Bear Necessities

You know how when you’re out in the woods you hear weird noises? We were camping on our second night in Aspen, and I woke up in the middle of the night, or early in the morning, to hearing somebody throwing a bag of ice around. I couldn’t tell if it was in our campsite or not! I lay there quietly, assuming it wasn’t, because that would be super weird. There was a lot of footsteps, but no noises, no talking, and I decided not to wake Louie up because I didn’t want him making noise. I was pretty sure there wasn’t anybody in our site, who would do that? Or we were getting robbed and I didn’t want the person to notice our tent, as there were no footsteps coming near. I heard somebody rattle what sounded like our bear box (that’s a box where you are supposed to keep your food) and then all was quiet, so I went back to sleep. I had a variety of dreams of waking up and finding that somebody had set their tent up next to ours!

We were in bear country. If you camp a lot, you know exactly what I mean. It seems that every campground has different rules. In Yellowstone they made you sign something agreeing—all your food must be kept in your trunk, all your toiletries that were scented also. No food, water, or scented toiletries (i.e. toothpaste, lotion, etc) in the tent with you. You had to wash your dishes in a certain sink, and make sure that all your trash was in special bear proof trashcans.

At the Difficult campground, they gave us our own bear box. And we usually kept a clean camp, put everything away. But there were a few things: one was that there wasn’t anywhere to wash dishes—they just told us to throw our water in the woods. And that the picnic table had a sign saying to put your things in your car.

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Not only the bear box, but the car. The camp host had told us to use the box though…and laughed. But we had gotten “home” late and forgot to cover or move the cooler.

I woke up early, and got out of the tent to go to the toilet. I figured I’d see that everything was fine. But it wasn’t. The first thing I saw was shattered glass, and thought, OH MY GOD we’ve been robbed. And then I realized our car had been attacked by a bear.

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The bear pulled the top of the car door down and removed the lid of the cooler and threw it on the ground. I started freaking out and yelled for Louie to get out of the tent and come see. We were both in total shock for a bit!

After awhile we started cleaning up. I was worried about the glass at first, but it was safety glass which mean it wasn’t as sharp as window glass would be. There was ice and melted water all over the backseat and the clothes. Most of the damage was on the window though, and nothing on the upholstery, thank goodness!

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If you look you can see the dirty pawprint from the bear shaking this box. This is a bear box. If we had put our cooler in it we might not have had the bear attack. I do take the blame for it, but I’ll say this: I had never heard of this sort of thing happening before—I’d heard that bears would rip into soft top cars and tents, but not metal! I’d also add that the sign on the picnic table at the site says put food in the bear box or a locked car, which we did. And I’d also think that putting dishwater wherever you wanted would attract bears! So we were to blame, but there were other factors. And honestly, I think maybe people in tents shouldn’t camp at the Difficult Campground at all, and they should just say that. We found out later that another car was broken into and a “bear proof” cooler was broken into by the bear that night, and a few campers SAW the bear trying to break into their bear box.

(A google search found that a few years ago the problem at the campground was bad and they banned tents, but lifted the ban. I wonder if they told anyone after our attack?)

So here we were, at the beginning of a 3 week road trip, with a messed up car! We panicked for a few minutes, but then decided to try to do something. We had to drive into Aspen to make phone calls (nothing at the campsite available, no phone other than one for local calls which didn’t include 800 calls, and no pay phone) so we did that, carefully, and after checking with the insurance that it was allowed, Louie and I headed to a hardware store to try to fix up the window.

It ended up working really well. Louie managed to bend the metal back up, added plexiglass, and taped the whole thing with a combination of duct tape and gorilla tape. We realized pretty early that the entire door would need to be replaced, so putting tape on it wasn’t a concern.

