so I don’t get any official days off. We are going to the symphony tonight and out (finally) for a nice dinner for Louie’s birthday tomorrow (3 weeks late) so it should be a lovely weekend.  We’re also hoping to get out into the world during the day and hike, walk, or run, and perhaps get some housework done too. Basically there aren’t nearly enough hours left to do all the things we’ve had to put off, or to do and see the things we want, but we keep at it.

Chloe is healing…slowly. I wish I could explain why she has to wear the cone, but then maybe she could explain what’s going on with her and then we’d all be happier. Until then, lots of cuddles and petting, and cleaning up urine and gross stuff. It’s a hard time.


I have to remind myself that life isn’t a straight line, there are ups and downs, and sometimes you take a few steps forward and a few back. I’m feeling run down and tired right now, and as usual I’m rambling, but…I’m really looking forward to some downtime over Thanksgiving (and seeing family!). I always really need to make an effort to see friends and people other than Louie-he’s great, but I can’t ONLY hang out with my boyfriend, and the same for him, we need more people! When life gets busy it’s easy to want to finish the day in sweatpants watching TV with a glass of wine, but that’s not necessarily the best thing to do every night. I think part of this age group is that we are all busy with work and then exhausted, and if you don’t plan in advance, nothing happens, but you just hate planning every step of your life in advance. Sigh.

Why do I always start complaining when I start blogging? I swear I have all these interested positive thoughts and then…I just start complaining about how hard life is. It’s not so bad. After the concert last night I met Louie at Mission Taco for our traditional Taco Thursday and had some good food and great conversation. Between now and Monday I only have 4 1/2 hours of teaching (!!) and that doesn’t seem like so much. Lots of time to catch up on all the housework Smile

And thanks for your comments on my last post, the few of you reading. I think you’re right—my writing hasn’t gotten better, but different, as I’ve grown as a person. The best thing I can do is keep reading and writing. A good excuse to read more books, to help my blogging, right?

*After hitting publish I was thinking about how I often feel tired, even after having gotten a new bed. Sometimes I think it’s because I need more exercise! But I thought, gosh, why do we keep trying to do all these activities when I’m run down, and the answer is, because you look back and you remember the activities fondly, you don’t remember nights on the couch in your pj’s. At least that’s how I feel! So it’s worth it, and I probably just need a couple days off to reboot. I haven’t had a few days off since we got back from our trip in August.


I read somewhere, somebody, complaining that millennials aren’t properly grown up, and that they even use the word “adult” as a verb, as in “I don’t want to adult.”


I’m not a millennial, I’m evidently Gen X (though I don’t recall that I was growing, I recall being Gen Y growing up, but now I’m Gen X and Gen Y has been renamed, so whatever) and…it gets old hearing people complain about young folks. I think every generation has worked hard, and for those of us entering the workplace post-9-11 it has been exceptionally hard. And yet constantly we are being told how lazy we are and how we just expect everything to be given to us, and all I see are people working really hard.

Most of the time when people make the “adulting” joke it’s about stuff like dealing with financial paperwork or insurance issues, perhaps renewing a driver’s license, or more complicated things like dealing with sick parents or a pet. Does anybody look forward to those things?

For me lately, it’s the sick pet thing…Chloe has been picking at her fur and skin again, and the other day had a horrible spot on her side. We put the cone back on for the foreseeable future, and took her to the vet. We aren’t certain yet the source of her issues, but I hope we can figure it out soon. She doesn’t pee in the litter boxes anymore, either…sigh. Having older cats is tough, but I hope we can figure out what’s going on.

This week has been going by in a blur. The fall has been busy, tiring, and pretty hard. Things are generally good, but just that there’s been so much to deal with!  Once Louie finishes school and starts working I think everything will be a little easier…at least his schedule might be easier, and that stress will be lifted.  I tend to pick up his stress and also have my own (keeping my schedule intact and keeping up to date on my students is a constant stress, not to mention performing, and then all the around the house stuff, plus dealing with a sick kitty.)

I’m happy that November is here. I’m not really into Halloween like some people are, and frankly I’m glad it’s over. It was starting to annoy me. (I know, I know…I sound old and cranky!) But Thanksgiving, well that’s a holiday I can get on board with. And this weekend I am traveling to a wedding in Phoenix and though it’s ALSO adding to my stress (early travel! how to pack to avoid checking a bag! playing violin at the wedding!) it should be a lot of fun and I can’t wait to see Leslie and my niece. Next weekend ALSO has a few fun activities planned, and then I’ll be visiting family for Thanksgiving, so this month is full of good stuff…hopefully. And not that the every day isn’t nice, but October felt like I was working all the time, and I’m looking forward to having some downtime this month. Fingers crossed!

I do feel like my blog posts this fall have been whiny…sorry to make you read it if that’s the case Winking smile (maybe they have always been like this?) I think I have to work harder on choosing what to stress over and what to let go…or I have too much on my plate?  It’s not that I’m too busy even, but just that it’s hard to feel like I’m on top of things. I guess having 38 students means there are always a few things to take care of. I really should do what people suggest and have a set time to deal with emails and non-time urgent things. Maybe I’ll start ONLY dealing with those to-do’s in the morning, and spend a certain amount of time, and then move on with my life. Music lessons are rarely a life-or-death situation, but sometimes rescheduling feels like it.

I sometimes read my old blog posts and think that I write worse today than I used to. I wonder if that’s true or if I am more critical of myself in the present day than in retrospect. Thoughts?

Who even knows what day it is

I just spent at least 5 minutes thinking it was Tuesday. Sigh. Often it’s easy to know what day it is as I see the same folks on the same day each week (perils of a private violin teacher) but this week between opera rehearsals and some other students rescheduling for THEIR rehearsals…I’m seeing people on the wrong day which just really throws me off.

Today is evidently National Cat Day. Maybe that’s the day that matters!


So, is anybody else already over Halloween? For me, this is not one of my favorite holidays. And I think that the number of Halloween activities seems to be out of hand. Halloween is a holiday for kids to go trick-or-treating. From door to door, house to house, not out of the back of somebody’s car…doesn’t Trunk of Treat just teach kids that people actually DO have candy in their cars and that yes, you should probably trust them when they say, hey, come here little boy, I have candy?

I’m told there is decoration and it’s all in good fun. But I’m pretty sure that’s what regular trick-or-treating is, except you walk further between the houses than you do for cars, and it’s just one night so you don’t have to worry about how much candy your kid gets all month long.

Maybe I’m old and crotchety. Or maybe I’m jealous that Thanksgiving hasn’t taken over like Halloween and Christmas have. (And Fourth of July. Don’t get me started on how the fireworks were nearly a week late this year in our neighborhood which majorly threw off plans and ultimately led to an incredibly anticlimactic party.) How about we start celebrating Trunksgiving, where you go from car to car eating Thanksgiving food that people have prepared. Mmm…turkey here, stuffing over there, gravy off the back of that truck, cranberry sauce from that little Fiat.

Which reminds me. I used to have an adult student who came to my house in Cleveland, and one time he came up for his lesson and told me that after parking, a man approached him and asked if he wanted to buy some meat. The man evidently had random packages of meat in his trunk that he was trying to unload. Or maybe my student misunderstood and it was a pay per car type of Trunksgiving celebration. 


I do know that tonight is Taco Thursday. Well, to be fair, I’ve called it Mexican Monday and Taco Tuesday today (at one point Louie said, are you having a stroke?) so I will say that I know, with at least 37 percent certainty, that tonight is Taco Thursday. That’s probably far more than Congress knows, so I’ll consider it a win.

thoughts about violin, teaching, running, life.