Wednesday, October 31, 2012

another job i would be terrible at

Stuart and I have this perpetual list called "Another job I would be terrible at." This list can essentially be broken down into two categories: 1) jobs that require being rather big and burly (like bouncer, repo guy, prison warden) and 2) jobs that require schmoozing (lobbyist, selling cars, PR for the Romney campaign).  Last night, we added a job to the former category: brandishing chainsaws in the middle of the night to save power lines and personal property.

You see, around 5:30 last evening, my next door neighbor came knocking on the door to inform me that our largest spruce in the back yard was not looking so good. In fact, there was a giant split in the trunk from the ground several meters up and the tree was leaning on the power line directly behind it. I called the power company's emergency line and was told they probably wouldn't come look at it until the morning. When Stuart got home, he took a closer look and said, "Uh, the only reason that tree hasn't fallen down is that it's leaning totally on the power line. And if it falls down it will completely demolish T's garage!" (the guy who lives behind us; also, he is trying to sell his house.) Another call to the power company, considerably more panicked this time, and I convinced them to send a crew to check it out that evening.

One look and they called dispatch. Two hours later we had a half dozen guys in our back yard with ladders and chainsaws and headlamps making quite the ruckus, slicing branches off that tree so it wouldn't pull down the power line and smash the garage of the house behind us.

This is what it looked like this morning:

I found an arborist who could come first thing to clean up the huge mess of branches on the ground and pull down the trunk. When he did, we could see how completely rotted it was inside:


It was wind from Sandy that finally did this tree in, though it had clearly been unhealthy for a while. It was pretty cold outside when  they were hacking away late into the night, but we were dry and the lights were on. I couldn't help but think about all the people on the east coast who aren't so lucky.

In any case, as we stared up into the night sky and listened to the roar of the chainsaw and saw the branches come crashing down into the neighbor's yard, Stuart said, "Yup, this is definitely one job I would be terrible at."

Sunday, October 28, 2012

on being prepared

The next couple of weeks are going to be absolutely nuts for me. This week my friend Dr. Julia is coming to town so we can wrap up rehearsals for a recital we're performing twice the first week in November. She flies in Tuesday night and our first performance is next Monday, so we'll have five days to get it all together before the tour starts. Well, "tour." Next Monday night we perform at UW-Oshkosh (about a 2-hr drive from here), then we get a day off before flying out to Kansas Wednesday night, where we'll be at my alma mater for a couple of days teaching a masterclass on Thursday and performing again Friday night.

That probably doesn't sound like so much, but keep in mind that on top of all that I have to get the kids to and from school and piano lessons and gymnastics and all that, Wednesday is Halloween (which means trick-or-treating and going to the neighborhood bonfire and all that fun stuff), and my parents are coming this weekend so they can help out next week while I'm gone so I've got to plan meals and print out a schedule for them so they know when and where everyone needs to be someplace and tell the kids' teachers who will be picking them up from school and make sure everyone has every phone number they could possibly need...

...and did I mention that I've never traveled away from my kids before? Ever? I'm kind of freaking out about it even though everyone keeps telling me it will be fine. Great, in fact. One of my friends, whose daughter is in Daniel's class, is a professor who has traveled a fair bit to conferences and things, and she tells me I'm going to love it - nights of uninterrupted sleep, no one's teeth to brush but my own, that sort of stuff. But I can't stop the voices in my head who are thinking up every possible thing that could go wrong and how this whole plan could be a disaster if I'm not here to hold things together because it's like a house of cards where anything could fall apart at the slightest whuff of air. (My computer tells me "whuff" isn't a word. I don't care.)

What if someone gets sick? What if we all get sick? What if Anya cries all night because she misses me? What if our flight gets all screwed up and we never make it to Kansas? My clothes suck. I should have gotten a haircut. What if my recital dress doesn't fit anymore? (Note to self: try that thing on. Never mind that I should have done that a month ago when I would have had time to come up with a back-up plan.) What if my dad gets lost taking Daniel to his piano lesson? (OK, actually, I know that won't happen. My dad never gets lost.) See? Freaking out here.

The stress is taking a bit of a toll. I felt anxious all of last week for no particular reason. I couldn't sleep, didn't want to eat. It was ridiculous. I think I'm doing a little better now, actually. Now that the two weeks of insanity is nearly upon me, I guess I just have to live it all instead of feeling so apprehensive and anxious about it.

The really crazy thing about all this is that I'm not worried about the performances at all. We had a good start on rehearsals three weeks ago, we've performed together a lot, and I'm almost done writing the program notes (which are getting a little long and should probably be pared down a bit). Musically, I feel very well-prepared.

At least I voted already! I cast my ballot on Tuesday at City Hall. At least I can't screw that up now.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


So much has been made of Romney's "binders full of women!" comment in Tuesday night's debate. I'm not sure I have much to add, except to share this link to reviews of three-ring binders on Amazon. Priceless.

