Sea Change

I recently stopped taking lessons with my violin teacher of 5.5 years.  We haven’t parted ways.  In fact, he still teaches my oldest son, and I will still be taking part in some of his holiday concerts for charity.

There were several reasons behind my dropping lessons.  The biggest reason is just pocketbook pressure.  With three of us in the family taking music lessons, and cost of living going up, something has to give.  Of course, I’m going to give the precedence in taking lessons to my children.  I want to be taking lessons, but other things have to come first-like paying for car insurance for my teenager who can’t wait to get his driving permit in two weeks.

One of the secondary reasons for leaving was that this fall I ended up being overscheduled between new travel demands for my job and people’s discovery that I owned a viola.  Suddenly I found myself a member of four musical groups; and the firehose of new material really put a damper on time to spend on violin lessons.  Learning my way around alto clef took some effort.  Orchestral parts for viola are very different than those for 1st violin.  Fewer notes, but much more awkwardly placed on the strings.

Along with suspending lessons, I am also planning on dropping one of the groups to free up some time.   It is interesting how having to rapidly learn so much new material really helped me grow my sight reading skills.  That was a nice side effect.

However, dropping the one group where I only play violin leaves me primarily playing viola these days.  While my teacher has been wonderful up to this point, he does not have a deep understanding of viola.  I thought it might be beneficial to eventually look for a teacher who plays both.

And lastly, as much as I admire and appreciate my teacher, he and I have increasingly divergent opinions on technique and interpretation.  I concede that I don’t know what I don’t know, but it is possible that my research might have more validity than my teacher gives credit to.  It’s worth me looking around to see if there is someone with whom I could explore those concepts.

I had a consultation with another teacher over the weekend who gave me some useful tips to help with some technical issues. It is humbling to have someone provide constructive criticism in a way you aren’t used to receiving it, but a good exercise.  I am hoping to have several such consultations so that I may decide what approach to eventually steer towards.



Time management for the insane

I joined an orchestra in August.  It would be a challenge for me if I were playing violin, but I got in on viola.  I have been playing violin for 5.5 years, but viola isn’t just a bigger version of the violin.  It is tuned lower and uses a different clef – a clef I didn’t read at the time I took the audition.  Plus, playing viola requires a change in technique.

Being in an orchestra for the first time is a bit of a shock to the system because it is a very different experience from the slow and easy pace of the string ensemble I have been participating in for the last three years.  The orchestra is playing music that I have never played, and doing so at lickety-split speeds.  Adding to that, I’m learning a new clef and instrument as I go.  Total immersion is supposed to be the best way to learn, right?

In addition to joining an orchestra, I was asked to join a quartet on viola as well.  Fortunately for me, I really like the other ladies in the group and though we are on varying skill levels, we really seem to work well together.  The wine helps.

If only we had wine at orchestra!

My son recently pointed out that the reason why I am having a difficult time organizing, or even getting to my practice, is that I am in four groups.  I had no idea.  But it’s true, I’m in string ensemble, orchestra, quartet, and a Scottish fiddle group.  All four groups got new music in August, and again several times since.  Talk about overwhelming!

If I were smart, I would probably drop at least one group but I love all of them  I have backed off on the Scottish fiddling somewhat because it has the lowest demand.  However, I still plan on going to fiddle camp in January so I need to put some effort in to improve my Scottish fiddle chops.  Looks like dropping that one isn’t in the cards.  Oh well, being smart is overrated anyway.

I can’t drop string ensemble because my son is in it as well and it’s pretty much his only extra-curricular activity.  It’s also the reason he is in honors orchestra.  Who am I to stand in the way of a good grade for a good kid who is trying to do the right thing?  If I have to be there anyway, I might as well play.  After three years, it’s kind of my musical home and it would be weird not to.

I won’t drop orchestra or quartet because those two things were my goal from day one.  Looks like I need to find a way to get organized.  Here’s to crazy dreams, ya’ll!


The Delivery

This evening I found myself unprepared for dinner when one of the boys came downstairs looking for food.  How do the weekends go by so quickly?  After weighing the relative merits of going shopping, or ordering in, I picked the easy way out.  Only two places deliver to our house.  We could either have lukewarm Chinese or hot pizza, so the latter was the obvious choice.

Dominos pretty much has us on whatever special VIP plan they’ve got.  We are such frequent customers (remember the “unprepared for dinner” statement above?) that I think we probably keep that particular location in business.  They usually send the same driver each time and we’ve gotten to the point where we have some inside jokes together.

Tonight’s delivery featured a heretofore unknown-to-us driver – a slight young lady with a brow piercing and a fair bit of awkwardness.  After signing the ticket and helping her wrestle with our order (teenage boys eat a LOT), I offered her the usual farewell I give to all delivery drivers.  Apparently, my flip “Be safe!” was not something she anticipated because she gave me a look usually reserved for Christians offering unwanted blessings.  As if they had the power to bless anyone, but whatever.