We spent a few hours at the True Value in downtown Aspen working on it. The employees there were both really helpful and incredibly nosy too Smile Everybody kept coming out to see the car. People said that this kind of thing happened a lot (news to us, and I’ll bet to most of you) and that bears break glass doors, eat out of the trash, break into cars, etc. I ask, what is Aspen doing to help (the answer seems, very little) and I also ask, why don’t more people know about this? Honestly, we didn’t realize how bad the problem was, and we likely wouldn’t have camped. Maybe that’s why they don’t tell people? Or do they just think all towns have major bear problems? I don’t know!

I do know a few things; I won’t be camping there again, and we won’t be underestimating bears again.

We got the window fixed up though, by lunchtime (a waste of a morning, but it could have been worse!) and thankfully I’m dating an engineer who worked in remodeling and construction and knows how to make stuff work really well! And even though we wouldn’t be able to open that door for the rest of the trip, at least we didn’t have to cancel our trip.

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(I couldn’t find a better picture of the car, but you can see the tape here and how well we fixed it up!)

So, that’s our “best” story from the trip. Our car got attacked by a bear. Oh, and he ate the rest of a bag of Trader Joe’s peanut butter pretzels, 2 apples, half a tub of hummus (left the rest), and even a beer. There was a can of beer that had a claw mark and had been drained. (Louie has a picture I know, but I don’t have it right now. I’ll share it later if I can find it from him!).

Sigh. What a day.  But we weren’t hurt, and the upholstery wasn’t hurt, the insurance would cover it (minus the deductible) and the trip would continue!

And so it begins…to Aspen

I love traveling. I love planning travel. AND I love writing about travel after the fact, but I’ll admit it’s the most daunting and perhaps the least fun part of it. This past trip was a doozy! How do I write about it? The best way, I suppose, is simply to put my fingers on the keyboard, have my photos at the ready, and GO!

So. We set out on a lovely Wednesday morning towards the end of July. My sister Carrie had been staying with me for a few days (we’d even gone on a float trip with her-it was a raincheck from Memorial Day that needed to be used) and she was staying behind for another day. Timing…but she was able to dog sit for a bit and then my friend April would be doing so afterwards (until she moved to DC, so sad!)

Louie and I planned to drive to Denver in one day. It’s a long drive, but possible. The following day we had reservations at the Difficult Campground in Aspen, so we wanted to get a good chunk of the drive behind us.

I’d been a little stressed out about my trip planning. I’d made a few rash decisions on camping reservations (based on availability and panic) and we were moving around nearly every night! I’d also really wanted to go back to Rocky Mountain NP for a few days, but then it ended up we wanted to be in Aspen for a few days to visit Louie’s dad, and then the timing got mixed up and our itinerary had us backtracking several hours. I have some regrets…but I’ll consider them things to learn from, and honestly, most of it worked out pretty well and we got to see more than we might have otherwise. But there were stressors, and things I was worried about, more so than in previous trips.

We’d tried to organize the trunk in a certain way, in order to facilitate staying organized. Over the next week or so things would solidify into a true plan, but there were some bumps. Here’s the trunk starting out!

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Note: car camping for three weeks out of a Toyota Corolla is a challenge. Plus I’d purchased some of my favorites from Trader Joe’s, since I didn’t think we’d encounter any of those along the way, and it took up a fair amount of room. The backseat had the cooler, various shoes, all the clothes, backpacks, and camp chairs. Here you see the food, dishes, stove, sleeping bags, and the tent and sleeping pads (thermarests) are in there too. There are three bins with different categories: food, food prep, and non food prep.

Anyway! A tradition of driving to Colorado is stopping in Kansas City at Arthur Bryant’s for barbecue. On the one hand, I’ve become mostly a pescatarian. On the other hand, I said mostly.

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I had the burnt end sandwich with beans and it didn’t disappoint. And the pickles! I am such a pickle lover. Why, yes, I’m waxing poetic over the pickles on a barbecue platter.

Anyway, the day went by uneventfully. Missouri goes by quickly, Kansas takes longer.  And then there’s that part of Colorado that really just seems like it should be Kansas.

