Category Archives: Random thoughts

Mid November

I had a nice trip to visit April in Atlanta—three days off work (some of you call that a weekend—I had worked for 60 straight days before that)…and it wasn’t enough. I’m back at it, and I’m exhausted! I am really looking forward to Thanksgiving break, during which I’ll get two entire days off!

Yes, I’m working too hard. But the good news is I’m finally seeing an increase in the bank balance, and I’m really trying to save. I did a little more shopping this fall than last year—mostly updating my “black” wardrobe, with a few other fun items, but I’m feeling better about my financial future than I did a few years ago. Maybe my taxes will go up, maybe I’ll never see any social security (even though I pay into it every quarter, at a higher rate than you do, unless you are also self employed), maybe the world will end in fire, but other than being exhausted and occasionally making totally boneheaded moves like having to email one student three times to get it right…and even then having the email be pretty confusing…life is okay.

I had a few realizations today. One: I spent many adult years feeling lonely. I don’t anymore, even though I wish I had a few more close friends. I feel like I know where I belong, and I have enough meaningful relationships and my romantic partner understands me. Two: I don’t recall what’s it’s like to be bored or have too much time on my hands. I know it’s only November and in August we took 2 weeks off to travel…but that too was scheduled…maybe I really need to figure out a time to focus on self-care (that’s the hot topic, right?) and be able to relax.

Or I just need to make sure I’m eating right, finding time to exercise, sleep, and maintain some relationships well enough. And then the rest is just how it is. This is 39.

Breathe in, breathe out

We are all busy people. I might be complaining about it more than others. I might be more busy. Or I might not.

What do I mean by busy? I mean that there aren’t enough hours in the day. Do we all take on too many things? Probably, but I won’t simply work for money. I need to work a certain amount for money. And then I need to practice, and that’s for me. And I need to (I put need in my career and life aspirations here, to be clear) perform and play chamber music and other concerts. If I don’t do those things, then what is the point? The issue is when they all run together and there just isn’t enough time to get all the things done: to run a private studio, to meet the needs of my college students also, to respond to emails, to order what needs ordering, to respond to phone calls, to listen to music, to eat as healthy as possible throughout all of this and to work out several times a week…

But this week I’ve been breathing. I’m not totally sure why. Partly because I’m just used to it all now, partly because some of my students have canceled for various reasons and I end up with an extra 30 minutes here, an hour there. Partly because my practice has paid off and some upcoming performances are feeling READY and so I’m less panicked…who knows why.

Tomorrow night my friend and colleague Amy and I are playing a terrific program at Wash U. We are very excited to perform: it’s a really varied program and has been a lot of fun to put together. Amy and I approach music in a very similar way, at least as far as I can tell working with her so far, and that’s both good and bad. But she’s been really fun to work with, and I’m excited about our concert. We named our duo Duo Sirena, and plan to play some more. 

I’m also still of course working with my friends at the Perseid Quartet and we finally have our concert in November booked. It’s hard managing one’s own career and there’s an ebb and flow, and this season has been a little slower getting started, but we’ve got some great stuff planned and I’m excited to learn quite a few new pieces.

As far as my students, their needs range. I’m trying to participate in or organize some events throughout the year, and this weekend is the second year some are playing for the Arch Cup. I’m hoping they get some more trophies like last year! And then I’m working on getting some to play on the play-a-thon at the Galleria that SLAMTA runs (this is a holiday event) and have decided to push the recital back into February and maybe I’ll have a Valentine’s theme or something? College students have different needs, mostly they need to practice more (oh that’s all of them, and YES I mean you!), but they have juries and recitals and worries about the future, and I try to be as present for everybody as I can.

I know this has been a tough year. I get stressed out easily. I’ve been working too much but I feel it’s necessary. I spend too much time reading the news and worrying (what will happen when the market goes down, what will happen to my health insurance, what if there’s a nuclear war, why are people so horrible to each other?). I’ve worked for 32 days straight now (for me that doesn’t count practice or working from home, but counts any scheduled work activity like a rehearsal, lesson, concert, or gig) and the end isn’t really in sight (there’s a possibility coming up but I suspect it will get filled because there are some unscheduled rehearsals needed, and that’s okay). I can handle it. I have been sleeping a little more than earlier in the month (Opera was a challenge) and the weather is cooler and I love it and I will make it.

There’s my brain dump. I must remember to breathe.

My niece turns three soon. My earliest memory (as I recall and claim) is my third birthday party. I feel like the pressure is ON now! In all honesty, she is an adorable lucky child who feels safe, secure, and loved, and I’m trying to decide between two gifts I’ve found online and hope that she likes whatever I give her. I won’t see her until Christmas and she’ll probably pretend not to remember me.

Swinging into Things

This month is flying by…the days are short but the hours are long. So much to do!