The reason I tell delivery drivers to be safe is because I truly hope they will be.  Our pizza driver has come through rain, snow, sleet, flood, and high winds to bring us pizza.  Sure, they do that for anyone who calls, but my pizza place and I, we’ve bonded.  Ok, I tip pretty well too, but people who drive for a living deserve hazard pay, and very few of them get it.

Maybe I caught her off guard, or maybe she resented my command to stay out of danger when she was very obviously getting into a soon-to-be hurtling death machine made of metal and combustible fuel.  Perhaps she thought I was being condescending because of her age.  At any rate, I’m not sorry I said it because I meant it, every word (all both of them).  ‘Cause here’s how I see it: if they don’t get back safely, then the probability of me continuing to get hot pizza on demand goes down.

Seriously though, I don’t like it when people get hurt, particularly on my behalf.  Oh, and I don’t tip as well for lukewarm food.  Just sayin’.

Like I said, my pizza place and I have bonded.

Time for a Change

I have a love-hate relationship with my hair, but one thing that has been pretty consistent over the past 30 years is that I have kept it long.  It occurred to me recently that the only reason I was keeping it long was so that it would look right for historical reenactment purposes.  Well, I haven’t been doing that nearly as much as I had to, oh say, go to work, or look professional for other reasons.  Hippie-long hair does not lend itself well to what I do for the majority of my life.

The last straw with the long hair came last weekend when I came down for breakfast and my husband joked that I looked like a religious radical.  That tore it.  I made an appointment with my hair stylist with no real plan in mind, just a vague idea that it needed to be shorter.

I thought I would only take off about 4-5 inches and layer it up again.  In the end, when I marked off how much I thought we should take off, it came to around 7 inches.  The stylist said that if I took off 8 inches, it could be donated to wigs for kids.  Sure, go ahead.  After tying it off, it ended up being 9 inches off.

After all was said and done, about 11 inches was cut off the length, and my hair is above my shoulders.  It turned out pretty cute though.  Best of all, hubby likes it!


Sometimes Better Really is Better

I started playing violin 4.5 years ago on a borrowed violin that probably cost $200.  At the beginning I thought I sounded bad because I was bad.  And it was largely true.  You hear about multi-million dollar instruments that sound better than the average fiddle and wonder how that can possibly true.  After all, it’s just a wooden box, right?

A year later, I was offered a $500 violin to purchase.  It was being traded in by one of the kids in my teacher’s studio.  But when the dealer saw me with it he instantly knew it didn’t work for me.  You’d think that a beginner who has played for one year wouldn’t know the difference between a good violin and a bad one, but this one didn’t do it for me, and even I could tell.  So I ended up with a $1,200 instrument.  Now, it’s easy to say that a dealer talked me into paying more than I should, but the difference between $200 and $1200 was way bigger than $200 and $500.

The next upgrade, just last year, was a significant one in terms of value – not just in cost, but in playability and sound.  At the same time, I bought a better bow too.  A $120 bow and a $200 bow were terrible in comparison to the new stick.  I know it’s hard to explain how a stick can make a difference in your playing.  It’s really something you have to experience.

If you can’t hear the difference in a bow or an instrument, it’s OK.  That just means you haven’t outgrown your instrument yet.  Or, it might just mean you haven’t tried one that is better than you are.  The funny thing is, the better your instrument is, the more you learn from it.

It may take me a while to deserve the instrument I have now.  I’m finding that the better you get, the harder it is to get better.  Improvement happens slowly, and you have to be OK with that.  I’m trying really hard to be.

The Analog Brain

It is becoming clear to me that I live under a rock.  First, it took me forever to find out about subscription clothing services, and now I find that I missed an entirely new way for me to make my lists and keep track of my calendars.  I finally discovered the Bullet Journal.

At first I was skeptical.  When Bullet Journal pins started popping up on my Pinterest feed, I assumed it was just a time-waster for stay-at-home moms who had to find new ways to use all their old scrap-booking and stamping materials since nobody does that anymore.  (Sorry ladies, judgemental girl is judgemental.)  I don’t have time for anything (besides knitting & violin) that doesn’t involve work or home responsibilities, so I ignored the fad.

The other day a FaceBook friend posted that she had discovered Bullet Journal and she was hooked.  Now I tend to find this particular friend to be a sensible and non-herd-following sort, so my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to check it out.  The concept was conceived by Ryder Carroll and is outlined in his website located HERE.   Seriously, go check it out.  I’ll wait.

After watching the video I couldn’t stop thinking of it.  The desire to try the process was so strong I hit up Amazon in the middle of a sleepless night and ordered a notebook and some fine-line pens.  They haven’t arrived yet so I have taken consolation in pinning a ton of ideas to my Pinterest board.  I’m going to try the system for a month to see if it helps me keep my projects and appointments on track any better than my delightfully (dis)organized pile of multi-colored post-it notes.  We’ll see how it goes.  With any luck, this may be the solution to my scheduling issues.  If not, I’ll add it to the towering pile of shit I tried that didn’t work out. All I have to lose is a blank notebook.  With the barrier to entry so low, if it fails I’m out almost nothing.