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The wind farms are always fun to drive by, and we were just pumped up to finally be on vacation and hitting the road. It’s been a hard year, a stressful year, and we keep trying to get away and relax. Spoiler: we didn’t relax on this trip, but we did get away.

We’d hoped to find a cheap hotel in the Denver area but failed. I wanted to have a chill night of oh, let’s just walk into a place that looks good, as one would have on a road trip 30 years ago. But I instead started to panic and ended up spending way too much on a terrible Motel 6 near the airport. Oh, and we had dinner at McDonald’s along the way and got to watch part of the DNC…doesn’t that seem so long ago? McDonald’s has “fish” sandwiches, which are actually pretty terrible, but not too bad for food on the road I guess.

The morning came and with it, a nearby Denny’s. When the calorie counts are listed on the menu you find yourself ordering things like fruit and whole wheat pancakes.

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This guy was both creepy and a little adorable. 60/40? 30/70? Anyway, then we hit the road. Into the mountains of Colorado we went!

On the way to Aspen Louie’s dad recommended we try a hike called the Shrine Pass hike, which is just on this side of Vail. He described it as “easy” so we forgot that 8000-10000 feet of altitude requires some adjustment. I was getting visually a bit blurry after we went through the Eisenhower Tunnel, and was super thirsty and a bit headachy…this should have told me something. In a nutshell, the hike was extremely challenging. I was short of breath and felt terrible! I should tell readers that I spent two summers in Breckenridge at a music festival, and firstly, I love the area: Breckenridge is like heaven, and secondly, altitude is no joke. It can take a few days to adjust, and one at mile high wasn’t enough.

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The baconesque popcorn was really puffy from the altitude!

The hike was probably really beautiful (it was, really) but I was feeling pretty awful and it was too hard. 4.2 miles round trip.

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Okay, sure, Colorado is beautiful.

After the hike we hit the road again towards Aspen. We had a reservation for 3 nights at the Difficult Campground, a few miles from the town of Aspen. Louie’s dad was working there for a bit and he wasn’t sure if he would have room for us to stay with him.

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This raccoon was posing and begging for us, but we know better than to feed wild animals. Well…mostly.

We got to the campsite and had to set up the tent and everything, and then he came to pick us up for dinner.

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We set up the tent towards the back of the site.

It’s hard doing things normally while camping. For instance: our campsite didn’t have flush toilets, only vault toilets and water out of a spigot. So we couldn’t shower or freshen up for a dinner out very well. When you are camping and hiking and only around other people doing the same things, this isn’t a big deal, but when you are hanging out with people who are staying in a real house with running sinks and showers and wearing regular clothes, it’s odd. I had to reconcile myself to the fact that I wasn’t as put together as I would have liked to be, but the dinner sure was delicious.

The next morning we took a hike that left right near the campsite, called the Difficult Trail.

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The description of it, in an old book, said that it was 3 miles one way and that there was a point where the trail wasn’t maintained anyway, but you could pick your way through for awhile. The trail was quite steep at first, but it was really nice, shady and in the woods.

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Lots of boulders and trees and cool stuff to look at. We had a few times where we had to climb over some logs and follow cairns but didn’t think too much of it until the trail ran out entirely, and we realized it seemed we’d gone about 4.5 miles!

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So I think we actually hiked all the way to the end of the UNmaintained part before heading back: I’ll say 9 miles RT. It was nice though, and then we met up with Louie’s dad and wife, and walked around Aspen for a bit. We’d thought about having dinner at the campground due to their work schedule, but ended up having a later dinner at their condo. We didn’t get “home” until nearly 11 pm and were exhausted: that’s very late for camping since the sun tends to wake you up early!

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So that’s enough of the first post here. Our plan for the next day was to wake up early and do another hike. I want to keep track of our hiking mileage too.