The truth is I actually had a two day weekend, but I spent it being stressed out. Well, not entirely, we took Mackenzie to the annual Maplewood dog swim for two days in a row. She had a wonderful time swimming and pooping in the pool (not actually allowed, but on the first day it didn’t stop her. The second day Louie had a great save…everybody is happy then, because if one dog goes, more tend to follow, thinking it’s a thing to do.)

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Yes, I already mentioned poop and I was two paragraphs in. Let me backtrack and tell you some other things too.

Saturday night I was cooking dinner and I sliced right into my finger while slicing an onion. Well, my left thumb. So then Louie helped me clean it off and we spent quite some time trying to decide what to do, unable to find an open urgent care in the area other than the ER…so eventually I decided it was okay and just needed to be wrapped really tight. There were tears and blood and probably sweat too, but it seems to be looking okay lately? Where does one go when you need urgent care after hours (8 pm ish) but not emergency? I didn’t want to pay ER prices or wait for hours over possibly getting a stitch or two.

In any case, I took a day off from violin and then the next day decided I could try it. I’m able to play, though I can’t shift into the highest of positions without difficulty, so I’ve been on a lighter practice schedule this week. I’ve got a little concert on Saturday evening with a flute and viola, so I’ve been working on that stuff, and otherwise mostly just keeping my fingers and bow in shape and trying not to stress out. I’m on a full teaching schedule this week, with all of my college and regular students scheduled and showing up, so we are really IN the swing of things, and things are swinging fast!

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I realize that doesn’t actually make any sense. I’m tired, I’ve been going nonstop until I sat down to write this (kind of a lie, I did have a short lunch break) and I even have been getting up early to run! My next day off is October 8 though, so that’s how things are going now. Busy busy!

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Sample schedule…the white parts are where I can practice and respond to emails and do all the other parts of my jobs that don’t get on the schedule.

I have to admit, after having a two day weekend I starting thinking about how life would be if I didn’t work weekends. I’d have to crunch some numbers to really figure out the difference financially, and otherwise, I’m torn. I love playing concerts, and I wouldn’t want to give those up entirely…at least not now! Maybe I’ll retire from weddings in a few years, if I can get enough money saved up, or something. I don’t know. I just know I kind of liked the two days off (that’s what normal people get every week, I hear) and it was nice being able to both be social and do some fun things and also be able to run a few errands and things. But yet, even though this week is nonstop busy, I’m loving the challenge of the flute/viola trio concert music and I wouldn’t want to not be playing that! I guess I am just thinking about the future, after all, I’ve got a milestone birthday coming up next year and I’m always trying to improve my life…or at least try to make sure I’m doing what I think is best.

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At the Cardinals game over the weekend. One of the fun/social things I mentioned. The weather last weekend couldn’t have been more beautiful. My heart goes out to everybody who was affected by the recent hurricanes while we were so lucky. It makes you really try to appreciate what you do have!

Anyway, I’m off to practice. I’m still doing the #100daysofpractice challenge on Instagram. Even though I haven’t had 100 in a row due to vacation and then a cut thumb, I will still do 100, and I’m doing every day otherwise. I think I’m following the spirit of the challenge. And it really does give me extra incentive to practice, even just a little bit, because so often that little bit turns into a much longer practice.

It’s always good to be home

Louie and I had a wonderful vacation in the Smokies and Asheville. I had every intention of starting a post about it today, but I’m a little more crunched for time than I’d thought. I promise I won’t wait too long!

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One sad thing is that we had to cut our trip short by one day. Well, that’s not what was sad. The sad thing is that my dad’s brother, my uncle Sam died and I wanted to get home so that I could get to his services which were in my Dad’s hometown in Ohio. It was nice to see my family though. I got to see my grandmother again, and my parents, sister and niece, loads of aunts, uncles, and cousins, even if it was a very short visit and for a very difficult reason. Leslie and I were able to play for the service which I find is a nice distraction and something nice to be able to do.

Then I had to hurry back home to get to work, and I feel like I’ve been working nonstop. I haven’t though, I’m just not quite on “work mode” yet. I had a few new students last week, which was fun. I had a full week of private teaching, but I haven’t started up at the colleges yet. We also had a few house guests, and of course, THE ECLIPSE, which was on Monday. We got about 45 seconds of totality, and it was really neat. I kind of wish I had known more what to expect and maybe I could have appreciated it more. Mostly I was just terrified of messing up and being permanently blinded, and that was about as far as I’d gotten.

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I felt like the eclipse really signified the end of summer. Now it’s time to buckle down for the busiest fall semester I’ve had since moving to St Louis. Performances highlights will include playing Astor Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires with the Metropolitan Orchestra of St Louis, playing Tchaik 5 with the Illinois Symphony (decided I missed playing full orchestra music and I needed to remedy that, so I’m playing a few concerts with the Illinois Symphony this season), and playing the King and I in the pit at the Fox Theatre. The quartet is slow getting off the ground this year, and I think that’s okay…we had a few busy years and a lot of the things we’ve done either don’t want to book the same thing each year OR have shut down for various reasons, and I think we just got tired of pushing. We have some irons in the fire and some concerts booked for the spring and somewhat oddly, next summer.