Trunk Club Review #1

Stitch Fix was so much fun that I decided to try Trunk Club.  Trunk Club used to be for men only, but last fall they started styling for women too.  You still have to sign up and provide credit card info, as well as fill out a style profile.  Then your stylist either messages, emails or calls you.  I elected to go with messaging because that’s just easier for me.  You always have the same stylist.  There’s none of that switching about like on stitch fix, so it pays to really be honest and open about size, fit, preferences, and price point.  After your discussion, your stylist puts together 10-15 items for you to preview online.  You get to discard any items that just won’t work, then you get a big box in the mail about a week later.  There’s no cost for this.  The only money you pay is when you buy something.

Today I got my first box.  My stylist (Hi Haley!) sent me some great items.  I had high hopes for a few, and felt like there were a few things that wouldn’t work right away.  However, I didn’t discard anything from my preview because you never know how something will look when it’s on you and not some 6 foot skinny French model.  Everything comes packaged in an appealing way, and they include tape and a shipping label so you can send it back after your 10 day (!!!!) try-on period.

The first thing I tried was a pair of black dress pants, which were just ok.  They were about 2 inches too long so I paired them with the platform sandals Haley sent.  Since I already have 2 pair of black dress pants, these would have to be awesome for me to keep them.  They weren’t, so the pants are going back.  You’ll see them in a few pics coming up.  Here are the sandals.  They’re cute, but nothing special.  Plus, platforms make me feel a bit tottery.


The next thing I put on was a white dress shirt.  It’s a staple that I don’t own and probably should.  However, this one was simply awful.  The sleeves were too long.  The shoulders were too wide, and it looked like I was wearing a Panther pavilion, complete with door flaps in the back.  Not sure if you can tell in the picture, but that flap is open all the way up to the collar.  So not work appropriate.  Um..   that’s a no.  Thanks for playing.

Moving on, there was a cute mixed media tank.  It is comfortable and doesn’t look bad, but I have way too much black in my wardrobe already so I’ll probably send it back.  Haley also sent a blue top that was comfortable but too short – hitting me right at my most unflattering point.  (Why, hello tummy pooch!  Fancy meeting you here.)  This is a time when I’m glad I had her send everything from the preview because it was black in the picture and I don’t need any black tops, but the blue is pretty.  Also in the box was a cute blue button down.  I had to throw on the layering tank I wore to work because it was so sheer.  I liked the fabric but didn’t care for the weird boob pocket or the funky sleeves that stuck up like wings.

I figured the next several items were pretty much a no go from the preview, and I was right.  The first is a white linen shirt dress, which I styled with the scarf and gladiator sandals Haley sent.  The scarf was too bulky and pastel, which makes me look dead.  The white dress was too sheer (I wore it with a full slip), too boxy, and had those weird boob pockets.  The sandals made me look short and cut across the top of just my left foot.  I took them off right after the picture.  The other dress was a maxi.  I have had terrible luck with maxi dresses and this was no exception.  First off, it’s mainly black, which I don’t need.  Secondly, the jersey did my figure no favors, and was not at all helped by the empire waist band that cut me off part way up my boobs.  The only good thing about both of these dresses was that they were exactly the right length.  That didn’t make up for all the negatives, so bye bye white dress and black maxi.  Check out that look of disgust and the bingo wings.  Being a middle-aged desk jockey sucks.

The next thing was THE most anticipated thing in my box.  When I pulled out these Paige high waist Transcend jeans I was in love.  The fabric and color were perfect.  I was unsure about the flare, but had my fingers crossed.  Sadly, they were more of a mid-rise than a high rise, nearly 3 inches too long, and gapped at the waist in the back.  The flare made me look even shorter than ever.  I tried them on with a tank Haley sent but didn’t like since it’s mostly black and doesn’t cover my bra straps.  It’s also kind of shapeless. I’m so sad about the jeans, because my butt looks amazing and I really needed some new jeans. But with a $200 price tag, I’ll wait for a pair that works better.

From the preview, I had really hoped that this last dress would be wonderful.  It’s an A-line, which usually works, although a fit-and-flare might have been a better pick.  I liked that it had sleeves, and princess seams.  It’s the last thing I tried on because I figured it was the most likely to be successful.  At first I thought it was. It was a bit roomy in the shoulders, and would look a bit better with some shapewear, but it isn’t too bad, right?  I like the color so I took a close up in better lighting.  It has been raining here for 12 days straight!  No make-up, flat hair, don’t care.

I was so excited, I ran downstairs to show off to my husband.  He liked it.  Yay!  I was ready to overlook the too-wide shoulders and weird length sleeves until I looked at the back and noticed the ridiculous amount of bunching.  Yuck!


Sometimes I feel as if I’m doomed to never find clothes that fit.

I’m pretty certain all of this is going back, though I’m still thinking about the mixed media tank.  I’ll try this again.  Maybe I’ll have better luck next time.  Also, my mirrors are super dusty.  Whoops!  Time to actually clean and not just tidy up.