Hiking so far: 13.5 miles

Days camping: 2 nights

Home Glorious Home

I got home late yesterday afternoon from an epic 3 week road trip. I’ll be writing LOTS about it in the upcoming weeks, as you all know how long trip recaps can take. It was full of adventure, good and bad, but Louie and I survived, thrived, and explored so many amazing parts of our country. I’m in recovery! After the trip we had so much unpacking to do, and so much laundry. Today I’ve been relearning the violin, working on my fall schedule, and responding to many hours worth of emails. Self employment, you guys. It’s a tough world!

I don’t regret taking three weeks off to see the world though, and I’ll gladly do it again next week. I have so many pictures to show you, so many amazing hikes and drives to write about, and a bunch of mishaps, mistakes, and misadventures as well. Next trip will be a slower pace, but this one was a blast.

We saw Aspen, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado National Monument, Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse State Park, Arches National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Kodachrome State Park, Zion National Park, Grand Canyon National Park (North Rim), Lake Powell and Glen Canyon Recreation Area, and Antelope Canyon. Those were the big stops! We drove around 3000 miles, many of them incredibly scenic. We camped for 14 nights in 11 different campsites in 10 different campgrounds, many of them incredibly scenic. We hiked many miles…maybe I’ll add them up somehow.

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And as I’m looking at my pictures, I’m already saying, why didn’t I take more pictures of this or that. As always! You can never take too many pictures.

How are you doing? What have you been up to in the last three weeks??

Getting ready to hit the road

There are a few things happening. One: my youngest sister Carrie is coming to visit. Two: Louie and I are getting ready to embark on a 3 week road trip. Three: Continuing to work, of course, as vacation doesn’t start early when you have 3 weeks of it coming up.

So it’s busy times, and lots of list making. I use the “to-do” list on my iPhone to keep track of things. When I think of something, I put it on the list, and then when I have a few minutes, or longer, I check the list to see if there’s anything on there I can do and get checked off. I get a huge sense of satisfaction each time I check something off, and I get to keep track of everything.

We went to Tower Taco last night for dinner. I got a vegetarian burrito and it was HUGE. It was also pretty good and I have half of it left for lunch, which I shall eat in a few minutes.

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This week teaching has been pretty easy, and I’ve been taking it easier on practicing. I still have been doing some, but it’s hard to put in the time when you know you’re going on a vacation. Of course, the fact that I’m going on a trip and won’t play for 3 weeks is exactly WHY I should still be practicing…haha. I struggle with many of the same issues my students do!

I had to take my car in for a tire repair yesterday. There’s a shop I go to that is less than a mile from my house—convenient because you can run or walk to it. I ran home (took a longer route) and was a sweaty mess by the time I got back. It probably took nearly 30 minutes after my shower before I really felt cooled off. So I didn’t want to walk back to the shop later. I took an uber from my house. It felt a little lazy, but it was nearly 110 with the heat index. My uber driver told me that he had been playing Pokemon Go at Tower Grove Park before getting my request. I’m torn on this game. I don’t play it, but I guess it’s nice that a game is getting people out and about? But then again, I hope they can appreciate getting out and seeing the world on the level of, hey, look at all this world out here to explore! I guess if a game starts that, then it’s great. I don’t know.

I’m super bummed because my friend April is moving to DC for the fall semester. She’s in grad school and it’s a sort of internship, and she’ll be gone the whole fall. She’s one of my go-to friends for fun activities, and she’s often up for hiking, running races, and doing various other activities. She’s also a wonderful friend to talk to, is so sweet and caring, and has been there for me through some tough times. I’ll miss her a ton! We are going to see a movie on Art Hill tonight (another activity! which involves bringing a picnic, which has been a minor theme of the summer) and though it’ll be really hot and humid, I’m still looking forward to it.