So that’s pretty much it for now. I need to get back to practicing, and then a wedding, and then I’m tired and want to stay in and relax tonight. Last night my brother-in-law stopped through on his way home to Arizona and we went to Union Loafers for pizza (yum) and the night before another out of town friend was here, and we went to Polite Society. Next weekend April is in town visiting (woo-hoo!) and I have a million weddings too…fall is here, at least schedule-wise, and my bank account is getting happier again.

How’s your August been going?

Traveling People

It seems like the entire summer is one big vacation for most of my friends on facebook. And I’ll tell you: I love it. I love seeing the pictures! I also know that most of them aren’t actually spending the whole summer traveling, because I’m old enough to know that facebook isn’t real life. Though Louie and I start talking and we start dreaming about taking the summers off to travel…it IS possible. I’m teaching a few students this summer that are taking with me because their regular teachers are out of town or taking off for various reasons. This summer we haven’t traveled as much as previous times, and that’s okay. But I’m daydreaming about going to New England, to Glacier National Park and Banff, on a cruise, and to Japan. There are reasons for all of them, but I don’t think they will all fit into next summerSmile

Time hop is fun for this reason also. This is the time of year that I traditionally take vacation, and so I get to relive those memories.

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Isn’t Colorado the most beautiful? I always want to return there. Maybe I should seek out a summer festival after all…the older I get, the less I want to stay in one place. Then again, I’m torn, as a pet owner, because travel can be hard. Do I want more pets or do I want to be able to run away?

On a more home related side: I’ve been running 3 times a week and actually started running a little faster (shocker!) and feeling better about it. And I made these muffins and they are really quite delicious.

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I’ve been practicing every day too, teaching, and getting ready for my next trip. I’m looking forward to meeting up with April, my parents, hanging out with Louie more, doing some beautiful and challenging hikes, going to the Titanic Museum, the Biltmore House, and an electrobike tour, among other things, and of course, surprises and adventure I’m sure. (Please no bears. Please no bears!)

Off to get dog medicine and a hair cut. How’s your summer going?

Getting Ready

As you know, my work schedule is quite irregular. Some weeks I only have my students and get to have a “regular” schedule, but other weeks I have extra rehearsals and concerts which makes for a very busy week. A good skill to have is the ability to look ahead and figure out what needs to be done ahead, and also to figure out what can be done ahead to help out when work will be too busy to do anything. Since the past two weeks have been very light weeks, I’ve been working on a variety of projects to prepare for the fall. I’ve been updating my syllabi for the courses I teach, I’ve prepared new “interview” forms and questionnaires for new and returning students.

The key to being busy and getting stuff done is organization! I told Louie I feel like it doesn’t come easy to me, and he thought that was funny, because I am always working on being organized and trying new things, and I have loads of binders and notebooks, but the truth is that I still feel like so many other teachers are more organized and I can learn so much from them!

In any case, I’m also doing lots of practice, running (the heat, my god, the heat!) and relaxing. July has been a low income month, but it’s been easy and relaxing, at least. So often I’ll have busy times where I also don’t make much money, so I’d prefer this! I started a project on Instagram with the hashtag 100daysofpractice where I post a video of my practice each day. I didn’t come up with the idea, in fact, I think Hillary Hahn might have, and my friend Ingrid is doing it…in any case, I won’t have 100 days in a row because of vacation, but as I said on my first post, life isn’t perfect and if I don’t do the project because of that, then I’m already failing. Follow me there—I’m “hannahviolin.”

Other fun stuff: Some Blue Apron meals—we’ve been getting it about once a month since we started, so I believe this is our 3rd or 4th time.

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My food photography is not good, plus it’s dark by the time I eat…in any case, this was delicious: Crispy Catfish & Plum Sauce.

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And then Sweet Corn & Pepper Empanadas with Charred Sugar Snap Peas and Radishes. The radishes were amazing and I enjoyed making my own empanadas. It’s something we often share as an appetizer at Mission Taco, but it was nice to have homemade (and likely healthier) ones.  That recipe came with a side of lime yogurt for drizzling, but I wasn’t sure for which part of the meal, so we put it on everything. Sometimes you feel like Blue Apron makes you do a lot of sauces and garnishes and sometimes they are easy enough and delicious (in this case) and other times it’s a lot of effort for little. But overall, still liking the service, and we have one more meal to make from this shipment.

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The next few days are quite busy with some extra performances and rehearsals. I’m really looking forward to playing Carousel with Union Avenue Opera! And soon…vacation for real…we are going to the Smoky Mountains and Asheville. If you have any suggestions let me know! I have a lot of great ideas and a bunch of stuff already planned, but any more suggestions are welcome.

Back to practicing!