Monday, October 15, 2012


It's come to my attention that a few people have had trouble leaving comments, so I'm trying something new. I've turned off word verification to make commenting easier and turned on comment moderation to avoid spam. We'll see how it goes!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

advice to my 15-year-old self

Did you know that Thursday was the first ever International Day of the Girl? According to the website, it's a movement to "speak out against gender bias and advocate for girls' rights everywhere." In some parts of the world, this means working to end traditions of horrible abuse like child marriage, child prostitution and female genital mutilation. In many places, it means helping girls go to school and get an education. (If you want to know more about these issues, watch the recent documentary Half The Sky. Nick Kristof of the New York Times travels to six countries where women and girls are treated very poorly. He takes a female celebrity with him to each place, both to open their eyes and to bring publicity to the problems girls are facing all over the world. It's quite difficult to watch, but equally amazing to see what women around the world are doing to make lives better for girls who would otherwise have no opportunity to succeed. The woman in Cambodia who repeatedly risks her life going into brothels to rescue astonishingly young girls from sex slavery, for example, is so very, very brave.)

I saw a feature yesterday on CNN's website with pictures of famous, successful women giving advice to their fifteen-year-old selves. (It's here if you want to look at it.) A few of them were pretty cliché - don't give up on your dreams, work hard - that sort of thing. But there was some good stuff in there about being true to yourself and all that.

So I started thinking, if I could give some advice to my fifteen-year-old self, what would I say?

1. Don't try to please others all the time. It's okay if not everybody likes you. It's better to be comfortable with yourself than to worry about what everyone else thinks about you. In fact, having confidence in yourself and your strength is more likely to gain the respect of others than if you worry about being nice to everyone all the time. This is easier said than done.

2. There is nothing wrong with being an introvert. The world around you is built for extroverts, and you will feel pressure to be more outgoing! more animated! more talkative! more fun! and because these things don't come naturally to you, you may feel inadequate and that your personality falls short of ideal. Instead of trying to be someone you aren't, learn to embrace the qualities that make you special and that (often) come with being an introvert - being a good listener, being a keen observer of the world around you, being empathetic to the needs of others, and so on.

3. Assert yourself. This is really really hard, especially if you are introverted and female. And growing up in the South. Girls are supposed to be nice, not assertive. But as hard as it is, try to ignore anyone who will call you a bitch to your face or behind your back. In the long run, they will respect you for standing up for yourself.

4. When you get to college, keep your options open. Studying music may be your passion, but think about picking up a second major that is more likely to lead to gainful employment in the future, like education or science.

5. Loosen up a little. Some rules were meant to be broken.

That's the best advice I've got. Most of it I'm still working hard to follow today. Not only that, but I have a daughter who will be fifteen in another decade or so. Building confidence and self-respect obviously starts long before high school. I need to heed my own advice and pass it along to her.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

cranky pants

The past couple of weeks have been rather stressful for me. The reasons are varied and mostly unrelated to each other, and not even all of them are bad. Most of what's going on isn't really bloggable (or even interesting to anyone but me, frankly), though, so now that I've finally had a shower and opened one of the season's last Bell's Oberon ale, I'm going to get some really petty things off my chest.

Things that make me cranky (especially when I am under stress for other reasons):

1. Dirty socks all over the house. Seriously, this drives me crazy. It's like I'm the only one in my family who knows what a hamper is for.

2. Losing every damn game of Scrabble I play with Stuart. I have a confession to make: I have an iPhone now, and I love it. Love. It. It's Stuart's old one because he got one of the fancy-pants new ones, which means we can text each other for free, I can check my email when I'm not home, and we can play cyber-Scrabble. Triple-check on time-wasters there. Anyway, he always beats me at regular Scrabble and evidently playing on tiny screens with sound effects didn't boost my skills any. Le sigh.

3. My hair. I know. Could I be more vain? But still, it drives me nuts. When it's long, it's scraggly, when it's short, it looks stupid, when it's in a ponytail (which it is most of the time) it looks messy, and the gray is unmistakable. I shouldn't care about that, but I do. I just want the perfect haircut that looks good all the time with no product added and no dyeing and no more than about two minutes brushing it in the morning. I guess that's too much to ask.

4. Feeling left out or overlooked. This has been happening a lot lately, but it really sucks when it's something like, oh, say someone you volunteered with all summer taking care of the school gardens doesn't so much as say hello to you but recognizes your husband because he showed up for a couple hours on volunteer day a whole year ago. (Maybe if I had red hair and a beard, people would remember me, too.)

5. Crowds. Tonight was open house at the elementary school. Loads of people, loads of kids, plus loads of nagging at the book fair.

6. The book fair. I remember the book fair from when I was a kid. I loved reading (and I still do!), so you'd think I'd love the book fair, but I don't. It's hot and crowded in there, plus there are a lot of crap books there. A whole table devoted to Justin Bieber, er, literature, and posters? Puh. Leeze.

7. Making dinner at 9:00 in the morning. I've had to do this rather frequently since school started. I know, I really live a life of luxury that I can be home to make dinner at nine in the morning instead of sitting in an office somewhere working for The Man. But you know what? Sometimes I wish I could be in an office somewhere earning a real wage instead of running kids to and fro all day and spending what little creative energy I have left figuring out what we're going to eat every night. It's a bit like running on a hamster wheel. Oh well. That aside, I don't like when afternoons and evenings are so hectic that I have to make dinner nine hours in advance. When it's a slow day and the kids are playing nicely after school (or, if I must be completely honest, watching TV), one of my favorite times is at about 4:30 or 5:00 when I turn on NPR, pour myself a half glass of wine or make a cup of tea, and start cooking.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012


This is pretty much how I feel while watching the presidential debate.