And then tomorrow I have 3 weddings, one is outside (ah, the heat!), and then Carrie is here. Carrie is my youngest sister and she lives in New York City. She’s just finished grad school and is quite a bit younger than me. Louie and I realized that we had a rain check for a canoe trip from the cancelled Memorial Day trip so the 3 of us are doing a float trip on Sunday.

You might not hear from me again for awhile, I’m not sure. Don’t worry, I’m just on a road trip. We are going to Aspen, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado National Monument, Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, Capitol Reef NP, Kodachrome State Park, Bryce NP, Zion NP, Grand Canyon North Rim, Antelope Canyon, and Las Vegas, NM. If you have any hike or must see suggestions, let me know in the comments or email! I have all of our reservations for camping made and most general plans, but there is still room for things, and choices must be made. It would be nice to not have to have all the reservations made, but it seems like in order to camp in the parks, you really have to plan ahead. Some of my reservations have been made for over 4 months! In any case, I’m super excited to see some new places, to revisit some places I’ve already been, and to spend 3 weeks traveling and hiking and camping and enjoying the great outdoors, and enjoying the wonderful National Parks!

It’s definitely July

The heat. My god, the heat. (I’m not quoting Seinfeld, he doesn’t own the English language. I made that up on my own.)

We are under a heat advisory until Friday night! This is typical for St Louis. I did go for a short run this morning—I’d gotten new shoes on a steep discount on Amazon Prime Day and was glad they arrived just before I went out. I shouldn’t have waited until 10 am to run though, as it was a heat index of 99 already. I figure it’s good to get acclimated, but also good to take it easy, keep it short, and drink loads of water.

This summer is flying by. Much like life. We are one week away from going out of town for a few weeks. ROAD TRIP. Which was the big climax of the summer and I feel like the summer has been kind of a bummer. It’s no one thing, and honestly, there have been a lot of great moments and activities. But it’s just been a tough year, for a variety of reasons, and the summer hasn’t been any easier. Between personal and career stressors, people and animals being sick and dying, and the horrible things going on in the world and politically, it’s hard to stay positive! I do need to try to do better. Louie suggested we start meditating, and maybe he’s right. I’ve never been one for sitting still and thinking or whatever meditation is about, and maybe it would be good for me.

But as usual, lots of activities. Last week we went to the Cat Video Festival at the Museum of Contemporary Art. It was a fun evening, though the sound for the movies was way too loud! We laughed a lot, and enjoyed a photo booth beforehand.

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I was a VIP. This was because I paid more for our tickets and got a reserved seat. It was annoyingly an obstructed view seat. Maybe I’m complaining too much—it was fun! I wish I had cats!

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Mackenzie is doing a bit better though. Her hair is growing back in many places and she seems to be feeling a lot better too.

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April took some nice photos during the Gateway Festival Orchestra concert last weekend. I had a solo, for which I was very excited about, until I got a giant nerve attack. I was taken aback by getting all shaky as I’ve performed a lot recently, and I do have solos with Winter Opera too! But I got really shaky and didn’t have any beta blockers left…I used to take them for auditions and stuff, but ran out a few years ago and never got another prescription since I thought I was fine. So now I’m not sure what to do. Again, maybe the meditation would help. I think I’ve been under a lot of stress, much of it self-inflicted, and it WAS a big crowd, and an orchestra of people who don’t know me well, and that I was wanting so hard to make a good impression on. Oh well! I think it was still okay, and if they want to judge me for having nerve issues, then fine. Judge me. Join the crowds.

Last night we went to dinner at a restaurant called Sheesh on South Grand. I loved the presentation, so beautiful! The food was delicious as well.

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I’m off to practice for a bit before I teach. I am teaching until the night before we leave, so no rest for the weary!

Summer Time

I am a schedule person. I like having a schedule, and following it, and scheduling things, and knowing exactly how my day and week will unfold. To some that may sound rigid, but honestly, it’s what holds my life together. You can’t be a successful freelance musician and private teacher without being good at scheduling!

Of course, sometimes things change, and I have to be flexible. That’s sometimes hard for me, because like I said, I love scheduling and planning. And I often feel that it’s not fair that I should have to accommodate those that don’t—shouldn’t they accommodate me? Isn’t this why the calendar exists??

In any case, summer time is always a little more relaxed. I looked at my schedule for this week, and next, and realized I have 3 days each week that only have 2 or 3 students. Every summer I’m unhappy with how teaching works out, and I THINK that next summer I will consolidate, and only teach 3 days or something like that, rather than having 5 days of teaching but only 1-2 hours for some of those days. It’s always hard to figure out, because nobody wants to schedule, or because nobody wants to schedule as early as I do…except for the few students that ask about summer lessons even before I’ve starting thinking about it. Really I am not even the most schedule-y of all schedule-y people I know!

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(played in a new-to-me orchestra, the Gateway Festival Orchestra. I had the honor of sitting concertmaster!)

I haven’t blogged as much lately because I’ve been doing all kinds of stuff…that perhaps isn’t that interesting. I’m working hard to get everything organized for teaching in the fall. Right now that means scheduling a recital and some other things that are kind of new for my studio (fall contest and group/studio classes) and there’s lot of thinking and emailing and planning involved. I’m still processing everything from the workshop, practicing tons of rep and etudes, and brainstorming new stuff for all my students to play. All of this is happening now because in TWO WEEKS we will be in Colorado…on day 2 of our road trip, and we are going to be gone for nearly 3 weeks. (I’m comfortable telling you that because we will have a house-sitter, so don’t try anything, but also, the house-sitter doesn’t teach violin so don’t stop by for a lesson!).

Road trip plans…it’s a crazy trip. Colorado: Aspen, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado National Monument. Utah: Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce, and Zion. Arizona: North Rim Grand Canyon, Page (Antelope Canyon). Home through New Mexico. There’s more driving and moving than last summer, but I think it’ll be very do-able. I’m worried about how hot it will be in Utah and we are mentally prepping to be HOT, and physically prepping by being outside a lot here and making sure we have good hats, sunscreen, and loads of water.

After we get back, the fall should be fun, even though there’s a lot of stress between mid-August and mid-October.

Good news: right now Mackenzie (the dog!) is doing really quite well. Some of her hair has grown back (on her head and ears) and I’m hopeful that the new medicine will continue to help her improve. It’s been a hard year in so many ways, and having some good news is so very welcome.

We’ve been working hard planning how to make this road trip happen. We are tent camping, and we are going in Louie’s Corolla, which means space is at a premium. The goals for the trip are to keep the car organized, and to get our campsite set-up and tear-down as quick and efficient as possible! We plan to cook most of our meals at the campsite, and hope that we can manage an occasional shower and laundry—most of the campgrounds we are staying at are renowned for their locations and natural beauty but not their amenities. We do have reservations for each and every night, and most days there is only 1-3 hours of driving so we will be able to get some good hiking and sightseeing in!

Totally random post here, I know, just my thoughts. I always like to get the words down so I can look back, and you the reader can see at least what level of crazy I’m dealing with right now Smile I’m sad because my friend April is going away in the fall for an internship of sorts…she will be gone when we get back so we have been trying to hang out a lot! My youngest sister Carrie is coming to visit for a few days though, which will be delightful, and my parents might stop by at the end of their summer road trip. (They are beating our itinerary in terms of awesome and crazy by spending nearly a month on the road in ALASKA. Another time!)

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(April took these pictures last Sunday night at Wash U-Gateway Festival Orchestra. I’ll be playing again this Sunday—the weather will hopefully be nice and you can picnic in the lawn, which my friends did last week. This week Louie might bring Mackenzie so she can enjoy an orchestra concert.)

Anyway! I’m off to grab lunch with a friend/colleague. Free food from Panera, due to our having an abundance of gift cards from students.

thoughts about violin, teaching, running, life.